Today in Black History, 12/16/2015 | Andrew Jackson Young - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 12/16/2015 | Andrew Jackson Young

December 16, 1976 Andrew Jackson Young became the first African American to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations when he was appointed by President Jimmy Carter. Young was born March 12, 1932 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-dentistry from Howard University in 1951 and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Hartford Seminary in 1955. He joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1960 and was named executive director of the organization in 1964. He was a key strategist and negotiator during the civil rights campaigns in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama and St. Augustine, Florida that resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. Young won election to the United States House of Representatives in 1972 and served until appointed to the U. N. position. Young was elected Mayor of Atlanta in 1981 and served until 1990. He expanded programs for including minority-owned businesses in city contracts, hosted the 1988 Democratic National Convention, and led the effort to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games during his tenure. Young authored "A Way Out of No Way: The Spiritual Memoirs of Andrew Young" in 1994 and "An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America" in 1996. He received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1978 Spingarn Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Jimmy Carter January 16, 1981. He has received more than 45 honorary doctorate degrees. The Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University and the Andrew Young Center for International Affairs at Morehouse College are named in his honor.

December 16, 1816 William Cooper Nell, abolitionist, author and civil servant, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Nell studied law in the early 1830s but was never certified as a lawyer because he would not swear allegiance to the Constitution of the United States which he believed advocated the enslavement of African Americans in the South.Nell was influential in organizing the Freedom Association and the Committee of Vigilance which were all-Black organizations that helped previously enslaved Black people that had fled to the North. Nell worked with Frederick Douglass on the abolitionist publication The North Star from 1848 to 1851 and was instrumental in the 1855 decision to allow African American students In Massachusetts to study alongside their White classmates. Nell was a prolific author and wrote two exhaustive studies of African Americans in war, "Services of Colored Americans in the Wars of 1776 and 1812" (1851) and "Colored Patriots of the American Revolution" (1855). He became a postal clerk in Boston December 19, 1864, the first African American to work in the federal civil service. Nell died May 25, 1874. "William Cooper Nell: Abolitionist, Historian and Integrationist; Selected Writings, 1832-1874" was published in 2002.

December 16, 1834 George Lewis Ruffin, the first African American to graduate from Harvard Law School, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Prior to entering law school, Ruffin worked as a barber, studied law books, and wrote for a weekly publication. He served as a delegate to the 1864 National Negro Convention. Ruffin graduated from Harvard Law School in 1869 and was admitted into the Suffolk County Bar Association. He served on the Boston Common Council from 1876 to 1877 and was appointed a judge on the Charleston, Massachusetts Municipal Court in 1883, the first African American to serve in both positions. Ruffin died November 19, 1886. The George Lewis Ruffin Society was founded at Northeastern University in 1984 to support minorities studying in the Massachusetts criminal justice system.

December 16, 1849 David Ruggles, entrepreneur and anti-slavery activist, died. Ruggles was born March 15, 1810 in Norwich, Connecticut. He moved to New York City and ran a grocery store, opened the first African American bookstore in the United States, and edited a newspaper called The Mirror. Ruggles also published a pamphlet called The Extinguisher and contributed to abolitionist newspapers. He was active in the New York Committee of Vigilance and the Underground Railroad. He actively confronted bounty hunters who made a living by capturing runaways and educated enslaved workers in New York on the state law declaring that enslaved workers be emancipated after nine months of residence. Ruggles was assaulted and his business was destroyed by arson as a result of his activism. Ruggles' biography, "David Ruggles: A Radical Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City," was published in 2010 and the David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History and Underground Railroad Studies is located in Florence, Massachusetts.

December 16, 1859 Shields Green was hanged for his involvement in John Brown's unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry. He was one of five Black men that participated in the raid. Green was born enslaved around 1836 in South Carolina. He escaped to Rochester, New York as a young man and first met Brown. He later met with Brown in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and decided to join the raid. Green's role in the raid was to recruit other enslaved men to join the fighting. After they were pinned down by Virginia militiamen, several raiders attempted to escape. One of those who did escape, later said that Green could have escaped with him but chose to go back and fight. Green was captured and convicted for treason against the State of Virginia. A cenotaph or empty tomb honoring Green and two other Black residents of Oberlin, Ohio involved in the raid is located in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Oberlin.

December 16, 1859 John Anthony Copeland, Jr. was hanged for his involvement in John Brown's unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry. He was one of five Black men that participated in the raid. Copeland was born in 1834 in Raleigh, North Carolina but raised in Oberlin, Ohio. He worked as a carpenter and briefly attended Oberlin College. He also became involved in the Oberlin Anti-Slavery Society and participated in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue in September, 1858. This was a successful effort to free John Price who had escaped from slavery but was captured and held by authorities under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Copeland and others were able to free Price and help him escape to Canada. Copeland was recruited to join the raid on Harpers Ferry in September, 1859. His role was to seize control of Hall's Rifle Works. After they were pinned down by Virginia militiamen, Copeland was captured attempting to escape. He was convicted for treason against the State of Virginia. A cenotaph or empty tomb honoring Copeland and two other Black residents of Oberlin involved in the raid is located in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Oberlin.

December 16, 1870 The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church was formed in Jackson, Tennessee. The church was formed by a group of Black ministers who desired to set their own policies, appoint their own bishops and ministers, and control their churches. They were advised and assisted by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The denomination was renamed the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1956 and there are an estimated 850,000 members in 3,500 churches today. "The History of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America: Comprising Its Organization, Subsequent Development, and Present Status" was published in 1898.

December 16, 1933 Charles LeRoy Blockson, Black studies scholar and author, was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Blockson was told by a White teacher that Black people had made no contribution to history. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1956. After serving in the United States Army from 1957 to 1958, he taught local and multicultural history as a human relations advisor for the Norristown Area School District. Blockson traveled the world and amassed one of the world's largest collections of Black history material, including African, African American, and African Caribbean publications and other material dating back to the sixteenth century. Blockson donated the collection to Temple University in 1984. He is considered one of the country's leading experts on the Underground Railroad and published "The Underground Railroad: First Person Narratives of Escapes to Freedom in the North" in 1987. Blockson is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and has received multiple honorary doctorate degrees. Blockson's memoir, "Damn Rare: The Memoirs of an African American Bibliophile," was published in 1988. His most recent work, "The President's House Revisited Behind the Scenes: The Samuel Fraunces Story," was published in 2013.

December 16, 1934 John Edward Jacob, civil rights leader, was born in Trout, Louisiana. Jacob earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1957 and Master of Social Work degree in 1963 from Howard University. He was a social worker in Baltimore, Maryland from 1960 to 1965. He joined the Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Urban League as director of Education and Youth Incentives in 1965 and rose to become president of the NUL in 1982. Jacob fought cutbacks in federal social programs and the weakening of civil rights enforcement during his tenure from 1982 to 1994. He also advocated an urban Marshall Plan including entry level job training, housing, and job placement. Jacob served as an executive vice president at Anheuser-Bushe Corporation and on the board of directors of several other corporations after retiring from the NUL. Jacob is chairman emeritus of the board of trustees of Howard University and the recipient of 19 honorary doctorate degrees. He is currently a senior principal at an engineering firm.

December 16, 1938 Jimmie Lee Jackson, civil rights protester, was born in Marion, Alabama. Jackson was a deacon in his church who had unsuccessfully tried to register to vote for four years. On February 18, 1965, around 500 people attempted a peaceful walk to the Perry County jail where a young civil rights worker was being held. They were met by Marion City police officers, sheriff's deputies, and Alabama State troopers who began to beat the protesters. When Jackson attempted to protect his mother, a trooper shot him twice in the abdomen and he died from the wounds February 26, 1965. Trooper James Bonard Fowler admitted to shooting Jackson but a grand jury declined to indict him. Fowler was charged with first and second degree murder for the death of Jackson May 10, 2007. Two weeks before he was scheduled to go to trial in 2010, Fowler pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor second degree manslaughter charge and was sentenced to six months in jail.

December 16, 1987 Minnie Evans, folk artist, died. Evans was born December 12, 1892 in Pender County, North Carolina but raised in Wilmington, North Carolina. She began drawing on Good Friday, 1935 after she heard a voice that said to her "why don't you draw or die?." Evans had her first formal exhibition of drawings in 1961 and her first New York City exhibition in 1966. A major Evans exhibition was curated at the Whitney Museum of Art in 1975. Evans left more than 400 artworks to the Cameron Art Museum in Wilmington. She is recognized as one of the most important folk artist of the 20th century. She was the subject of the 1983 documentary "The Angel That Stands By Me: Minnie Evans' Art" and a retrospective book of her art was published in 2008. May 14, 1994 was declared Minnie Evans Day in Greenville, North Carolina and the Minnie Evans Art Center in Wilmington is named in her honor. Her biography, "Painting Dreams: Minnie Evans, Visionary Artist," was published in 1996.

George Lewis Ruffin

First African American to graduate from Harvard Law School

Minnie Evans

Folk artist

John Edward Jacob

Civil rights protester

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