Today in Black History – August 20th

* Today in Black History – August 20             *

1565 – Artisans and farmers of African descent aid explorer
Menendez in the building of St. Augustine, Florida.

1619 – The first group of 20 Africans is brought by the Dutch
to the colony at Jamestown, Virginia.  The early
African arrivals will be considered indentured servants,
and indeed records in the Chesapeake area will show
many freed people of African descent. In 1650, the laws
will be changed to make servitude permanent for Africans
and their offspring.

1856 – Wilberforce University is established in Wilberforce,
Ohio. It will become the nation’s oldest, private
African American university.

1931 – Donald “Don” King is born in Cleveland, Ohio.  He will
become a boxing promoter who will control the heavyweight
title from 1978-1990 while Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson
are champions. He will gain fame in 1974 by sponsoring
the boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman
in Zaire, popularly known as “The Rumble in the Jungle.”
He will solidify his position as an influential promoter
the next year by sponsoring a third match for Ali against
Joe Frazier in Manila, the capital of the Philippines,
which King named the “Thrilla In Manila.” He will also
promote one of the final fights of Ali’s career against
Larry Holmes. He will be known for his flamboyant manner
and outrageous hair styled to stand straight up. He will
promote the fights of such fighters as Sugar Ray Leonard,
Leon Spinks, Roberto Durán, Julio César Chávez, Mike
Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Felix Trinidad. His
financial success will continue into the 1980s and ’90s.
In 1983, he will promote 12 world championship bouts.
In 1994, he will promote 47 such bouts. He will be
heavily criticized, however, for a business strategy
that results in his control over many of the top boxers,
especially in the lucrative heavyweight division. He will
use a contractual clause that requires a boxer who wished
to challenge a fighter belonging to King to agree to be
promoted by King in the future should he win. Thus, no
matter which boxer won, he represented the winner. Those
who were unwilling to sign contracts with this obligatory
clause found it very difficult to obtain fights,
especially title fights, with boxers who were promoted by
him. He will be the focus of a myriad of criminal
investigations and will be indicted numerous times. In
1999, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation seized
thousands of records from his offices that concerned
alleged payoffs by him to the president of the
International Boxing Federation for the purpose of
procuring more favorable rankings for his boxers. He will
be a mixed blessing to the sport. On one hand, he will
organize some of the largest purses in the history of the
sport and creatively promote boxing and his bouts. On the
other hand, his legal problems and controversial tactics
will reinforce the public perception of boxing as a
corrupt sport.

1942 – Isaac Lee Hayes is born in Covington, Tennessee.  He will
begin his recording career in 1962, soon playing saxophone
for The Mar-Keys. After writing a string of hit songs at
Stax Records with songwriting partner David Porter,
including “Soul Man” and “Hold On I’m Comin” for Sam and
Dave, he will release his debut album “Presenting Isaac
Hayes.” A moderate success, the album will be recorded
immediately following a wild party. The top-selling “Hot
Buttered Soul” (1969) will be a breakthrough album, and
establish his image (gold jewelry, sunglasses, etc) which
eventually will become a template for much of the fashion
of gangsta rap and similar trends in the 1980s and 90s.
His biggest hit will be 1971’s soundtrack to the movie
“Shaft.” The title song will win an Oscar (the first for
a Black composer), and will clearly presaged disco.
“Black Moses” (1971) will become almost as successful. By
1975, he will leave Stax Records and form his own label
called Hot Buttered Soul Records. A series of unsuccessful
albums will lead to bankruptcy in 1976. The late 1970s
will see a major comeback for him, following the release
of “A Man and a Woman” (1977, with Dionne Warwick). In
spite of moderate success as a singer, his records will
not sell very well. He will also forge a career as an
actor in TV shows and feature films. He will be inducted
into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. On June 9,
2005, he will be inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of
Fame. He will also voice the character “Chef”, a singing
ladies’ man and elementary school cook, on the popular
animated sitcom “South Park” from 1997 until 2006. He will
join the ancestors on August 10, 2008.

1954 – Albert Lincoln “Al” Roker, co-anchor of the “Today” show,
is born in Queens, New York. He will attend the State
University of New York at Oswego, where he will double
major in graphic design and broadcasting/journalism. He
will work in television around the Cleveland and New York
areas before becoming a weatherman for WNBC in New York.
He will get more exposure, especially when David Letterman
asks him to do an elevator race with him in one episode of
his talk show, “Late Night with David Letterman.” That
will lead to him getting a job as the weekend weatherman
for “Weekend Today,” where he will do the weather for
nine years. He will also substitute on the weekday edition
of “Today” when Willard Scott is ill or away. In 1996,
Scott will announce his semi-retirement from the show, and
Al will receive the weekday weatherman position on
“Today.” He will become popular for doing his forecasts
outside of the studio, interviewing audience members and
giving some of them camera time. One of his best known
lines from the show will be “…and here’s what’s
happening in your neck of the woods.”

1964 – The Economic Opportunity Act is signed by President Lyndon
B. Johnson. The act initiates what will popularly be
called the “War on Poverty.”

1989 – The first National Black Theater Festival closes in
Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Organized by Larry Leon
Hamlin, the festival will draw over 20,000 people to
performances of African American classical and
contemporary plays by groups such as the Crossroads
Theater from New Brunswick, New Jersey and the Inner City
Cultural Center of Los Angeles.

1993 – Dr. David Satcher is named director of the Centers for
Disease Control.

1994 – Benjamin Chavis, Jr. is terminated as head of the NAACP
after a turbulent 16-month tenure.

2000 – Eldrick “Tiger” Woods beats Bob May in a three-hole
playoff to win the P.G.A. Championship. Woods is the
first golfer since Ben Hogan in 1953, to win three major
championships in a year. He also becomes the first repeat
winner of the championship since 1936.

2012 – Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, a strongman in the
troubled Horn of Africa and a key United States ally, joins
the ancestors at the age of 57.

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