Today in Black History, 2/27/2015 - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 2/27/2015

• February 27, 1883 William B. Purvis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received patent number 273,149 for a self-inking hand stamp. It was specifically designed for postage stamp cancellation and dating the envelopes simultaneously. Over his lifetime, Purvis received ten additional patents. He is also believed to have invented, but did not patent, several other devices. Little else is known of Purvis’ life.

• February 27, 1890 Mabel Keaton Stauper, a leader in breaking down racial barriers in nursing, was born in Barbados, West Indies. Stauper and her family immigrated to Washington, D. C. when she was 13. She graduated from Freedmen’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1917 and helped two physicians establish the first hospital in Harlem to treat Black people with tuberculosis in 1920. Stauper became executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1934 and over the next 12 years increased membership, established a citizen advisory committee, built coalitions with other medical groups, and dismantled many racial barriers, including integrating the Armed Forces Nurse Corps in 1945 and the American Nurses Association in 1948. Stauper earned many honors, including the 1951 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. She published her autobiography, “No Time for Prejudice: A Story of the Integration of Negroes in Nursing in the United States,” in 1961. Stauper died November 29, 1989.

• February 27, 1897 Marian Anderson, contralto, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Anderson began singing at local functions for small change at six and got her first big break when she won a singing competition sponsored by the New York Philharmonic in 1925. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience ihttp://www.notablebiographies.com/images/uewb_01_img0029.jpgn Constitution Hall. As a result, with the aid of President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience of millions April 9, 1939. Anderson became the first Black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in 1955 and sang at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. She also sang for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s inauguration in 1957 and President John F. Kennedy’s in 1961. She published her autobiography, “My Lord, What a Morning,” in 1956. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Anderson received the 1939 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Lyndon B. Johnson December 6, 1963, the Congressional Gold Medal in 1977, Kennedy Center Honors in 1978, the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the nation, from President Ronald W. Reagan July 14, 1986, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1991. Anderson died April 8, 1993. Later that year, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. The 1939 documentary film “Marian Anderson: The Lincoln Memorial Concert” was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 2001. A number of biographies of Anderson have been published, including “Marian Anderson: A Singer’s Journey” (2002) and “The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle For Equal Rights” (2004). Anderson’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

• February 27, 1907 Hilton Lee Smith, hall of fame Negro Baseball League pitcher, was born in Sour Lake, Texas. Smith attended and played baseball for Prairie View State Normal & Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University) in 1928 and 1929. He made his professional debut in 1932 and from 1937 until his retirement in 1948 was a star pitcher for the Kansas City Monarchs, winning more than 20 games each year. Over his career, he was a six-time Negro league All-Star. After retiring, Smith worked as a schoolteacher and scout for the Chicago Cubs. Smith died November 18, 1983. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

• February 27, 1911 Ed Davis, hall of fame auto dealer and the first African American to win a franchise to sell new cars, was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. As a teenager, Davis moved to Detroit, Michigan to attend integrated public schools. His first job was at a car repair garage where the owner instructed him to look busy doing janitorial work when White customers were in the garage and not appear to be working on any cars. In 1936, he began selling cars for a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership that was interested in attracting African American customers. Davis opened Davis Motor Sales, a used car dealership, in 1939. He was so successful that he was offered a Studebaker new car dealership in 1940 and operated it until 1956 when Studebaker went out of business. Davis opened Davis Chrysler-Plymouth in 1963, the first African American to be awarded a new car franchise from one of the “Big Three” automakers. He operated the dealership until 1971 and was named Michigan’s Small Businessman of the Year in 1966. After closing the dealership, Davis spent the next 20 years as a consultant to minority dealers and other African American business owners. Davis published his autobiography, “One Man’s Way,” in 1979. He became the first African American inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1999. Davis died May 3, 1999.

• February 27, 1923 Dexter Keith Gordon, hall of fame jazz tenor saxophonist and actor, was born in Los Angeles, California. Gordon played the clarinet before switching to the saxophone at 15. Between 1940 and 1943, Gordon was a member of the Lionel Hampton Band and made his first recording under his own name in 1943. During the first half of the 1960s, Gordon produced some of his most highly regarded work, including “Doin’ Alright” (1961) and “A Swingin’ Affair” (1962). Gordon moved to Europe in 1962 where he experienced less racism and greater respect for jazz musicians. While there, he produced “Our Man in Paris” (1963), “One Flight Up” (1964), and “Getting Around” (1965). Gordon returned to the United States in 1976. In 1987, he starred in the movie “Round Midnight” which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In 1978 and 1980, he was voted Musician of the Year by Down Beat Magazine and was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1980. Gordon was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1986. Gordon died April 25, 1990.

• February 27, 1924 Samella Sanders Lewis, artist, art historian, author and educator, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lewis earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampton University in 1945 and her Master of Arts degree in 1948 and Ph. D. in 1951 from Ohio State University. She was the first African American woman to receive a doctorate in fine arts and art history. Lewis became chair of the Fine Arts Department at Florida A&M University in 1952. From 1969 to 1984, she was professor of art history at Scripps College. She founded Contemporary Crafts in 1969, the first African American owned art publishing house. Lewis founded the International Review of African American Art in 1975 and was a co-founder of the Museum of African American Art in Los Angeles, California in 1976. Lewis published “African American Art and Artists,” a history of African American art since the colonial era, in 1978. She has also published works on Elizabeth Catlett and Richmond Barthe.

• February 27, 1942 Charlayne Hunter-Gault, hall of fame journalist and foreign correspondent, was born in Due West, South Carolina. Hunter-Gault attended Wayne State University from 1959 to 1961, the year that she and Hamilton Holmes became the first African Americans to attend the University of Georgia. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the university in 1963. Hunter-Gault was the first African American reporter for The New Yorker magazine and the second for The New York Times newspaper. She was the chief correspondent in Johannesburg, South Africa for CNN from 1977 to 1999 and the bureau chief from 1999 to 2005. She won two Peabody Awards and two Emmy Awards for her series “Apartheid’s People.” Hunter-Gault published her memoir, “In My Place,” about her experiences at the University of Georgia in 1992 and the university renamed its academic building the Hunter-Holmes Academic Building in 2001. Hunter-Gault is the recipient of more than two dozen honorary degrees and was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists’ Hall of Fame in 2005. She published “New News Out of Africa,” which documented positive developments in Africa, in 2006. She received the Washington Press Club Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015. Hunter-Gault currently lives in Johannesburg where she and her husband produce wine.

• February 27, 1961 James Ager Worthy, hall of fame basketball player, was born in Gastonia, North Carolina. Worthy was an All-American high school basketball player and after graduating enrolled at the University of North Carolina. Worthy was an All-American and co-College Player of the Year in 1982. That year, he also led UNC to the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championship and was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. He also earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in radio and television. Worthy was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1982 National Basketball Association Draft and over his 12 season professional career was a seven-time All-Star and three-time NBA champion. Worthy retired in 1994 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. He was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. He was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996. Worthy is Chief Executive Officer of Worthy Enterprises and dedicates significant time and resources to non-profit community organizations through the James Worthy Foundation.

• February 27, 1964 Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, author, educator and scholar, died. Cooper was born August 10, 1858 in Raleigh, North Carolina. At nine, she received a scholarship to attend Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute, a school for training teachers to educate formerly enslaved Black people. Cooper earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1884 and her Master of Arts degree in mathematics in 1887 from Oberlin College. Cooper published her first book, “A Voice from the South: By A Woman from the South,” in 1892 and it is widely considered the first articulation of Black feminism. Its central thesis was that the educational, moral, and spiritual progress of Black women would improve the general standing of the entire African American community and that it was the duty of educated and successful Black women to support their underprivileged peers in achieving their goals. Cooper began courses for her doctorate degree at Columbia University in 1914 but due to family obligations was forced to stop. She earned her Ph. D. in history from the University of Paris-Sorbonne in 1924, the fourth Black woman to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy degree. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2009 and on pages 26 and 27 of every new United States passport there is the following quote from Cooper, “The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity.” The Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School in Richmond, Virginia is named in her honor.

• February 27, 1968 Franklin Joseph “Frankie” Lymon, hall of fame R&B singer and songwriter, died. Lymon was born September 30, 1942 in Harlem, New York. He began singing in a group called both The Ermines and The Premiers at 12. They wrote the song “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” in 1955. On the day of recording, the original lead singer was late so Lymon stepped in and sang the lead. The song became their first hit, topping the Billboard R&B singles chart for five weeks. Over the next year or so five other top ten singles followed, including “I Want You To Be My Girl” and “The ABC’s of Love.” The group’s last single was “Goody Goody” (1957). After that, Lymon went solo but was not nearly as successful as he was with the group. Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and Lymon was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1994. A fictionalized version of Lymon’s life was told in the film “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” in 1998.

• February 27, 1970 Will Robinson became the first Black head coach in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I basketball when he was hired at Illinois State University. Robinson was born June 3, 1911 in Wadesboro, North Carolina. As a high school student, he finished second in the state golf tournament despite not being allowed on the course with the White players. Robinson lettered in four sports at West Virginia State University where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1937. Because of racial segregation in West Virginia, Robinson attended the University of Michigan where he earned his Master of Arts degree in physical education. Robinson was selected for the head coaching position at Miller High School in Detroit, Michigan in 1943. Over his 25 year high school coaching career, Robinson enabled more than 300 students to attend college. During that time, he also served as a scout for the Detroit Lions football team, responsible for covering all of the Black colleges in the South. Robinson discovered future hall of famers Charlie Sanders and Lem Barney. Robinson retired from Illinois State in 1975 and accepted a position as a scout for the Detroit Pistons basketball team. In that capacity, he discovered future hall of famers Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman. Robinson retired from the Pistons in 2003. Robinson was presented the 1992 John W. Bund Lifetime Achievement Award, given annually “to an individual who has contributed significantly to the sport of basketball,” by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Robinson died April 28, 2008.

• February 27, 2003 Thomas Sowell was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush for prolific scholarship melding history, economics, and political science. Sowell was born June 30, 1930 in Gastonia, North Carolina but raised in Harlem, New York. He dropped out of school at 17 and worked at various jobs until 1951 when he was drafted into the United States Marine Corps. After his discharge in 1953, Sowell passed the GED examination and went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, magna cum laude, from Harvard University in 1958, his Master of Arts degree in economics from Columbia University in 1959, and his Ph. D. in economics from the University of Chicago in 1968. Sowell has taught economics at Howard University, Cornell University, Bradeis University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. Since 1980, he has been a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. Sowell has written more than 30 books on a wide range of subjects, including “Marxism: Philosophy and Economics” (1986), “Race and Culture: A World View” (1995), “The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late” (2002), “Dismantling America: and other controversial essays” (2010), and “Intellectuals and Race” (2013). His autobiography, “A Personal Odyssey,” was published in 2002. Sowell won the 1990 Francis Boyer Award, the highest honor presented by the American Enterprise Institute, and was awarded the 2003 Bradley Prize for intellectual achievement.

• February 27, 2006 The Washington, D. C. home of Carter G. Woodson was designated the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site. Woodson was born December 19, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia. Through self-instruction, he mastered the fundamentals of common school subjects by 17 and graduated from high school at 22. He then earned his Bachelor of Literature degree from Berea College in 1903, his Master of Arts degree from the University of Chicago in 1908, and his Ph. D. in history from Harvard University in 1912. He co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and published his first book, “The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861” in 1915. Other books that he authored include “The History of the Negro Church” (1922) and “The Mis-Education of the Negro” (1933). Woodson began publishing “Journal of Negro History” in 1916, which was renamed “Journal of African American History” in 2002, and founded the Associated Publishers in 1920, the oldest African American publishing company in the United States. In 1926, Woodson single-handedly pioneered the celebration of Negro History Week which we now refer to as Black History Month. That same year, he was awarded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal. Woodson died April 3, 1950. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1984. Many schools around the country are named in his honor. Biographies of Woodson include “Carter G. Woodson: The Father of Black History” (1991) and “Carter G. Woodson: A Life in Black History” (1993). Woodson’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit, Michigan.

• February 27, 2010 An 8 foot bronze statue of Joe Louis was unveiled in La Fayette, Alabama. Louis was born Joseph Louis Barrow May 13, 1914 in La Fayette but raised in Detroit, Michigan. He made his amateur boxing debut in 1932 and at the end of his amateur career in 1934 had a record of 50 wins and 4 losses. Louis turned professional in 1934 and won the Associated Press’ 1935 Athlete of the Year Award. He won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1937 and thousands of African Americans across the country stayed up all night celebrating. Louis held the championship for 140 consecutive months and had 25 successful title defenses, still records for the heavyweight division. His defeat of the German Max Schmeling and his service during World War II made him the first African American to achieve the status of national hero in the United States. He was awarded the Legion of Merit medal in 1945 for “incalculable contribution to the general morale.” Louis initially retired from boxing in 1949 but had to return due to financial problems. Of the more than $4.5 million earned during his boxing career, Louis received about $800,000 and was very generous with that. He retired for good in 1951 with a record of 65 wins and 3 losses. Louis died April 12, 1981. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1982. A monument to Louis was dedicated in Detroit October 16, 1986 and he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Joe Louis Arena in Detroit is named in his honor. He became the first boxer to be honored with a commemorative postage stamp by the United States Postal Service in 1993. Louis was named the greatest heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization. He published his autobiography, “Joe Louis: My Life,” in 1978. Other biographies include “Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber” (1980) and “Joe Louis: The Great Black Hope” (1998). Louis’ name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit

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Today in Black History, 2/28/2015
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