Today in Black History, 12/21/2015 | Inman Edward Page - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 12/21/2015 | Inman Edward Page

December 21, 1935, Inman Edward Page, educator, died. Page was born enslaved December 29, 1853 in Warrenton, Virginia. His family escaped slavery to Washington, D. C. during the Civil War. Page attended Howard University for two years and then enrolled at Brown University. He was one of the first two Black students to graduate from the university in 1877 and was valedictorian of his class. Page became president of Lincoln Institute in 1888 and was selected the first president of the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University) in 1898. Page increased enrollment from 40 to well over 600 and the faculty from 4 to 35 in his 17 year tenure. Page resigned in 1915 and later became president of Western College and Industrial Institute and Roger Williams University. He returned to Oklahoma City in 1920 and later became supervising principal of the city's segregated Black school system. Page was awarded an honorary master's degree by Brown in 1918 and an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Wilberforce University. The main library at Lincoln University and the Inman Page Black Alumni Association at Brown are named in his honor.

December 21, 1872 Robert Scott Duncanson, landscape painter, died. Duncanson was born in 1821 in Seneca County, New York and went to live with his father in Canada as a young boy. He returned to the United States in 1841 with a desire to be an artist and taught himself by painting portraits and copying prints.Duncanson traveled the world in pursuit of his art and moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1845. The Detroit Daily Advertiser praised Duncanson for his skill and color usage in 1846, adding "Mr. Duncanson deserves, and we trust will receive the patronage of all lovers of the fine arts." Prior to the Civil War, Duncanson exiled himself to Canada and the United Kingdom where his work was well received and the London Art Journal declared him a master of landscape painting. His paintings "Drunkard's Plight" (1845), "At the Foot of the Cross" (1846), and "Uncle Tom and Little Eva" (1853) are in the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

December 21, 1890 Alexander Thomas Augusta, surgeon, professor of medicine and Civil War veteran, died. Augusta was born March 8, 1825 in Norfolk, Virginia. He attempted to study medicine at the University of Pennsylvania but was not allowed due to his race. He therefore enrolled at Trinity Medical College of the University of Toronto and earned his Bachelor of Medicine degree in 1856. Augusta remained in Toronto and established his medical practice, supervised staff at Toronto General Hospital, directed an industrial school, and founded the Provincial Association for the Education and Elevation of the Colored People of Canada. Augusta returned to the United States in 1860 and received a major's commission as surgeon for African American troops in the Union Army in 1863, the first African American physician and the highest ranking African American in the army. Augusta accepted an assignment with the Freedman's Bureau, heading Lincoln Hospital, after the war. He also served on the staff of the Washington, D. C. Freedman's Hospital from 1868 to 1877. Augusta was interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

December 21, 1897 William Washington Browne, educator, minister and businessman, died. Browne was born enslaved October 20, 1849 in Habersham County, Georgia. He ran away at 15 and joined the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he attended school in Wisconsin and then returned to the South in 1869 to teach in Georgia and Alabama. After becoming a Methodist minister in 1876, he urged the formation of groups to pool money and buy land. He organized the True Reformers Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia in 1889, the first Black bank in the United States to receive a charter. It took in more than $1 million in deposits at its peak in 1907. Browne was one of only eight men, including Booker T. Washington, selected to represent African Americans at the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895. After his death, Browne's funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Richmond's Black community.

December 21, 1902 Peetie Wheatstraw, hall of fame blues singer and songwriter, was born William Bunch in Ripley, Tennessee or Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Wheatstraw moved to St. Louis, Missouri in the late 1920s and was one of the most popular singers in the area by the early 1930s. He began recording in 1930. He was one of the most recorded blues singers with 161 recorded songs from then until his death December 21, 1941. These include "Don't Feel Welcome Blues," "Strange Man Blues," "Four O'Clock in the Morning," and "Tennessee Peaches Blues." The complete recordings of Wheatstraw were issued on seven CDs in 1994. Many critics consider him "the spiritual ancestor of rap" because of his style of singing and hardened attitude and ego. Wheatstraw was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2008.

December 21, 1911 Josh Gibson, hall of fame Negro Baseball League player, was born in Buena Vista, Georgia. Gibson was recruited by the Homestead Grays, the preeminent Negro Baseball League team, in 1930. The true statistical achievements of Negro Baseball League players may be impossible to know because complete statistics and game summaries were not kept but it is claimed that Gibson hit almost 800 home runs over his 17 year professional career. He also was a ten-time All-Star and won two Negro Baseball League championships. Gibson died January 20, 1947, three months before Jackie Robinson became the first Black player in modern major league history. Gibson was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 and was ranked 18th on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players in 2000. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2000. Biographies of Gibson include "Josh Gibson: A Life in the Negro Leagues" (1978) and "Josh Gibson: The Power and The Darkness" (2004).

December 21, 1921 Pickney Benton Stewart Pinchback, the first African American to become governor of a state in the United States, died. Pinchback was born May 10, 1837 in Macon, Georgia. He made his way to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1862 and raised several companies of the Corps d'Afrique for the Union Army during the Civil War and was one of the few officers of African ancestry. Pinchback resigned his commission because of racial prejudice against Black officers. He was elected to the Louisiana State Senate in 1868 and became the acting Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana in 1871. The incumbent governor was removed from office December 9, 1872 and Pinchback became governor and served until January 13, 1873. During that brief 35 day period, he received vicious hate mail from around the country as well as threats on his life. Pinchback was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1874 and the U. S. Senate in 1876. Pinchback also served on the Louisiana State Board of Education and was instrumental in establishing Southern University and served on the board of trustees. President Chester A. Arthur appointed him surveyor of customs in New Orleans in 1882. Pinchback later moved to Washington D. C. where he practiced law until his death. His biography, "Pickney Benton Stewart Pinchback," was published in 1973.

December 21, 1931 David Nathaniel Baker, Jr., hall of fame symphonic jazz composer, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. Baker earned his Bachelor of Music degree in 1953 and Master of Music degree in 1954 from Indiana University. He was originally a trombonist but an injury to his jaw left him unable to play. This caused him to focus on composition. Baker was nominated for the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Composition for "Levels" and a 1979 Grammy Award. He was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1994 and was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a Jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2000. Baker has written over 2,000 compositions. He has also served on the boards of the American Symphony Orchestra League, Arts Midwest, and is past chair of the Jazz Advisory Panel at the Kennedy Center. Baker received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wabash College in 1993 and honorary Doctor of Music degrees from Oberlin College in 2004 and the New England Conservatory of Music in 2006. He is currently the Distinguished Professor of Music and Chairman of the Jazz Department at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. "David Baker: A Legacy in Music" was published in 2011.

December 21, 1942 Carla Venita Thomas, the Queen of Memphis Soul, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Thomas began performing at 10 as a member of the Teen Town Singers. Her first record, "Cause I Love You" was a duet with her father, Rufus Thomas. Thomas recorded her most famous single, "Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)" which she wrote at 15, in 1960. Other recordings from Thomas include "I'll Bring it Home to You" (1962), "A Woman's Love" (1964), "Let Me Be Good to You" (1966), "Love Means" (1971), "Carla Thomas" (1994), and "Bohemian Cavern" (2007). Thomas became heavily involved in the "Artists in the Schools" program that provided Memphis schoolchildren with access to successful artists during the 1980s. She received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1993.

December 21, 1945 George Faison, dancer and choreographer, was born in Washington, D. C. Faison entered Howard University in 1964 to study dentistry but dropped out in 1966 to pursue a career in dance. He moved to New York City and joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1967 and remained there through 1969. He formed his own group in 1971, the George Faison Universal Dance Experience. He served as dancer and choreographer, creating original works such as "Suite Otis" (1971) set to the music of Otis Redding. He also created pieces with a historical and political bent such as "Poppy" (1971) which dealt with the problem of drug addiction. Faison made his choreographic debut on Broadway with "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope" in 1972. He choreographed "The Wiz" in 1974 and won the Tony Award for Best Choreographer, the first for an African American in that category, April 20, 1975. Faison has choreographed more than 30 other plays and musicals, including "Via Galactica" (1973), "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" (1976), "Porgy and Bess" (1983), which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Choreograher, and "Sing, Mahalia, Sing" (1985). He was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography for his work on the HBO television production "The Josephine Baker Story" (1991). Faison co-founded the Faison Firehouse Theater in 1997 and serves as artistic director.

December 21, 1958 Harry "The Black Panther" Wills, hall of fame boxer, died. Wills was born May 15, 1889 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He began his professional boxing career in 1911 and fought for over 20 years, often ranked as the number one challenger for the heavyweight boxing title, but was never given the opportunity to fight for the title due to his race. Wills spent six years trying to land a fight with Jack Dempsey, who was willing to fight him, but the Governor of the State of New York would not allow it fearing that race riots would follow the fight. Wills retired from boxing in 1932 with a record of 65 wins, 8 losses, and 2 draws. After retiring, he ran a successful real estate business until his death. Wills was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992.

December 21, 1959 Florence Delorez "Flo-Jo' Griffith-Joyner, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Los Angeles, California. At the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games, Griffith-Joyner won the Silver medal in the 200 meter race and at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games she won the Gold medal in the 100 and 200 meter races and in the 4 by 100 meter relay and the Silver medal in the 4 by 400 meter relay. Her world records in the 100 and 200 meter races still stand. She received the 1988 James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States. Griffith- Joyner retired from competitive sports shortly after the 1988 Olympic Games and was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1995. Griffith-Joyner died September 21, 1998. Florence Joyner Olympiad Park in Mission Viejo, California is named in her honor.

December 21, 1972 Horace Mann Boyd, historian, college administrator and social science researcher, died. Bond was born November 8, 1904 in Nashville, Tennessee. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, with honors, from Lincoln University in 1923 and his Master of Arts degree in 1926 and Ph. D. in 1936 in education from the University of Chicago. His dissertation on Black education in Alabama won the Rosenberger Prize in 1936 and was published in 1939. Bond taught at Langston, Fisk, and Dillard Universities while completing his doctorate. He was appointed the first president of Fort Valley State College (now University) in 1939 and served until 1945. Bond was appointed the first African American president of Lincoln University in 1945, a position he held until 1957. He provided research that helped support the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Bond later became dean of the School of Education and director of the Bureau of Educational and Social Research at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). He authored several books, including "The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order" (1934) and "Education for Freedom: A History of Lincoln University" (1976). Bond's biography, "Black Scholar: Horace Mann Bond 1904-1972," was published in 1992.

December 21, 1992 Albert King, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, died. King was born Albert Nelson April 25, 1923 in Indianola, Mississippi but raised in Forrest City, Arkansas. He began his professional career as a musician with a group called In The Groove Boys and briefly played drums on several early recordings of the Jimmy Reed band. King moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1953 and recorded his first single. He released his first album, "The Big Blues," in 1962 and it contained "Don't Throw Your Love on Me So Strong" which was a major hit. King moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1966 and signed with Stax Records and released "Born Under a Bad Sign" in 1967 which made him nationally known. Other albums by King include "Lovejoy" (1971), "New Orleans Heat" (1978), and "Red House" (1992). He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983 and received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1991. King influenced many other musicians, including Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. His album "Born Under a Bad Sign" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance." He was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

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