Today in Black History, 06/10/15 | Marcus Garvey - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/10/15 | Marcus Garvey

  • June 10, 1799. Joseph Bologne the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, musician, swordsman and equestrian, died. Saint-Georges was born December 25, 1745 in Guadeloupe but raised in France. While still a young man, he acquired reputations as the best swordsman in France, as a violin virtuoso, and as a classical composer. He was appointed maestro of the Concert des Amateurs in 1771 and later director of the Concert de la Loge Olympique, the biggest orchestra of his time. He was eventually selected for appointment as director of the Royal Opera of Louis XVI but was prevented from taking the position because three Parisian divas felt that “it would be injurious to their professional reputations for them to sing on stage under the direction of a mulatto.” Saint-Georges also served in the French army and was appointed the first Black colonel, commanding a regiment of a thousand free colored volunteers. Despite his successes, Saint-Georges died destitute. Biographies of Saint-Georges include“Joseph Boulogne called Chevalier de Saint-Georges” (1996) and “Joseph de Saint-Georges, le Chevalier Noir (The Black Chevalier)” (2006).
     
  • June 10, 1895 Hattie McDaniel, the first Black performer to win an Academy Award, was born in Wichita, Kansas. McDaniel was a professional singer/songwriter, comedienne, stage and film actress, and radio performer. Over the course of her career, she appeared in more than 300 films, often portraying a maid. In response to criticism from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, she said “I’d rather play a maid and make $700 a week than be one for $7.” McDaniel won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mammy in “Gone With The Wind” February 29, 1940. During World War II, she served as chair of the Negro Division of the Hollywood Victory Committee, providing entertainment for soldiers at military bases. McDaniel died October 26, 1952. Before her death, she expressed that she wanted to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery with other movie stars, however the owners of the cemetery would not allow it because of her race. McDaniel has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for her contributions to radio and one for motion pictures. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2006. Her biography, “Hattie: The Life of Hattie McDaniel,” was published in 1990.
     
  • June 10, 1910 Howlin’ Wolf, hall of fame blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player, was born Chester Arthur Burnett in White Station, Mississippi. Wolf performed in the South with a number of blues musicians during the 1930s, including Robert Johnson and Son House. His first recording, “How Many More Years,” was released in 1951 and was a hit on the Billboard R&B charts. This was followed by other hits, including “Moanin’ at Midnight” (1951) and “I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)” (1956). Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightening” (1956) is enshrined in both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance.” Also, his recordings “Spoonful” (1960) and “The Red Rooster” (1962) are enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His 1962 album, “Howlin’ Wolf,” influenced many British and American bands infatuated with Chicago blues. Wolf died January 10, 1976. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1994. The Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Blues Festival is held each year in West Point, Mississippi. His biography, “Moanin’ at Midnight, The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf,” was published in 2004.
  • June 10, 1946 John Arthur “Jack” Johnson, hall of fame boxer and the first Black World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, died in a car accident. Johnson was born March 31, 1878 in Galveston, Texas. He had won at least 50 fights against White and Black opponents by 1902 and won the World Colored Heavyweight Boxing Championship in 1903. Johnson finally won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship December 26, 1908 with a technical knockout over Tommy Burns. On July 4, 1910, former undefeated heavyweight champion James Jeffries came out of retirement “for the purpose of proving that a White man is better than a Negro.” The “Fight of the Century” ended with Johnson knocking Jeffries out. Johnson’s win triggered riots in more than 50 cities. Johnson lost his title in 1915 but continued fighting professionally until 1938. He retired with a record of 73 wins, 13 losses, and 9 draws. Johnson received patent number 1,413,121 for an improved wrench for tightening loosened fastening devices April 18, 1922. Johnson was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. His life is the basis for the play and subsequent 1970 movie “The Great White Hope” and the 2005 documentary, “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.”  Johnson’s biography, “Jack Johnson, In the Ring and Out,” was published in 1977. A memoir by Johnson that was published in French was translated and published as “My Life and Battles” in 2009.
     
  • June 10, 1949 John Tucker Mugabi Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, was born near Kampala, Uganda. Sentamu studied law at Makerere University and was appointed a High Court judge at 24. In 1974, he was forced to flee the country to the United Kingdom where he studied theology at Selwyn College and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1976, Master of Arts degree in 1979, and Ph. D. in 1984. Sentamu was ordained a priest in 1979 and appointed Bishop of Stepney in 1996. Sentamu was appointed the 97th Archbishop of York in 2005, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England. He was installed as the first Chancellor of York St. John University in 2007. Sentamu has received honorary doctorate degrees from several universities in England in recognition of his career as a scholar and theologian. He was awarded the 2007 Yorkshireman of the Year title.
  • June 10, 1967 Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr. became the first African American selected as an astronaut in the United States Air Force’s Manned Orbital Laboratory Program. Lawrence was born October 2, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Bradley University in 1955. After flight training, he was designated a U. S. Air Force pilot and over his career accumulated over 2,500 flight hours. Lawrence earned his Ph. D. in nuclear chemistry from Ohio State University in 1965. Lawrence was killed in a plane crash December 8, 1967. After many years of obscurity, his name was inscribed on the Space Mirror Memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida December 8, 1997. The Major Robert Lawrence, Jr. School for Mathematics and Science in Chicago is named in his honor.
     
  • June 10, 2002 Benjamin Ward, the first African American New York City Police Commissioner, died. Ward was born August 10, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from high school, he was drafted into the United States Army where he served as a military policeman and criminal investigator in Europe for two years. Ward joined the New York City Police Department in 1951. Initially, due to resentment by White officers, he was not assigned a locker at the precinct which forced him to dress at home and ride the subway to work in uniform. During his 15 years in uniform, he rose through the ranks to lieutenant. During that time, Ward earned his bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and his law degree from Brooklyn Law School. Ward was appointed executive director of NYPD’s Civilian Complaint Review Board in 1966. After a series of other appointments, he was sworn in as police commissioner January 5, 1984. He served in that capacity until his retirement in 1989. Ward also served as an adjunct professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and an adjunct professor of corrections at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
     
  • June 10, 2004 Ray Charles, hall of fame R&B, gospel, blues and country musician, died. Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson September 23, 1930 in Albany, Georgia. He began to lose his sight at five and was completely blind by seven. He began to perform around Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Florida in 1943. He moved to Seattle, Washington in 1947 and recorded his first hit, “Confession Blues” (1949). His song “I Got A Woman” reached the top of Billboard’s R&B chart in 1955 and from then until 1959 Charles had a series of R&B chart toppers. Charles crossed over to the pop charts in 1959 with “What I Say” which was followed by “Georgia On My Mind” (1960), “Hit The Road Jack” (1961), “Unchain My Heart” (1962), and “Busted” (1963). “Georgia On My Mind” was proclaimed the official state song of Georgia in 1979. Charles performed at President Ronald W. Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985 and President William J. Clinton’s first in 1993. He won 17 Grammy Awards during his career, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1981 and received Kennedy Center Honors in 1986. That same year, Charles was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Charles was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1982, the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 1991, and received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an individual artist by the United States, from President William J. Clinton October 7, 1993. His final album, “Genius Loves Company,” was released two months after his death. The 2004 film “Ray” portrayed his life and career and Jamie Foxx won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Charles. The United States postal facility in Los Angeles, California was renamed the Ray Charles Post Office Building in 2005 and Ray Charles Plaza was opened December 7, 2007 in Albany with a revolving, lighted bronze sculpture of Charles seated at a piano. Charles’ biography, “Ray Charles: Man and Music,” was published in 1998 and he published his autobiography, “Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story,” in 2004. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 2013.
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