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Today in Black History, 7/26/2012

• July 26, 1916 Spottswood William Robinson III, educator, civil rights attorney, and judge, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Robinson earned his undergraduate degree from Virginia Union University in 1936 and his Bachelor of Laws degree from Howard University in 1939, graduating first in his class and achieving the highest scholastic average in the history of the university. From 1939 to 1947, Robinson was on the faculty of Howard’s School of Law and from 1948 to 1960 worked with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. In 1951, Robinson litigated the lawsuit Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County which was one of the cases consolidated and decided under Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. From 1960 to 1964, Robinson was dean of the Howard University School of Law. In 1964, he became the first African American appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. In 1966, he became the first African American appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and in 1981 he became the first African American to serve as chief judge of the District of Columbia Circuit Court. Robinson took senior status in 1989 and died on October 11, 1998.

• July 26, 1933 Charles Albert Tindley, Methodist minister and hall of fame gospel music composer, died. Tindley was born July 7, 1851 in Berlin, Maryland. At birth, Tindley’s father was enslaved but his mother was free, therefore he was considered free. Tindley was primarily self-educated but did attend night courses and took correspondence courses as the Boston University School of Theology, eventually earning a doctorate while working as a church janitor. Tindley became the pastor of that church, Calvery Methodist Episcopal Church, which under his leadership grew from 130 to a multi-racial congregation of 12,500. After serving the congregation for over 30 years, the church was renamed Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in 1924. Tindley was also a noted songwriter and composer of gospel hymns and his composition “I’ll Overcome Some Day” (1901) is considered by many to be the basis for the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Tindley composed more than 60 other hymns, including “Stand by Me” (1905), “Nothing Between” (1905), “Some Day” (1906), and “Leave It There” (1916). Tindley was the first hymn writer to have a hymn copyrighted and in 1916 he published a collection of hymns titled “New Songs of Paradise.” Tindley was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1993.

• July 26, 1938 Darlene Love, hall of fame singer and actress, was born in Hawthorne, California. In 1959, Love joined The Blossoms who sang back-up for many of the legends of rock and soul, including Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones, and Sonny and Cher. The group also appeared weekly on the “Shindig!” television show. In the 1970s, Love took a break from recording to raise her family. She returned to music and began acting in the early 1980s. Love appeared in the four “Lethal Weapon” movies and performed on Broadway in “Grease” (1994) and “Hairspray” (2005 to 2008). She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

• July 26, 1948 President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 which partly stated “It is hereby to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” The order also established a committee to investigate and make recommendations to the civilian leadership of the military to realize the policy. The last of the all-black units in the United States military was abolished in September, 1954.

• July 26, 1992 Mary Esther Wells, singer and “The Queen of Motown,” died. Wells was born May 13, 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. By the age of ten, she had moved from singing in church choirs to performing in nightclubs around Detroit. In 1960, she was signed to Tamla Records, a subsidiary of Motown, and wrote and recorded “Bye Bye Baby” which peaked at number eight on the R&B charts. In 1962, Wells released “The One Who Really Loves You,” her first big hit, “You Beat Me to the Punch,” which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best R&B Recording, and “Two Lovers,” which sold more than a million copies. These releases made her Motown’s first female star and successful solo artist. In 1964, Wells released “My Guy” which sold more than a million copies and was the number one R&B single of the year. Wells left Motown in 1965 and in 1974 retired from the music industry to raise her family. She returned to recording in 1981 with the album “In and Out of Love” which contained the single “Gigolo” which was Wells last chart single. In 1989, Wells was presented the Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and in 1999 her song “My Guy” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance.”

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Founded in 1965 and located in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. The Museum provides learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African Americans and their African origins.