* Today in Black History – April 23 *
1856 – Granville Tailer Woods is born in Columbus, Ohio. He will
become an inventor of steam boilers, furnaces, incubators
and auto air brakes and holder of over 50 patents. He will
become the first American of African ancestry to be a
mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War.
Self-taught, he will concentrate most of his work on trains
and streetcars. One of his notable inventions will be the
Multiplex Telegraph, a device that sends messages between
train stations and moving trains. His work will assure a
safer and better public transportation system for the
cities of the United States. He will join the ancestors on
January 30, 1910.
1872 – Charlotte E. Ray becomes the first African American woman
lawyer in ceremonies held in Washington, DC admitting her
to practice before the bar. She had received her law degree
from Howard University on February 27.
1894 – Jimmy Noone is born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He will
become a jazz clarinetist and a major influence on the
swing music of the 1930’s and 1940’s. He will be a band
leader and be best known as the leader of “Jimmy Noone’s
Apex Club Orchestra.” Two of the people most influenced by
Jimmy Noone’s style will be Benny Goodman and Jimmy Dorsey.
He will join the ancestors after suffering a fatal heart
attack, while performing with “Kid” Ory on April 19, 1944.
1895 – Jorge Mateus Vicente Lima is born in Alagoas, Brazil. He
will become a poet, novelist, essayist, painter, doctor,
and politician. He will become best known as a writer,
manipulating Brazilian subjects, at the same time analyzing
Afro-Brazilian culture and heritage. He will become a
fixture in the Brazilian experience during the 1920’s. Even
though he became a physician, he will exhibit his talents
as a writer in writings from his youth. His most famous
writing will be a poem,”Essa Nega Fulo” (That Black Girl
Fulo), written in 1928. The poem will explore the dynamics
between a slave master, the slave and her mistress. He
will join the ancestors in 1953 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
1898 – Alfredo da Rocha Viana Jr. is born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
He will become a composer and bandleader best known as
“Pixinguinha.” By the time he was a teenager, he will be
respected for his talent as a flutist. After traveling with
his first band to France in 1922, he will open the door of
Brazilian music to the world. He will be credited with
assisting to invent the “samba.” He is generally referred
to as the King of Samba and the Father of Musica Popular
Brasileira. He will join the ancestors on February 17, 1973
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
1913 – The National Urban League is incorporated in New York City.
The organization is founded in 1910 when the Committee on
Urban Conditions Among Negroes met in New York to discuss
means to assist rural African Americans in the transition
to urban life. Founders include Mrs. Ruth Standish Baldwin
and Dr. George Edmund Haynes, who becomes the league’s
first executive director.
1941 – New Yorkers are treated to a performance of Cafi Society at
Carnegie Hall by a group of jazz artists that includes
Albert “Jug” Ammons, Hazel Scott, and Art Tatum. It also
marks the first performance of Helena (later Lena) Horne,
who sings “Summertime,” among other songs.
1944 – The NAACP Youth Council and Committee for Unity in Motion
Pictures selects its first Motion Picture Award recipients.
Given to honor actors whose roles advance the image of
African Americans in motion pictures, awards go to Rex
Ingram for “Sahara,” Lena Horne for “As Thousands Cheer,”
Leigh Whipper for “The Oxbow Incident” and “Mission to
Moscow,” Hazel Scott for her debut in “Something to Shout
About” and Dooley Wilson for his role as Sam in
“Casablanca,” among others. The awards will be the fore-
runner to the NAACP’s Image Awards.
1948 – Charles Richard Johnson in born in Evanston, Illinois. He
will become an novelist, essayist and screenwriter. He
will begin his career after graduating from the State
University of New York at Stonybrook with a Ph.D. in
philosophy. He will be mentored by W.E.B. Du Bois, Ralph
Ellison, Jean Toomer, Richard Wright and John Gardner. He
will be known for his works, “Middle Passage,” “Oxherding
Tale,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” and “Being and Race:
Black Writing Since 1970.” He will win the 1990 National
Book Award for “Middle Passage.”
1954 – Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, of the Milwaukee Braves, hits the
first of what will be 755 career home runs, in a game
against the St. Louis Cardinals. The score will be 7-5 in
favor of the Braves.
1955 – U.S. Supreme Court refuses to review a lower court decision
which would ban segregation in intrastate bus travel.
1964 – James Baldwin’s play, “Blues for Mr. Charlie” opens on
Broadway. Starring Al Freeman, Jr., Diana Sands, and
others, the play reveals the plight of African Americans in
1971 – Columbia University operations are virtually ended for the
year by African American and white students who seize five
buildings on campus.
1971 – William Tubman, president of Liberia, joins the ancestors at
the age of 76. He had been president of Liberia since
1998 – James Earl Ray, who confessed to assassinating the Rev.
Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 and then insisted he was
framed, dies at a Nashville hospital at age 70.