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Today in Black History, 1/9/2013

• January 9, 1886 Aaron Anderson (or Sanderson), Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Anderson was born in 1811 in Plymouth, North Carolina. He enlisted in the Union Navy at the age of 52 during the Civil War. On March 17, 1865, while serving as a landsman on board the U.S.S. Wyandank on a mission to attack Confederate forces in Mattox Creek in Virginia, his actions earned him the medal. His citation partially reads, “…carried out his duties courageously in the face of a devastating fire which cut away half the oars, pierced the launch in many places and cut the barrel off a musket being fired at the enemy.” Anderson was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration June 22, 1865. He left the navy after his term of service expired and little is known of his post-war life.

• January 9, 1901 Edward Mitchell Bannister, landscape painter, died. Bannister was born November, 1828 in New Brunswick, Canada and moved to Providence, Rhode Island in the late 1840s. In 1876, he won a bronze medal for his painting “Under the Oaks” at the Philadelphia Centennial. Although primarily known for his landscapes, Bannister also did portraits and biblical and mythological scenes. Most of his works have not survived or their whereabouts are not known. In 1978, Rhode Island College dedicated its Art Gallery in Bannister’s name. His painting “The Newsboy” (1869) is in the collection of the National Museum of American Art and “River Scene” (1883) is in the collection of the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

• January 9, 1914 Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity was founded at Howard University to exemplify the ideals of brotherhood, scholarship and service. Their motto is culture for service and service for humanity. Today, they have a membership of more than 150,000 in over 650 chapters throughout the world. Notable members include Benjamin Chavis Muhammad, Rev. Al Sharpton, Al Roker, and Emmitt Smith.

• January 9, 1914 Kenneth Spearman “Kenny” Clarke, hall of fame jazz drummer, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While still in high school, Clarke studied multiple instruments as well as music theory and composition. He also played in the bands of Leroy Bradley and Roy Eldridge. By 1935, Clarke moved to New York City where in the early 1940s he was the house drummer at Minton’s Playhouse. From 1951 to 1955, Clarke was a member of the Modern Jazz Quartet. In 1956, Clarke permanently relocated to France where in 1961 he formed the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band. That band was together for eleven years. Recordings by Clarke as bandleader include “Telefunken Blues” (1955), “The Golden 8” (1961), and “Pieces of Time” (1983). Clarke was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor that the United States bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983. He died January 26, 1985 and was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1988.

• January 9, 1916 Jerome Heartwell “Brud” Holland, education administrator and diplomat, was born in Auburn, New York. Holland earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, where he was the first African American to play on the football team and an All-American in 1937 and 1938. Despite his athletic abilities, the National Football League ignored him because of his race. Holland earned his Master of Arts degree in sociology from Cornell in 1941 and his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1950. Holland served as president of Delaware State College from 1953 to 1959 and Hampton Institute from 1960 to 1970. On February 16, 1970, President Richard Nixon appointed him Ambassador to Sweden, a position he held for two years. In 1972, Holland became the first African American to sit on the board of the New York Stock Exchange, a position he held until 1980. Holland also served on the boards of several major corporations, including AT&T and General Motors. He served as chairman of the American Red Cross Board of Governors from 1980 to 1985 and its blood laboratory is named in his honor. Holland died January 13, 1985 and on May 23 of that year was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, by President Ronald Reagan. Holland was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1965 and in 1972 the National Collegiate Athletic Association awarded him the Theodore Roosevelt Award, the highest honor conferred on an individual by that organization. In 1987, the Jerome Holland scholarship program was established at the University of Virginia. A high school football stadium in Auburn and a dormitory at Cornell are named in his honor.

• January 9, 1922 Ahmed Sekou Toure, first president of the Republic of Guinea, was born in Faranah, French Guinea. Toure first ventured into politics in 1945 as one of the founders of the Postal Workers Union. In 1952, he became leader of the Guinean Democratic Party, a party agitating for the decolonization of Africa. In 1956, he was elected Guinea’s deputy to the French national assembly, a position he used to voice criticisms of the colonial regime. On October, 2, 1958, Guinea became the first African country to gain independence from France and Toure was elected president, a position he held until his death March 26, 1984.

• January 9, 1923 Richard Bowie Spikes of Fort Bragg, California received patent number 1,441,383 for a brake testing machine. His invention tested the efficiency or power of the brake and recorded the results of the test. Little is known of Spikes’ life except that he was born December 4, 1884 and was an incredible inventor. He also received patent number 1,362,197 for a trolley pole arrester on December 14, 1920, patent number 1,889,814 for an improved gear shift on December 6, 1932, patent number 1,936,996 for improvements in transmission and shifting means on November 28, 1933, patent number 2,517,936 for a horizontally swinging barber’s chair on August 8, 1950, and patent number 3,015,522 for an automatic safety brake system on January 2, 1962. Spikes died in 1962.

• January 9, 1935 Earl Gilbert Graves, Sr., hall of fame businessman, author, publisher, and philanthropist, was born in Brooklyn, New York. Graves earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Morgan State University in 1958 and from 1965 to 1968 served as an administrative assistant to Senator Robert F. Kennedy. In 1968, he started Earl G. Graves, Ltd. and in 1970 began publishing Black Enterprise magazine. Today, the magazine has 500,000 paid subscribers and grosses $53 million. From 1990 to 1998, Graves served as chairman and CEO of Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C., L.P., the largest minority controlled Pepsi-Cola franchise in the United States. Graves has served on the boards of several corporations, including Aetna, Federated Department Stores and Rohm and Haas. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Howard University. Graves donated $1 million to Morgan State’s School of Business and Management and they renamed it the Earl G. Graves School of Business and Management. Graves received the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1999 and in 2007 was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame.

• January 9, 1946 Countee Cullen, Harlem Renaissance poet and novelist, died. Cullen was born Countee LeRoy Porter on March 30, 1903 in Louisville, Kentucky. At a very young age, he won many poetry contests and often had his winning works published. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1925 from New York University and his Master of Arts degree in English and French from Harvard University in 1927. Cullen won more literary prizes than any other black writer during the 1920s, with poems such as “Color” (1925), “Copper Sun” (1927), and “The Ballad of the Brown Girl” (1928). From the 1930s until his death, Cullen wrote less, but he did produce the novels “One Way to Heaven” (1931), “The Lost Zoo” (1940), and “My Lives and How I Lost Them” (1942). Cullen’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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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.