Today in Black History, 1/28/2015 - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 1/28/2015

• January 28, 1898 James H. Harris, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Harris was born in 1828 in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland. He worked as a farmer before enlisting in the Union Army in 1864 as a private in Company B of the 38th Regiment United States Colored Troops. He was quickly promoted to corporal and then to sergeant. At the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, September 29, 1864, Harris’ regiment was among a division of Black troops assigned to attack the center of the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights. The attack was met with intense Confederate fire, killing, capturing or wounding over 50 percent of the Black troops, and stalling the effort. When a renewed effort began, Harris and two other men ran at the head of the assault and were the first to breach the Confederate defenses and engage them in hand to hand combat. That attack was successful and the Confederate forces were routed. On February 18, 1874, Harris was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Not much else is known of Harris’ life after the war except that he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

• January 28, 1901 James Richmond Barthe, sculptor, was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Barthe showed great promise as an artist at a young age but due to his race was barred from enrolling in any of the art schools in the South. In 1924, he was admitted to the Art Institute of Chicago and during his four years of study was recognized as a flattering portrait painter. During his senior year, he was introduced to sculpture and exhibited two busts at the 1927 Negro in Art Week Exhibition and in the 1928 exhibition of the Chicago Art League. He was awarded his first solo show in New York City in 1934. Barthe became a member of the National Sculpture Society in 1946 and was the recipient of the 1950 Audubon Artists Gold Medal. Barthe died March 5, 1989. His works are in the collections of many museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Pennsylvania Museum of Art. His biography, “Barthe: A Life in Sculpture,” was published in 2008.

• January 28, 1934 William DeKova White, retired professional baseball player, sportscaster and executive, was born in Lakewood, Florida. White made his major league debut in 1956 and during his 13 season professional career was a five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner. After retiring as a player in 1969, White had an 18 year career as a sportscaster. On February 3, 1989, he was elected president of the National League, the first African American to hold such a high position in professional sports. White held the position until 1994. Since retiring, White has continued to serve on several committees for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He published his autobiography, “Uppity: My Untold Story About the Games People Play,” in 2011.

• January 28, 1937 The Council on African Affairs was formed in the United States in support of African countries’ struggles against colonialism and apartheid. The CAA worked to educate the public about the history of Africa and its fight against imperialism. The organization published a monthly bulletin, New Africa, and a regular newsletter, Spotlight on Africa. These publications featured in-depth articles on Africa by renowned scholars. Members of the CAA included W. E. B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., and Mary McLeod Bethune. The CAA and its officers were repeatedly investigated and accused of subversion and disloyalty. As a result of the harassment, the CAA disbanded in 1955.

• January 28, 1960 Zora Neale Hurston, author and playwright, died. Hurston was born January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama but raised in Eatonville, Florida, the first all-Black town to be incorporated in the United States. Hurston described the experience of growing up in Eatonville in her 1928 essay “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” Hurston earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Barnard College in 1928 and spent two years as a graduate student at Columbia University. Her best known work is the 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” but she also published short stories, essays and plays, including “Color Struck” (1925), a play first published in the Urban League’s Opportunity magazine, and “Mule Bone” (1930), a play co-written with Langston Hughes. The Zora Neale Hurston House in Fort Pierce, Florida was declared a National Historic Landmark December 4, 1991 and the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities is celebrated annually in Eatonville. Zora Neale Hurston Elementary School in Miami, Florida is named in her honor. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2003. Biographies of Hurston include “Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography” (1977), “Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston” (2003), and “Speak, So You Can Speak Again” (2004). Hurston’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

• January 28, 1962 Patrice T. Motsepe, South African mining magnet, was born in Soweto, South Africa. Motsepe earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Swaziland in 1979 and his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Witwatersraand in 1987. In 1994, he became the first Black partner in one of South Africa’s largest law firms where he worked until 1996. In 1995, Motsepe founded a mining services company to glean gold dust from inside mine shafts. After a series of other acquisitions, he is today the largest shareholder in the world’s fifth largest gold mining company. Forbes magazine estimated Motsepe’s net worth at $2.7 billion in 2012. In 2013, he joined The Giving Pledge and committed to give at least half of his wealth to charitable causes. Motsepe won South Africa’s Best Entrepreneur Award in 2002.

• January 28, 1985 “We Are the World” was recorded by USA for Africa, a group of 47 predominantly American artists. The idea for the creation of a song to benefit African famine relief came from Harry Belafonte and was co-written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. The song was co-produced by Quincy Jones and released March 7, 1985. The song topped music charts around the world and became the fastest selling American pop single in history. It earned four Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year, and as of 2009 had sold more than 20 million units and raised over $63 million for humanitarian aid for Africa.

• January 28, 1986 Ronald Ervin McNair, physicist and NASA astronaut, died, along with six other crew members, during the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. McNair was born October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, in physics from North Carolina A&T State University in 1971 and his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. McNair was chosen for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration program in 1978 and flew aboard the Challenger in February, 1984 as a mission specialist. A number of public places have been renamed in honor of McNair, including schools throughout the country. The United States Department of Education offers the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program for low income, first generation, and/or under-represented students.

• January 28, 1988 Luska J. Twyman, the first African American mayor of a Kentucky city, died. Twyman was born May 19, 1913 in Hiseville, Kentucky. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Kentucky State University in 1939 and served in the United States Army from 1942 to 1946. Twyman served as principal of the Glasgow, Kentucky public school for African Americans until 1964 when the public school system was integrated. He was elected to the Glasgow Common Council in 1963, the first African American elected official in the county. He was subsequently elected for two additional terms prior to being elected Mayor of Glasgow in 1968. He served as mayor until 1985. Twyman was also the first African American Kentuckian to serve on the U. S. Commission of Agriculture and the U. S. Commission on Human Rights.

Today in Black History, 1/27/2015
Today in Black History, 1/29/2015
Powered by EasyBlog for Joomla!