Today in Black History, 12/19/2013 - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 12/19/2013

• December 19, 1875 Carter Godwin Woodson, historian, author and journalist, was born in New Canton, Virginia. Through self-instruction, Woodson 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. In 1915, 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.” Other books that he authored include “The History of the Negro Church” (1922) and “The Mis-Education of the Negro” (1933). In 1916, Woodson began publishing “Journal of Negro History,” which was renamed “Journal of African American History” in 2002, and in 1920 founded the Associated Publishers, 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 NAACP Spingarn Medal. Woodson died April 3, 1950. His Washington D.C. home was designated the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site February 27, 2006. Also, many schools around the country are named in his honor. His biographies, “Carter G. Woodson: The Father of Black History” and “Carter G. Woodson: A Life in Black History,” were published in 1991 and 1993, respectively. Woodson’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

• December 19, 1891 Charles Randolph Uncles became the first Black seminarian to be educated and ordained a priest in the United States. The date and place of Uncle’s birth is unknown but it is known that he desired to be a priest at an early age. He attended Baltimore Normal School for Teachers and taught in the Baltimore Public School System. He graduated from St. Hyacinthe College in Quebec, Canada with the highest grades in his class. From 1891 to 1925, Uncles taught at Epiphany College in Baltimore and was instrumental in forming the Society of St. Joseph the Sacred Heart in 1893. Uncles died July 21, 1933. The Knights of Peter Claver, Father Charles Council #4 and the Charles R. Uncles Senior Plaza in Baltimore are named in his honor.

• December 19, 1895 Joseph “King” Oliver, hall of fame jazz cornet player and bandleader, was born in Aben, Louisiana but grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. At a young age, he began playing the cornet in brass and dance bands. The band that he co-led was considered New Orleans’ hottest and best in the 1910s. By 1922, Oliver had moved to Chicago, Illinois where he was considered the “jazz king” of Chicago with King Oliver and the Creole Jazz Band. During the Great Depression, Oliver lost his life savings when his Chicago bank failed and he died in poverty April 8, 1938. Oliver was a teacher and mentor to Louis Armstrong who stated that “if it had not been for Joe Oliver, jazz would not be what it is today.” Oliver was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1976 and was a charter inductee to the Gennett Records Walk of Fame in 2007. His biography, “King Oliver,” was published in 1961.

• December 19, 1920 Robert Blackburn, artist, printmaker and educator, was born in Summit, New Jersey. As a teenager, Blackburn was mentored by several Harlem Renaissance artists, including Charles “Spanky” Alston and Augusta Savage. He studied lithography, etching, woodblock, and silk-screening at the WPA Harlem Community Art Center. In 1948, he established the Printmaking Workshop which became influential in the international printmaking community, producing such works as “Impressions Our World” (1974), a portfolio of prints by African American artists. Blackburn taught at Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, Columbia University, and Rutgers University. His work is included in the collections of the Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Tel Aviv Museum. In 1992, he received a John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation “Genius” Award and in 2000 received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the College Art Association and the National Fine Print Association. Blackburn died April 21, 2003.

• December 19, 1929 Blind Lemon Jefferson, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, died. Jefferson was born Lemon Henry Jefferson September 24, 1893 near Coutchman, Texas. He was born blind. He started playing the guitar in his early teens and became a street musician. By 1915, he was traveling around Texas and playing with other blues musicians, including Leadbelly and T-Bone Walker. In 1926, Jefferson was taken to Chicago, Illinois to record his music. Between 1926 and 1929, he recorded several hits, including “Got the Blues,” “Long Lonesome Blues,” and “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean.” After his death, Jefferson was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1967, a Texas Historical Marker was placed at the gravesite and in 2007 the name of the cemetery was changed to Blind Lemon Memorial Cemetery. Jefferson is often referred to as “Father of the Texas Blues.” He was an inaugural inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and his recording of “Matchbox Blues” was listed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll. “Blind Lemon Jefferson: His Life, His Death, and His Legacy” was published in 2002.

• December 19, 1933 Cicely Tyson, stage, film and television actress, was born in Harlem, New York. Tyson was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine and became a popular fashion model. Her first film role was in “Carib Gold” (1957) and other films include “A Man Called Adam” (1966), “The Comedians” (1967), “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” (2005), “The Help” (2011), and “Alex Cross” (2012). In 1961, Tyson appeared in the original cast of “The Blacks,” the longest running Off-Broadway non-musical of the decade. In 1972, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “Sounder.” In 1974, she won the Emmy Awards for Best Lead Actress in a Drama and Actress of the Year – Special for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman.” Other television appearances include “Roots” (1977), “King” (1978), “The Marva Collins Story” (1981), and “The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” (1994), for which she won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. The Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, New Jersey is named in her honor and she plays an active role in supporting the school. Tyson received an honorary doctorate degree from Morehouse College in 2009 and the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 2010.. In 2013, Tyson won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance in “A Trip to Bountiful.”

• December 19, 1951 John Preston “Pete” Hill, hall of fame Negro league baseball player and manager, died. Hill was born October 12, 1882 in Culpeper, Virginia. He played in the Negro leagues from 1899 to 1925 and was considered the most important member of three of the most talented teams to ever play. He was also considered the most consistent hitter of his time, retiring with a career batting average of .326. From 1919 to 1921, Hill was player/manager for the Detroit Stars. His final position in professional baseball was as field manager for the Baltimore Black Sox. In 1930, Hill moved to Buffalo, New York to work as a railroad porter. He was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

• December 19, 1961 Reginald Howard White, hall of fame football player, was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. From 1980 to 1983, White played for the University of Tennessee where he was an All-American. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in human services, he signed with the Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League and after that league folded in 1985 signed with the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League. Over the next fifteen seasons, White was a 12-time All-Pro selection and in 1987 and 1998 the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Because of his strong Christian beliefs and his play on the field, White was known as “the Minister of Defense.” After retiring from football, White served as an associate minister at a church in Knoxville, Tennessee. White died December 26, 2004. During the 2005 football season the University of Tennessee, Philadelphia Eagles, and Green Bay Packers all retired White’s uniform number and in 2006 he was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Reggie White Boulevard in Chattanooga and Reggie White Way in Green Bay, Wisconsin are named in his honor.

• December 19, 1964 Randall McDaniel, hall of fame football player, was born in Phoenix, Arizona. McDaniel was a four-year starter for Arizona State University and was an All-American in 1986 and 1987. After graduating from college, he was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1988 NFL Draft and over his 14 season professional career was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection. In 1996, McDaniel was named the NFL True Value Man of the Year for his charity work. McDaniel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Today, he is a paraprofessional at the Westonka School District in Mound, Minnesota. The Randall McDaniel Sports Complex in Avondale, Arizona was named in his honor in 2010.

• December 19, 1967 Charles Austin, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Van Vleck, Texas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southwest Texas University (now Texas State University) in 1991. In 1990, he won the National Collegiate Athletic Association Outdoor Championship in the high jump. Austin participated in the 1992 Barcelona, 1996 Atlanta, and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, winning the Gold medal and setting an Olympic record which still stands at the 1996 games. He also holds the American record for the high jump. Austin was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2012. He currently owns a sports performance and personal training company. Austin published “Head Games: Life’s Greatest Challenge” in 2007.

• December 19, 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson presented the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration, to the family of Matthew Leonard for his actions during the Vietnam War. Leonard was born November 26, 1929 in Eutaw, Alabama. He served in the United States Army during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. On February 28, 1967, Leonard was serving as a platoon sergeant with Company B, 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division near Suoi Da, South Vietnam when his platoon came under attack. His citation partially reads, “Although the platoon leader and several other key leaders were among the first wounded, P/Sgt. Leonard quickly rallied his men to throw back the initial enemy assaults. During the short pause that followed, he organized a defensive perimeter, redistributed ammunition, and inspired his comrades through his forceful leadership and words of encouragement. Noticing a wounded companion outside of the perimeter, he dragged the man to safety but was struck by a sniper’s bullet which shattered his left hand. Refusing medical attention and continuously exposing himself to the increasing fire as the enemy again assaulted the perimeter, P/Sgt. Leonard moved from position to position to direct the fire of his men against the well camouflaged foe. Under the cover of the main attack, the enemy moved a machine gun into a location where it could sweep the entire perimeter………………..P/Sgt. Leonard rose to his feet, charged the enemy gun, and destroyed the hostile crew despite being hit several times by enemy fire. He moved to a tree, propped himself against it, and continued to engage the enemy until he succumbed to his wounds. His fighting spirit, heroic leadership, and valiant acts inspired the remaining members of his platoon to hold back the enemy until assistance arrived.”

• Warren Carlos Sapp, hall of fame football player, was born in Orlando, Florida but raised in Plymouth, Florida. Sapp played collegiate football at the University of Miami where in 1994 he won the Lombardi Award as the best college lineman or linebacker and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the best college defensive player. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1995 NFL Draft and over his 13 season professional career was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1999. Sapp retired from football in 2008. He was selected for the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1990s and the 2000s. Sapp was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013 and that same year the Buccaneers retired his number 99 jersey. He is currently an analyst with NFL Network. He also is involved in raising global awareness of the importance of being tested and treated for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.

• December 19, 1997 Jimmy Rogers, hall of fame blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player, died. Rogers was born James A. Lane June 3, 1924 in Ruleville, Mississippi. He learned to play the harmonica as a child. By the time he was a teenager, he was playing the guitar professionally in East St. Louis, Illinois. From 1947 to 1954, Rogers played with Muddy Waters’ band which shaped the sound of the Chicago Blues style. In the mid-1950s, Rogers had several successful solo record releases, including “Walking By Myself” (1956) and he continued touring and recording until his death. In 1995, Rogers was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

• December 19, 2000 Milton John Hinton, hall of fame jazz bass player, died. Hinton was born June 23, 1910 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. While attending high school, he learned to play the bass horn, tuba, cello, and the double bass. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he worked as a freelance musician in Chicago, Illinois, playing with famous jazz musicians such as Jabbo Smith and Art Tatum. In 1936, he joined the Cab Calloway band and played with them until 1951. Hinton later became a television staff musician, working regularly on shows with Jackie Gleason and Dick Cavett. Hinton’s biography, “Bass Line,” was published in 1988 and in 1993 he was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the United States bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts. Hinton is recognized as the most recorded jazz musician of all time, having appeared on 1,174 recordings. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2001.

• December 19, 2000 Roebuck “Pops” Staples, hall of fame gospel and R&B musician, died. Staples was born December 28, 1914 on a cotton plantation near Winona, Mississippi. He dropped out of school after the eighth grade. In 1935, he moved to Chicago, Illinois where he sang with the Trumpet Jubilees. In 1948, he formed The Staple Singers with his children as a gospel group and they started recording in the early 1950s with songs such as “This May Be the Last Time” and “Uncloudy Day.” In the 1960s they started recording protest, inspirational, and contemporary music and had a number of hits, including “Respect Yourself” (1971), “I’ll Take You There” (1972), “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” (1973), and “Let’s Do it Again” (1975). After the group disbanded in the 1980s, Staples began a solo career and in 1995 won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for “Father, Father.” In 1999, the Staple Singers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Today in Black History, 12/18/2013
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