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Today in Black History, 5/19/2013

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• May 19, 1885 John Percial Parker received patent number 318,285 for a Portable Screw Press, popularly known as the Parker Pulverizer. Parker was born in 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. At the age of eight, he was sold into slavery. By 1845, he had earned enough money to buy his freedom for $1,800. As a free man, he became involved in abolitionist activities and aided in the freeing of over a thousand enslaved people. During the Civil War, Parker served as a recruiter for the Union Army and supplied castings for the war effort. In 1854, Parker established the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company and on September 2, 1884 received patent number 304,552 for the Follower-Screw for Tobacco Presses. Parker’s foundry employed more than 25 workers and remained in operation until 1918, well after his death February 4, 1900. His home in Ripley, Ohio was designated a National Historic Landmark February 18, 1997. Parker’s autobiography, “His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad,” was published in 1996.

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Today in Black History, 5/18/2013

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• May 18, 1848 William Alexander Leidesdorff, one of the earliest black settlers in California and often called the first black millionaire, died. Leidesdorff was born October 23, 1810 in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. He left St. Croix when he was 15 for schooling in Denmark and after that went to New Orleans, Louisiana where he worked as a ship captain from 1834 to 1840. In 1841, he moved to California where he launched the first steamboat to operate on San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River. He also built the first hotel and the first shipping warehouse. In 1844, Leidesdorff became a naturalized Mexican citizen and received a land grant of 35,521 acres. He went on to establish extensive commercial relations throughout Hawaii, Alaska, and Mexican California. When the United States took over California, Leidesdorff was one of three members on the first San Francisco school board and was later elected city treasurer. He also donated the land for the first public school. In 1845, President James Polk hired him as the United States Vice Consul to Mexico. When Leidesdorff died, he was one of the wealthiest men in California and on the day of his burial, flags were flown at half-mast, business was suspended, and the schools were closed. When his estate was auctioned in 1856, it was valued at more than $1,445,000. Leidesdorff streets in San Francisco and Folsom, California are named in his honor. His biography, “William Alexander Leidesdorff: First Black Millionaire, American Consul and California Pioneer,” was published in 2005.

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Today in Black History, 5/17/2013

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• May 17, 1864 John William “Blind” Boone, pianist and ragtime music composer, was born near Miami, Missouri. When he was six months old, doctors removed his eyes in an attempt to cure his brain fever. Boone’s musical talents were recognized early and in 1872 he was sent to the St. Louis School for the Blind to study piano. In 1880, his professional career was launched after he played in a concert with the famous pianist, Blind Tom. After that, Boone played thousands of concerts in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. During his lifetime, Boone was a committed philanthropist who supported local causes and opened his home to the community. He donated generously to several churches and gave his time and talent to local youth. Boone died October 4, 1927. His home in Columbia, Missouri was listed on the National Register of Historic Places September 4, 1980. The John William Boone Heritage Foundation was founded to preserve the history of Blind Boone and Blind Boone Park in Warrensburg, Missouri is named in his honor. His biography, “Blind Boone: Missouri’s Ragtime Pioneer,” was published in 1998.

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Today in Black History, 5/16/2013

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• May 16, 1840 James Milton Turner, politician and Consul to Liberia, was born enslaved in St. Louis, Missouri. Turner and his parents were freed when he was young, but he still had limited educational opportunities because Missouri laws restricted black people from learning to read. Despite the legal obstacles, Turner learned to read and briefly attended Oberlin College. After the Civil War, he became a prominent politician known for his speaking ability. He worked for the Missouri Department of Education, establishing over 30 new schools in the state for African Americans and providing support for Lincoln Institute (now Lincoln University). In 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Turner United States Minister to Liberia, the first African American to hold that position. After returning from Liberia in 1878, Turner organized the Colored Emigration Aid Association to provide assistance to black people migrating from the South. Turner died November 1, 1915. His biography, “James Milton Turner and the Promise of America: The Public Life of a Post-Civil War Leader,” was published in 1991.

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Today in Black History, 5/15/2013

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• May 15, 1868 George Henry Wanton, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was born in Paterson, New Jersey. By June 30, 1898, he was serving as a private in the 10th Calvary Regiment (Buffalo Soldiers) in the Spanish – American War. On that day, American forces aboard the USS Florida near Tayacoba, Cuba dispatched a small landing party to provide reconnaissance on Spanish outposts in the area. The party was discovered and came under heavy fire. Their boats were sunk, leaving them stranded on shore. After four failed attempts, Wanton and three other members of the 10th Calvary successfully found and rescued the surviving members of the landing party. In recognition of his actions, on June 23, 1899 Wanton was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration. Wanton continued to serve in the military and reached the rank of master sergeant and served in the Quartermaster Corps before retiring. Wanton died November 27, 1940 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Today in Black History, 5/14/2013

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• May 14, 1890 Rosa Jinsey Young, “the mother of Black Lutheranism in Alabama,” was born in Rosebud, Alabama. Young earned her bachelor’s degree from Payne University, and was the valedictorian of her class, in 1909. After receiving her teaching certificate, she taught at various schools for African Americans across Alabama. In 1912, Young established the Rosebud Literary and Industrial School. However, by 1915 the school was on the brink of closure due to financial problems. The Lutheran Church provided financial support to keep the school open and added Lutheran based instruction to the school’s curriculum. Young went on to help found five other Lutheran based schools across Alabama, including Alabama Lutheran Academy and College (now Concordia College) which was founded in 1922 and where she served on the faculty from 1946 to 1961. In 1930, Young published her autobiography, “Light in the Dark Belt,” and in 1961 received an honorary doctorate from Concordia Theological Seminary for her dedicated service. Young died June 30, 1971.

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Today in Black History, 5/13/2013

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• May 13, 1862 Robert Smalls, an enslaved African American serving as a helmsman on a Confederate military transport during the Civil War, and other black crewmen took over the ship and handed it over to the Union Navy. Smalls was born April 5, 1839 in Beaufort, South Carolina. His actions on the ship made him famous in the North and Congress passed a bill rewarding Smalls and his crewmen prize money for the captured ship. Smalls returned to Beaufort and purchased the estate of his former master. Smalls served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1865 to 1870, the South Carolina Senate from 1871 to 1874, and the United States House of Representatives from 1875 to 1879 and 1882 to 1883. Smalls also served as the U.S. Collector of Customs from 1889 to 1911. Smalls died February 23, 1915.

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Today in Black History, 5/12/2013

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• May 12, 1906 William “Gorilla” Jones, hall of fame boxer, was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Jones started boxing professionally in 1923 and won the World Middleweight Boxing Championship in 1925. He retired in 1940 with a record of 101 wins, 24 losses, and 13 draws. After retiring, he served as a chauffeur and bodyguard for the movie star Mae West and from the late 1940s to the 1970s trained other boxers. Jones died January 4, 1982 and was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009.

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Today in Black History, 5/11/2013

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• May 11, 1895 William Grant Still, “the dean” of African American classical composers, was born in Woodville, Mississippi, but raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. Still started taking violin lessons at the age of 15 and taught himself to play a number of other instruments. Still attended Wilberforce University where he conducted the university band and started to compose. He also studied at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. After serving in the United States Navy during World War I, he worked as an arranger for W.C. Handy and later played in the pit orchestra for the musical “Shuffle Along”. In 1934, Still was the recipient of the first Guggenheim Fellowship. On July 23, 1936, he conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, becoming the first African American to conduct a major American orchestra. On March 31, 1949, his opera “Troubled Island” (1939) was performed by the New York City Opera, the first opera by an African American to be performed by a major opera company. Despite selling out the first three nights and receiving 22 curtain calls on opening night, the opera was shut down, never to be staged again. “Just Tell the Story: Troubled Island” (2006) delves into some of the reason why. Still eventually moved to Los Angeles, California where he arranged music for films, including “Pennies from Heaven” (1936) and “Lost Horizon” (1937). Still received honorary doctorate degrees from a number of institutions, including Oberlin College, Howard University, the New England Conservatory of Music, and the University of Southern California. Still died December 3, 1978. On June 15, 1981, his opera “A Bayou Legend” became the first opera by an African American to be performed on national television when it premiered on PBS. His biography, “In Our Lifetime”, was published in 1984.

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Today in Black History, 5/10/2013

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• May 10, 1815 Henry Walton Bibb, author and abolitionist, was born enslaved in Shelby County, Kentucky. In 1837, Bibb escaped to Cincinnati, Ohio, but was recaptured when he returned to free his wife. In 1842, he escaped to Detroit, Michigan. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required Northerners to cooperate in the capture of previously enslaved people, Bibb moved to Windsor, Canada. In 1851, he established the first black newspaper in Canada, “The Voice of the Fugitive.” The paper promoted the abolitionist movement and provided information to parties on the Underground Railroad. Bibb and his wife also helped establish the Refugee Home Society which created settlements and assisted previously enslaved black people who escaped to Canada. Bibb published his autobiography, “Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave,” in 1848. Bibb died in 1854.

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Today in Black History, 5/9/2013

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• May 9, 1919 James Reese Europe, ragtime and jazz bandleader, arranger, and composer, died. Europe was born February 22, 1881 in Mobile, Alabama and moved to New York City in 1904. In 1910, Europe organized the Clef Club, a society for African Americans in the music industry. In 1912, they made history as the first band to play proto-jazz at Carnegie Hall when they played a concert for the benefit of the Colored Music Settlement School. The band played music written solely by black composers. In 1913 and 1914, Europe made a series of recordings that are some of the best examples of the pre-jazz ragtime style of the 1910s. During World War I, Europe saw combat as a lieutenant with the Harlem Hellfighters and went on to direct the regimental band to great acclaim. After his return to the United States in 1919, he stated “I have come from France more firmly convinced than ever that Negros should write Negro music. We have our own racial feelings and if we try to copy Whites we will make bad copies.” At the time of his death, Europe was the best known African American bandleader in the U.S. and was granted the first ever public funeral for an African American in New York City. His biography, “A Lifetime in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe,” was published in 1995.

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Today in Black History, 5/8/2013

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• May 8, 1753 Phillis Wheatley, the first African American woman to have her work published, was born in Senegal, West Africa. Wheatley was enslaved at the age of seven. She was tutored by her owners and learned to read and write. In 1773, her book “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” was published in London, England and immediately brought her fame. As a result of her fame, she was emancipated by her owners and went on to publish other poems. Wheatley died December 5, 1784. Today there is a building named in her honor at the University of Massachusetts and a statue of her is one of three included in the Boston Women’s Memorial unveiled October 25, 2003. Her biography, “Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley, a Native African and Slave,” was published in 1834. In 2012, Robert Morris University named their School of Communications and Information Systems building in her honor. Wheatley’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, 5/7/2013

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• May 7, 1845 Mary Eliza Mahoney, hall of fame nurse and the first African American registered nurse in the United States, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Mahoney worked at the New England Hospital for Women and Children for fifteen years before being accepted into its nursing school. On August 1, 1879, Mahoney earned her nursing degree. In 1908, she co-founded the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses and from 1911 to 1912 served as director of the Howard Orphan Asylum for Black Children. Mahoney was also a strong advocate for women’s equality and women’s suffrage. In 1920, she was one of the first women in Boston, Massachusetts to register to vote. Mahoney died January 4, 1926. She was posthumously inducted into the American Nurses Association Hall of Fame in 1976 and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993. The Mary Mahoney Award is bestowed biennially by the ANA in recognition of significant contributions in advancing equal opportunity in nursing for minority groups. The Mary Eliza Mahoney Dialysis Center in Boston and the Mary Mahoney Lecture Series at Indiana University are named in her honor.

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15th Annual Ford Freedom Award Honors “Quiet Heroes”

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To commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Ford Freedom Award program, Ford Motor Company, in partnership with the Charles H. Wright Museum, will honor Congressman John Lewis, and civil rights activists Johnnie R. Carr and Viola Liuzzo. The Ford Freedom Award program will take place on Friday, May 10, at 6 p.m. at the Max M. Fisher Music Center. This year’s theme - Quiet Heroes - salutes the honorees for their humility, commitment and contribution to the African-American community.

As part of the Ford Freedom Award educational outreach, Congressman Lewis will address nearly 2,000 elementary and middle-school students from around the state. The 2013 Ford Freedom Award Scholarship finalists also will be presented during the program. The evening reception and Award program will include a special performance by Grammy Award-nominated singer and songwriter Eric Benét.

“Today we honor African Americans who have changed our world as Quiet Heroes without any intention of recognition,” said Ziad Ojakli, group vice president, Government and Community Relations, Ford Motor Company. “Their lasting legacy challenges us all to do more to make a difference in our everyday lives.”

The Ford Freedom Award program recognizes two recipients each year. The Ford Freedom Honoree Award is presented posthumously to a distinguished African American who has dedicated his or her life to improving the African American community and the world at large through their chosen field, such as arts, humanities, religion, business, politics, sports, science and entertainment. The Ford Freedom Award Scholar is an African American who has excelled on a national or international level in the same field as the Ford Freedom Award Honoree. The Scholar serves as a living legacy, carrying forth the ideals of the Honoree and furthering those achievements for a new generation.

The 2013 Ford Freedom Award Honoree is civil rights activist Johnnie R. Carr, who joined childhood friend Rosa Parks in organizing the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott.  In 1967 Carr succeeded Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, a post she held until 2008 at her death at age 97.  As the Association's president, Carr helped lead several initiatives to improve race relations and conditions for Blacks. She was involved in a lawsuit to desegregate Montgomery schools, with her son, Arlam, the named plaintiff.

This year’s Ford Freedom Award Scholar is Congressman John Lewis, who has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls "The Beloved Community" in America. Recently an Alabama police chief apologized to Congressman Lewis for failing to protect the Freedom Riders during a trip to Montgomery, Ala. in 1961. Lewis and fellow civil rights activists were beaten by a mob after arriving at a Montgomery bus station.

Ford Freedom Humanitarian Award also will be presented posthumously to Michigander Viola Liuzzo, who was killed by the Klu Klux Klan in 1965 for helping Blacks to register to vote.

"In an age when the desire for notoriety seems universal, the Wright Museum is proud to acknowledge the quiet courage and determination of this year's honorees," says Juanita Moore, the museum's president & CEO. "In their own astonishing and unheralded ways, they have each committed, or given, their lives for the cause of equality - which is all the more reason for their recognition."

As part of the celebration, Ford will honor 50 local Quiet Heroes who were nominated by members of the community. Tickets for the Ford Freedom Awards are $40 per person or $35 for Wright Museum members.  A special “VIP Meet and Greet Experience Package” for $75 includes an afterglow and photo opportunity with the honorees and Eric Benét.

The Ford Freedom Award program is made possible by a grant from Ford Motor Company.  For additional event and ticket information, call the Max M. Fisher Box Office at 313-576-5111 or visit www.fordfreedomaward.com

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 166,000 employees and about 70 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit www.ford.com

About the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History 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. Founded in 1965 and located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Midtown Detroit’s Cultural Center, The Wright Museum is the world's largest institution dedicated to the African American experience. For more information, please visit www.TheWright.org.

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Today in Black History, 5/6/2013

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• May 6, 1812 Martin Robinson Delany, abolitionist and the first African American field officer in the United States Army, was born in Charles Town, West Virginia. Because it was illegal to teach black people to read or write, he and his siblings taught themselves. In 1835, Delany became more actively involved in political matters and attended his first Negro Conference. In 1843, he began publishing “The Mystery,” a black-controlled newspaper, and on December 3, 1847 together with Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison began publishing the “North Star” newspaper. In the 1850s, Delany became convinced that white people would not allow deserving persons of color to become leaders in society and in his book, “The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered” (1852), argued that blacks had no future in the United States and should leave and found a new nation elsewhere. In 1863, Delany began recruiting black men for the Union Army to fight in the Civil War, raising thousands of enlistees, and in 1865 was commissioned as a major, becoming the first black field officer in the U.S. Army. Following the war and the demise of the Reconstruction Period, Delany helped form the Liberia Exodus Joint Stock Steamship Company with the intent to immigrate to Africa. However, he had to withdraw from the project due to family obligations. Delany died January 24, 1885. His biography, “Martin R. Delany: The Beginnings of Black Nationalism,” was published in 1971.

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Today in Black History, 5/5/2013

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• May 5, 1883 Josiah Henson, author, abolitionist, and minister, died. Henson was born enslaved June 15, 1789 in Charles County, Maryland. In 1830, after trying to buy his freedom and being cheated out of his money, Henson escaped with his wife and children to Canada. After arriving in Ontario, he founded The Dawn Settlement and a laborer’s school for other previously enslaved fugitives. The settlement prospered, reaching a population of 500 and exporting lumber to the United States and Britain. Henson also became a Methodist preacher, abolitionist, and served in the Canadian army as an officer. Henson had three autobiographies published, “The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as narrated by Him” (1849), “Truth Stranger Than Fiction, Father Henson’s Story of His Own Life” (1858), and “Uncle Tom’s Story of His Life: An Autobiography of the Rev. Josiah Henson” (1876). Henson was the first black man to be featured on a Canadian stamp and also was recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada in 1999 as a National Historic Person. A federal plaque honoring him is located in the Henson family cemetery. Henson’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, 5/4/2013

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• May 4, 1891 Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, the first black-owned and operated hospital in the United States, was established by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams. At that time, black physicians had little or no hospital privileges, and nursing schools in Chicago did not admit black students. The original building housed 12 beds. By 1897, the hospital was moved to a larger building, had 189 patients, and an outpatient clinic that treated 6,000 patients. In the early 1930s, Provident purchased a seven-story building, built a four-story outpatient clinic, and purchased two apartment buildings to house student nurses. Provident was forced to close in 1987 due to financial difficulties, but reopened in 1997 as part of Cook County’s Bureau of Health Services.

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Today in Black History, 5/3/2013

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• May 3, 1898 Septima Poinsette Clark, “grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” was born in Charleston, South Carolina. As an African American, Clark was barred from teaching in the Charleston public schools. Therefore, she began teaching on John’s Island. In 1919, she returned to Charleston to teach at Avery Normal Institute, a private academy for black children, and became active with the NAACP. From 1929 to 1947, Clark taught in the Columbia, South Carolina public school system. During that time, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Benedict College in 1942 and her Master of Arts degree from Hampton Institute in 1946. In 1956, Clark became vice president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP. That same year, the South Carolina legislature passed a law banning city or state employees from being involved with civil rights organizations. Clark refused to leave the NAACP and was fired from her teaching position. Beginning in 1954, Clark was active with the Highlander Folk School where she ran an adult literacy program. One of the participants in her workshops was Rosa Parks. In response to Southern states which required literacy and knowledge of the United States constitution in order to register to vote, Clark established “Citizenship Schools” throughout the Deep South. The program became so large that it was transferred to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Clark became SCLC’s director of education and training. Clark retired from the SCLC in 1970 and from 1974 to 1982 served on the Charleston County School Board, the first black female member. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter presented Clark a Living Legend Award. Her autobiography, “Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement,” was published in 1986 and won the American Book Award. Clark died December 15, 1987.

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Today in Black History, 5/2/2013

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• May 2, 1843 Elijah J. McCoy, hall of fame engineer and inventor, was born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada. His parents had escaped enslavement to Canada. McCoy studied engineering in Edinburgh, Scotland and after returning to Canada found work with the Michigan Central Railroad. On July 12, 1872, he received patent number 129,843 for “Improvements in Lubricators for Steam-Engines.” This was a boon for railroads because it allowed trains to run faster and more profitably with less need to stop for lubrication and maintenance. McCoy continued to invent until late in his life, receiving 57 patents mostly related to lubrication, but also including a folding ironing board and a lawn sprinkler. In 1920, he formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company. McCoy died October 10, 1929. In 1975, a Michigan historical marker was placed at the site of his Detroit, Michigan home and Elijah McCoy Drive in Detroit was named in his honor. In 2001, he was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and in 2006 the play “The Real McCoy” was written which chronicled his life and inventions. His biography, also titled “The Real McCoy,” was published in 2007. McCoy’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, 5/1/2013

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• May 1, 1866 The Memphis Riots of 1866 began after a shooting altercation between white policemen and black Soldiers recently mustered out of the Union Army in Memphis, Tennessee. For three days, mobs of white civilians and policemen rampaged through black neighborhoods. A report by a joint Congressional Committee detailed 46 blacks and 2 whites killed, 75 persons injured, over 100 persons robbed, 5 women raped, and 91 homes, 4 churches, and 8 schools burned. No criminal charges were ever brought against any of the perpetrators of atrocities committed during the riots. The riots did result in major changes toward modernization of the city’s police force.

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