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On this date we remember the birth of William Lewis born. He was an African-American lawyer and football player.

Born to former slaves in Berkley, Virginia, William Henry Lewis worked to pay for his education at Virginia Normal Institute (now Virginia State University). He later attended Amherst College in Massachusetts. Excelling as an orator and athlete, Lewis was one of the first black men to play collegiate football, serving as team captain in 1890 and 1891. He met his future wife (Elizabeth Baker) at his graduation.

Moving on the Harvard Law School Lewis continued to play football earning consecutive selections to Walter Camp’s newly created All-American team in 1892 and 1893. William Lewis worked to combat the racism and discrimination of the times. After being refused a haircut at a local barbershop, he pressed the case all the way to the state legislature. This resulted in a law passed to broaden the prohibition of discrimination in public businesses. After graduation in 1895, he worked as an attorney in Boston. Lewis participated in local politics, was elected for three years to the Cambridge Common council.

In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt appointed Lewis to the post of assistant district attorney of Boston. His involvement at a July meeting of the National Negro Business League which ended up in a small year public disturbance drew ire from liberal Black Americans at the time. Lewis testified against many Blacks arrested that day, including William Monroe Trotter and his sister. Never- the-less, Lewis continued to enjoy national recognition of his abilities. In 1911, President Taft appointed him as assistant attorney general, the first African-American to get a sub-cabinet position.

A year later he was one of the first three African-Americans accepted to the American Bar Association (ABA). During the 1920s he was active in Republican politics while practicing law, defending unpopular cases such as bootlegging, corruption, and racial discrimination. After his wife died in 1943, William Lewis moved back to Boston where he died in 1949.

John Roy Lynch is elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives.

A.P. Ashbourne patents the biscuit cutter.

S.R. Scratton patents curtain rod.

On this date, Gordon Alexander Buchanan Parks, Sr. was born. He was an African-American photographer and filmmaker.

Gordon Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas and was the youngest of fifteen children. His mother’s death at a young age and his father’s inability to manage the household led to the family’s break-up, and Parks moving to Minneapolis with his married sister. Unwelcome in his brother-in-law’s house, he soon found himself living on his own struggling to attend school and support himself.

During the great depression (now out of school), Parks absorbed all forms of education with close attention to the talented men and women he encountered in his various jobs. Now a young husband and father, Parks worked as a bellhop, semi pro basketball player, musician, and member of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was during these times that Parks wrote, composed, and took in what he was unable to receive in a school setting. The picture magazines of the times Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and especially the brand new Life caught Parks’ imagination and with incentive from a newsreel presentation from a camera-mans war footage in a Chicago movie theater; he bought his first camera in 1937.

With zeal, talent and patience, Parks began learning his craft. A successful fashion feature for an upscale Minneapolis department store caught the eye of Marva (Mrs. Joe) Louis, who encouraged him to establish himself in Chicago. His fashion background served him well in the windy city’s Gold Coast social circles, yet in his spare time, Parks documented the torrid poverty of Chicago’s south side, and the quickening growth of African-American migration in the areas around the Great Lakes.

His insightful camera work won him the first Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in photography. The money gave Parks the ability to collaborate with visual mentor Roy Stryker in Washington D.C., at the Farm Security Administration during the closing window of the New Deal agencies documentation of depression conditions in America. He worked with Stryker until 1947, shooting for Vogue, and Glamour while writing two books on photo technique. Parks spent over twenty years shooting for Life magazine, part of which was an influential time in their Paris office where he covered fashion, the arts, celebrities, and politics.

The window of opportunity (seized) for him was modern expression and worldwide recognition, but equally important was the African-American experience of lessening racial barriers allowing his creative juices to flow. In the United States, his photographic essays of the 1950s and 1960s were poignantly impacting. He photographed all aspects of Americana and the world with a deliberate style, which won him many firsts for an African-American photojournalist. Parks’ longest assignment began in 1961, when he came to Brazil to shoot the slums of Rio de Janeiro.

His story and photos of Flavio da Silva, a boy Parks found dying of asthma attracted international attention, gifts and medical treatment. Simultaneously, with the emerging Civil Rights Movement, he engaged in the activities its personalities through his craft. His 1971 anthology Born Black is a collection of these images. His gift for telling stories came to fore in 1963 with The Learning Tree, this was followed in 1966 by A Choice of Weapons. In 1969, he was the first black to direct a major Hollywood film (The Learning Tree), which he wrote and produced. Parks also gained attention as a poet, composer; to his various credit are- Shaft 1971, Leadbelly 1976, and Odyssey of Solomon Northrup 1984.

Parks has received many awards, degrees, and citations including Photographer of the Year from the American Society of Magazine Photographers, 1960 and the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, 1972. In 1989 Parks created a Ballet entitled “Martin”.

Books that he has written are Half Past Autumn,” 1997, “A Star for Noon,” 2000, “A Hungry Heart: A Memoir,” 2005, and “Eyes With Winged Thoughts,” 2005 Gordon Parks died on March 8, 2006 and was a fine pioneering black representative in visual media for print and features content worldwide.

On this date, Brownie McGhee was born. He was an African-American blues singer, guitarist, pianist, songwriter, and longtime partner of the vocalist and harmonica player Sonny Terry.

The son of a singer and guitarist, Walter Brown McGhee was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He developed an interest in the guitar at six and was taught by his sister to play the piano at age eight. He enjoyed itinerant blues musicians and dropped out of high school in the late 1920s to perform for carnivals, minstrel shows, dances, and informal gatherings throughout Tennessee. In the mid-1930s he led his own washboard band. McGhee first met Terry in North Carolina in 1939 and worked with him and singer Paul Robeson in Washington, D.C., in 1940.

Settling in New York City in the early 1940s, he roomed with Terry and the blues musician Leadbelly, and the three played with Woody Guthrie and others as the Headline Singers. Terry and McGhee’s partnership began in 1941 and lasted (with frequent interruptions) until the late 1970s. From 1942 to 1950 McGhee ran his own music school, Home of the Blues, in Harlem. McGhee’s first recordings were for the OKeh label in 1940; he later recorded extensively with Terry and others, exhibiting a bona fide rural style. He appeared in Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway (1955-57) and toured with that show.

McGhee recorded several motion-picture soundtracks. He died in 1996 in Oakland, California.

Mabel Cason was born on this date. She was an African-American educator, and activist.

Mabel Evans Cason was born on Thanksgiving Day in Terre Haute, Ind., and was raised learning about civil rights from her parents. Her mother, Grace Wilson Evans, was a leader in the 1940s civil rights effort and her fathers name was Frederick Evans. Young Evans was one of five children with two brothers (Frederick and James) and two sisters (Josephine and Harriett). At the age of fifteen she graduated from high school and went on to receive degrees from Indiana State University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Columbia University.

Evan’s career began in food science and nutrition; she once chaired the nutrition department at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama and a foods professor at Tennessee A&I University in Nashville before turning to secondary education. In 1961 Evans moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota where she became a home economics teacher and taught at St. Paul’s Wilson Junior High School. She later became Associate Director of Personnel of St. Paul Public Schools where she was responsible for bringing many Black teachers into the school system. Also in the 1960s she was the nutrition chairwoman for the Minnesota Home Economics Association, but soon her leadership skills were needed in the civil rights movement. Cason was appointed to the St. Paul Civil Rights Board in October 1967.

She was also a State representative for the NAACP. She married Louis Cason of St. Paul, a 3M manager and chemist; they eventually divorced in the 1970s. Evans Cason held offices in the AARP, Alpha Kappa Sorority, and was a past President-St. Paul Chapter of the Links Inc. While serving these organizations she was active in the community usually on behalf of children. With the Links, Cason raised money for summer camps for children with sickle-cell anemia; she attended the camps and put on a carnival for them. Cason was appointed to the State of Minnesota’s Board of Education in 1988 and was the board’s only Black member. In 1991/92 Cason was named Twin Citian of the Year by Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine.

She was quoted as saying: “As long as the children need me, I’ll be there; and unless we mess up their minds and visions of the future as adults, they are our hope for the future.” Cason was known for her card-playing in more than one bridge group, as well as a hand or two of poker. When she turned 80, Evans Cason hosted her own birthday party, inviting several hundred of her “dear friends,” her term of endearment for people that supported her throughout her life. Witty, intelligent, energetic, loving and generous, Mabel Cason died on June 28, 2004; she was 85 years old.

This date marks the birthday of Shirley Chisholm. She is an African-American teacher, administrator and politician, the first black woman elected to Congress.

She was born
Shirley Anita St. Hill in Brooklyn, NY. As a young girl she lived with her grandparents in Barbados, returning to New York and graduating from Brooklyn College with a B.A. in Sociology. In 1952 she received her M.A. from Columbia University, soon beginning a career as a nursery school teacher and director. In 1964, Shirley Chisholm was elected to the state assembly and four years later she was elected to Congress, representing New York’s Twelfth District.

An outspoken opponent of the congressional seniority system, Chisholm was assigned to the committee on Agriculture and Forestry Subcommittee. She protested this as inappropriate for the representative of an inner city district and was transferred to the Veterans Affairs Committee. Among her efforts during her career, Chisholm called for an end to British arms sales to South Africa and proposed funding to extend the hours of child care facilities to include working mothers of middle and low income families.

In 1972 Shirley Chisholm ran for President as a Democrat, receiving 152 first ballot votes at the convention. Also she took on the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations over cuts in federal spending minimum wage, fair housing and education grants. Chisholm declined to run for reelection in 1982, citing the growing conservative political atmosphere and her desire to return to private life. Shirley Chisholm died on New Years Day, 2005.

Sam Gilliam is born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He will become an artist known for his unique manipulation of materials that result in painted sculpture or suspended paintings. His work will be shown at the 36th Venice Miennale as well as in the exhibit “African-American Artists 1880-1987.”

Robert Guillaume (Williams) is born in St. Louis, Missouri. He will become an actor and be best known for his roles in the sit-coms “Soap” and “Benson”.

Luther Ingram is born in Jackson, Mississippi. He will become a rhythm and blues musician and singer and will be best known for the song, “(If Lovin’ You is Wrong) I Don’t Want to be Right.”

The Negro National League (Professional Baseball) officially disbands. Although black teams will continue to play for several years, they will no longer be major league caliber. The demise of the Negro Leagues was inevitable as the younger black players were signed by the white major league franchises.

Albert Michael Espy is born in Yazoo City, Mississippi. In 1987, he will be sworn in as the state’s first African American congressman since John Roy Lynch more than 100 years before. He will become Secretary of Agriculture during the Bill Clinton administration. Leaving the cabinet under fire and indicted for corruption, he will later be vindicated when he is found not guilty.

Archie Moore is defeated by Floyd Patterson, as Patterson wins the heavyweight boxing title vacated by the retired Rocky Marciano. At the age of 21, Patterson becomes the youngest boxer to be named heavyweight champion.

On this date, Barbados gained independence. The country is a member of the United Nations and of the Organization of American States ever since.

In 1973 Barbados helped form the Caribbean Community, an organization that promotes social and political cooperation and economic integration. Barbados has enjoyed a stable democratic government, and a transfer of power between the two major political parties.

Bo Jackson is born in Bessemer, Alabama. The 1985 Heisman Trophy winner will be one of the few professional athletes to play in two sports - football and baseball.

Judith Jamison makes her debut with Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre in Chicago, dancing in Talley Beaty’s Congo Tango Palace. Jamison will rejoin the company in 1988 as artistic associate due to the failing health of Alvin Ailey.  she will become the company’s artistic director in 1989 upon Ailey’s death.

Barbados gains its independence from Great Britain.

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, students at a California college, create the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

The state of Dahomey becomes the People’s Republic of Benin.

The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is awarded to Coleman A. Young “in recognition of his singular accomplishments as mayor of the City of Detroit.”

Four newcomers elected to Congress: Mervyn Dymally (Calif.), Augustus Savage (ILL.), Harold Washington (Ill.) and George W. Crockett Jr. (Mich.).

James A. Baldwin, civil right activist and author of The Fire Next Time and many other major works, died on this date.

Ruth Washington, long-time publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, joins the ancestors. Following the death of her husband Chester, Washington acted as publisher of the weekly newspaper, founded in 1933, for sixteen years.

Robert Tools, the first recipient of the Abiocor artificial heart, dies of multiple organ failure after suffering a stroke several days earlier.

On this date, another black man died after being beaten by police in Cincinnati, Ohio. 41-year-old Nathanial Jones died at the hands six white officers during a traffic stop earlier that week. The officers asserted their constitutional right to remain silent while being investigated. At the time of his death, the 342-pound Jones did have an excessive amount of drugs in his system but the city coroner confirmed that his death was the result of the beating from the nightsticks (formally known as PR-24 batons).

On this date, Kweisi Mfume announced his resignation from the Presidents post of the NAACP. Saying he needs a break, Mfume announced that he was stepping down as the head of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights group.

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