Saturday, October 21, would have been the 89th birthday of the late father of modern jazz, Dizzy Gillespie. As a member of Cab Calloway's band, Gillespie also jammed with the notable Thelonius Monk and Charlie Parker in 1941 to create what's now known as the improvisational bebop sound. During a colorful career, Dizzy shared the stage with Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, and a host of other jazz giants. When Gillespie's trumpet accidentally got bent in the upward position, he continued to play it claiming the instrument sounded better. The 1953 horn accident became Dizzy's instrumental look of success. Dizzy Gillespie bebop brings black history glory and world acclaim to the American story of jazz.
An edited version of an article by Chris Ochayi from the Nigerian News site Vanguardngr.com Nigeria's rich cultural heritage will again take center stage in the United Kingdom during the month-long Black History Month Festival this October. The UK event, under the auspices of Back To My Roots, will showcase the best of African culture, arts, and business. Supported by the British Council and UNESCO, Back To My Roots is expected to attract over 5 million people. Black History Month is celebrated every October by the British government saluting black contributions to European development. Events will take place in four cities: London, Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow in Scotland.
John "Buck" O'Neil, who recently passed away at 94, was the first black major league baseball coach. The Chicago Cubs hired the former Negro League first baseman and manager in 1962. In recent years, O'Neil promoted the game, did many interviews, and appeared on radio and television programs, including Ken Burns' PBS documentary, "Baseball." Buck proudly reviews his career in his autobiography, "I was Right on Time." Here are some Buck O'Neil highlights... 1942 & 1943: Negro League All Star 1945: Lead the Negro league with a .353 batting average Between 1938 - 1955, he managed the Miami Giants, the Shreveport Acme Giants, the Memphis Red Sox, and the Kansas City Monarchs Played baseball in both Cuba and Mexico O'Neil was one of many Negro League players on the 2006 special election ballot to possibly enter the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Although he didn't make it, here's the Buck O'Neil statistics profile by Baseball Reference.
Coleman A. Young, (1918-1997), Detroit’s first African American mayor, got the city out of bankruptcy (1981), rebuilt business and residential housing along the Detroit River, and integrated the Detroit Fire and Police Departments. President Clinton praised Young as "not only a great mayor of Detroit, but an inspiration to so many city leaders throughout the nation." Young was elected Mayor on November 6, 1973, and reelected four times in 1977, 1981, 1985, and 1989. He decided in 1993 not to seek a sixth term. Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Young’s family relocated to Detroit when Coleman was five. Although he was the product of an excellent Roman Catholic elementary school education with top grades, he was denied admission to several of the outstanding Detroit high schools because of discrimination. Young dropped out of high school, worked for the Ford Motor Company, then the post office. He was a bombardier-navigator with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. Young read about A. Philip Randolph and the union movement, and became involved as an organizer in 1951. Young founded the National Negro Labor Council. He was elected to the Michigan Constitutional Convention in 1960, and as a Michigan State Senator in 1964. He was the first African American to serve on the National Democratic Committee in 1968.
Almost 20 years have passed since Los Angeles Dodgers Vice President Al Campanis got fired for saying on national television (Ted Koppel’s Nightline in 1987) that blacks were not good swimmers because they lacked buoyancy. Cullen Jones was only three years old when Campanis made that statement. Twenty-two year old Jones has just received a seven year $2 million dollar endorsement deal from Nike, putting him in Tiger Woods and Serena Williams territory. Jones is the first African American to hold a swimming world record. He recently accomplished the feat in the 50-meter freestyle. Look for Jones in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He wants to duplicate the efforts of 2000 gold medal winning sprinter Anthony Ervin.
It's the Fall season featuring lots of television program premiers. In 1957, Nat King Cole, (1919-1965), became the first African American to host a nationwide network television program. He was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and raised in Chicago. A legendary pop and jazz singer, Cole had many hits including "Mona Lisa," "Rambling Rose," and "The Christmas Song." Sadly, during the 1950's, attracting commercial sponsorship to the Nat King Cole Show was a challenge for the producers. Though short lived on network television, Cole was a trailblazer preceding the many who have followed him.
Friday, September 8, 2006, marks the twentieth anniversary of the Oprah Winfrey Show. The program entered national syndication in the USA on September 8, 1986. "Oprah" would eventually become the highest-rated talk show in television history. In 1988, Winfrey established Harpo Studios, a production facility in Chicago, Illinois. She was the third woman in the American entertainment industry (after Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball) to own her own studio. The Oprah Winfrey Show is seen by an estimated 49 million viewers a week in the United States, and is broadcast internationally in 122 countries.
Lockheed Martin has won NASA's multibillion-dollar go ahead to build the Orion crew exploration vehicle, a spaceship that will take astronauts back to the international space station, the moon, and beyond. Orion will carry cargo, or up to six crew members. The craft will travel to the international space station by 2014, and carry up to four astronauts to the moon and back by 2020. When it comes to black history people in space, one person to salute among many is Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native became the first black American astronaut in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger on August 30, 1983. He earned a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering with a minor in laser physics from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1978.
A retired U.S. Navy Officer, with a passion for African American military history and equal opportunity, has launched an interesting and provocative web site. Black military world has features plus news of general interest for African American veterans, active duty members, and Department of Defense civilians. Black History People from the armed services are profiled and highlighted. Site founder retired Navy Commander Gregory Black says "this project is long overdue." Black retired as a Navy diving officer in 2002, and has since worked to promote African American history and to publicize the significant roles of African Americans in the defense of America. The site is dedicated to late master diver Carl Brashear, whose life story was told in the popular 2002 movie Men of Honor. Black says "stories like that of master diver Brashear, the Buffalo Soldiers, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the 555th Paratrooper Battalion (Triple Nickles), are only the tip of the iceberg." There are approximately a half million African Americans currently employed by the United States Department of Defense (the largest employer of African Americans in the United States). 2018 update: Unfortunately, the website has ceased operation.
Golf Digest has profiled an amazing trailblazer, Charles Sifford, the first African American man to play on the Professional Golfers Association Tour (PGA). Forty years ago, for his own security, police escorted Sifford when he walked the fairways at professional tournaments. When he played in the 1961 Greater Greensboro Open, he was introduced on the tee as "Charlie Sifford ... the first black man to ever play golf in the South in a white tournament." The nickname "Charlie" stuck, however Sifford counters, "My name is Charles Sifford." Despite dealing with death threats, discrimination, and verbal abuse from fans and peers, he won two PGA Tour events as well as the 1975 Senior PGA Championship. In 2005 at age 82, Sifford was honored as the first African American man inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Among black history people, and golfers of every ethnicity, Charles Sifford made a name for himself through his talent and determination.