Today in Black History, 6/20/2013 - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 6/20/2013

• June 20, 1890 Cumberland Willis “Cum” Posey, Jr., hall of fame Negro league player, manager, and team owner, was born in Homestead, Pennsylvania. In his early years, basketball dominated Posey’s life. He was considered one of the top black basketball players of his time. In 1910, Posey organized a group of steelworkers into the Homestead Grays baseball team, one of the most powerful franchises in Negro league history. Posey became manager of the team in 1916 and in the early 1920s became owner. Between 1937 and 1945, his teams won nine consecutive pennants. From 1931 to 1945, Posey wrote a column for the Pittsburgh Courier and from 1931 until his death March 28, 1946 he was a member of the Homestead Board of Education. In 2006, Posey was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

• June 20, 1894 Lloyd Augustus Hall, hall of fame chemist and inventor, was born in Elgin, Illinois, but raised in Aurora, Illinois. Hall earned his Bachelor of Science degree in pharmaceutical chemistry from Northwestern University in 1916 and went on to do graduate work at the University of Chicago. After earning his master’s degree, he was hired over the telephone by Western Electric Company, but when they found out that he was black, they rescinded the hire. He then went to work as a chemist for the Department of Health in Chicago. During World War I, Hall served with the United States Ordinance Department as chief inspector of powder and explosives. In 1925, he joined Griffith Laboratories where he worked for 34 years and amassed 59 patents, primarily in the technologies of curing meat. In 1944, he earned his Doctor of Science degree from Virginia State College. In 1955, Hall was elected to the board of directors of the American Institute of Chemist, the first African American to serve in that capacity. After retiring from Griffith, Hall consulted for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and from 1962 to 1964 sat on the American Food for Peace Council. Hall died January 2, 1971. He was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004.

• June 20, 1920 Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, former President of the Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO), was born in Portuguese East Africa (now The Republic of Mozambique). In 1953, Mondlane earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology and sociology from Oberlin College and in 1960 his Master of Arts and Ph.D. degrees in sociology from Northwestern University. After graduating, he became a United Nations official and later joined the Mozambican pro-independence movement. In 1962, Mondlane was elected president of FRELIMO and in 1964 the organization began a guerilla war to obtain Mozambique’s independence from Portugal. On February 3, 1969, Mondlane was assassinated by a bomb planted in a book that was delivered to him. On June 25, 1975, Portugal handed over power to FRELIMO and Mozambique became an independent nation. That same year, the university in the capital of Maputo was renamed Eduardo Mondlane University. Mondlane completed “The Struggle for Mozambique,” which describes the colonial system in Mozambique and the struggle for independence, just before his death.

• June 20, 1943 The Detroit Race Riot began with a fist fight between a black man and a white man on Belle Isle. The fight eventually grew into confrontations between groups of blacks and whites and spread into the city. Rumors that black women were being assaulted and white women being raped fueled the confrontations. Stores were looted and buildings burned, primarily around the black section of town called Paradise Valley. After 36 hours, Federal troops restored peace to the streets. Over the course of the riot, 36 people were killed, 25 of whom were African American, 600 injured, 75% of which were African Americans, and 1,800 people were arrested, with black people accounting for more than 85%.

• June 20, 1946 Andre Watts, classical pianist and professor, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, but raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of nine, Watts appeared with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He graduated from the Philadelphia Musical Academy in 1963 and that same year made his television debut in a nationally televised concert with the New York Philharmonic. In 1964, Watts won the Grammy Award for Best New Classical Artist and he made his European debut in 1966 with the London Symphony Orchestra. By 1969, he was on a full-scale concert tour, playing 150 concerts a year by the mid-1970s. In 1976, his PBS Sunday telecast was the first solo recital presented on Live from Lincoln Center and the first full-length recital to be aired nationally in prime time. Watts continues to be one of the world’s most in demand pianist, performing on the most prestigious concert stages and with the most preeminent orchestras and conductors. Since 2004, he has held the Jack I. and Dora B. Hamlin Endowed Chair in Music at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.

• June 20, 1949 Lionel Brockman Richie, Jr., singer, songwriter, and record producer, was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. Richie went to Tuskegee Institute on a tennis scholarship and graduated in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. In 1968, he became a singer and saxophonist with the Commodores who became popular with albums such as “Natural High” (1978) and “Midnight Magic” (1979). By the late 1970s, Richie had begun to accept songwriting commissions from other artists, including “Lady” for Kenny Rogers which hit number one in 1980. In 1982, Richie began his solo career with his self-titled debut album which included the number one hit “Truly” and sold more than 4 million copies. His follow up album, “Can’t Slow Down” (1983), sold more than 8 million copies and won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. In 1985, Richie wrote and performed “Say You, Say Me” for the film “White Nights.” The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Also in 1985, he co-wrote with Michael Jackson the mega-hit “We Are the World.” In 2008, he received the George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2012, Richie released “Tuskegee” which went to the top of the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart and was certified platinum within five weeks of its release. Richie has sold, solo or as a group member, more than 100 million records and has been nominated for 18 Grammy Awards and won four.

• June 20, 1955 Everette “E.” Lynn Harris, author, was born in Flint, Michigan, but raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. Harris earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1977. Harris’ first book, “Invisible Life,” was self-published in 1991. After that, Harris authored ten consecutive books to make the New York Times Best Seller list, including “And This Too Shall Pass” (1997), “Money Can’t Buy Me Love” (2000), “A Love of My Own” (2003), and “Basketball Jones” (2009). Harris died July 23, 2009. “Mama Dearest” (2009) and “In My Father’s House” (2010) were released posthumously. His personal memoir, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” was published in 2004.

• June 20, 1960 The Republic of Senegal gained its independence from France. Senegal is located in West Africa and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south. Dakar is the capital city. The country is approximately 76,000 square miles in size and has a population of approximately 12,900,000 people. Islam is practiced by 94% of the population.

• June 20, 1969 MaliVai “Mal” Washington, former professional tennis player, was born in Glen Cove, New York. Washington began playing tennis at the age of five and as a teenager competed in the United States Tennis Association National Junior Championships. For two seasons, he played tennis for the University of Michigan and was the top ranked college player in the United States. He left school and turned professional in 1989. Washington won his first top-level singles title in 1992 and in 1996 became the first African American male to reach the Wimbledon finals since Arthur Ashe in 1975. Washington retired from the professional tour in 1999 with four tour singles titles. He now serves as a TV analyst and on-court interviewer. Washington is the founder of the MaliVai Washington Kids Foundation in Jacksonville, Florida whose mission is “to develop champions in classrooms, on tennis courts and throughout communities.” In 2009, he was awarded the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year Award.

• June 20, 1988 A commemorative statue of Ernest Davis was unveiled in front of Ernie Davis Middle School in Elmira, New York. Davis was born December 14, 1939 in New Salem, Pennsylvania, but raised in Elmira. He attended Syracuse University where he was a running back from 1959 to 1961, winning first-team All-American honors in 1960 and 1961 and earning the nickname “the Elmira Express.” On November 28, 1961, he became the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy as college football’s top player of the year. Davis earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1962. He was selected number one in the 1962 NFL Draft, the first African American to be selected number one, by the Washington Redskins and traded to the Cleveland Browns. Before playing a single game of professional football, Davis died May 18, 1963. More than 10,000 people filed past his coffin in a single day and President John F. Kennedy sent a condolence telegram. Despite never playing a game for them, the Browns retired his jersey number 45. Davis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979 and a film biography, “The Express” based on the book “Ernie Davis: The Elmira Express” (1999), was released in 2008. A statue of Davis was unveiled September 13, 2008 on the campus of Syracuse University.

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