Seventy years ago on August 9, 1936, Jesse Owens made history in Berlin, Germany. A member of the U.S. Olympic team, Owens became the first American to win four gold medals. The outstanding track and field star excelled in the: 100 meter dash 200 meter sprint 400 meter race Broad jump Relay team From Oakville, Arkansas, Owens grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a stand-out on Ohio State's track team.
August is a very busy month for noteworthy accomplishments of black history people. Just sample this five-decade timeline... 1936 - Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in the Olympics 1943 - W.L. Dawson becomes the Vice Presidential candidate of the African American Democratic Party 1950 - Boxer Ezzard Charles defeats Freddy Beshore 1963 - Martin Luther King Jr. leads the March on Washington, DC 1977 - Lou Brock sets baseball's stolen base record These aren't the only significant years. August is literally a hot month through four hundred years of important black history: From 1619 and the arrival of Africans to Jamestown, Virginia... Through the 18th Century, and the founding of the AME Zion Church in 1796... To Nat Turner's 19th Century Rebellion in 1831... When the heat is on, pioneers in black history have maintained their cool, and have risen to the occasion. Let's not neglect the other eleven months however, as more accomplishments have taken place every day of the year than we could ever imagine.
Clarence Mitchell, (1911-1984), earned the nickname the "101st. Senator," thanks to his effective USA lobbying efforts for civil rights. His influence helped pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965, and just recently renewed for another 25 years by President George Bush in July, 2006). Mitchell helped extend a ban against voting literacy tests in 1970. He was instrumental in gaining enforcement powers for the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) in 1972. President Jimmy Carter awarded Mitchell the Medal of Freedom in 1980 for his lifetime battle for civil rights.
John Messeder, writing in the GettysburgTimes.com, reports that "an organization attempting to unite 175 miles of history, from Gettysburg to Monticello, recently received a grant to help research and interpret the African American role in the USA's formation." "The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities to research, identify and interpret African American sites along the pathway. Partnership President Cate Magennis Wyatt feels that "Understanding African American history helps us understand the fabric of our American culture and expands our understanding of ourselves as a people." The 175-mile Old Carolina Highway, now designated U.S. 15, once carried Thomas Jefferson toward Philadelphia during his work on the Declaration of Independence. Eight presidents have made their homes in the region. Although possibly best known for its Civil War battles, the region played critical roles in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. It also has a high concentration of Underground Railroad stations. In announcing the $10,000 Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant, Wyatt noted much African American history is only beginning to be documented at local levels."
With Tuesday's 2006 baseball All-Star Game behind us, and rampant speculation swirling about Barry Bonds' quest to catch Henry Aaron, we take a quick look at the career of the all time home run king, Hammerin' Hank. He passed Babe Ruth’s record on April 8th, 1974 when he hit home run number 715 as an Atlanta Brave. Aaron became a professional player in 1952 for the Indianapolis Clowns, a black barnstorming team, and famous sports name in African American history. The National League Milwaukee Braves purchased his contract for $2,500 later that year and assigned him to their Eau Claire, Wisconsin farm team. Hank Aaron was promoted to Jacksonville in the Sally League in 1953 finally breaking in at the major league level in 1954, never to look back. On August 1, 1982, the greatest home run hitter of all time with 755 "round trippers" was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. With baseball behind him, Hank has been a success in the business world too as an entrepreneur, and as a corporate Vice President of Community Relations for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Booker T. Washington opened Tuskegee Institute in the temporary quarters of an AME church on July 4, 1881, ten days after arriving in Alabama. Washington cleverly used students to construct the permanent campus. Forty buildings were constructed during the first 20 years of Tuskegee, almost all by student labor. Sometimes, ingenuity goes a long way when access to money is limited. Independence Day in the USA reminds us that belief in a set of ideals is powerful currency for a nation, an individual, or an educator like Booker T. Washington. Resourcefulness afforded Washington ultimate success while creating the Tuskegee campus.
Personal papers and books of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are safe and sound. Valued at about $30 million, the individual components of the collection were to be auctioned off to the highest bidders this week. Dr. King's alma matter, Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia will receive the entire collection. Corporate donors and philanthropists put up the money to secure the collection for Morehouse. Andrew Young, an advisor of Dr. King, and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin lead the effort to liberate the civil rights leader's archive from Sotheby's auction house. I never had a doubt that this happy outcome would materialize. Dr. King's papers are clearly one of the most valuable collections of 20th century history. Among black history people, Dr. King's impact supersedes race. His legacy as a Nobel Peace Prize winner proves how possible it is for one person to change the world.
Former Dean and Director of the Howard University Counseling Service, Dr. Carolyn Payton (1925-2001) developed the first American Psychological Association accredited Pre-doctoral Internship Training Program in Clinical and Counseling Psychology at a historically black institution. Her work improved the quality of mental health services to underserved African American communities. Dr. Payton was the first woman to become Director of the Peace Corps (1977 during the Jimmy Carter Administration). The leader of the Peace Corps sets the agenda for nearly 10,000 volunteers in scores of developing countries around the world. Carolyn Payton was an outstanding educator who earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University.
Here’s the reason why African American slaves in Texas had been free for two and a half years, but didn’t know it until June 19, 1865. Surrounded by Confederate soldiers and geographically isolated, news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 did not reach the black folks in Texas until two months after General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Virginia. Union General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865 and immediately proclaimed the slaves freedom. The celebration that followed the announcement has been reenacted every year in Texas, eventually becoming known as Juneteenth. After cycles of popularity and decline, Juneteenth has experienced a resurgence across the USA, adopted beyond the borders of Texas (the only state where it is an official holiday) as a day to celebrate the freedom of all black Americans.
The Black Greek Network, run by Otis Collier, compiles information about what African American greek organizations are doing across the USA. Collier focuses on nine black fraternities and sororities, but he does include other important fellowship organizations, including but not limited to: the Prince Hall Masons, Eastern Star, NAACP, and the Urban League. On December 4, 1906, the "grandfather of all black Greek organizations." Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. was founded at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Today, the black greek organizations are known as “the divine nine.” Alpha Phi Alpha Alpha Kappa Alpha Delta Sigma Theta Iota Phi Theta Kappa Alpha Psi Omega Psi Phi Sigma Gamma Rho Phi Beta Sigma Zeta Phi Beta When you discover the Black Greek Network, you’ll find some very interesting profiles of black history people who are also noteworthy black greeks. Otis’ site offers a great platform for black fraternity and sorority members to share and exchange ideas, information, and news.