Today in Black History, 9/22/2011

·   September 22, 1890 Henry Johnson was awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration, for his heroic actions on October 5, 1879. On that date, he was serving as a sergeant in Company D of the 9th Cavalry Regiment at Milk River, Colorado during the Indian Wars and his actions earned him the medal. His citation reads: ”Voluntarily left fortified shelter and under heavy fire at close range made the rounds of pits to instruct the guards, and fought his way to the creek and back to bring water to the wounded.” Not much is known of Johnson’s life other then he was born June 11, 1850 in Boydton, Virginia and he died January 31, 1904 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

·   September 22, 1891 Alma Woodsey Thomas, painter and art educator, was born in Columbus, Georgia. Thomas earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Howard University in 1924, becoming the first graduate of the program. In 1934, she became the first African American woman to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University. She was also the first African American woman to have a solo exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art. After 35 years of teaching in the Washington, D. C. public school system, Thomas retired in 1960 but continued to offer her weekly art classes to children from Washington’s poorest neighborhoods. Thomas died February 24, 1978. The Columbus Museum and the Smithsonian American Art Museum hold important collections of Thomas’ paintings and papers. “A Life in Art: Alma Thomas 1891 – 1978” was published in 1981 and “Alma W. Thomas: A Retrospective of the Paintings” was published in 1998.

·   September 22, 1941 Jeremiah Alvesta Wright, Jr., former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1961, Wright left college to join the United States Marine Corps. After two years of service, he joined the U. S. Navy where he was trained as a cardiopulmonary technician. In that capacity, he was part of the medical team that cared for President Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery. Wright earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1968 and his Master of Arts degree in English in 1969 from Howard University. He also earned his Master of Arts degree in black sacred music from the University of Chicago Divinity School in 1975 and his Doctor of Ministry degree from the United Theological Seminary in 1990. In 1972, Wright became pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ which at the time had 250 members. When he retired in 2008, it was the largest church, with 8,500 members, in the mostly white United Church of Christ denomination. Wright has been a professor at a number of educational institutions, including Chicago Theological Seminary and Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. He has served on the boards of numerous religious and civic organizations, including Virginia Union University and City Colleges of Chicago. He has received seven honorary doctorate degrees and was named one of Ebony Magazine’s top 15 preachers.    

·   September 22, 1960 The Republic of Mali declared independence from France. Mali is the seventh largest country in Africa at 479,000 square miles. It borders Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the southwest and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. Mali’s population is approximately 13 million with 90% of them Sunni Muslims.

·   September 22, 1961 The Interstate Commerce Commission issued regulations to enforce the prohibition of segregation on interstate buses and in terminal facilities. Impelled by the protest of civil rights leaders and international outrage over the violence perpetrated on the Freedom Riders, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy petitioned the ICC to issue regulations banning Jim Crow in interstate travel and to take immediate steps to enforce those regulations. Prior to the regulations, the ICC had prohibited segregation, but failed to enforce the prohibition.

·   September 22, 1965 James Raleigh “Biz” Mackey, Negro League baseball player and manager, died. Mackey was born July 27, 1897 in Eagle Pass, Texas. He began playing professional baseball in 1918 and played until 1947. He was regarded as the premier catcher in the Negro League in the late 1920s and early 1930s. By 1937, Mackey was managing the Baltimore Elite Giants where he mentored a teenaged Roy Campanella. Later, he would work with young players such as Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, and Don Newcombe. Mackey retired from baseball in the 1950s and was posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

·   September 22, 1965 Robert Lee Satcher, Jr., chemical engineer, physician and NASA astronaut, was born in Hampton, Virginia. Satcher earned his Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering in 1986 and his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering in 1993 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He went on to earn his Doctor of Medicine degree from Harvard Medical School, Health Sciences and Technology Division in 1994. From 1994 to 2000, he did his internship, residency, and postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of California and an orthopedic oncology fellowship at the University of Florida from 2000 to 2001. In 2004, Satcher was selected for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration program and he completed his training in 2006. In November, 2009, Satcher became the first orthopedic surgeon in space, logging over 259 hours in space.