Today in Black History, 5/29/2014 - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 5/29/2014

• May 29, 1914 Henry Ransom Cecil McBay, chemist and educator, was born in Mexia, Texas. McBay earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Wiley College in 1934 and his Master of Science degree from Atlanta University in 1936. McBay then taught at several educational institutions before accepting a position at the University of Chicago. While doing research at the university, McBay made discoveries that allowed chemists around the world to create inexpensive peroxide compounds which were useful as building blocks in many chemical reactions. As a result of that research, McBay received the Elizabeth Norton Prize for Excellence at Research in Chemistry in 1944 and 1945. In 1945, McBay earned his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago and returned as an assistant professor to Morehouse College. McBay taught in the Atlanta University system for the next 41 years. In 1951, McBay developed a chemistry education program in Liberia on behalf of the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Other honors and awards earned by McBay include The Herty Award for Outstanding Contribution to Chemistry from the American Chemical Society of Georgia in 1976 and The Norris Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Teaching of Chemistry from the American Chemical Society of the Northeast in 1978. The Henry McBay Endowed Chemistry Scholarship was established at Morehouse in 1986 and the Henry C. McBay Research Fellowship was established by the United Negro College Fund in 1995. McBay died September 23, 1995.

• May 29, 1926 Abdoulaye Wade, former President of the Republic of Senegal, was born in Kebemer, Senegal. Wade studied and taught law in France. He earned his Ph. D. in law and economics from the Sorbonne in 1970 and later became the dean of the law and economics faculty at the University of Dakar. In 1974, he founded the Senegalese Democratic Party and has led it since then. In 1978, he was elected to the National Assembly and served until 1980. He also held ministerial positions in government in the late 1980s and 1990s. Wade ran for President of Senegal four times before he was elected in 2000. In 2007, he was elected to a second term. In office, he fought corruption and instituted free market reforms and literacy, public health, and anti-poverty measures. Wade was defeated in his bid for a third term in 2012. He was internationally praised for accepting the results and peacefully stepping down.

• May 29, 1934 Eugene Antonio Marino, the first African American archbishop in the United States, was born in Biloxi, Mississippi. Marino earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Joseph’s Seminary in 1962 and was ordained a priest that same year. He earned his Master of Arts degree from Fordham University in 1967. Following his graduation, he was spiritual director at St. Joseph’s Seminary from 1968 to 1971 when he became vicar general of the Josephites. From 1974 to 1988, Marino was the auxiliary bishop for Washington, D. C. and in 1985 he served as secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the first African American to hold that position. On May 5, 1988, Marino was installed as the Archbishop of Atlanta, the first African American archbishop in the United States. Marino resigned his post in 1990 but retained the title of archbishop. He died November 12, 2000.

• May 29, 1944 Maurice Rupert Bishop, former Prime Minister of Grenada, was born on the island of Aruba but raised in Grenada. Bishop earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at Presentation College and was educated at the London School of Economics. After returning to Grenada in 1973, he was elected head of the Marxist New Jewel Movement political party. Bishop was elected to Parliament and for several years held the position of leader of the opposition in the Grenadian House of Representatives. In 1979, the ruling party was deposed and Bishop was declared Prime Minister of Grenada. In 1983, Bishop was deposed and placed under house arrest. On October 19, 1983, Bishop and seven others, including cabinet ministers and his mistress, were executed. In May, 2009, the Grenada airport was renamed Maurice Bishop International Airport in his honor. Bishop’s speeches have been published in “Forward Ever!: Three Years of the Grenadian Revoulution” (1982) and “In Nobody’s Backyard: Maurice Bishop’s Speeches: 1979-1983: A Memorial Volume” (1984).

• May 29, 1962 John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil became the first African American coach in Major League Baseball when he was hired by the Chicago Cubs. O’Neil was born November 13, 1911 in Carrabelle, Florida. In 1937, he signed with the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro American League. The next year, his contract was sold to the Kansas City Monarchs where he played for the next 12 seasons. In 1948, O’Neil was named manager of the Monarchs and served in that capacity for eight seasons. After resigning in 1955, he became a scout for the Cubs and is credited with signing hall of famer Lou Brock to his first contract. In 1988, O’Neil became a scout for the Kansas City Royals and in 1998 was named Midwest Scout of the Year. O’Neil was a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee from 1981 to 2000 and played an important role in the induction of six Negro league players. In 1990, O’Neil led the effort to establish the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri and served as honorary board chairman until his death October 6, 2006. On December 15, 2006, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President George W. Bush. In 2007, the Baseball Hall of Fame inaugurated the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award and made O’Neil the first recipient. O’Neil’s autobiography, “I Was Right on Time: My Journey from the Negro Leagues to the Majors,” was published in 1997.

• May 29, 1973 Thomas J. Bradley became the first African American Mayor of Los Angeles, California. Bradley was born December 29, 1917 in Calvert, Texas but grew up in Los Angeles. In 1940, he became a member of the Los Angeles Police Department and rose to the rank of lieutenant, the highest ranking African American at that time. In 1956, he earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from Southwestern University School of Law. Bradley was elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 1963 and served until 1972. He served five terms as mayor, the longest tenure of any mayor in the city’s history. In 1982, Bradley ran for Governor of California and all the polls had him ahead but he narrowly lost the election. This gave rise to the term “the Bradley effect” which refers to the tendency of voters to tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for a Black candidate but then actually vote for a White candidate. After the election, Bradley practiced law with a focus on international trade issues. Bradley received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Spingarn Medal in 1985. He died September 29, 1998.

• May 29, 2005 Hamilton Naki, South African surgical assistant and teacher, died. Naki was born June 26, 1926 in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. While working as a gardener at the University of Cape Town, Naki was selected to work in the clinical laboratory to look after animals and perform other basic duties. Over time, Naki became one of four technicians in the research laboratory at the medical school. Despite being listed on the hospital records as a gardener, he was paid the salary of a senior lab technician, the highest pay for someone without a diploma. In the late 1950s, Naki began working with Chirstiaan Barnard while he was developing open heart surgical techniques. In an interview, Barnard called Naki “one of the great researchers of all time in the field of heart transplants” and “Naki was a better craftsman than me, especially when it came to stitching.” Naki went on to train students and professors on transplant techniques. Naki retired in 1991 on a gardener’s pension. In 2002, he received the National Order of Mapungubwe in Bronze, which is awarded to South African citizens for excellence and exceptional achievement, and in 2003 he received an honorary degree in medicine from the University of Cape Town. The documentary “Hidden Heart-The Story of Christian Barnard and Hamilton Naki” was produced in 2008.

• May 29, 2012 Toni Morrison was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Barack H. Obama. Morrison was born Chloe Ardelia Wolford February 18, 1931 in Lorain, Ohio. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Howard University in 1953 and her Master of Arts degree in English from Cornell University in 1955. In 1966, she became an editor at Random House where she played an important role in bringing African American literature into the mainstream. Morrison’s first novel was “The Bluest Eyes” (1970) which was followed by “Sula” (1973) and “Song of Solomon” (1977), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1987, her novel “Beloved” was published and it won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the American Book Award. In 2006, the New York Times Book Review named it the best American novel published in the previous 25 years. In 1998, the book was adapted into a film of the same name. Other novels by Morrison include “Jazz” (1992), “Love” (2003), “A Mercy” (2008), and “Home” (2012). In 1993, Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and was cited, “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, give life to an essential aspect of American reality.” In 1996, the National Endowment for the Humanities selected Morrison for the Jefferson lecture, the nation’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. Also that year, she received the National Book Foundation’s Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters for “enriching our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work.” She was presented the National Humanities Medal by President William Clinton December 20, 2000 for work that has “deepened the nations’ understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped to preserve and expand American’s access to important resources in the humanities.” From 1989 to her retirement in 2006, Morrison held the Robert F. Goheen Chair in the Humanities at Princeton University. In 2008, Morrison won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for “Who’s Got Game? The Ant or the Grasshopper? The Lion or the Mouse? Poppy or the Snake?.” In 2009, she was presented the Norman Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement and in 2011 received honorary Doctor of Letters degrees from Rutgers University and the University of Geneva. Morrison is currently a member of the editorial board at The Nation magazine.

Voices of the Civil War Episode 28 "The Battle of ...
Today in Black History, 5/30/2014
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