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Today in Black History, 1/10/2013

• January 10, 1910 Patrick Francis Healy, the first American of African ancestry to be president of a predominantly white college, died. Healy was born enslaved February 27, 1830 in Macon, Georgia. Although he was at least three-quarters European in ancestry, he was legally considered a slave and Georgia law prohibited the education of slaves. Therefore, Healy’s father arranged for him to move north to obtain an education. Healy graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1850 and entered the Jesuit order. In 1858, the order sent him to Europe to study because his African ancestry had become an issue in the United States. He earned his doctorate from the University of Leuven in Belgium, becoming the first American of African descent to earn a Ph.D. Healy was ordained to the priesthood on September 3, 1864, becoming the first Jesuit priest of African descent. In 1866, Healy returned to the U.S. and began teaching at Georgetown University. On July 31, 1874, he was named president of the institution. During his tenure, he helped transform the small 19th century college into a major university for the 20th century. He modernized the curriculum and expanded and upgraded the schools of law and medicine. He also oversaw the construction of Healy Hall which was declared a National Historic Landmark on December 23, 1987. Healy left the college in 1882. In 1969, the Georgetown Alumni Association established the Patrick Healy Award to recognize people who have “distinguished themselves by a lifetime of outstanding achievement and service to Georgetown, the community and his or her profession.” Patrick Francis Healy Middle School in East Orange, New Jersey is named in his honor. “Passing for White: Race, Religion, and the Healy Family, 1820-1920” was published in 2003.

• January 10, 1915 Charles Dean Dixon, orchestra conductor, was born in New York City. Dixon studied conducting at the Juilliard School and Columbia University. In 1931, when early pursuits of conducting engagements were stifled by racial bias, he formed his own orchestra and choral society. In 1948, he won the Ditson Conductor’s Award and in 1949 left the United States to conduct orchestras in Israel, Sweden, Australia and Germany. In 1974, Dixon returned to the U.S. to guest conduct the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony. Dixon died November 3, 1976 and was honored by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers with the Award of Merit for encouraging the participation of American youth in music.

• January 10, 1924 Maxwell Lemuel “Max” Roach, hall of fame jazz percussionist and composer, was born in Newland, North Carolina. At the age of 10, Roach was playing drums in gospel bands and by 18 was playing in jazz clubs. Roach’s most significant innovations came in the 1940s when he devised a new concept of musical time. He studied classical percussion at the Manhattan School of Music from 1950 to 1953 and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music composition. In 1960, Roach composed the “We Insist! – Freedom Now” suite to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Roach spent the 1980s and 1990s continually finding new forms of musical expression and presentation. Roach was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1980, the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame in 1982, and in 1984 was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1986, a park in London was named in his honor and Roach was recognized with a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 1988. Roach died August 16, 2007 and in 2008 posthumously received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

• January 10, 1938 Willie Lee McCovey, hall of fame baseball player, was born in Mobile, Alabama. McCovey made his major league debut with the San Francisco Giants on July 30, 1959 and that year won the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Over his 22 season professional career, he was a six-time All-Star selection and in 1969 was named the National League Most Valuable Player. McCovey retired in 1980 and in 1986 was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Since 1980, the Giants have awarded the Willie Mac Award to honor his spirit and leadership. The inlet of San Francisco Bay beyond the Giants’ ballpark was renamed McCovey Cove in his honor and a statue of McCovey was erected across from the cove. McCovey currently serves as a senior advisor with the Giants.

• January 10, 1949 George Edward Foreman, hall of fame boxer, was born in Marshall, Texas. Foreman had an amateur boxing record of 27 wins and no losses and won the Gold medal in the heavyweight division at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. In 1969, he turned professional and won the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship for the first time in 1973. He lost the title to Muhammad Ali on October 30, 1974 in the famous “Rumble in the Jungle” fight in Zaire. In 1994, Foreman regained the title and, at age 45, became the oldest fighter ever to win the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship. Foreman retired from boxing in 1997 with a record of 76 wins and 5 losses and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003. In 1977, Foreman became an ordained minister and opened a youth center in Houston, Texas that bears his name. He has also become a successful business entrepreneur and promoter. It is estimated that he has earned more than $200 million as a product endorser. He published “George Foreman’s Guide to Life: How to Get Up Off the Canvas When Life Knocks You Down” in 2003.

• January 10, 1957 The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was founded to coordinate and support nonviolent direct action as a method to end all forms of segregation. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the first president and Ella Baker was the first staff person. During the first few years, SCLC focused on education, voter registration, and support for local struggles being waged by affiliates. Their first major campaign was in Albany, Georgia and later campaigns included Birmingham, Alabama, St. Augustine, Florida, Selma, Alabama, and Grenada, Mississippi. The SCLC continues to operate with the mission “to bring about the promise of one nation under god, indivisible together with the commitment to activate the strength to love with the community of humankind.”

• January 10, 1959 Chandra Danette Cheeseborough, hall of fame track and field athlete, was born in Jacksonville, Florida. Cheeseborough broke onto the international track scene at the age of 16 by winning two Gold medals at the 1975 Pan American Games. In 1976, she set the American junior record in the 100-meter race. Cheeseborough ran track at Tennessee State University and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in health/physical education in 1981. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, she won Gold medals as a member of the 4 by 100-meter relay team and 4 by 400-meter relay team and a Silver medal in the 400-meter race. Cheeseborough has served as the head coach of the men and women’s track teams at Tennessee State since 1999. She also coached the United States sprinters and hurdlers at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Cheeseborough was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 2000.

• January 10, 1976 Howlin’ Wolf, hall of fame blues singer, guitarist, and harmonica player, died. Wolf was born Chester Arthur Burnett June 10, 1910 in White Station, Mississippi. During the 1930s, he performed in the South with a number of blues musicians, including Robert Johnson and Son House. His first recording, “How Many More Years,” was produced in 1951 and was a hit on the Billboard R&B charts. This was followed by other hits, including “Moanin’ at Midnight” (1951) and “I Asked for Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)” (1956). His “Smokestack Lightening” (1956) is enshrined in both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance.” Also, his recordings “Spoonful” (1960) and “The Red Rooster” (1962) are enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Wolf’s 1962 album, “Howlin’ Wolf,” influenced many British and American bands infatuated with Chicago blues. Wolf was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. In 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor. The Howlin’ Wolf Memorial Blues Festival is held annually in West Point, Mississippi. His biography, “Moanin’ at Midnight, The Life and Times of Howlin’ Wolf,” was published in 2004.

• January 10, 2005 James Forman, civil rights leader, died. Foreman was born October 4, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois. He served in the United States Air Force in Okinawa during the Korean War and was discharged in 1952. Forman earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Roosevelt University in 1957 and spent most of the late 1950s working as a journalist and teacher. From 1961 to 1965, he served as executive secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1969, his “Black Manifesto” was adopted at the Black Economic Development Conference held in Detroit, Michigan. In 1980, Forman earned his Master of Arts degree from Cornell University and in 1982 earned his Ph.D. from the Union of Experimental Colleges and Universities. Forman wrote several books, including “Sammy Younge Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement” (1969), “The Making of Black Revolutionaries” (1972), and “Self Determination: An Examination of the Question and its Application to the African American People” (1984).

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Founded in 1965 and located in the heart of Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. The Museum provides learning opportunities, exhibitions, programs and events based on collections and research that explore the diverse history and culture of African Americans and their African origins.