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This date marks the birth of Mary “Mollie” Church Terrell. She was an African-American social activist who was co founder and first president of the National Association of Colored Women.

Terrell was born into a middle-class family in Memphis, and she received a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College, Ohio (1884). She taught languages at Wilberforce University in Xenia, Ohio, and at the M Street High School, a Black secondary school in Washington, D. C. After a two-year tour of Europe, she completed a master’s degree from Oberlin (1888) and married Robert Heberton Terrell, a lawyer who would be the first Black municipal court judge in the nation’s capital.

An early advocate of women’s rights, Terrell was an active member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, addressing in particular the concerns of black women. In 1896 she became the first president of the newly formed National Association of Colored Women, an organization which under her leadership worked to achieve educational and social reform and an end to discriminatory practices. Appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education in 1895, Terrell was the first black woman to hold such a position. At the suggestion of W.E.B. Du Bois, she was made a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and in 1949 she gained entrance to the Washington chapter of the American Association of University Women, bringing to an end its policy of excluding blacks.

An articulate spokeswoman, adept political organizer, and prolific writer, Terrell addressed a wide range of social issues in her long career, including the Jim Crow Law, lynching, and the convict lease system.

Her last act as an activist was to lead a successful three-year struggle against segregation in public eating places and hotels in the nation’s capital. Her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, appeared in 1940. Mary Terrell, early civil-rights advocate, educator, author, lecturer on woman suffrage, and Black rights died July 24, 1954 in Annapolis, MD.

On this date, the Western Library of Louisville, KY opened.

Founded by
Albert Ernest Meyzeek, it was the first library to serve Louisville’s Black community, and of the first of its kind in America. Western’s first librarian was Thomas Fountain Blue, Sr., who was assisted by Ms. Rachel Harris. Joseph S. Cotter, poet and playwright was involved with its early programs and is credited for the early storytelling contests for young people.

The Western Library was built on Louisville’s West Chestnut Street with funds from Andrew Carnegie, a philanthropist. It was one of eight Carnegie-endowed libraries built in Louisville in the early 20th century and was a success right from the beginning. Western’s present building opened in 1908 and Thomas Blue held his librarianship until his death in 1935. While there he designed a training program in library science for African-Americans that in time became adopted on a national scale. Western has always been a center of culture and learning.

The building underwent a massive renovation in 1994 and today is a state-of-the-art facility offering traditional library services and Internet and computer technology. Come visit the Western Library on Friday, September 23rd, 2005 at 10:30 am for a special event organized by the Western Branch Library Support Association.

On this date Joe Hill Louis was born. He was an African American musician who played many instruments.

Lester (or Leslie) Hill was from Tennessee, he ran away from home at age 14, living instead with a wealthy Memphis family. A fight with another youth that was won by young Hill earned him the “Joe Louis” term. For Hill the Harp came first for the multi-instrumentalist; by the late ‘40s, his one-man musical attack was a popular attraction in Handy Park and on WDIA, the groundbreaking Memphis radio station where he hosted a 15-minute program billed as “The Pepticon Boy.” Also known as “the Be-Bop Boy,” Louis made his recording debut in 1949 for Columbia, but the remainder of his recordings were issued on R&B independent labels large and small. It was on the Phillips label that he cut the blistering Hydramatic Woman and House of Sound in 1953 with Walter Horton on harp, (but Phillips never released it).

During the 1950s he created quite a commotion as a popular one-man blues band around Memphis. If not for his tragic premature demise due to health, his name would surely be more widely revered. Louis was only 35 when he died in Memphis in 1957 of tetanus, contracted when a deep gash on his thumb became infected.

On this date, Jazz Saxophone player John W. Coltrane was born. He was an African-American composer, small group or combo leader and a major figure in the evolution of the jazz styles known as bebop and free jazz.

Coltrane was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, and grew up in nearby High Point. He began playing the clarinet in a community band at the age of 13 and switched to the alto saxophone during his final year of high school. In 1945 he was drafted into the United States Navy, eventually serving most of his two-year term with a Navy band stationed in Hawaii. In 1947 he switched to the tenor saxophone and toured with alto saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson.

He joined the group of trumpeter Miles Davis in 1955, beginning an important phase of his career; during the periods he spent with Davis, Coltrane gained an international reputation as a tenor saxophonist. His high notes had an intense, emotional quality, and his melodies were extremely ornate and usually played without vibrato. After leaving Davis’s quintet, Coltrane formed his own quartet and began playing both the soprano and the tenor saxophone.

During the early 1960s, Coltrane and drummer Elvin Jones developed a highly energetic and interactive way of playing jazz, while improvising in one key. He would often introduce notes from another key. Soon he moved into free jazz, a style in which musicians sometimes create very unusual sounds with their instruments. A deeply religious man, Coltrane recorded several albums of his religious compositions, the most famous being A Love Supreme. Some other of famous songs were My Favorite Things and Ascension.

In the 1960s Coltrane won several polls conducted in the United States and in Japan. After his death, the National Academy of the Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) honored Coltrane’s memory with a Grammy Award and a lifetime achievement award. Coltrane inspired many to play the soprano saxophone, an instrument rarely used in jazz until he began playing it.

Ray Charles was born on this date. He was an African-American singer, composer, and arranger.

From in Albany, Georgia, Ray Charles Robinson was raised in Greenville, Florida. It was in Florida that he began the friendship of a piano-playing neighbor. As a youngster, Charles studied with him at his small store-cum-juke joint and absorbed and digested the blues, boogie-woogie and big-band swing records on his jukebox. At age six, Charles contracted glaucoma, which eventually left him blind. As a result, in 1936 he began a nine year stay at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind. While there when he was fifteen his mother died (followed two years later by his father).

At St. Augustine School Charles studied composition and mastered a variety of instruments including piano and saxophone. From there he played in a number of bands around Florida. Charles eventually led a jazz-blues trio that worked the West Coast in the style of Nat “King” Cole and Charles Brown. After releasing singles for labels such as Downbeat and Swingtime, Charles wound up on Atlantic Records in 1952. It turned out to be an ideal match between artist and label, as both were just beginning to find their true identity.

With artistic control at Atlantic after demonstrating his skills as an arranger he released “Things That I Used to Do,” the biggest R&B hit of 1954. Charles responded with a string of recordings in which he truly found his voice. This extended hit streak, which carried him through the end of the decade, included such R&B greats as “I Got a Woman,” “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” “Drown in My Own Tears” and the feverish call-and-response classic “What’d I Say.” All were sung in Charles’ gruff, soulful voice and accompanied by his piano and a horn section. While recording for Atlantic Records during the Fifties, the innovative singer, pianist and band leader broke down the barriers between sacred and secular music.

The gospel sound he’d heard growing up in the church found its way into the music he made as an adult. In his own words, he fostered “a crossover between gospel music and the rhythm patterns of the blues.” After his Atlantic years, Charles moved to ABC/Paramount, where he claimed greatness with his own Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, an album that topped the Billboard chart for 14 weeks in 1962. Over the decades, elements of country & western and big-band jazz have infused his music as well. He was as complete and well-rounded a musical talent as this century has produced.

In the 1980s, Charles was often in the public eye on television and in the movies. He had a number of albums and performed duets with many well-known musicians including Willie Nelson, Chaka Khan, and the Blues Brothers. His appearance on the 1985 release of “We Are the World,” brought a renewed interest in much of his work. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. During the 1990s he continued to write and perform, and in 1992 President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts. Charles was one of the most important influences on popular music. His passionate singing and intelligent melding of different genres remains the ideal by which many musicians continue to gauge their work.

Charles was a passionate chess player who displayed his genius by combining elements of gospel and blues into a fervid, exuberant style that came to be known as Soul Music. Just what is soul, according to Ray Charles? As he told Time magazine in 1968, “It’s a force that can light a room. The force radiates from a sense of selfhood, a sense of knowing where you’ve been and what it means. Soul is a way of life, but it’s always the hard way.” Many musicians and artist possess elements of genius, Charles truly and completely embodied the term bestowed upon him as a nickname.

As Executive Director of The African American Registry, my favorite song performed by him is “Old Man River.” Ray Charles died of liver disease at his home in Beverly Hills, CA on June 10th 2004.

This date marks the birth of George L. Jackson. He was an Africa-American activist.

Jackson was born in Chicago and moved with his family to Los Angeles at the age of fourteen. As a teen, had a number of juvenile problems, which landed him in trouble with the police and resulted in him spending time in the Youth Authority Corrections facility in Paso Robles, CA. At sixteen he was accused of stealing $71 from a gas station, received an indeterminate sentence of one year to life in which his case was reviewed annually. Jackson was never granted parole and spent the rest of his life in prison.

While incarcerated at Soledad Prison in Salinas, CA., he became politicized and began studying the theories of Mao Zedong, Frantz Fanon, and Fidel Castro. He developed strong ideas viewing capitalism as the source of the oppression of people of color, and became the leader in the politicization of Black and Chicano prisoners in Soledad. On January 16, 1970 in response to the death of three Black Muslims, a white guard (John Mills) was killed; Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo, and John Clutchette were accused of the murder. The three became known as the “Soledad Brothers.”

The fate of the Soledad Brothers became an international cause célèbre, which focused on the treatment of blacks in prison. The publication of Jackson’s book Soledad Brother that same year added to his visibility. For many supporters the issue was the belief that the Soledad Brothers were victims of a prison conspiracy. In August 1970, Jackson’s teenage brother Jonathan was killed in the Marin County Courthouse in an attempt to rescue his brother.

After being transferred to San Quentin Prison, three days before he was to go to trial, George Jackson was killed by prison guards. The official report said that he was armed and had participated in a prison revolt earlier in the day, which had left five men (two guards and three prisoners) dead. Accounts of this incident remain conflicting. Many in the Black Power Movement and the New Left eulogized Jackson as a martyr and a hero.

Thurgood Marshall was named to the U.S. Circuit of Appeals by President John F. Kennedy.

Representatives of more than 50 Black professionals, business, religious, civil rights, and community organizations concluded the first national Black Economic Conference.

Lou Brock of the St. Louis Cardinals stole his 935th base in a game against the Mets in New York on this day and became the all-time base-stealer in baseball history. A native of El Dorado, AR, Brock signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1961 and was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964 where he played until his retirement in 1979. For 12 consecutive seasons with the Cardinals, he stole more than 50 bases. He batted .391 in three World Series and holds the record for most hits (13), most stolen bases (140) and highest slugging percentage (.655) in a World Series as well as most hits in back-to-back World Series (25). Brock was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. Rickey Henderson broke his record of 938 stolen bases in 1991. Currently Brock is the owner of a concessions business and remains active with the Cardinals organization.

Nelson Mandela was honored by President Bill Clinton with the Congressional Medal of Honor on this date. Mandela received the medal at the Capital Rotunda for overcoming 27 years of unjust imprisonment and rising up to become President of South Africa.

The Ayecha Resource Organization is celebrated on this date. Ayecha supports, strengthens, and advocates for Jews of Color and multi-racial families in the U.S.

Founded in 2000 by
Yavilah McCoy, it is based in New York City and St. Louis. McCoy is an Orthodox, African-American Jewish educator, activist, publisher and diversity consultant. Through her vision Ayecha has developed educational awareness resources that both address the needs of diverse Jews and assist Jewish organizations in building more aware, inclusive and welcoming environments for “multi-dimensional” Jewish identity.

Demographics of the Jewish community show that through adoption, conversion, intermarriage and immigration, the American Jewish population is growing increasingly diverse. Jews of diverse backgrounds must not only contend with challenging issues facing the entire Jewish population, but their own unique cultural, racial, and socio-economic challenges as well. The Institute for Jewish and Community Research estimates that 6.5-10% of American Jews are ethnic minorities (Asian, Latino or African American.) The National Jewish Population Study posits that over 5% of Jewish families with children have at least 1 adopted child, and that 52% of Jews inter-marry.

Additionally Ayecha‘s projects are a result of information gathered through a sampling of 150 racially and culturally diverse Jews across the United States. Over a two-year period, Ayecha hosted various discussions to explore the potential for recognizable change in the experiences of diverse Jews in organized Jewish communal settings.

These discussions produced three areas of Ayecha’s programming: “Diversity in Spirituality”- resources to address feelings among diverse Jews that Jewish spiritual leaders are not adequately prepared to assist them and their communities in navigating and creating space for diverse Jewish identity in the synagogue. “Diversity in Building Community”- resources for Jewish educators and professionals to address feelings among diverse Jews that their voices and identities are not included in the type of programs and outreach services being offered by their local Jewish communities, and “Diversity in Jewish Identity”- social/educational events that address needs expressed among diverse Jews for educational programs that cater to a wide variety of Jewry and offer networking opportunities for diverse Jews to come together and contradict feelings of being “the only one” in larger communal settings.

Ayecha’s current programming reaches many diverse Jews and their families, living in Jewish communities across the United States, in Canada, England and in Israel. The “living stories” provided by the individuals and families that seek out Ayecha’s resources, offer a compelling reason for all Jewish individuals to reflect upon the changing face of American Jewry and to examine our communal acceptance and support of Jewish Diversity.

Through their projects and programs, Ayecha dispels harmful assumptions and negative stereotypes that provide rigorous challenges to the successful integration of ALL Jews into the various social settings, neighborhoods, synagogues and educational institutions that comprise our national Jewish community.

In Milwaukee, Barry Bonds hit his 734th home run to break Hank Aaron’s National League all-time home run record.

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