Today in Black History, 12/24/2014 - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 12/24/2014

• December 24, 1866 William Henry Barnes, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Barnes was born in 1840 or 1845 in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland. He worked as a farmer before enlisting in the Union Army as a private in Company C of the 38th United States Colored Infantry Regiment in 1864. On September 29 of that year at the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, his regiment was among a division of Black troops that attacked the center of the Confederate defenses at New Market Heights. The attack was met with intense Confederate fire and over 50 percent of the Black troops were killed, wounded, or captured. On April 6, 1865, Barnes was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration, for being “among the first to enter the enemy’s works; although wounded.” Barnes was promoted to sergeant in July, 1865 and remained in the army until his death.

• December 24, 1881 The Order of True Reformers was founded by William Washington Browne in Richmond, Virginia. The Order was a fraternal organization of African Americans in southern states organized for the purpose of setting up business and social avenues in which Negroes could participate. Several prosperous business enterprises came out of The Order, including those that sold insurance to Black people when other companies refused. A savings bank was established in 1888 and a real estate department was formed in 1892. This was the beginning of the Negro businessman in insurance and banking. In January, 1893, they began publishing a bimonthly newspaper. The Order received a charter for the Reformers’ Mercantile and Industrial Association in 1899 to manufacture, buy and sell, groceries, goods and articles of merchandise of any description. The story of the organization was told in “The Black Lodge in White America: True Reformer Browne and His Economic Strategy” (1994).

• December 24, 1898 Warren “Baby” Dodds, hall of fame jazz drummer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Dodds gained a reputation as a top young drummer in New Orleans and worked on Mississippi River steamship bands with Louis Armstrong. He moved to California in 1921 to work with Joe “King” Oliver and then followed him to Chicago, Illinois. Dodds is regarded as one of the best jazz drummers of the pre-big band era and he revolutionized the drum kit by inventing the floor bass or “kick drum.” Additionally, Dodds is probably the first jazz drummer to record unaccompanied. Dodds died February 14, 1959. He was posthumously inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 2007. A biography, “The Baby Dodds Story,” was published in 1959.

• December 24, 1920 Dave Bartholomew, hall of fame composer, arranger, musician and band leader, was born in Edgard, Louisiana. Bartholomew has been active in many musical genres but his partnership with Fats Domino produced some of his greatest successes. Together, they wrote and recorded more than 40 hit songs, including “Goin’ Home” (1952), “Ain’t That a Shame” (1855), “Blue Monday” (1956), and “I’m Walkin’” (1957). He was also responsible for the arrangements on Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” (1956), which is listed number 81 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time. Bartholomew also wrote “I Hear You Knocking” for Gale Storm in 1955 and “One Night” for Elvis Presley in 1983. He produced “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” (1952) with Lloyd Price and “Let the Good Times Roll” (1956) with Shirley & Lee. Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award in 1996, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2007.

• December 24, 1929 Edward Christopher Williams, the first African American professional librarian in the United States and author, died. Williams was born February 11, 1871 in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1892 from Adelbert College of Western Reserve University. After graduating, he was appointed assistant librarian at Hatch Library at WRU and two years later was promoted to librarian, a position he held until 1909. Williams earned his master’s degree in librarianship at New York State Library in 1898. In 1909, Williams was appointed principal of M Street High School (now Dunbar High School) in Washington D. C. He served there until 1916 when he was appointed head librarian of Howard University, a position he held for 13 years. He also served as professor of bibliography and instructor of German language. Williams was also proficient in French, Italian, and Spanish. He was a founding member of the Ohio Library Association and served as secretary in 1904. He also served as vice president of the New York State Library School Association that year. Williams authored and translated many articles, poems, and short stories. In 1999, American Libraries named him one of the 100 Most Important Leaders We Had in the 20th Century.

• December 24, 1989 Ernest Nathan “Dutch” Morial, the first African American Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, died. M was born October 9, 1929 in New Orleans. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Xavier University in 1951 and his Juris Doctor degree from Louisiana State University in 1954, the first African American to earn a law degree from that institution. Morial served two years with the United States Army Intelligence Corps during the mid-1950s. He came to prominence during the 1960s as a lawyer fighting segregation and as president of the New Orleans Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1962 to 1965. Morial was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1967, the first Black member since Reconstruction, where he served one term. He became the first Black Juvenile Court judge in Louisiana in 1970 and the first Black person elected to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in 1974. Morial was elected Mayor of New Orleans in 1977 and served two terms. During his tenure, the proportion of Black city employees increased from 40% to 53% and the proportion of Black police officers increased to 33%. He also served as president of the U. S. Conference of Mayors from 1982 to 1986. The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the Ernest N. Morial Asthma, Allergy and Respiratory Disease Center at Louisiana State University, and Ernest N. Morial Elementary School are all named in his honor.

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