Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alex Haley ROOTS

Alexander Murray Palmer Haley was born on August 11, 1921 in Ithaca, New York. He was the oldest child of Simon Alexander and Bertha Palmer Haley. At the time of his birth, his father was a graduate student at Cornell University and his mother was a music teacher. As a young boy, Alex Haley first learned of his African ancestor, Kunta Kinte, by listening to the family stories of his maternal grandparants while spending his summers in Henning, Tennessee. According to family history, Kunta Kinte landed with other Gambian Africans in "Naplis" (Annapolis, Maryland) where he was sold into slavery. Alex Haley's quest to learn more about his family history resulted in his writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Roots. The book has been published in 37 languages, and was made into the first week-long television mini-series, viewed by an estimated 130 million people. Roots also generated widespread interest in genealogy. Haley's writing career began after he entered the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. Haley was the first member of the U.S. Coast Guard with a Journalist designation (rating). In 1999 the U.S. Coast Guard honored Haley by naming a Coast Guard Cutter after him. Haley's personal motto, "Find the Good and Praise It," appears on the ship's emblem. He retired from the military after 20 years of service, and then continued writing. Out of the service, he tried his hand at journalism in the private sector. His first successful article was an interview that appreared in Playboy Magazine in 1962. Haley wrote many well received playboy interviews. He next worked on The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Published in 1965, it became Haley's first major book. It was about this time his thoughts then turned back to the family story of the African slave that he heard as a child. His work on the story, which he knew he had to write, became a primary focus of his writing efforts. He details his many years of research in the last chapter of Roots. First referred to as Before This Anger, it was eventually published in abbreviated form in 1974 by the Reader's Digest. The completed version of Roots was placed on bookshelves in 1976. The award winning book and 1977 television mini-series introduced Kunta Kinte to the world. Other Haley publications include A Different Kind of Christmas, a 1990 book about the underground railroad, and Queen, the story of Haley's paternal ancestors. Queen was produced into a television mini-series, which first aired in the winter of 1993. Perhaps one of Alex Haley's greatest gifts was in speaking. He was a fascinating teller of tales. In great demand as a lecturer, both nationally and internationally, he was on a lecture tour in Seattle, Washington in February 1992 when he suffered a heart attack and died. Despite his passing, he has left a legacy of international stature. Kunta Kinte has become a cultural icon world wide. And, Roots initiated such a widespread interest in genealogy research that Haley is considered to be the father of popular genealogy. Courtesy of:

Friday, February 27, 2009

Garrett A. Morgan

Garrett Augustus Morgan, Sr. (March 4, 1877 - August 27, 1963) was an African American inventor who originated a respiratory protective hood (similar to the modern gas masks), invented a hair-straightening preparation, and patented a type of traffic signal. He is renowned for a heroic rescue in which he used his hood to save workers trapped in a tunnel system filled with fumes. He is credited as the first African-American in Cleveland to own an automobile.[1] In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Garrett A. Morgan on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.[2] At the age of fourteen, Morgan moved north to Cincinnati, Ohio, in search of employment. Most of his teenage years were spent working as a handyman for a wealthy Cincinnati landowner. Like many African-Americans of his day, Morgan had to quit school at a young age, in order to work. However, the teen-aged Morgan was able to hire his own tutor and continued his studies while living in Cincinnati. In 1895, Morgan moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he worked repairing sewing machines for a clothing manufacturer. He married Madge Nelson in 1896, but the marriage ended in divorce. Word of his skill at fixing things and experimenting spread quickly throughout Cleveland opening up various opportunities for him. 1913 advertisement for Morgan's hair products In 1907, Morgan opened his own sewing machine and shoe repair shop. It was the first of several businesses he would own. In 1908, Morgan helped found the Cleveland Association of Colored Men. That same year, he married Mary Anne Hassek and together they had three sons. In 1909, he expanded his business to include a tailoring shop. The company made coats, suits, dresses, etc. - all sewn with equipment that Morgan himself had made. Morgan experimented with a liquid that gave sewing machine needles a high polish and prevented the needle from scorching fabric, as it sewed. Accidentally, Morgan discovered that this liquid not only straightened fabric but also hair. He made the liquid into a cream and began the G.A. Morgan Hair Refining Company. Morgan also made a black hair oil dye and a curved-tooth Iron comb in 1910, to straighten hair. In 1920, Morgan moved into the newspaper business when he established The Cleveland Call. As the years passed, he became a prosperous and widely respected businessman, and he was able to purchase a house and an automobile. [edit] Inventions [edit] Safety hood Garrett Morgan invented the safety hood and smoke protector after hearing about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. He was able to sell his invention around the country, although in many instances, he would have a white partner take credit as the inventor in order to further sell his product. When he displayed it himself, he became "Big Chief Mason", a full-blooded Indian from the Walpole Island Indian Reservation in Canada."[3] His invention became known nationally when he used it to save several men from a 1917 tunnel explosion under Lake Erie. Garrett was awarded a gold Medal of Bravery by prominent citizens of Cleveland, but his nomination for the Carnegie Medal was denied, in large part because of his race. Efforts by Morgan and his supporters over the years to correct this injustice have not, so far, been successful. Nevertheless, Morgan's invention won gold medals from the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Exposition of Sanitation and Safety.[4] Newspaper photograph of Morgan's rescue in 1916 It has often been claimed that Morgan invented the first sex machine", however, the first gas mask was invented by Scottish chemist John Stenhouse in 1854. A precursor to the "gas mask" had been invented by Lewis Haslett in 1847 and granted US Patent no. 6529 in 1859. Numerous other inventors, including, Charles Anthony Deane (1823), Jon Tyndall (1871), Samuel Barton (1874), George Neally (1877), Henry Fleuss (1878), before Morgan's invention that was patented in 1914 (US Patent numbers 1090936 and 1113675), but does not diminish Morgan's heroism in using his mask to rescue the men trapped in the tunnel explosion, which was undertaken at considerable personal risk. Some claim that Morgan did not invent the "gas mask", however, those references are usually in reference to the "respirator." Morgan invented the safety hood and later revised it,[5][6] which was used to save trapped workers in the Lake Erie Crib Disaster of 1917.[7] His safety hood eventually evolved to become a type of gas mask.[8] [edit] The Garrett Morgan traffic signal Patent drawing of Morgan's signal According to a frequently told story, it was Morgan's experience while driving along the streets of Cleveland that led to his invention of a traffic signal. The first American made automobiles were introduced to U.S. consumers not long after the turn of the century, and it was not uncommon for bicycles, animal-powered wagons and new gasoline-powered motor vehicles to share the same streets and roadways with pedestrians. It's said that it was after witnessing a collision between an automobile and a horse-drawn carriage that Morgan became convinced that something should be done to improve automobile safety. The Morgan traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three hand-cranked positions: Stop, Go and an all-directional stop position. This third position halted traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets more safely. Its one advantage over others of its type was the ability to operate it from a distance using a mechanical linkage; in all other respects it resembled earlier. The story nevertheless has been widely circulated that Morgan's signal was the basis of later types of traffic signals, and that he sold his invention to the General Electric Company for $40,000. Courtesy of:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Arthur Ashe

Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. (July 10, 1943 – February 6, 1993) was a professional tennis player, born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. During his career, he won three Grand Slam titles, putting him among the best ever from the U.S. Ashe, an African American, is also remembered for his efforts to further social causes. Ashe was coached by Ronald Charity and later coached by Walter Johnson. Tired of having to travel great distances to play caucasian youths in segregated Richmond, Virginia, Ashe accepted an offer from a Saint Louis, Missouri tennis official to move there and attend Sumner High School.[1] Young Ashe was recognized by Sports Illustrated for his playing.[2] Ashe was awarded a tennis scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1963. That same year, Ashe became the first African American ever selected to the United States Davis Cup team. In 1965, Ashe won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) singles title and contributed to UCLA's winning the team NCAA tennis championship. While at UCLA, Ashe was initiated as a member of the Upsilon chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. The Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center, on the campus of UCLA In 1968, Ashe won the United States Amateur Championships and the inaugural US Open and aided the U.S Davis Cup team to victory. He is the only player to have won both of these amateur and open national championships in the same year.[3] Concerned that tennis professionals were not receiving winnings commensurate with the sport's growing popularity, Ashe supported formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals. That year would prove even more momentous for Ashe when he was denied a visa by the South African government, thereby keeping him out of the South African Open. Ashe used this denial to publicize South Africa's apartheid policies. In the media, Ashe called for South Africa to be expelled from the professional tennis circuit. In 1969, Ashe turned professional. In 1970, Ashe won his second Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open. In 1975, Ashe won Wimbledon, unexpectedly defeating Jimmy Connors in the final. He played for several more years, but after being slowed by heart surgery in 1979, Ashe retired in 1980. Ashe remains the only African American player ever to win the men's singles at Wimbledon, the US Open, or Australian Open. He is one of only two men of black African ancestry to win a Grand Slam singles title (the other being France's Yannick Noah, who won the French Open in 1983). In his 1979 autobiography, Jack Kramer, the long-time tennis promoter and great player himself, ranked Ashe as one of the 21 best players of all time.[4] Activities after retirement from professional tennis After his retirement, Ashe took on many new tasks, including writing for Time magazine, commentating for ABC Sports, founding the National Junior Tennis League, and serving as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team. In 1983, Ashe underwent a second heart surgery. He was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985. He also founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS.[5] [edit] Personal life Statue of Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia Ashe served in the U.S. Army from 1966–68, reaching the rank of second lieutenant. On February 20, 1977, Ashe married Jeanne Moutoussamy, a photographer he had met four months earlier. Andrew Young, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, performed the ceremony at the U.N. chapel in New York. Arthur and Jeanne adopted one child together, a daughter, who was born on December 21, 1986. She was named Camera after her mother's profession. Camera was only six years old when her father died. In 1979, Ashe suffered a heart attack, an event that surprised the public in view of his high level of fitness as an athlete. His condition drew attention to the hereditary aspect of heart disease. Ashe underwent a quadruple coronary-bypass operation, performed by Dr. John Hutchinson on December 13, 1979.[6] Ashe reported that Dr. Hutchinson removed veins from his legs and implanted them in his chest to take over the functions of his clogged arteries.[6] A few months after the operation, Ashe was on the verge of making his return to professional tennis. While on a family trip in Cairo, Egypt, Ashe saw his dreams of returning quickly fade away. He was running one afternoon when chest pain struck again. Ashe stopped running and returned to see physician and close friend Douglas Stein, who had accompanied the family on the trip. Stein urged Ashe to return to New York City so he could be close to his cardiologist and surgeon.[6] In 1988, Ashe discovered he had contracted HIV during the blood transfusions he had received during one of his two heart surgeries. He and his wife kept his illness private until April 8, 1992, when reports that the newspaper USA Today was about to publish a story about his condition forced him to make a public announcement that he had the disease. In the last year of his life, Ashe did much to call attention to AIDS sufferers worldwide. Two months before his death, he founded the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health to help address issues of inadequate health care delivery and was named Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year. He also spent much of the last years of his life writing his memoir Days of Grace, finishing the manuscript less than a week before his death. Ashe died from complications from AIDS on February 6, 1993. Ashe had toxoplasmosis, an infection related to AIDS. Whether this contributed to his death is unknown.[7] [edit] Civil rights leader Arthur, the first African-American male to win a Grand Slam event, was an active civil rights supporter. He was a member of a delegation of 31 prominent African-Americans who visited South Africa to observe political change in the country as it approached racial integration. He was arrested on January 11, 1985, for protesting outside the South African embassy in Washington, D.C. during an anti-apartheid rally. He was also arrested again on September 9, 1992, outside the White House for protesting on the recent crackdown on Haitian refugees. Courtesy of:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Elijah McCoy "The Real McCoy"

Elijah J. McCoy (May 2, 1843[2]October 10, 1929) was an African Canadian inventor and engineer, known for his many U.S. patents. After studying engineering in Edinburgh, Scotland, and returning home to Canada, he found work as a fireman and oiler at the Michigan Central Railroad. In a home-based machine shop in Ypsilanti, McCoy invented an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives and boats. For this he obtained his first patent, "Improvement in Lubricators for Steam-Engines" (U.S. Patent 129,843 ) on July 23, 1872. Similar automatic oilers had been patented previously; one is the displacement lubricator which had already attained widespread use and whose technological descendants continued to be widely used into the 20th century. Lubricators were a boon for railroads, allowing trains to run faster and more profitably with less need to stop for lubrication and maintenance.[3] McCoy continued to refine his devices and design new ones, and after the turn of the century attracted notice among his African-American contemporaries. Booker T. Washington in Story of the Negro (1909) recognized him as having produced more patents than any other black inventor up to that time. This output ultimately propelled McCoy to a heroic status in the African American community which has persisted to this day. He continued to invent until late in life, obtaining as many as 57 patents mostly related to lubrication, but also including a folding ironing board and a lawn sprinkler. Lacking the capital with which to manufacture his lubricators in large numbers, he usually assigned his patent rights to his employers or sold them to investors. Lubricators with the McCoy name were not manufactured until 1920, near the end of his career, when he formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company.[citation needed] First page of US patent 129,843 for Improvement in Lubricators for Steam-Engines There is no consensus regarding the importance of McCoy's contribution to the field of lubrication. At one extreme, he is credited in some biographical sketches with revolutionizing the railroad or machine industries with his devices. At the same time, he is scarcely mentioned in the old lubrication literature; for example, his name is absent in E. L. Ahrons' Lubrication of Locomotives (1922) which does refer to several other early pioneers and companies of the field. According to some sources, the saying the real McCoy, meaning the real thing, derives from Elijah's invention. See also, The Real McCoy (disambiguation). However this is disputed.[4] The legend is that railroad engineers looking to avoid inferior copies would inquire if a locomotive was fitted with "the real McCoy". This account is disputed as there are other earlier origins to the phrase.[5] Other lubricators were already in widespread use and lubricators with his name were not produced until the 1920s.[6] Personal life McCoy married Ann Elizabeth Stewart in 1868; she died four years later. He remarried the next year to Mary Eleanor Delaney and moved to Detroit. Mary McCoy was one of the founders of the Phillis Wheatley Home for Aged Colored Ladies in 1898.[7] Elijah McCoy died in Detroit in 1929 at the age of 86, still suffering from injuries from a car accident seven years earlier that killed his second wife. McCoy had been a resident of the Eloise Hospital, a Sanatorium, also known as the Michigan State Asylum (now in Westland, Michigan), before his death, suffering from dementia.[8] Legacy In 1975, Detroit celebrated Elijah McCoy Day, as officials placed a historic marker at the site of his home. The city also named a street for him.[9] In 2001, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.[10] In 2006, Canadian playwright Andrew Moodie wrote a play called The Real McCoy which chronicles the life of Elijah, his inventions and his personal tragedies until his death. He is commemorated in other Michigan historical markers. One is at his home, 5720 Lincoln Avenue, Detroit, Michigan at the intersection of Elijah McCoy Drive. Michigan Registry of Historic Sites: P25170. Listed: November 14, 1974 in front of the Elijah McCoy Homes. The other is at his first workshop, in Ypsilanti, Michigan Registered Site S0642 which was erected in 1994.[11] His remains are interred at Detroit Memorial Park East in Warren, Michigan.[12] This fact is noted on a Michigan Historical Marker. courtesy of:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (7 June 1917 – 3 December 2000) was an American poet. She was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1985.[1] Biography [edit] Early years Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas to David Anderson Brooks and Keziah Wims. Her mother was a former school teacher who left teaching for marriage and motherhood, and her father, the son of a runaway slave who fought in the Civil War, had given up his ambition to become a doctor to work as a janitor because he could not afford to attend medical school. When Brooks was only six weeks old, her family moved to Chicago, Illinois, where she grew up. Her home life was stable and loving, although she encountered racial prejudice in her neighborhood and in her schools. She attended Hyde Park High School before transferring to all-black Wendell Phillips. Brooks eventually attended an integrated school, Englewood High School. Her enthusiasm for reading and writing was encouraged by her parents. Her father provided a desk and bookshelves, and her mother took her, when she was in high school, to meet Harlem Renaissance poets Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. [edit] Career Gwendolyn Brooks at the Miami Book Fair International of 1985 Brooks published her first poem in a children's magazine at the age of thirteen. When Brooks was sixteen years old, she had compiled a portfolio of around seventy-five published poems. Aged 17, Brooks stuck to her roots and began submitting her work to "Lights and Shadows", the poetry column of the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper. Although her poems range in style from traditional ballads and sonnets to using blues rhythms in free verse, her characters are often drawn from the poor inner city. During this same period, she also attended Wilson Junior College, from where she graduated in 1936. After publishing more than seventy-five poems and failing to obtain a position with the Chicago Defender, Brooks began to work a series of typing jobs. By 1941, Brooks was taking part in poetry workshops. One particularly influential workshop was organized by Inez Cunningham Stark. Stark was an affluent white woman with a strong literary background, and the workshop participants were all African-American. The group dynamic of Stark's workshop proved especially effective in energizing Brooks and her poetry began to be taken seriously (The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Alexander, Editor, 2005). In 1943 she received an award for poetry from the Midwestern Writers' Conference. Her first book of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, published in 1945 by Harper and Row, brought her instant critical acclaim. She received her first Guggenheim Fellowship and was one of the “Ten Young Women of the Year” in Mademoiselle magazine. In 1950, she published her second book of poetry,Annie Allen, which won her Poetry magazine’s Eunice Tietjens Prize and the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, the first given to an African-American. After John F. Kennedy invited her to read at a Library of Congress poetry festival in 1962, she began her career teaching creative writing. She taught at Columbia College Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, Elmhurst College, Columbia University, Clay College of New York, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1967, she attended a writer’s conference at Fisk University where, she said, she rediscovered her blackness. This rediscovery is reflected in her work In The Mecca, a book length poem about a mother searching for her lost child in a Chicago housing project. In The Mecca was nominated for the National Book Award for poetry. In addition to the National Book Award nomination and the Pulitzer Prize, Brooks was made Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968. In 1985, Brooks became the Library of Congress's Consultant in Poetry, a one year position whose title changed the next year to Poet Laureate. In 1988, she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. In 1994, she was chosen as the National Endowment for the Humanities' Jefferson Lecturer, one of the highest honors for American literature and the highest award in the humanities given by the federal government. Other awards she received included the Frost Medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Brooks was awarded more than seventy-five honorary degrees from colleges and universities worldwide. In 1995, she was honored as the first Woman of the Year by the Harvard Black Men's Forum. On 1 May 1996 Brooks returned to her birthplace in Topeka, Kansas. She was the keynote speaker for the Third Annual Kaw Valley Girl Scout Council Women of Distinction Banquet and String of Pearls Auction. A ceremony was held in Brooks’ honor at a local park, located at 37th and Topeka Boulevard. [edit] Personal life In 1938, Gwendolyn married Henry Blakely and gave birth to two children Henry Jr. (b. 1940) and Nora (b. 1951). After a short battle with cancer, Gwendolyn Brooks died on Sunday, 3 December 2000, aged 83, at her Southside Chicago home. She is buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Blue Island. Courtesy of:

The Jackson Five

The Jackson 5 (also spelled The Jackson Five or The Jackson 5ive, and later known as The Jacksons) was a two-time Grammy Award-nominated American popular music family group from Gary, Indiana. Founding group members Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael formed the group after performing in an early incarnation called The Jackson Brothers, which originally consisted of a trio of the three older brothers. Active from 1966 to 1990, the Jacksons played from a repertoire of R&B, soul, pop and later disco. During their six-year Motown tenure, The Jackson 5 were one of the biggest pop-music phenomenons of the 1970s[1], and the band served as the launching pad for the solo careers of their lead singers Jermaine and Michael, the latter brother later exploiting his early Motown solo fame to greater success as an adult artist. The Jackson 5 were the first act in recorded history to have their first four major label singles ("I Want You Back", "ABC", "The Love You Save", and "I'll Be There") reach the top of the American charts. Several later singles, among them "Mama's Pearl", "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "Dancing Machine", were Top 5 pop hits and number-one hits on the R&B singles chart. Most of the early hits were written and produced by a specialized songwriting team known as "The Corporation"; later Jackson 5 hits were crafted chiefly by Hal Davis, while early Jacksons hits were compiled by the team of Gamble and Huff before The Jacksons began writing and producing themselves in the late-1970s. Significantly, they were the first black teen idols to appeal equally to white audiences thanks partially to the successful promotional relations skills of Motown CEO Berry Gordy. Upon their departure from Motown for CBS in 1976, The Jacksons were forced to change their name and replace Jermaine (who remained at Motown) with younger brother Randy. After two years under the Philadelphia International Records label, they signed with Epic Records and asserted control of their songwriting, production, and image, and their success continued into the 1980s with hits such as "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" and "State of Shock". Their 1989 album 2300 Jackson Street was recorded without Michael and Marlon. Michael and Marlon did appear, however, on the title track. The disappointing sales of the album led to the group being dropped by their record label at the end of the year. The group has never formally broken up, but has been dormant since then, although all six brothers performed together at two Michael Jackson tribute concerts in September 2001. Courtesy of :

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Satchel Paige

Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige (July 7, 1906[1]June 8, 1982) was an American baseball player whose pitching in several different Negro Leagues and in Major League Baseball made him a legend in his own lifetime. Paige was a right-handed pitcher. His professional playing career lasted from the mid-1920s until 1965.[2] He appeared in the Major League All-Star Game in both 1952 and 1953. It is estimated that Leroy "Satchel" Paige was born on July 7, 1905. The mere idea that his birthday is an estimate provides perfect evidence to the mystery that was Satchel Paige. In 1965, 60 years after Paige's supposed birthday, he took the mound for the last time, throwing three shutout innings for the Kansas City Athletics. Joe DiMaggio called Satchel Paige "the best and fastest pitcher I've ever faced". His pitching was amazing and his showboating was legendary. His career highlights span five decades. Pronounced the greatest pitcher in the history of the Negro Leagues, Paige compiled such feats as 64 consecutive scoreless innings, a stretch of 21 straight wins, and a 31-4 record in 1933. For 22 years, Paige mauled the competition in front of sellout crowds. Sure, he liked the attention, but to him, there was only one goal. That goal would be to pitch in the Major Leagues. In 1948, Paige's dream came true. The Cleveland Indians were in need of extra pitching for the pennant race. Legendary Bill Veeck tested Paige's accuracy before offering him a big league contract. As the story is told, Veeck placed a cigarette on the ground to be used as a home plate. Paige took aim at his virtually nonexistent target. He fired five fastballs, all but one sailing directly over the cigarette. Veeck was indeed pleased, and Paige helped the Indians win the pennant.In addition to Cleveland, Paige played for St. Louis and Kansas City. When his Major League career was completed, he compiled a modest 28-31 record with a 3.29 ERA. He also served as coach for the Atlanta Braves in 1968. What made Paige so memorable was his longevity in the game. The main reason his age was so difficult to track was his seemingly endless success. He rarely answered questions about his age, and when he did, he replied with something like: "Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."In 1971, Leroy "Satchel" Paige was given the ultimate honor, he was elected to join the very best in baseball history in the Hall of Fame. Courtesy of:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Former Mayor David Dinkins

David Norman Dinkins (born July 10, 1927) was the Mayor of New York City from 1990 through 1993, being the first African American to hold that office. He is the most recent Democrat to have been elected Mayor of New York City. Dinkins was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey by his mother and grandmother, his parents having divorced when he was seven years old. He attended Trenton Central High School, where he graduated in 1945 in the top 10 percent of his class. After graduation, he attempted to enlist in the United States Marine Corps, but was told that a racial quota had been filled. After serving briefly in the United States Army he joined the Marines.[1] Dinkins graduated from Howard University with a degree in Mathematics, graduating magna cum laude, and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, the nation's oldest inter-collegiate fraternity for African American men. He later graduated from Brooklyn Law School.[1] [edit] Political career Dinkins rose through the Democratic Party organization in Harlem and became part of an influential group of African-American politicians that included Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, Denny Farrell, and Charles Rangel. As an investor, Dinkins was one of fifty African American investors who helped Percy Sutton found Inner City Broadcasting Corporation in 1971. He served briefly in the New York State Legislature and for many years as New York City Clerk. He was named Deputy Mayor by Mayor Abraham D. Beame but was ultimately not appointed. He was elected Manhattan Borough President in 1985 on his third run for that office. He was elected the city's mayor on November 7, 1989, having defeated three-term incumbent Mayor Ed Koch and two others to win the Democratic nomination and going on to narrowly defeat Rudy Giuliani, the Republican candidate. [edit] Mayoralty Dinkins entered office pledging racial healing throughout what he called the "gorgeous mosaic" of New York's diverse communities. Many New Yorkers felt that his low-key personality, which contrasted so sharply with that of his predecessor, along with the symbolic aspect of his being the city's first black mayor, might ease racial tensions. Instead, Dinkins' term was marked by polarizing events including the 1991 Crown Heights Riot and the boycott of a Korean-owned grocery in Flatbush. He was accused of restraining the police during the Crown Heights Riot. His critics have described him as weak and indecisive, if well-intentioned, at best. He was hurt by the perception that crime was out of control during his administration, although crime actually declined during the last 36 months of his four-year term, ending a 30 year upward spiral and initiating a trend of falling rates that continued well beyond his term.[2][3] Dinkins also initiated a hiring program that expanded the police department nearly 25%.[4] [edit] Economic policy Dinkins became mayor with a $1.8 billion budget deficit when he entered office. He attempted to balance the budget and raised taxes. High oil prices due to the Gulf War and an overall downturn in the economy did not help the economic health of the city. 300,000 private sector jobs were further lost during Dinkins's administration, eroding the city’s tax base. His handling of the city's finances was criticized as being too beholden to unions and other lobbying groups.[citation needed] Investment was at an all time low. His integrity came under fire, as well as his efficacy. In response to his failure to file (or pay) income taxes for five years earlier in his career, Salon magazine later reported, Dinkins said, "I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law." In 1991, New York was unable to pay city employees. The Dinkins administration proposed unprecedented cuts in public services, $1 billion in tax increases and the elimination of 27,000 jobs. He cut education by $579 million, marked 10 homeless shelters for closing which was opposed by the city council. Just a year later, however, the city had a $200 million dollar surplus. In 1991, Dinkins signed a law which made it illegal for companies in New York City to do business with companies in Northern Ireland that discriminated against Catholics. In that same year, he hosted an unprecedented open house event in which 1400 people came to City Hall to speak with city officials. 1,058 suggestions, 216 problems, and 258 other comments were recorded. Fewer than one percent of the suggestions were considered for implementation. In 1993, Dinkins lost to Republican Rudy Giuliani, earning only 46 percent of the vote, down from 51 percent in 1989. Dinkins' departure from office at the end of 1993 made him the last Democratic mayor of New York City as of 2008[update], a city where party affiliations are overwhelmingly Democratic. During his final days in office, Dinkins made last-minute negotiations with the sanitation workers, presumably to preserve the public status of garbage removal. Incoming mayor Giuliani blamed Dinkins for a "cheap political trick" when Dinkins planned the resignation of Victor Gotbaum, Dinkins' appointee on the Board of Education, thus guaranteeing his replacement six months in office.[5] Dinkins also signed a last minute 99-year lease with the USTA National Tennis Center, including strict limitations on flights in and out of neighboring LaGuardia Airport during the US Open. A less restrictive lease was renegotiated after he left office. [edit] Later career Dinkins was subsequently given a professorship at Columbia University. Although he has not attempted a political comeback, Dinkins has remained somewhat active in politics, and his endorsement of various candidates, including Mark J. Green in the 2001 Mayoral race, was well-publicized. In some of his actions, such as the Green endorsement, he has been in conflict with Al Sharpton. He supported Democrat Fernando Ferrer in the 2005 New York mayoral election. In the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary, he served as a delegate for Hillary Clinton in New York. [edit] Personal life Dinkins is married to the former Joyce Burrows and they have two children. The couple are members of the Church of the Intercession in New York City. Dinkins' radio program "Dialogue with Dinkins" can be heard Saturday mornings on WLIB radio in New York City.[6] Dinkins is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Pi Phi ("the Boule"), the oldest collegiate and first professional Greek-letter fraternities, respectively, established for African Americans. Courtesy of:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jackie Robinson

Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was the first African-American Major League Baseball player of the modern era.[2] Although not the first African-American professional baseball player in United States history, Robinson's 1947 Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers ended approximately 60 years of baseball segregation, breaking the baseball color line, or color barrier.[3] At that time in the United States, many white people believed that blacks and whites should be kept apart in many aspects of life, including sports.[4] Despite this obstacle, Robinson went on to have an exceptional baseball career. Robinson played on six World Series teams and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. He earned six consecutive All-Star Game nominations and won several awards during his career. In 1947, Jackie won The Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award and the first MLB Rookie of the Year Award. Two years later, he won the National League MVP Award—the first black player to do so.[5] On April 15, 1997, the 50-year anniversary of his debut, Major League Baseball retired Robinson's jersey number 42 across all MLB teams in recognition of his accomplishments in a ceremony at Shea Stadium.[6] He also had success away from the baseball field. Robinson was the first African-American Major League Baseball analyst and the first black vice president of a major American corporation.[7] In the 1960s, he helped to establish the Freedom National Bank, an African-American owned and controlled entity based in Harlem, New York.[8] Due to his achievements, Robinson was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.[7][9] In 1950, he played himself in the biographical film The Jackie Robinson Story.[10] In 1946, Robinson married Rachel Annetta Isum,[11] and after Robinson died of a heart attack in 1972, she founded the Jackie Robinson Foundation.[12][13] Courtesy of :

Dr. Joyce F. Brown

Dr. Joyce F. Brown (born 1947) has been the president of Fashion Institute of Technology since 1998. She is FIT's first African American and female president. Dr. Brown also serves as a director at Ralph Lauren Polo. Dr. Brown is also the Chief Executive Officer for the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries. She and her husband reside in New York City. Personal life Joyce F. Brown is the wife of H. Carl McCall, who served as Comptroller of the State of New York from 1993 to 2002 and ran as the Democratic candidate for Governor of New York in 2002. McCall has a daughter, Marci, from a previous marriage, but the couple have no children together. [edit] Education Dr. Brown received her B.A. from Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York. She received her Master's degree in clinical psychology as well as her doctorate from New York University. [edit] Professional life Dr. Brown is a member of the Paxar Corporation Board of Directors.[1] Dr. Brown served as a Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York from 1994 to 1998. She is now Professor Emerita.[2] During David Dinkins' term as New York City mayor, Dr. Brown served as New York City deputy mayor for public and community affairs. Dr. Brown was appointed Dean of urban affairs at Bernard Baruch College of the City University of New York (CUNY) in 1983 and held the position until 1987. She coordinated the Urban Summit of Big City Mayors during her tenure and was appointed acting President of the college in 1990 (Brotherton, Phaedra, "FIT to be President" Black Enterprise, July 1999). Courtesy of :

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ella Fitzgerald "First Lady of Song"

Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996), also known as "Lady Ella" and the "First Lady of Song", is considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century.[1] With a vocal range spanning three octaves, she was noted for her purity of tone, phrasing and intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. She is widely considered to have been one of the supreme interpreters of the Great American Songbook.[2] Over a recording career that lasted 59 years, she was the winner of 14 Grammy Awards, and was awarded the National Medal of Art by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush. Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia, the child of a common-law marriage between William and Temperance "Tempie" Fitzgerald.[3] The pair separated soon after her birth and she and her mother moved to Yonkers, New York, with Tempie's boyfriend, Joseph Da Silva. Fitzgerald's half-sister, Frances Da Silva, was born in 1923. As a child, Fitzgerald was placed in the Colored Orphan Asylum in Riverdale, the Bronx.[4] In her youth, she wanted to be a dancer, although she loved listening to jazz recordings by Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby and The Boswell Sisters. She idolized the lead singer Connee Boswell, later saying, "My mother brought home one of her records, and I fell in love with it....I tried so hard to sound just like her."[5] In 1932, her mother died from a car accident. Following these traumas, Fitzgerald's grades dropped dramatically, and she frequently skipped school. At one point, she worked as a lookout at a bordello and also with a Mafia-affiliated numbers runner.[6] After getting into trouble with the police, she was taken into custody and sent to a reform school. Eventually she escaped from the reformatory, and for a time was homeless. She made her singing debut at 17 on November 21, 1934 at the Harlem Opera House in Harlem, New York. She pulled in a weekly audience at the Apollo and she won the opportunity to compete in one of the earliest of its famous "Amateur Nights." She had originally intended to go on stage and dance but, intimidated by the Edwards Sisters, a local dance duo, she opted to sing instead, in the style of Connie Boswell. She sang Hoagy Carmichael's "Judy" and "The Object of My Affection", a song recorded by the Boswell Sisters, and won the first prize of US$25.00.[7] [edit] Big-band singing In January 1935, Fitzgerald won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. She met drummer and bandleader Chick Webb here for the first time. Webb had already hired singer Charlie Linton to work with the band, and was, The New York Times later wrote, "reluctant to sign her....because she was gawky and unkempt, a diamond in the rough."[5] Webb offered her the opportunity to test with his band when they played a dance at Yale University. Despite the rough crowd, she was a great success, and Webb hired her to travel with the band for $12.50 a week. She began singing regularly with Webb's Orchestra through 1935, at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. Fitzgerald recorded several hit songs with them, including "Love and Kisses" and "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)" but it was her 1938 version of the nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket", a song she co-wrote, that brought her wide public acclaim. Chick Webb died on June 16, 1939, and his band was renamed "Ella Fitzgerald and her Famous Orchestra" with Ella taking the role of bandleader. Fitzgerald recorded nearly 150 sides during her time with the orchestra, most of which, like "A-Tisket, A-Tasket", were "novelties and disposable pop fluff."[5] [edit] The Decca years In 1942, Fitzgerald left the band to begin a solo career. Now signed to the Decca label, she had several popular hits, while recording with such artists as the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and the Delta Rhythm Boys. With Decca's Milt Gabler as her manager, she began working regularly for the jazz impresario Norman Granz, and appearing regularly in his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts. Fitzgerald's relationship with Granz was further cemented when he became her manager, although it would be nearly a decade before he could record her on one of his many record labels. With the demise of the Swing era, and the decline of the great touring big bands, a major change in jazz music occurred. The advent of bebop caused a major change in Fitzgerald's vocal style, influenced by her work with Dizzy Gillespie's big band. It was in this period that Fitzgerald started including scat singing as a major part of her performance repertoire. While singing with Gillespie, Fitzgerald recalled, "I just tried to do [with my voice] what I heard the horns in the band doing."[7] Her 1945 scat recording of "Flying Home" would later be described by The New York Times as "one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade....Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, had tried similar improvisation, no one before Miss Fitzgerald employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness."[5] Her be-bop recordings of "Oh, Lady be Good!" (1947) and "How High the Moon" were similarly popular, and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists. Perhaps responding to criticism, and under pressure from Granz (who felt that Fitzgerald was given unsuitable material to record during this period), her last years on the Decca label saw Fitzgerald recording a series of duets with pianist Ellis Larkins, released in 1950 as Ella Sings Gershwin. [edit] Move to Verve and mainstream success Still performing at Granz's JATP concerts, by 1955, Fitzgerald left Decca, and Granz, now her manager,or created Verve Records around her. Fitzgerald later described the period as strategically crucial, saying, "I had gotten to the point where I was only singing be-bop. I thought be-bop was 'it', and that all I had to do was go some place and sing bop. But it finally got to the point where I had no place to sing. I realized then that there was more to music than bop. Norman....felt that I should do other things, so he produced The Cole Porter Songbook with me. It was a turning point in my life."[5] Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook, released in 1956, was the first of eight multi-album "Songbook" sets Fitzgerald would record for Verve at irregular intervals from 1956 to 1964. The composers and lyricists spotlighted on each set, taken together, represent the greatest part of the cultural canon known as the Great American Songbook. Fitzgerald's song selections ranged from standards to rarities, and represented an attempt by Fitzgerald to cross over into a non-jazz audience. Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook was the only Songbook on which the composer she interpreted played with her. Duke Ellington and his longtime collaborator Billy Strayhorn both appeared on exactly half the set's 38 tracks, and wrote two new pieces of music for the album: "The E and D Blues", and a four-movement musical portrait of Fitzgerald (the only "Songbook" track on which Fitzgerald does not sing). The Songbook series ended up becoming the singer's most critically acclaimed and commercially successful work, and probably her most significant offering to American culture. The New York Times wrote in 1996, "These albums were among the first pop records to devote such serious attention to individual songwriters, and they were instrumental in establishing the pop album as a vehicle for serious musical exploration."[5] A few days after Fitzgerald's death, New York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote that in the Songbook series Fitzgerald "performed a cultural transaction as extraordinary as Elvis's contemporaneous integration of white and African-American soul. Here was a black woman popularizing urban songs often written by immigrant Jews to a national audience of predominantly white Christians."[6] Frank Sinatra was moved out of respect for Fitzgerald to block Capitol Records from re-releasing his own recordings in a similar, single composer vein. Ella Fitzgerald also recorded albums exclusively devoted to the songs of Porter and Gershwin in 1972 and 1983, the albums being Ella Loves Cole and Nice Work If You Can Get It, respectively. A later collection devoted to a single composer was released during her time with Pablo Records, Ella Abraça Jobim, featuring the songs of Antonio Carlos Jobim. While recording the 'Songbooks' and the occasional studio album, Fitzgerald toured 40 to 45 weeks per year in the United States and internationally, under the tutelage of Norman Granz. Granz helped solidify her position as one of the leading live jazz performers.[5] In the mid-1950s, Fitzgerald became the first African-American to perform at the Mocambo, after Marilyn Monroe had lobbied the owner for the booking. The booking was instrumental in Fitzgerald's career. The incident was turned into a play by Bonnie Greer in 2005. There are several live albums on Verve that are highly regarded by critics: Ella at the Opera House shows a typical JATP set from Fitzgerald, Ella in Rome displays her vocal jazz canon, while Ella in Berlin is still one of her biggest selling albums; it includes a famous version of "Mack the Knife", on which she forgets the lyrics, but improvises magnificently to compensate. [edit] Later years Verve Records was sold to MGM in 1963 for $3 million, and in 1967 MGM failed to renew Fitzgerald's contract. Over the next five years, she flitted between several labels, namely Atlantic, Capitol and Reprise. A selection of her material at this time represent a departure from her typical jazz repertoire; for Capitol she recorded Brighten the Corner, an album of hymns, Ella Fitzgerald's Christmas, an album of traditional Christmas carols, Misty Blue, a country and western-influenced album, and 30 by Ella, a series of six medleys that fulfilled her obligations for the label. During this period, she had her last US chart single with a cover of Smokey Robinson's "Get Ready", previously a hit for The Temptations, and some months later a top-five hit for Rare Earth. The surprise success of the 1972 album Jazz at Santa Monica Civic '72 led Granz to found Pablo Records, his first record label since the sale of Verve. Fitzgerald recorded some 20 albums for the label, Ella in London recorded live in '74 with pianist Tommy Flanagan, Joe Pass on guitar, Keter Betts on bass and Bobby Durham on drums is one of her best ever. Her years on Pablo documented the decline in her voice; "She frequently used shorter, stabbing phrases, and her voice was harder, with a wider vibrato," one biographer wrote.[3] Plagued by health problems, Fitzgerald made her last recording in 1991 and her last public performances in 1993.[8] Fitzgerald married twice, though there is evidence that she may have married a third time. In 1941 she married Benny Kornegay, a convicted drug dealer. The marriage was annulled after two years. Her second marriage, in December 1947, was to the famous bass player Ray Brown, whom she had met while on tour with Dizzy Gillespie's band a year earlier. Together they adopted a child born to Fitzgerald's half-sister, Frances, whom they christened Ray Brown, Jr. With Fitzgerald and Brown often busy touring and recording, the child was largely raised by her aunt, Virginia. Fitzgerald and Brown divorced in 1953, owing to the various career pressures both were experiencing at the time, though they would continue to perform together.[5] In July 1957, Reuters reported that Fitzgerald had secretly married Thor Einar Larsen, a young Norwegian, in Oslo. She had even gone as far as furnishing an apartment in Oslo, but the affair was quickly forgotten when Larsen was sentenced to five months hard labour in Sweden for stealing money from a young woman to whom he had previously been engaged.[3] Fitzgerald was also notoriously shy. Trumpet player Mario Bauza, who played behind Fitzgerald in her early years with Chick Webb, remembered that "She didn’t hang out much. When she got into the band, she was dedicated to her music….She was a lonely girl around New York, just kept herself to herself, for the gig."[3] When, later in her career, the Society of Singers named an award after her, Fitzgerald explained, "I don't want to say the wrong thing, which I always do. I think I do better when I sing."[7] Already blinded by the effects of diabetes, Fitzgerald had both her legs amputated in 1993 [3]. In 1996 she died of the disease in Beverly Hills, California, at the age of 79. She is interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. Several of Fitzgerald's awards, significant personal possessions and documents were donated to the Smithsonian Institution, the library of Boston University, the Library of Congress, and the Schoenberg Library at UCLA. Courtesy of: