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Today in Black History, 7/20/2013

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• July 20, 1925 Frantz Fanon, psychiatrist, revolutionary and writer, was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Fanon served in the French army during World War II. His experiences on Martinique and his service in the army fueled his first book, “Black Skin, White Mask” (1952), which analyzed the effects of colonial subjugation on humanity. In 1961, he wrote “The Wretched of the Earth” which discussed the effects on Algerians of torture by the French forces during the Algerian revolution. Fanon died December 6, 1961. Many of his shorter writings were posthumously published in the book “Toward the African Revolution”. Several biographies have been published on Fanon, including “Fanon” (1971) and “Frantz Fanon: A Life” (2001).

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Today in Black History, 7/19/2013

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• July 19, 1783 Richard Potter, the first successful Black magician in the United States, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Potter was the son of an English baronet and an African American serving woman. As a result, he was educated in Europe and traveled widely before becoming an entertainer. Potter was known for his skills in ventriloquism, hypnosis, and magic and performed throughout New England and Canada. He became a wealthy man and in 1813 bought a 175 acre farm in Andover, New Hampshire in a village now known as Potter Place. Potter died September 20, 1835.

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Today in Black History, 7/18/2013

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• July 18, 1753 Lemuel Haynes, the first African American to serve as a pastor of a white congregation, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut. At the age of five months, Haynes was given over to indentured servitude and remained until he was freed at 21. After being freed, Haynes joined the minutemen and served during the Revolutionary War. After the war, he began to write extensively, criticizing the slave trade and slavery as an institution. He wrote “liberty is equally as precious to a Black man, as it is to a White one, and bondage as equally as intolerable to the one as it is to the other.” By the early 1780s, Haynes had become a leading Calvinist minister and starting in 1783 ministered to Rutland’s West Parish in Vermont for 30 years. In 1804, Middlebury College granted Haynes an honorary Master of Arts degree, the first advanced degree bestowed upon an African American. Haynes died September 28, 1833. His home for the last 11 years of his life in South Granville, New York was declared a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975. His biography, “Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753 – 1833” was published in 2003.

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Today in Black History, 7/17/2013

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• July 17, 1794 The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the first black church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the first black Episcopal church in the United States, opened its doors. The church was founded in 1792 by Absalom Jones as the African Church of Philadelphia. It developed from the Free African Society, a non-denominational group formed by Jones and Richard Allen who left St. George Methodist Church because of discrimination. While the church has been located in several different building, it has operated continuously since its founding. The church was the first black church in the country to purchase a pipe organ and the first to hire a black woman as organist. A historical marker was erected at the original location in 1984 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. In 1966, the church dedicated the Absalom Jones chapel with a Festal Eucharist and enshrined his ashes in the altar.

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Today in Black History, 7/16/2013

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• July 16, 1862 Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, journalist and civil and women’s rights activist, was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Wells was freed at the end of the Civil War. She attended Rust College but was expelled for her rebellious behavior after confronting the president of the college. In 1889, Wells became co-owner and editor of Free Speech and Headlight, an anti-segregationist newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1891, a grocery store owned by three Black men was perceived to be taking away a substantial amount of business from a White owned grocery store across the street. The Black owned store was invaded by a mob resulting in three White men being shot and injured. The three Black owners, who were friends of Wells, were jailed and subsequently lynched. The murder of her friends sparked Wells’ interest in investigative journalism about lynching and becoming the leader of the anti-lynching crusade. In 1892, she published “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all Its Phases” and in 1895 published “A Red Record, 1892-1894” which documented lynchings since the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1893, Wells and other Black leaders organized a boycott of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago to protest lynchings in the South. Wells was also significantly involved in the founding of the National Association of Colored Women, the National Afro-American Council, which later became the NAACP, and the Women’s Era Club, which was renamed the Ida B. Wells Club. Wells spent the latter 30 years of her life working on urban reform in Chicago, Illinois. Wells died March 25, 1931. In 1990, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. “Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells” was published in 1970. Her life is also the subject of a musical drama, “Constant Star,” which debuted in 2006. The Ida B. Wells Housing Project in Chicago is named in her honor. Wells-Barnett’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 7/15/2013

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• July 15, 1864 Maggie Lena Walker, hall of fame businesswoman, educator and the first black female bank president, was born in Richmond, Virginia. Walker attended the Colored Normal School to be trained as a teacher and received her diploma with honors in 1883. After graduation, she taught for three years. In 1899, Walker was elected Right Worthy Grand Secretary-Treasurer of the Independent Order of St. Luke, a Black social and civic organization. In 1902, Walker founded the order newspaper, St. Luke Herald and opened the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank with her as president July 31, 1903. By 1920, the bank had loaned money to purchase 600 homes. In 1930, the bank merged with two other Black owned banks in Richmond to become the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company with Walker as chairman of the board. The bank continues to operate today as the oldest continuously operating minority-owned bank in the country. As a result of her business acumen, the order became financially successful and by 1924 had 100,000 members, 1500 local chapters, and assets of almost $400,000. Walker served as the leader of the Independent Order of St. Luke and chairman of the bank until her death December 15, 1934. She was the founder and lifelong head of the Colored Women’s Council of Richmond which raised money for local projects and maintained a community house. She was the co-founder and vice president of the Richmond branch of the NAACP and served on the national board for ten years. She also served as a trustee of Hartshorn College and Virginia Union University. Her home in Richmond was designated a National Historic Landmark May 15, 1975 and was opened as a museum in 1985. The Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies in Richmond is named in her honor. In 2001, Walker was posthumously inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame. “Maggie L. Walker and the I. O. of St. Luke: The Woman and Her Work” was published in 1927.

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Today in Black History, 7/14/2013

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• July 14, 1848 Walter “Wiley” Jones, one of the first wealthy African Americans in the South, was born enslaved in Madison County, Georgia but raised in Jefferson County, Arkansas. When Jones’s owner enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861, Jones became a camp servant. After the war, he moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas and worked as a barber and waiter in a hotel. He saved his money and invested in real estate and opened several businesses, including a successful saloon and horse-racing park. In 1886, Jones became one of the first African Americans to receive a franchise to operate a mule-drawn streetcar system, the Wiley Jones Street Car Lines. Although he never ran for office, Jones was one of the most influential political citizens in Arkansas during the 1880s and 1890s. He was a delegate to several national Republican conventions and served as Circuit Clerk of Jefferson County from 1892 to 1894. Jones also supported the Colored Industrial Institute and donated land to the St. James Methodist Church. When Jones died December 7, 1904, he was the richest black person in the state with an estate valued at $300,000.

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Today in Black History, 7/13/2013

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• July 13, 1863 The New York Draft Riots started. Initially intended to express anger at the draft for the Civil War, the protests turned ugly and degraded into “a virtual racial pogrom, with uncounted numbers of Blacks murdered in the streets”. Numerous buildings were destroyed, including an orphanage for Black children. Many of the protesters were immigrants and viewed freed African Americans as competition for scarce jobs. Order was restored after four days and it is estimated that 120 people were killed and 2,000 injured. At least eleven Black men were lynched. Several books have been written about the riots, including “The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863” (1974) and “The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War” (1990).

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Today in Black History, 7/12/2013

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• July 12, 1864 George Washington Carver, hall of fame scientist, botanist, educator and inventor, was born enslaved in Diamond, Missouri. Carver and his family were freed after slavery was abolished. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1894 and his Master of Science degree in 1896 from Iowa State Agricultural College where he was the first Black student and later the first Black faculty member. In 1896, he accepted the position to lead the Agricultural Department at Tuskegee University and remained there for 47 years. During that time, Carver devoted himself to the research and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, including peanuts and sweet potatoes. He also created approximately 100 products made from peanuts that were useful for the house. In 1923, Carver received the NAACP Spingarn Medal. Carver died January 5, 1943. On his grave is written, “He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.” On July 14, 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri, the first national monument dedicated to an African American and also the first to a non-president. The United States Postal Service issued commemorative postage stamps in honor of Carver in 1948 and 1998. In 1977, Carver was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, in 1990 was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and in 2000 was a charter inductee in the United States Department of Agriculture Hall of Heroes as the “Father of Chemurgy”. Biographies of Carver include “George Washington Carver: Man’s Slave, God’s Scientist” (1981) and “George Washington Carver: His Life & Faith in His Own Words” (2003). Dozens of schools around the country are named in his honor and his name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 7/11/2013

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• July 11, 1821 Lucy Terry, creator of the oldest known work of literature by an African American, died. Terry was born around 1730 and stolen from Africa as an infant and sold into slavery in Rhode Island. On August 25, 1746, Native Americans attacked two White families in Deerfield, Massachusetts in an area called “The Bars”. Terry composed a ballad about the attack titled “Bars Fight” which earned her local acclaim. A successful free Black man purchased Terry’s freedom and married her in 1756. A persuasive orator, Terry won a case against false land claims before the Supreme Court of Vermont in the 1790s. She also delivered a three hour address to the Board of Trustees of Williams College to support the admittance of her son to the college. Although unsuccessful, the speech was remembered for its eloquence and skill. Her poem was preserved orally until it was published in 1855.

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Today in Black History, 7/10/2013

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• July 10, 1875 Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, hall of fame educator and civil rights leader, was born in Mayesville, South Carolina. Bethune attended Scotia Seminary (now Barber-Scotia College) from 1888 to 1894 and then Dwight Moody’s Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (now Moody Bible Institute). In 1904, she rented a small house in Daytona Beach, Florida and started the Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls with 5 students. By 1910, enrollment rose to 102 and in 1923 the school merged with the Cookman Institute for Men, became co-educational and eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. Bethune served as president of the college from 1923 to 1942 and 1946 to 1947. From 1917 to 1925, Bethune served as the Florida chapter president of the National Association of Colored Women and in 1924 served as national president. She also served as president of the Southeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs from 1920 to 1925. In 1935, Bethune founded the National Council of Negro Women to bring together 28 different organizations to facilitate improvements in the quality of life for women and their communities. In 1938, the NCNW hosted the White House Conference on Negro Women and Children. Also that year, Bethune was appointed director of the Division of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration, making her the first African American female federal agency head. Bethune dedicated her life to the education of black and white children and in 1939 stated “not only the Negro child, but children of all races should read and know of the achievements, accomplishments and deeds of the Negro. World peace and brotherhood are based on a common understanding of the contributions and cultures of all races and creeds.” Bethune was awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1935 and in 1949 became the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor and Merit, the highest award given by the Haitian government. Bethune died May 18, 1955. In 1973, she was posthumously inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. On July 10, 1974, a sculpture in her honor was unveiled in Washington, D.C. and in 1985 the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House in Washington, D.C. was designated a National Historic Site October 15, 1982. There are a number of schools across the nation named in her honor. Bethune’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History, 7/9/2013

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• July 9, 1793 The Act Against Slavery was passed by Upper Canada, that part of Canada that would eventually become Ontario, to prohibit the continuation of slavery. It was the first attempt to abolish slavery in the British Empire. The Act did not immediately abolish slavery, but ensured the eventual elimination. The Act stated that all enslaved people in the province would remain enslaved until death, that no new enslaved people could be brought into Upper Canada, and that children born to enslaved females would be freed at age 25. It further stated that any children born to this second generation while they were still enslaved would be free from birth. The Act remained in force until 1833 when the British Slavery Abolition Act abolished slavery in most parts of the British Empire.

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Today in Black History, 7/8/2013

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• July 8, 1777 The Commonwealth of Vermont abolished slavery in their constitution. The constitution declared that all men are born equally free and independent and that no male over the age of 21 or female over the age of 18 may serve another in the role of servant, slave, or apprentice. When Vermont was admitted to the union in 1791, it carried over that constitution and thus became the first U.S. state to have abolished slavery.

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Today in Black History, 7/7/2013

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• July 7, 1851 Charles Albert Tindley, hall of fame gospel music composer, was born in Berlin, Maryland. At birth, Tindley’s father was enslaved, but his mother was free, therefore Tindley was considered free. Tindley was primarily self-educated, but did attend night courses and took correspondence courses at the Boston University School of Theology, eventually earning a doctorate while working as a janitor at Calvery Methodist Episcopal Church. Tindley became the pastor of that church which under his leadership grew from 130 to a multiracial congregation of 12,500. After serving the congregation for over 30 years, the church was renamed Tindley Temple United Methodist Church in 1924. Tindley was also a noted songwriter and composer of gospel hymns and his composition “I’ll Overcome Someday” (1901) is considered by many to be the basis for the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Tindley composed more than 60 other hymns, including “Stand by Me” (1905), “Nothing Between” (1905), “Some Day” (1906), and “Leave It There” (1916). Tindley was the first hymn writer to have a hymn copyrighted and in 1916 published a collection of hymns titled “New Songs of Paradise.” Tindley died July 26, 1933. He was posthumously inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1993.

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Today in Black History, 7/6/2013

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• July 6, 1931 Della Reese, singer, actress, and minister, was born Delloreese Patricia Early in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of six, Reese began singing in church and at 13 was hired to sing with Mahalia Jackson’s gospel group. After graduating from high school, Reese formed her own gospel group called the Meditation Singers. In 1957, Reese released “And That Reminds Me” which became a Top Twenty Pop hit and sold over a million copies. That same year, she was voted by Billboard The Most Promising Singer. In 1959, she released “Don’t You Know” which reached number two on the Pop charts and number one on the R&B charts. Reese recorded regularly during the 1960s, releasing albums such as “The Classic Della” (1962), “Della Reese Live” (1966), and “On Strings of Blue” (1967). In 1970, Reese became the first black woman to guest host “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” In 1989, Reese starred in the film “Harlem Nights.” In 1994, Reese received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. From 1994 to 2002, she starred in the television series “Touched by an Angel” which ran for nine seasons and 297 episodes. For her performance on that show, Reese was nominated for Emmy Awards for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series in 1997 and 1998. Reese has also been nominated for four Grammy Awards. In 2010, she was ordained a minister in the Understanding Principles for Better Living Church. Reese appeared in the film “Expecting Mercy” in 2012.

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Today in Black History, 7/5/2013

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• July 5, 1879 Joshua Bowen Smith, caterer and abolitionist, died. Smith was born November 7, 1813 in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. In 1836, he moved to Boston, Massachusetts to work as a headwaiter. Several years later, Smith started his own catering business and over the next 25 years accumulated considerable wealth catering for black abolitionist organizations and Union soldiers during the Civil War. Throughout his life, Smith worked for the abolitionist cause. He also provided jobs for black people that had escaped enslavement. Smith was the first African American member of the Saint Andrew’s Lodge of Freemasons of Massachusetts. He also represented Cambridge, Massachusetts in the state legislature from 1873 to 1874.

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Today in Black History, 7/4/2013

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• July 4, 1819 George Latimer, escapee from enslavement, was born enslaved in Norfolk, Virginia. In his early years, Latimer was a domestic servant and after the age of 16 his labor was hired out. On two separate occasions he spent time in prison as a result of his master’s debt. On October 4, 1842, Latimer and his wife ran away. They hid beneath the deck of a northbound ship that took them to Baltimore, Maryland and eventually made their way to Boston, Massachusetts. Soon after their arrival in Boston, Latimer was recognized as an escapee and was arrested with the intent to return him to his owner. His arrest caused an uproar in Boston and a Latimer Committee was formed. The committee created the Great Massachusetts Petition and collected more than 64,000 signatures for delivery to the State Assembly. The petition significantly contributed to the passage of 1843 Personal Liberty Act, also known as the Latimer Law, which prevented Massachusetts officials from assisting in the detention of suspected fugitive slaves and banned the use of state facilities to detain such suspects. The committee also raised money and eventually purchased Latimer’s freedom for $400. After gaining his freedom, Latimer worked as a paperhanger in Lynn, Massachusetts. Latimer died around 1896. One of his sons was the inventor Lewis Howard Latimer.

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Today in Black History, 7/3/2013

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• July 3, 1844 Macon Bolling Allen became the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States after passing the State of Maine bar exam and earning his recommendation. Allen was born Allen Macon Bolling August 4, 1816 in Indiana. He grew up a free man and learned to read and write on his own. In the early 1840s, he moved to Portland, Maine where he earned his license to practice law. However, because white people were unwilling to have a black man represent them in court, in 1845 Allen moved to Boston, Massachusetts. Allen passed the Massachusetts bar exam that same year and he and Robert Morris, Jr. opened the first black law office in the U.S. In 1848, Allen passed another exam to become Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County. After the Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina and in 1873 was appointed Judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston. The next year, he was elected Judge Probate for Charleston County. Later, Allen moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. Allen practiced law right up until his death June 11, 1894. The New York Bar Association and a civil rights clinic in Boston are named in his honor.

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Today in Black History, 7/2/2013

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• July 2, 1822 Denmark Vesey was executed for planning what would have been one of the largest slave rebellions in the United States. It is thought that Vesey was born around 1767 on the island of St. Thomas. In 1781, he was purchased by Captain Joseph Vesey who eventually settled in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1799, Vesey won $1500 in a city lottery which he used to purchase his freedom and began working as a carpenter. In 1816, he co-founded a branch of the African Methodist Church. Inspired by the revolutionary spirit and actions of enslaved people during the 1791 Haitian Revolution, Vesey began to plan a slave rebellion. His insurrection, which was to take place on July 14, 1822, became known to thousands of blacks along the Carolina coast. Their plan was to sail to Haiti after the revolt. The plot was leaked and 67 men were convicted and 35 hanged, including Vesey. Many antislavery activists came to regard Vesey as a hero and during the Civil War Frederick Douglas used Vesey’s name as a battle cry to rally African American regiments. Vesey was the subject of a 1939 opera named after him and a 1980s made for television drama, “Denmark Vesey’s Revolt.” A biography, “He Shall Go Free: The Lives of Denmark Vesey,” was published in 2004.

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Today in Black History, 7/1/2013

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• July 1, 1868 Robert Allen Cole, composer, playwright and stage producer, was born in Athens, Georgia. As a child, Cole learned to play several instruments, including the banjo, piano, and cello. By 1891, he was a member of “The Creole Show,” eventually becoming a writer and stage manager for the show. After publishing his first songs in 1893, Cole established his own black production company and produced “A Trip to Coontown,” thought to be the first musical entirely created and owned by black showmen. That show premiered September 27, 1897 in South Amboy, New Jersey and toured off and on until 1901. In the early 1900s, Cole formed a partnership with J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson which resulted in over 200 songs. They also wrote and produced two musicals, “The Shoe-Fly Regiment” (1907) and “The Red Moon” (1909). Shortly after, Cole’s health began to deteriorate and he drowned August 2, 1911 in what many believe to have been a suicide. His biography, “Bob Cole: His Life and His Legacy to Black Musical Theater,” was published in 1985.

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