Today in Black History, 6/25/2014 - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 6/25/2014

• June 25, 1850 William Henry Heard, clergyman and United States Ambassador to Liberia, was born enslaved in Elbert County, Georgia. As a child, Heard, his mother, and three siblings were sold twice. Heard educated himself by learning the bible from memory and paying a White schoolboy to teach him basic literacy. In time, he achieved a teaching qualification and attended the University of South Carolina until 1877 when all Black students were removed by state law. In 1878, Heard joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church and quickly rose through the ranks until elected bishop in 1908. In 1895, he was appointed Minister Resident and Consul General to Liberia by President Grover Cleveland, a position he held until 1898. While there, he served as superintendent of the Liberia Annual Conference of the A.M.E. Church and built the first A.M.E. church in Monrovia. Heard published “The Bright Side of African Life” in 1898. He died September 12, 1937. “From Slavery to the Bishopric in the A.M.E. Church, An Autobiography” was published in 1969.

• June 25, 1859 or 1863 Benjamin William Quarteyquaye Quartey-Papafio, the first African educated to practice medicine in the Gold Coast, was born in Accra, Gold Coast (now Kenya). Quartey-Papafio was educated at Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone before earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Durham University in Britain in 1882. In 1886, he earned his Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees from Edinburgh University and became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. After returning to the Gold Coast, he served as a medical officer with the Gold Coast Government Service from 1888 to 1905 while also in private practice. From 1909 to 1912, Quartey-Papafio was a member of the Accra Town Council and from 1919 to his death September 14, 1924 was an unofficial member of the legislative council.

• June 25, 1876 Isaiah Dorman, a formerly enslaved interpreter, was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Not much is known of Dorman’s early life although records suggest that he was born enslaved in the 1840s. In 1865, he was hired to carry the mail on a 360 mile roundtrip between Forts Rice and Wadsworth. It was reported that he did this on foot for about two years. In 1871, he served as a guide and interpreter for a party of engineers making the Northern Pacific Railroad Survey. In 1876, Dorman was hired by General George Armstrong Custer as an interpreter for his expedition to the Little Bighorn country. On this date, he accompanied a detachment into battle and was killed, the only Black man killed in the fight. His body was recovered after the fight and eventually interred in the Little Bighorn National Cemetery. The spot where Dorman was killed is commemorated with a marble marker.

• June 25, 1895 Albert Irvin Cassell, architect and entrepreneur, was born in Towson, Maryland. Cassell entered Cornell University to study architecture in 1915 but his studies were interrupted by service in the United States Army during World War I from 1917 to 1919. After his discharge, he returned to Cornell and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1919. In 1920, Cassell joined Howard University and in 1922 became the university’s architect and head of the Architecture Department. Over the next 16 years, Cassell designed projects that shaped the physical growth of Howard. In 1930, he produced the master plan for expansion of the campus. In 1934, he led the creation of the College of Engineering and Architecture. While at Howard, he also designed buildings for other clients, including buildings at Virginia Union University, Morgan State College, Provident Hospital, and various Masonic Temples. Cassell died November 30, 1969. Two of his buildings in Washington, D. C. are on the National Register of Historic Places, Prince Hall Masonic Temple added September 15, 1983 and the Mayfair Mansions Apartments added November 1, 1989.

• June 25, 1924 Levi Jenkins Coppin, missionary, editor and bishop of the African Methodist Church, died. Coppin was born December 24, 1848 in Frederick Town, Maryland. His mother taught him to read and write. At 17, Coppin moved to Wilmington, Delaware and in 1876 received his license to preach. In 1888, he became editor of the A. M. E. Church Review and held that position until 1896. Coppin became a bishop of the A. M. E. Church in 1900 and in 1902 was assigned to Cape Town, South Africa he organized the Bethel Institute. He returned to the United States in 1912. His autobiography, “Unwritten History,” was published in 1919.

• June 25, 1925 Clifton Chenier, hall of fame Zydeco performer and recording artist, was born in Opelousas, Louisiana. Chenier learned the basics of accordion playing from his father and later shifted to the larger and more flexible piano accordion. He began his recording career with the 1954 release of “Clifton’s Blues.” His first hit was “Ay ‘Tite Fille (Hey, Little Girl)” (1955). From the 1960s to about 1980, Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Band toured throughout the world. He was known as “King of Zydeco.” In 1983, he won the Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording for his album “I’m Here.” In 1984, he was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, by the National Endowment for the Arts. Chenier died December 12, 1987. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1989. Chenier was the subject of the 1973 documentary “Hot Pepper.”

• June 25, 1933 James H. Meredith, the first African American student at the University of Mississippi, was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Meredith enlisted in the United States Air Force immediately after graduating from high school and served from 1951 to 1960. He then attended Jackson State College for two years before applying for admission to the University of Mississippi. After Meredith was denied admission twice, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed suit. The United States Supreme Court eventually ruled that Meredith had to be admitted and October 1, 1962 he became the first Black student at the university. This sparked riots on the campus which left two people dead. Meredith’s actions are considered a pivotal moment in the history of civil rights in the United States. Despite harassment from other students, Meredith earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science August 18, 1963. Meredith also earned his Juris Doctor degree from Columbia University in 1968. In 1966, Meredith led “The March Against Fear” from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. During the march, he was shot in an attempted assassination. Also that year, his memoir, “Three Years in Mississippi,” was published. Meredith is president of Meredith Institute, Inc., a non-profit focused on teaching African Americans the importance of language and how to read, write, and speak the English language. “The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss” (2009) traces the history of the University of Mississippi prior to Meredith’s arrival, the legal and political standoff over his admission, and the fatal riots that ensued. A statue of Meredith was unveiled October 1, 2006 on the campus of the University of Mississippi.

• June 25, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) by signing Executive Order 8802 which stated “there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color or national origin.” In 1943, Roosevelt strengthened the FEPC with Executive Order 9346 which required that all government contracts have a non-discrimination clause.

• June 25, 1942 Willis Reed, Jr., hall of fame basketball player, was born in Hico, Louisiana. Reed played college basketball at Grambling State College where he led them to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championship and three Southwestern Athletic Conference Championships. He was selected by the New York Knicks in the 1964 National Basketball Association Draft and played with them his entire professional career. Over his ten season professional career, Reed was the 1965 Rookie of the Year, a seven-time All-Star, and two-time NBA champion. In 1970, he became the only player in NBA history to be named Most Valuable Player of the All-Star game, regular season, and playoffs in the same year. Reed retired in 1974 and has held several coaching and management positions at the college and professional level, including vice president of basketball operations for the New Orleans Hornets from 2004 to 2007. In 1982, Reed was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and in 1997 was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. Reed was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

• June 25, 1966 Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamuntombo, retired professional basketball player, was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. Mutombo attended Georgetown University on a United States Agency for International Development scholarship and in 1991 earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in linguistics and diplomacy. Mutombo was selected by the Denver Nuggets in the 1991 National Basketball Association Draft and over his 18 season professional career established himself as one of the greatest shot blockers and defensive players of all time. Mutombo retired from professional basketball in 2009 as an eight-time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year. Multilingual, Mutombo speaks English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and five African languages. In 1997, he started the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve living conditions in the Congo. He has donated $15 million toward the construction of the $29 million, 300-bed Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital which opened in February, 2007 on the outskirts of Kinshasa. For his humanitarian efforts, Mutombo received the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2001 and 2009. Also, in 1999 he received the President’s Service Award, the United States’ highest honor for volunteer service. Mutombo is a spokesman for the international relief agency CARE and is the first Youth Emissary for the United Nations Development Program. In 2012, the Mutombo Foundation and Georgetown University began an initiative to provide care for visually impaired children from low-income families in Washington, D. C. He also serves on the board of the National Constitution Center. Mutombo has received honorary doctorate degrees from the State University of New York College at Cortland, Georgetown University, and Haverford College.

• June 25, 1975 The Republic of Mozambique gained independence from Portugal. Mozambique is located in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the North, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest. It is 309,496 square miles in area with a population of approximately 23 million. The capital and largest city is Maputo. Portuguese is the official and most widely spoken language. Approximately half the population are Christians and 28% are Muslims.

• June 25, 2005 The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture opened in Baltimore, Maryland. The 82,000 square foot museum is dedicated to preserving history and retelling the stories of Maryland’s African American community.

• June 25, 2009 Michael Joseph Jackson, hall of fame singer and the “King of Pop,” died. Jackson was born August 29, 1958 in Gary, Indiana. He made his professional debut in 1964 as a member of the Jackson 5. In 1968, they signed with Motown Records and their first four singles, “I Want You Back” (1969), “ABC” (1970), “The Love You Save” (1970), and “I’ll Be There” (1970) all peaked at number one on the Billboard 100. In 1971, In 1978, he starred as the scarecrow in the Broadway musical “The Wiz.” His 1982 album “Thriller” is the best-selling album of all time with “Off The Wall” (1979), “Bad” (1987), and “Dangerous” (1991) among the best-selling of all time. Over his career, Jackson won 19 Grammy Awards, including a record eight in 1984. Jackson is recognized as the most successful entertainer of all time by Guinness World Records. Jackson received numerous awards, including the World Music Award’s “Best Selling Pop Music Artist of the Millennium” and the American Music Award’s “Artist of the Century.” He was a double inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, once as a member of the Jackson 5 in 1997 and as a solo artist in 2001. In 2010, Jackson was posthumously given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame. Several biographies have been written about Jackson, including “Michael Jackson: The Man Behind the Mask” (2005).

• June 25, 2011 James Oglethrope “J. O.” Patterson, Jr., Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, died. Patterson was born May 28, 1935 in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration from Fisk University in 1958, his Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University in 1963, and his Master of Religion degree from the Memphis Theological Seminary in 1985. After practicing law for a few years, Patterson became active in politics, serving one term in the Tennessee House of Representatives, two terms in the State Senate, and five terms on the Memphis City Council. In 1982, he served as interim Mayor of Memphis for 20 days, the first African American to serve in that capacity. He also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972, 1976, and 1980. In 1985, Patterson was consecrated as Bishop of the Church of God in Christ. He also served as president of the J. O. Patterson Mortuary.

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