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1753
Soldier & patriot James Robinson is born. When he won a medal for bravery at the Battle of Yorktown, he was promised his freedom for fighting with the Americans. After the war, he was sold back into slavery.


1868
William Henry Lewis, All-American football center and graduate of Harvard University Law School, was born in Berkley, VA. Lewis served as assistant attorney general of the United States under President William H. Taft.


1869
On his date, we mark the birth of William T. Francis. He was an African-American politician and lawyer.

Francis was from the state of Indiana coming to Minnesota at an early age. After completing his education, he served in the legal department of Northern Pacific Railroad. Francis opened his own law firm prior to World War II in St. Paul. In 1920, he was president elector at the Republican State Convention. Francis and his wife were instrumental in getting an anti-lynching law passed in the Minnesota State Senate in the 1920s.

His deep concern about the fate of his people is summed up in these words: “The solution of the whole problem…is simple justice; a recognition of the fact that the rights of the humblest citizen are as worthy of protection as those of the highest.” In 1927, he was appointed U. S. Minister to Liberia, Africa by President Calvin Coolidge. William Francis died there two years later of Yellow Fever.



1871
The Ku Klux Klan trials begin in Federal District Court in South Carolina.


1907
On this date we celebrate the birth of Charles Alston. He was an African-American artist and teacher.

From Charlotte, North Carolina, Charles Henry Alston’s father died when he was three; soon afterwards his mother moved to New York and married Harry P. Bearden (the uncle of artist Romare Bearden). Alston attended DeWitt Clinton High School, taught there and graduated from Columbia University in 1929. In 1931, he received a master’s degree from Columbia’s Teachers College. He also studied at the Pratt Institute and traveled to
Europe and the Caribbean.

Alston directed art programs and community centers in the New York area including the Harlem Workshop; Jacob Lawrence as one of his students at Utopia House. He directed the thirty-five artists who created the Harlem Hospital murals for the Federal Arts Project in 1935 and 1936, painting two of the murals himself. Many of Alston’ works were published in the New Yorker, fortune, and Collier’s magazine. In 1950, he sold a painting to the metropolitan Museum of Art and also became the first Black instructor at the Art Students league. He also painted murals for the
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company in Los Angeles, earning the National Academy of Design Award.

As a teacher, he taught at the Harlem Community Art Center, Harlem Art Workshop, the Museum of Modern Art, and Pennsylvania State University, while receiving many awards. He was an associate professor of painting at The City University of New York and a muralist for the WPA during the Depression. His two-panel mural of that period, “Magic and Medicine,” can be seen at Harlem Hospital. He will become a full professor at City University of New York in 1973.

He also won the First Award of the Atlanta University Collection’s 1942 show for his watercolor painting, “Farm Boy”. Alston’s best-known paintings are Family and Walking, at the Whitney Museum and a private collection respectively. In 1975, he was the first recipient of Columbia University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Charles Alston and his wife, Myra A. Logan (a surgeon) died of cancer within months of each other in 1977. He died on April 27, 1977.


1928
The founding of Lewis College of Business (LCB) is celebrated on this date. Lewis College of Business was founded at the beginning of the Great Depression by Violet T. Lewis.

Starting with a fifty-dollar loan and determination, Dr. Lewis established Michigan’s only Historically Black College. Located in the heart of one of Detroit, LCB brings state-of-the-art, accredited, business education to its students. LCB is an open admission, two-year College presenting both academic and technical programs. Their certificates and associate degrees provide easy entry into the job market or give transfer privileges to a senior institution.

The main function of Lewis College of Business is to supply opportunities in higher education for qualified applicants. Their commitment provides business related curriculum in Computer Information, Business Administration, and Office Information Systems. Granting degrees will continue to be the long-term objective of the College. The academic program of the college is focused on technical business skills, but the students also learn the skills to become a world citizen.

Today, Lewis College of Business offers educational preparation in Liberal Arts and three career areas: Business Administration, Computer Information Systems and Office Information Systems. The academic programs at Lewis have traditionally combined theoretical and practical methods of instruction. During the past 70 years, over 2,500 students have graduated from Lewis College of Business, and close to 27,000 students have attended this institution.

Upon graduation, the majority of the alumni immediately enter into the world of work, while others continue their education. Lewis College of Business has always impressed upon its students the value of continued growth through education. The acceptance of this counsel is evidenced by the alumni who have earned Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degrees.



1929
Berry Gordy, Jr. was born on this date. He is an African-American record producer, and the founder of the Motown record label and its subsidiaries.

From Detroit, Michigan, he was one of eight children born to the middle class family of Berry Gordy, Sr., plastering contractor and Bertha Fuller Gordy. The senior Gordy and family had relocated to Detroit from Milledgeville, Georgia in 1922. Gordy was brought up in a tight-knit family with strong morals. He dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade to become a professional boxer, a career he followed until 1950 when he was drafted by the United States Army for the Korean War.

After the army and as a record-store manager he moved into the creative and entrepreneurial side of the music business. In the mid-Fifties, Gordy married Thelma Coleman and began writing songs for local R&B acts and quickly acquired a local reputation as a songwriter and producer. His first break came in 1957, when Brunswick Records bought a song of his called “Reet Petite” for Jackie Wilson. Gordy had co-written the song with his sister Gwen and Billy Davis. Wilson recorded four more songs co-written by Gordy over the next two years.

Gordy reinvested his songwriting successes into producing. During this time he discovered Smokey Robinson and The Miracles and began building a portfolio of successful artists. In January 1959 Gordy founded a new R&B label called Tamla Records, which produced Marv Johnson’s first hit, “Come To Me.” At Robinson’s encouragement, Gordy created Motown on December 14, 1959. Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want),” did well in 1960. The Miracles’ hit “Shop Around” peaked nationally at #1 on the R&B charts that same year and at #2 on the pop charts in 1961 and established Motown as an independent company worthy of notice. He promoted African-American artists but carefully controlled their public image, managing dress, manners, and choreography for crossover appeal.

His gift for identifying musical talent, along with the careful management of his artists’ public image, made Motown a national success. Over the next decade he signed such artists as Mary Wells, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Commodores, The Velvelettes, The Marvelettes, Martha & the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, and The Jackson 5. In 1968 following the riots in Detroit, Gordy moved to Los Angeles, California and expanded Motown’s offices there. In June 1972 he relocated the entire Motown Records Company to LA, and the following year he reorganized the company into Motown Industries, an entertainment conglomerate that would include record, movie, television and publishing divisions.

Gordy sold his interests in Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures in June 1988 for $61 million. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years later and published an autobiography, To Be Loved, in 1994. Gordy has been married and divorced several times, and has seven children: Hazel Joy, Berry, Kennedy, Kerry, Rhonda, Stefan and Terry James. Rhonda Ross Kendrick is the daughter of Gordy and his most successful female Motown artist, Diana Ross. Kennedy Gordy is better known as the Motown musician Rockwell. Gordy’s daughter Hazel was once married to Jermaine Jackson.



1942
Paul Warfield is born in Warren, Ohio. He will become an wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins. Over his career, he will catch 427 passes for 8,565 yards and 85 touchdowns. He will have a sensational 20.1-yard per catch average and will be All-NFL five years. He also will be named to eight Pro Bowls.  He will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.


1950
F.M. Jones patented the 2-cycle gasoline engine. Patent #2,523,273.


1958
Chad, Congo, and & Mauritania become autonomous members of the French World Community.


1960
Mauritania gains independence from France.


1960
On this day, in 1960 the expatriate American writer Richard Nathaniel Wright died in Paris at the age of fifty-two. Wright’s last fifteen years in France were a final stop in a life of migrations. As the son of an illiterate Mississippi sharecropper his early years were spent in poverty on the farm and then moving city to city in the South. He lived with both parents, then only his mother; with one uncle and then another and then a grandmother. He moved to Chicago, expecting the North would be better; he moved to New York to edit the Daily Worker, thinking the Communist Party was the answer. He rejected Communism, and then America; when he left for Europe he continued to travel throughout northern Africa and Asia, now taking the international reputation earned from his political writing and his two best-sellers—the novel Native Son (1940), the autobiography Black Boy (1945).


1961
On this date, the Downtown Athletic Club awarded the Heisman Trophy to Ernie Davis. He was the first African American to win the award.

This award is given to America’s most outstanding college football player. Playing for Syracuse University, Davis a halfback broke ten of Jim Browns records and was a first round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns.

Davis, nicknamed “The Elmira Express,” was stricken with leukemia, never played a professional game and died in May of 1963.



1966
A coup occurs in Burundi overthrowing the monarchy. A republic is declared as a replacement form of government.


1981
Pam McAllister Johnson was named publisher of Gannett’s 20,000-circulation afternoon daily the Ithaca (NY) Journal on this day. Johnson became the first Black woman to head a general circulation daily in the United States. She held the post until 1994. In 1977, Johnson earned a doctorate in journalism and educational psychology from the University of Wisconsin. Earlier in her career, Johnson worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, then for CBS, and later for radio stations in Madison, WI. Recently, Johnson was named the R.M. Seaton Professional Journalism Chair at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS.


1992
In King William’s Town, South Africa, four people are killed, about 20 injured, when black militant gunmen attack a country club.


1997
Former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young died on this day. He was 79 years old. Young became Detroit’s first Black mayor and presided over his adopted city for an unprecedented five terms. Young died at Sinai Hospital of respiratory failure caused by advanced emphysema.


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1890

D. McCree is granted a patent for the portable fire escape. Patent #440,322.