GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an African-American dancer, choreographer, creator of the Dunham Technique, author, educator, anthropologist, and social activist. Dunham had one of the most successful dance careers in African-American and European theater of the 20th century and directed her own dance company for many years. She has been called the “matriarch and queen mother of black dance.” While a student at the University of Chicago, Dunham also performed as a dancer and ran a dance school. Receiving a fellowship, she went to the Caribbean to study dance and ethnography. She later returned to graduate and submitted a master’s thesis in anthropology. She did not complete the other requirements for that degree, however. She realized that her professional calling was performance.At the height of her career in the 1940s and 1950s, Dunham was renowned throughout Europe and Latin America and was widely popular in the United States. The Washington Post called her “dancer Katherine the Great”. For almost 30 years she maintained the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, the only self-supported American black dance troupe at that time. Over her long career, she choreographed more than ninety individual dances. Dunham was an innovator in African-American modern dance as well as a leader in the field of dance anthropology, or ethnochoreology. She also developed the Dunham Technique, a method of movement to support her dance works.Today in our History – May 21, 2006 – Katherine Dunham (June 22, 1909 – May 21, 2006) dies.Dunham early became interested in dance. While a student at the University of Chicago, she formed a dance group that performed in concert at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934 and with the Chicago Civic Opera company in 1935–36. On graduating with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology she undertook field studies in the Caribbean and in Brazil. By the time she received an M.A. from the University of Chicago, she had acquired a vast knowledge of the dances and rituals of the black peoples of tropical America. (She later took a Ph.D. in anthropology.) In 1938 she joined the Federal Theatre Project in Chicago and composed a ballet, L’Ag’Ya, based on Caribbean dance. Two years later she formed an all-black company, which began touring extensively by 1943. Tropics (choreographed 1937) and Le Jazz Hot (1938) were among the earliest of many works based on her research.Dunham was both a popular entertainer and a serious artist intent on tracing the roots of black culture. Many of her students, trained in her studios in Chicago and New York City, became prominent in the field of modern dance. She choreographed for Broadway stage productions and opera—including Aida (1963) for the New York Metropolitan Opera. She also choreographed and starred in dance sequences in such films as Carnival of Rhythm (1942), Stormy Weather (1943), and Casbah (1947). In addition, Dunham conducted special projects for African American high school students in Chicago; was artistic and technical director (1966–67) to the president of Senegal; and served as artist-in-residence, and later professor, at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, and director of Southern Illinois’s Performing Arts Training Centre and Dynamic Museum in East St. Louis, Ill. Dunham was active in human rights causes, and in 1992 she staged a 47-day hunger strike to highlight the plight of Haitian refugees.Dunham’s writings, sometimes published under the pseudonym Kaye Dunn, include Katherine Dunham’s Journey to Accompong (1946), an account of her anthropological studies in Jamaica; A Touch of Innocence (1959), an autobiography; Island Possessed (1969); and several articles for popular and scholarly journals. The recipient of numerous awards, Dunham received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1983 and the National Medal of Arts in 1989. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was The most effective work of the Society [for the Propogation] of the Gospel] among Negroes of the Northern colonies was accomplished in New York. In that colony, the instruction of the Negro and Indian slaves to prepare them for conversion, baptism, and communion was a primary charge of repeated to every missionary and schoolmaster of the Society. Today in our History – May 20, 1704 – Elias Neau, founded school for slaves in New York, 1704In addition to the general efforts put forth in the colonies, there was in New York a special provision for the employment of sixteen clergymen and thirteen lay teachers mainly for the evangelization of the slaves and the free Indians. For the Negro slaves a catechizing school was opened in New York City in 1704 under the charge of Elias Neau. This benevolent man, after several years’ imprisonment because of his Protestant faith, had come to New York to try his fortunes as a trader. As early as 1703 he called the attention of the Society to the great number, of slaves in New York “who were without God in the world, and of whose souls there was no manner of care taken” and proposed the appointment of a catechist to undertake their instruction. He himself finally being prevailed upon to accept this position, obtained a license from the Governor, resigned his position as elder in the French church [Église du Saint Esprit] and conformed to the Established Church of England, “not upon any worldly account but through a principle of conscience and hearty approbation of the English liturgy.” He was later licensed by the Bishop of London. Neau’s task was not an easy one. At first he went from house to house, but afterwards arranged for some of the slaves to attend him. He succeeded, however, in obtaining gratifying results. He was commended to the Society by Rev. Mr. Vesey in 1706 as a “constant communicant of our church, and a most zealous and prudent servant of Christ, in proselyting the miserable Negroes and Indians among them to the Christian Religion, whereby he does great service to God and his church.” Further confidence in him was attested by an act of the Society in preparing at his request “a Bill to be offered to Parliament for the more effectual Conversion of the Negro and other Servants in the Plantations, to compell Owners of Slaves to cause children to be baptized within 3 months after their birth and to permit them when come to years of discretion to be instructed in the Christian Religion on our Lord’s day by the Missionaries under whose ministry they live.” Neau’s school suffered greatly in 1712 because of the prejudice engendered by the declaration that instruction was the main cause of the Negro riot in that city. For some days Neau dared not show himself, so bitter was the feeling of the masters. Upon being assured, however, that only one Negro connected with the school had participated in the affair and that the most criminal belonged to the masters who were openly opposed to educating them, the institution was permitted to continue its endeavors, and the Governor extended to it his protection and recommended that masters have their slaves instructed. Yet Neau had still to complain thereafter of the struggle and opposition of the generality of the inhabitants, who were strongly prejudiced with a horrid motive thinking that Christian knowledge “would be a means to make the slave more cunning and apter to wickedness.” Not so long thereafter, however, the support of the best people and officials of the community made his task easier. Neau could say in 1714 that “if the slaves and domestics in New York were not instructed it was not his fault.” The Governor, the Council, Mayor, the Recorder and the Chief Justice informed the Society that Neau had performed his work “to the great advancement of religion in general and the particular benefit of the free Indians, Negro slaves, and other Heathens in those parts, with indefatigable zeal and application.” Neau died in 1722. His work was carried on by Mr. Huddlestone, Rev. Mr. Whitmore, Rev. Mr. Colgan, Rev. R. Charlton, and Rev. S. Auchmut. Resreach more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an American athlete who won gold at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich in the 110m hurdles.Today in our History – May 19, 1950 – Rodney “Rod” Milburn Jr. (May 18, 1950 – November 11, 1997) was born.During the early 1970s, Milburn dominated the 110m hurdles, tying or breaking the world record for the 110 m hurdles/120 yards five times. 1971, as a sophomore at Southern University, was when Milburn announced himself on the national and world stage. Amongst his achievements that year was his first world record. In a semi-final of the USA Championships he broke the record for 120 y with 13.0 s. Milburn went on to win the title, in 13.1 Milburn was to remain undefeated in 19 including winning the 110m hurdles event t the 1971 Pan-American Games. He also showed his versatility by winning a bronze as a member of the United States sprint relay team at the Pan-American Games. With these performances, Milburn earned the nickname “Hot Rod”, and was awarded the Track and Field News Athlete of the Year Award. His home state, Louisiana, also recognized him by awarding him the James J. Corbett Award as the outstanding male athlete from the state in 1971. He was to receive the same award a second time in 1973. He was the 1973 NCAA Indoor Champion for 60 yard hurdles.The overwhelming favorite to qualify for the 1972 Munich Olympics. Milburn in fact struggled but did qualify in 3rd place at the USA Olympic Trials. In the final he hit hurdles due to the pressure of the world-record holder Willie Davenport running alongside him and only managed to hold the vital third and last qualifying place by a foot.In Munich Milburn won the gold medal in the 110m hurdles, tying the world record of 13.2 seconds, finishing ahead of Guy Drut and Thomas Hill. This time, which was recorded as 13.24 to the hundredth of a second, would become the first world record when only automatically recorded times would be ratified as world records.Milburn’s triumph was overshadowed by other events. The qualifying rounds for the 110 m hurdles event was delayed by the suspension of the games following the terrorist attack in the Olympic Village. The final itself was then overlooked due to the furor over the behavior of the American 400 meter runners Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett on the medal rostrum at their medal award ceremony.In 1973 Milburn continued to demonstrate he was the world’s pre-eminent high-hurdler by breaking the world record for the 110 m hurdles with a 13.1 s, knocking 0.1 s off a record that had lasted for 14 years, and equaling his own world record for 120 y hurdles of 13.0 The record-breaking times the 110 m hurdles happened on July 6 in Zurich, Switzerland and on July 22 in Sienna, Italy; the record-equaling time in the 120 y hurdles happened on June 20 in Eugene, Oregon.After this season, with no prospect of playing American football professionally and not able to endorse commercial products as an amateur athlete, Milburn joined the fledgling professional athletics tour run by the International Track Association (ITA). He was to remain unbeaten in their 1974 season. The ITA folded in 1976. By running as a professional, Milburn was ineligible to compete at the Olympics and defend his title.In 1975, Milburn tried briefly to become an American footballer with the fledgling World Football League team the Shreveport Steamer. His try out was unsuccessful.Milburn returned as a hurdler in 1980 in time for an attempt at an Olympic comeback. However, the boycott of the Olympics denied him that possibility. He did, however, run as an amateur for two seasons with some success against the new generation of high hurdlers.Sporting commentators note that Milburn was important in the history of hurdling for introducing two innovations: the double-armed lead (to reduce time in the air) and the dime on the hurdle practice technique (knocking off dimes placed on the top of each hurdle without touching the actual hurdle). Milburn turned to the hurdles under the tutelage of his high school coach Claude Paxton at J.S. Clark High School in Opelousas, Louisiana.By his senior year, he was the outstanding high school hurdler in the United States and broke the national age record for the 120 y hurdles at 13.5 s. Acknowledgments of his achievements at high school included being voted on the Louisiana Sports Writers Association All-State track and field team in both his junior and senior years.Following high school, he went to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with an athletics scholarship.Here he met Willie Davenport, the 1968 110 m hurdles champion, who recognized his potential as a future Olympic champion and mentored the young athlete. He was coached at college by Dick Hill who had coached amongst others Bob Hayes the 1964 100 m Olympic champion.Milburn finally retired from athletics in 1983. Milburn was appointed the head track coach at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1984 by his old college coach, Dick Hill. When Hill left Southern University in 1987, his replacement did not renew Milburn’s contract. Milburn struggled after this and took a job as a utility crewman at a paper and pulp mill of the Georgia-Pacific Corporation in Port Hudson, Louisiana.It was while working at this plant that Milburn died after falling into a tank containing a sodium chlorate solution.His death came as a huge shock to the track and field community that vividly remembered his achievements on the track. At his funeral, a message of condolence from President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Clinton, was read out.For Milburn it was a great misfortune that his best years came at a time when it was impossible for even an Olympic champion to earn a good living from track and further that by running professionally he made himself ineligible to defend his Olympic title in 1976, and was then denied a chance to run in the 1980 Olympics by the 1980 Olympics boycott even when his eligibility for entry was reinstated. (In the end, a court injunction allowing the former professional athletes to run at the Olympic Trials came too late for Milburn to compete.Milburn was honored as one of Louisiana’s top 50 athletes of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated. and in 1988 was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.Milburn was ranked among the best in the USA and the world in the 110m hurdles, in two periods separated by his time on the professional athletics circuit, according to the votes of the experts of Track and Field News. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion event was Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of a Louisiana law passed in 1890 “providing for separate railway carriages for the white and colored races.” The law, which required that all passenger railways provide separate cars for blacks and whites, stipulated that the cars be equal in facilities, banned whites from sitting in black cars and blacks in white cars (with exception to “nurses attending children of the other race”), and penalized passengers or railway employees for violating its terms.Today in our History May 18, 1896 – The U.S, Supreme Court rules against Plessy.Homer Plessy, the plaintiff in the case, was seven-eighths white and one-eighth black, and had the appearance of a white man. On June 7, 1892, he purchased a first-class ticket for a trip between New Orleans and Covington, La., and took possession of a vacant seat in a white-only car. Duly arrested and imprisoned, Plessy was brought to trial in a New Orleans court and convicted of violating the 1890 law. He then filed a petition against the judge in that trial, Hon. John H. Ferguson, at the Louisiana Supreme Court, arguing that the segregation law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which forbids states from denying “to any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” as well as the Thirteenth Amendment, which banned slavery.The Court ruled that, while the object of the Fourteenth Amendment was to create “absolute equality of the two races before the law,” such equality extended only so far as political and civil rights (e.g., voting and serving on juries), not “social rights” (e.g., sitting in a railway car one chooses). As Justice Henry Brown’s opinion put it, “if one race be inferior to the other socially, the constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.” Furthermore, the Court held that the Thirteenth Amendment applied only to the imposition of slavery itself.The Court expressly rejected Plessy’s arguments that the law stigmatized blacks “with a badge of inferiority,” pointing out that both blacks and whites were given equal facilities under the law and were equally punished for violating the law. “We consider the underlying fallacy of [Plessy’s] argument” contended the Court, “to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.”Justice John Marshall Harlan entered a powerful — and lone — dissent, noting that “in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”Until the mid-twentieth century, Plessy v. Ferguson gave a “constitutional nod” to racial segregation in public places, foreclosing legal challenges against increasingly-segregated institutions throughout the South. The railcars in Plessy notwithstanding, the black facilities in these institutions were decidedly inferior to white ones, creating a kind of racial caste society. However, in the landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the “separate but equal” doctrine was abruptly overturned when a unanimous Supreme Court ruled that segregating children by race in public schools was “inherently unequal” and violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Brown provided a major catalyst for the civil rights movement (1955-68), which won social, not just political and civil, racial equality before the law. After four decades, Justice Harlan’s dissent became the law of the land. Following Brown, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled racial segregation in public settings to be unconstitutional. Research more about this great American Court decision and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was not just an influential and notable novelist, poet, and songwriter, He was a lawyer, a United States consul in a foreign nation, and served an important role in combating racism through his position in the NAACP.Today in our History – May 17, James Weldon Johnson wrights “Lift every Voice and sing”.Johnson was born in 1871 in Jacksonville, Florida, the son of Helen Louise Dillet, a native of Nassau, Bahamas, and James Johnson. His maternal great-grandmother, Hester Argo, had escaped from Saint-Domingue (today Haiti) during the revolutionary upheaval in 1802, along with her three young children, including James’ grandfather Stephen Dillet (1797–1880). Although originally headed to Cuba, their boat was intercepted by privateers and they were taken to Nassau, where they permanently settled. In 1833 Stephen Dillet became the first man of color to win election to the Bahamian legislature (ref: James Weldon Johnson, Along This Way, his autobiography).James’ brother was John Rosamond Johnson, who became a composer. The boys were first educated by their mother, a musician and a public school teacher, before attending Edwin M. Stanton School. Their mother imparted to them her great love and knowledge of English literature and the European tradition in music. At the age of 16, Johnson enrolled at Atlanta University, a historically black college, from which he graduated in 1894. In addition to his studies for the bachelor’s degree, he also completed some graduate coursework.The achievement of his father, a preacher, and the headwaiter at the St. James Hotel, a luxury establishment built when Jacksonville was one of Florida’s first winter resort destinations, inspired young James to pursue a professional career. Molded by the classical education for which Atlanta University was best known, Johnson regarded his academic training as a trust. He knew he was expected to devote himself to helping black people advance. Johnson was a prominent member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.Johnson and his brother Rosamond moved to New York City as young men, joining the Great Migration out of the South in the first half of the 20th century. They collaborated on songwriting and achieved some success on Broadway in the early 1900s.Over the next 40 years Johnson served in several public capacities, working in education, the diplomatic corps, and civil rights activism. In 1904 he participated in Theodore Roosevelt’s successful presidential campaign. After becoming president, Roosevelt appointed Johnson as United States consul at Puerto Cabello, Venezuela from 1906 to 1908, and to Nicaragua from 1909 to 1913.In 1910, Johnson married Grace Nail, whom he had met in New York City several years earlier while working as a songwriter. A cultured and well-educated New Yorker, Grace Nail Johnson later collaborated with her husband on a screenwriting project.After their return to New York from Nicaragua, Johnson became increasingly involved in the Harlem Renaissance, a great flourishing of art and writing. He wrote his own poetry and supported work by others, also compiling and publishing anthologies of spirituals and poetry. Owing to his influence and his innovative poetry, Johnson became a leading voice in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.He became involved in civil rights activism, especially the campaign to pass the federal Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill, as Southern states did not prosecute perpetrators. He was a speaker at the 1919 National Conference on Lynching. as a field secretary for the NAACP in 1917, Johnson rose to become one of the most successful officials in the organization. He traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, for example, to investigate a brutal lynching that was witnessed by thousands. His report on the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the burning-to-death of Ell Persons was published nationally as a supplement to the July 1917 issue of the NAACP’s Crisis magazine, and during his visit there he chartered the Memphis chapter of the NAACP. His 1920 report about “the economic corruption, forced labor, press censorship, racial segregation, and wanton violence introduced to Haiti by the US occupation encouraged numerous African Americans to flood the State Department and the offices of Republican Party officials with letters” calling for an end to the abuses and to remove troops. The US finally ended its occupation in 1934, long after the threat of Germany in the area had been ended by its defeat in the First World War.Appointed in 1920 as the first executive secretary of the NAACP, Johnson helped increase membership and extended the movement’s reach by organizing numerous new chapters in the South.During this period the NAACP was mounting frequent legal challenges to the southern states’ disenfranchisement of African Americans, which had been established at the turn of the century by such legal devices as poll taxes, literacy tests, and white primaries.Johnson died in 1938 while vacationing in Wiscasset, Maine, when the car his wife was driving was hit by a train. His funeral in Harlem was attended by more than 2000 people. Johnson’s ashes are interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.In the summer of 1891, following his freshman year at Atlanta University, Johnson went to a rural district in Georgia to teach the descendants of former slaves. “In all of my experience there has been no period so brief that has meant so much in my education for life as the three months I spent in the backwoods of Georgia,” Johnson wrote. “I was thrown for the first time on my own resources and abilities.” Johnson graduated from Atlanta University in 1894.After graduation, he returned to Jacksonville, where he taught at Stanton, a school for African-American students (the public schools were segregated) that was the largest of all the schools in the city. In 1906, at the young age of 35, he was promoted to principal. In the segregated system, Johnson was paid less than half of what white colleagues earned. He improved black education by adding the ninth and tenth grades to the school, to extend the years of schooling. He later resigned from this job to pursue other goals.While working as a teacher, Johnson also read the law to prepare for the bar. In 1897, he was the first African American admitted to the Florida Bar Exam since the Reconstruction era ended. He was also the first black in Duval County to seek admission to the state bar. In order to be accepted, Johnson had a two-hour oral examination before three attorneys and a judge. He later recalled that one of the examiners, not wanting to see a black man admitted, left the room. Johnson drew on his law background especially during his years as a civil rights activist and leading the NAACP.In 1930 at the age of 59, Johnson returned to education after his many years leading the NAACP. He accepted the Spence Chair of Creative Literature at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. The university created the position for him, in recognition of his achievements as a poet, editor, and critic during the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to discussing literature, he lectured on a wide range of issues related to the lives and civil rights of black Americans. He held this position until his death. In 1934 he also was appointed as the first African-American professor at New York University, where he taught several classes in literature and culture. As noted above, in 1901 Johnson had moved to New York City with his brother J. Rosamond Johnson to work in musical theater. They collaborated on such hits as “Tell Me, Dusky Maiden”, “Nobody’s Looking but the Owl and the Moon,” and the spiritual Dem Bones, for which Johnson wrote the lyrics and his brother the music. Johnson composed the lyrics of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” to honor renowned educator Booker T. Washington who was visiting Stanton School, when the poem was recited by 500 school children as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. This song became widely popular and has become known as the “Negro National Anthem,” a title that the NAACP adopted and promoted. The song included the following lines:Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,Ring with the harmonies of liberty;Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us,Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,Let us march on till victory is won.”Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” had influenced other artistic works, inspiring art such as Gwendolyn Ann Magee’s quilted mosaics. “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” contrasted with W.E.B. Du Bois’ exploration in Souls of Black Folk of the fears of post-emancipation generations of African Americans.After some successes, the brothers worked on Broadway and collaborated with producer and director Bob Cole. Johnson also collaborated on the opera Tolosa with his brother, who wrote the music; it satirized the U.S. annexation of the Pacific islands. Thanks to his success as a Broadway songwriter, Johnson moved in the upper echelons of African-American society in Manhattan and Brooklyn.In 1906 Johnson was appointed by the Roosevelt Administration as consul of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela. In 1909, he transferred to Corinto, Nicaragua. During his stay at Corinto, a rebellion erupted against President Adolfo Diaz. Johnson proved an effective diplomat in such times of strain.His positions also provided time and stimulation to pursue his literary career. He wrote substantial portions of his novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, and his poetry collection, Fifty Years, during this period. His poetry was published in major journals such as The Century Magazine and in The Independent.Johnson’s first success as a writer was the poem “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” (1899), which his brother Rosamond set to music; the song became unofficially known as the “Negro National Anthem.” During his time in the diplomatic service, Johnson completed what became his most well-known book, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, which he published anonymously in 1912. He chose anonymity to avoid any controversy that might endanger his diplomatic career. It was not until 1927 that Johnson acknowledged writing the novel, stressing that it was not a work of autobiography but mostly fictional.In this period, he also published his first poetry collection, Fifty Years and Other Poems (1917). It showed his increasing politicization and adoption of the black vernacular influences that characterize his later work.Johnson returned to New York, where he was involved in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. He had a broad appreciation for black artists, musicians and writers, and worked to heighten awareness in the wider society of their creativity.In 1922, he published a landmark anthology The Book of American Negro Poetry, with a “Preface” that celebrated the power of black expressive culture. He compiled and edited the anthology The Book of American Negro Spirituals, which was published in 1925.He continued to publish his own poetry as well. Johnson’s collection God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (1927) is considered most important. He demonstrated that black folk life could be the material of serious poetry. He also comments on the violence of racism in poems such as “Fragment,” which portrays slavery as against both God’s love and God’s law.Following the flourishing of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, Johnson reissued his anthology of poetry by black writers, The Book of American Negro Poetry, in 1931, including many new poets. This established the African-American poetic tradition for a much wider audience and also inspired younger poets.In 1930, he published a sociological study, Black Manhattan (1930). His Negro Americans, What Now? (1934) was a book-length address advocating fuller civil rights for African Americans. By this time, tens of thousands of African Americans had left the South for northern and midwestern cities in the Great Migration, but the majority still lived in the South. There they were politically disenfranchised and subject to Jim Crow laws and white supremacy. Outside the South, many faced discrimination but had more political rights and chances for education and work.At least one of Mr. Johnson’s works was credited as leading to a movie. “Go Down, Death!” was a Harlemwood Studios production, directed by Spencer Williams. In the film credits, it states, “Alfred N. Sack Reverently Presents….” (the film), with hymns playing in the background. The film opens:“Forward: This Story of Love and Simple Faith and Triumph of Good Over Evil was inspired by the Poem “GO DOWN, DEATH!” from the Pen of the Celebrated Negro Author James Weldon Johnson, Now of Sainted Memory.”The film (recently shown on Turner Classic Movies (January 4, 2020) as a filler piece) featured an all African-American cast, including Myra D. Hemings, Samuel H. James, and Eddie L. Houston, Spencer Williams, and Amos Droughan, among others. It also included a dancing and band sequence, depicting a fun looking, middle class oriented club with drinks and gambling, as its opening backdrop.While attending Atlanta University, Johnson became known as an influential campus speaker. In 1892 he won the Quiz Club Contest in English Composition and Oratory. He founded and edited the Daily American newspaper in 1895. At a time when southern legislatures were passing laws and constitutions that disenfranchised blacks and Jim Crow laws to impose racial segregation, the newspaper covered both political and racial topics. It was terminated a year later due to financial difficulty. These early endeavors were the start of Johnson’s long period of activism.In 1904 he accepted a position as the treasurer of the Colored Republican Club, started by Charles W. Anderson. A year later he was elected as president of the club. He organized political rallies. During 1914 Johnson became editor of the editorial page of the New York Age, an influential African-American weekly newspaper based in New York City. In the early 20th century, it had supported Booker T. Washington’s position for racial advancement by industrious work within the racial community, against the arguments of W. E. B. Du Bois for development of a “talented tenth” and political activism to challenge white supremacy. Johnson’s writing for the Age displayed the political gift that soon made him famous.In 1916, Johnson started working as a field secretary and organizer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which had been founded in 1910. In this role, he built and revived local chapters. Opposing race riots in northern cities and the lynchings frequent in the South during and immediately after the end of World War I, Johnson engaged the NAACP in mass demonstrations. He organized a silent protest parade of more than 10,000 African Americans down New York City’s Fifth Avenue on July 28, 1917 to protest the still-frequent lynchings of blacks in the South.Social tensions erupted after veterans returned from the First World War, and tried to find work. In 1919, Johnson coined the term “Red Summer” and organized peaceful protests against the white racial violence against blacks that broke out that year in numerous industrial cities of the North and Midwest. There was fierce competition for housing and jobs.Johnson traveled to Haiti to investigate conditions on the island, which had been occupied by U.S. Marines since 1915, ostensibly because of political unrest. As a result of this trip, Johnson published a series of articles in The Nation in 1920 in which he described the American occupation as brutal. He offered suggestions for the economic and social development of Haiti. These articles were later collected and reprinted as a book under the title Self-Determining Haiti.In 1920 Johnson was chosen as the first black executive secretary of the NAACP, effectively the operating officer position. He served in this role through 1930. He lobbied for the Dyer Anti-Lynching Bill of 1921, which was passed easily by the House, but repeatedly defeated by the white Southern bloc in the Senate.Throughout the 1920s, Johnson supported and promoted the Harlem Renaissance, trying to help young black authors to get published. Shortly before his death in 1938, Johnson supported efforts by Ignatz Waghalter, a Polish-Jewish composer who had escaped the Nazis of Germany, to establish a classical orchestra of African-American musicians.Johnson was killed on June 26th, 1938, when the car he was riding in was hit by a train in Wiscasset, Maine. He was 67. His wife, the driver, survived with serious injuries. 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GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was called Uncle Tom, kissing up to the White man, not marrying into his race and even being a republican. I will always remember him for the longevity, his passion for his craft and always finding ways to stay in the “Main Stream” of American entertainment. He was an American singer, dancer, actor, vaudevillian and comedian whom critic Randy Blaser called “the greatest entertainer ever to grace a stage in these United States.” At age three, he began his career in vaudeville with his father and the Will Mastin Trio, which toured nationally, and his film career began in 1933. After military service, he returned to the trio and became an overnight sensation following a nightclub performance at Ciro’s (in West Hollywood) after the 1951 Academy Awards. With the trio, he became a recording artist. In 1954, at the age of 29, he lost his left eye in a car accident. Several years later, he converted to Judaism, finding commonalities between the oppression experienced by African-American and Jewish communities. After a starring role on Broadway in Mr. Wonderful with Chita Rivera (1956), he returned to the stage in 1964 in a musical adaptation of Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy opposite Paula Wayne. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance and the show was said to have featured the first interracial kiss on Broadway. In 1960, He appeared in the Rat Pack film Ocean’s 11. In 1966, he had his own TV variety show, while his career slowed in the late 1960s, his biggest hit, “The Candy Man”, reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1972, and he became a star in Las Vegas, earning him the nickname “Mister Show Business”.His popularity helped break the race barrier of the segregated entertainment industry. He did however have a complex relationship with the black community and drew criticism after publicly supporting President Richard Nixon in 1972.One day on a golf course with Jack Benny, he was asked what his handicap was. “Handicap?” he asked. “Talk about handicap. I’m a one-eyed Negro who’s Jewish.” This was to become a signature comment, recounted in his autobiography and in many articles. After reuniting with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1987, he toured with them and Liza Minnelli internationally, before his death in 1990. He died in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, and his estate was the subject of legal battles after the death of his wife.He was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for his television performances. He was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1987, and in 2001, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.Today in our History – May 16, 1990 Samuel George Davis Jr. (December 8, 1925 – May 16, 1990) died.Davis was an avid photographer who enjoyed shooting pictures of family and acquaintances. His body of work was detailed in a 2007 book by Burt Boyar titled Photo by Sammy Davis, Jr. “Jerry [Lewis] gave me my first important camera, my first 35 millimeter, during the Ciro’s period, early ’50s,” Boyar quotes Davis as saying. “And he hooked me.” Davis used a medium format camera later on to capture images. Boyar reports that Davis had said, “Nobody interrupts a man taking a picture to ask… ‘What’s that nigger doin’ here?'” His catalog includes rare photos of his father dancing onstage as part of the Will Mastin Trio and intimate snapshots of close friends Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, James Dean, Nat “King” Cole, and Marilyn Monroe. His political affiliations also were represented, in his images of Robert Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. His most revealing work comes in photographs of wife May Britt and their three children,Tracey, Jeff and Mark.Davis was an enthusiastic shooter and gun owner. He participated in fast-draw competitions. Johnny Cash recalled that Davis was said to be capable of drawing and firing a Colt Single Action Army revolver in less than a quarter of a second. Davis was skilled at fast and fancy gunspinning and appeared on television variety shows showing off this skill. He also demonstrated gunspinning to Mark on The Rifleman in “Two Ounces of Tin.” He appeared in western films and as a guest star on several television westerns.Davis was a registered Democrat and supported John F. Kennedy’s 1960 election campaign as well as Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 campaign. John F. Kennedy would later refuse to allow Davis to perform at his inauguration on account of his marriage with the white actress May Britt. Nancy Sinatra revealed in her 1986 book Frank Sinatra: My Father how Kennedy had planned to snub Davis as plans for his wedding to Britt were unfolding. He went on to become a close friend of President Richard Nixon (a Republican) and publicly endorsed him at the 1972 Republican National Convention. Davis also made a USO tour to South Vietnam at Nixon’s request.In February 1972, during the later stages of the Vietnam War, Davis went to Vietnam to observe military drug abuse rehabilitation programs and talk to and entertain the troops. He did this as a representative from President Nixon’s Special Action Office For Drug Abuse Prevention. He performed shows for up to 15,000 troops; after one two-hour performance he reportedly said, “I’ve never been so tired and felt so good in my life.” The U.S. Army made a documentary about Davis’s time in Vietnam performing for troops on behalf of Nixon’s drug treatment program. Nixon invited Davis and his wife, Altovise, to sleep in the White House in 1973, the first time African-Americans were invited to do so. The Davises spent the night in the Lincoln Bedroom. Davis later said he regretted supporting Nixon, accusing Nixon of making promises on civil rights that he did not keep. Davis was a longtime donor to the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH organization and later supported Jackson’s 1984 campaign for President. In August 1989, Davis began to develop symptoms: a tickle in his throat and an inability to taste food. Doctors found a cancerous tumor in Davis’ throat. He was a heavy smoker and had often smoked four packs of cigarettes a day as an adult. When told that surgery (laryngectomy) offered him the best chance of survival, Davis replied he would rather keep his voice than have a part of his throat removed; he was initially treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. His larynx was later removed when his cancer recurred.He was released from the hospital on March 13, 1990. Davis died of complications from throat cancer two months later at his home in Beverly Hills, California, on May 16, 1990, at age 64. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. On May 18, 1990, two days after his death, the neon lights of the Las Vegas Strip were darkened for ten minutes as a tribute. Davis left the bulk of his estate, estimated at $4,000,000 to his widow, Altovise Davis, but he owed the IRS $5,200,000 which, after interest and penalties, had increased to over $7,000,000. His widow, Altovise Davis, became liable for his debt because she had co-signed his tax returns. She was forced to auction his personal possessions and real estate. Some of his friends in the industry, including Quincy Jones, Joey Bishop, Ed Asner, Jayne Meadows, and Steve Allen, participated in a fundraising concert at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.Altovise Davis and the IRS reached a settlement in 1997. After she died in 2009, their son Manny was named executor of the estate and majority-rights holder of his intellectual property. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion is The Chip Woman’s Fortune is a 1923 one act play written by American playwright Willis Richardson. The play was produced by The Ethiopian Art Players and is historically important as the first serious work by an African American playwright to be presented on Broadway. Although Broadway had seen African American musical comedies and revues, it had never seen a serious drama.May 15, 1923 – The Chip Woman’s Fortune by Willis Richardson, the first dramatic work by an African American playwright to be mounted on Broadway, opens at the Frazee Theatre on BroadwayEmma: Liza’s daughter, 18 and beautifulLiza: Mother of Emma, struggling with her healthAunt Nancy: The “chip woman” who lives with Liza’s family in their homeSilas: Husband of LizaJim: Son of Aunt NancyThe play opens with Liza not feeling well and being taken care of by Aunt Nancy. Emma enters and is chastised for wearing makeup by Liza. Both Emma and Liza agree that Aunt Nancy has been a very helpful presence in the home, especially for Liza’s health. Liza explains to Emma that the Victrola has left the family in debt, and that Silas has been furloughed for a couple of days. With the family already being extremely poor, and men coming to gather the debt any minute, Liza suspects that Silas will need to put Aunt Nancy out of the house because she does not pay rent. Silas enters the home and explains how he suspects Aunt Nancy secretly has a fortune that she keeps buried in the backyard. He wants to either ask her for the money of kick her out. Aunt Nancy re-enters and confesses that she is keeping money in the backyard to save for her son who got out of jail that day and will be appearing at the house any minute. Jim enters, and gives Silas fifteen dollars. He then proceeds to take give half of the money that Aunt Nancy has saved for him to Silas. Silas repays his debts and Aunt Nancy and Jim exit.The Chip Woman’s Fortune is noted for its simplicity. None of the characters are over glorified or overdone. Bernard Peterson quotes from the New York Times review, “The Chip Woman’s Fortune…is an unaffected and wholly convincing transcript of everyday character. No one is tricked out of pleasure; no one is blackened to serve as a “dramatic” contrast.I am referring, of course, to points of essential character, not to that matter of walnut stain.” W.E.B DuBois wrote in The Crisis, “The Negro Drama in America took another step forward when The Ethiopian Art Players under Raymond O’Neil, came to Broadway, New York. Financially the experiment was a failure; but dramatically and spiritually it was one of the greatest successes this country as ever seen.”Noted as one of the most important playwrights for the African American community. In his essay, “The Hope of A Negro Drama,” Richardson stresses “that the plays written by African Americans should focus on the black community and not on racial tension and differences.” He goes on to state that most of his plays would be “drawn for the most part from folk tradition, they should center on black conflicts within the black community.” In his own words, as early as 1922, Richardson sent a letter to Gregory stating “Negro drama has been, next to my wife and children, the very hope of my life. I shall do all within my power to advance it.” During these formative years of black drama, Richardson exerted his energies towards promoting and perfecting his craft. Richardson was awarded the AUDELCO prize, which is a testament to his excellence in black theatre. Research more about this great American Champion artist and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was the first African-American president of the American Library Association, serving as its acting president from April 11 to July 22 in 1976 and then its president from July 22, 1976 to 1977. Also, in 1970 she became the first African American and the first woman to serve as director of a major library system in America, as director of the Detroit Public Library.Today in our History – May 14, 1913 – Clara Stanton Jones (May 14, 1913 – September 30, 2012) was born.Stanton Jones was born on May 14, 1913, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a close-knit, Catholic family. Her future career and impact in library science almost seemed predestined as she frequented the library at an early age. Jones recalls that she was one of the smallest patrons at the public library near her grandmother’s house; she was also among very few black children at that local library. Although Jones had very little interaction with librarians in her young years, she read what interested her and selected her own materials. Her mother, Etta J. Stanton, worked as a school teacher, lecturing at public school systems until her marriage. Due to the marriage bar prohibiting married women to teach in the public school system, she taught in Catholic parochial schools to help support her family, including Clara Jones’ endeavor to attend college. Jones’ father, Ralph Herbert Stanton, was a manager at the Standard Life Insurance Company. He eventually accepted a position with the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, where he worked until his death. Jones grew up in a highly segregated St. Louis neighborhood, but she was not daunted by the assumed, implicit Jim Crow laws; she instead regarded her young life to be privileged with all her primary mentors being African American.Education and solidarity were heavily emphasized in Jones’ family. She obtained a well-rounded education even though the St. Louis public school system was completely segregated. She grew up in an entirely African-American world, with black role-models and mentors. In high school, Jones aspired to become an elementary school teacher, even though her future salary would be slightly below white counterparts. This position would still provide a high standard of living for African Americans at that time because the income gap between white and black teachers was only slight. Jones was the first member of her family to graduate from college. St. Louis was highly segregated, but instead of attending the local, tuition-free teachers college that was designated for black students, Jones attended the Milwaukee State Teacher’s College in 1930; she was inspired by her older brothers’ stories of college life away from home at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jones was one of only six black students at the college. She transferred to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, where she majored in English and History and decided to become a librarian instead of a teacher. The president Florence Read caught notice of Jones’ typing skills and offered her a position as a typist with the new Atlanta University Library; the librarians encouraged Jones to pursue a career in librarianship. She was highly receptive to their suggestions as she had already considered this career change. Jones remained in that position until her graduation; she received her Bachelor of Arts in 1934 from Spelman and a degree in Library Science in 1938 from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.Jones began working in libraries the same year she completed her degree in Library Science. She said that at the beginning of 1938, she worked in libraries at Dillard University in New Orleans and Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Jones spent the remainder of her library career at the Detroit Public Library, retiring in 1978 as the director. She had become its director in 1970, which made her the first African American and the first woman to serve as director of a major library system in America. There was opposition to the election of Jones as director at the Detroit Public Library; the Friends of the Library had originally offered to supplement the librarian’s wages but withdrew the offer, then three people, a high ranking administrator and two of the commissioners, resigned when she was elected. Her detractors tried to challenge her authority by questioning her decisions, making decisions behind her back, and using degrading language. Her secretary, Carolyn Moseley, recalled how Jones never discussed these obstacles because that would affect how people perceived her. Moseley also recalled how Jones focused helping others become more successful by utilizing her power and resources on their behalf.The Council of the American Library Association passed a “Resolution on Racism and Sexism Awareness” during the ALA’s Centennial Conference in Chicago, July 18–24, 1976.In May 1977, Clara Stanton Jones, then president of the American Library Association, responded to the ALA Intellectual Freedom Committee’s (IFC) recommendation to rescind the ALA’s “Resolution on Racism and Sexism Awareness” because its language remained unclear. Her response was published in American Libraries, the official publication of the ALA. Jones opposed the IFC’s proposal, declaring that the resolution required further adjustments and amendments to the language before the committee considered annulment. The IFC feared that the resolution favored censorship as a means to purge library materials of racist and sexist language, thereby opposing the Library Bill of Rights pledge to sustain access to information and enlightenment despite content and to encourage libraries to challenge censorship.The ALA made the decision to deliberate the fate of the resolution and report its results at the 1977 Detroit conference. Jones asserted that the resolution did not conflict with the Library Bill of Rights, and instead promoted awareness by encouraging training and outreach programs in the libraries and library schools. In agreement with the Library Bill of Rights, she advocated for more enlightenment, not repression, to combat the effects of racism and sexism in library materials. Jones viewed the resolution as the framework, and not the final solution, for enabling librarians to confront issues that hampered “human freedom”. She argued, “The spirit of the ‘Resolution on Racism and Sexism Awareness’ is not burdened with repression; it is liberating. If the resolution is imperfect, try to make it perfect, but not by destroying it first!”The resolution was not rescinded.Jones became the director for the Detroit Public Library in 1970, making her the first African American and the first woman to serve as director of a major library system in America.She served as the first black president of the American Library Association from 1976 to 1977. During her presidency, she heavily aided the ALA adoption of a “Resolution on Racism and Sexism Awareness” to encourage librarians to raise the awareness of library patrons and staff to problems of racism and sexism.She advocated against the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee’s recommendation to the ALA Executive Board that the “Resolution on Racism and Sexism Awareness” be rescinded. It was not rescinded.President Jimmy Carter appointed Jones as Commissioner to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science in 1978. She served in this post until 1982.In 1984, Jones and Aileen Clarke Hernandez, former President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), founded the black women’s discussion group Black Women Stirring the Waters, in the San Francisco Bay Area.Jones received the Trailblazer Award in 1990 from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, the highest award given by BCALA. The award recognizes individuals whose pioneering contributions have been outstanding and unique, and whose efforts have “blazed a trail” in the profession.Clara Stanton Jones died peacefully in her sleep on September 30, 2012 in Oakland California at the age of 99. She was survived by her three children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.Jones’s children Vinetta Jones, Stanton Jones, and Kenneth Jones founded the Albert D. and Clara Stanton Jones Scholarship fund in 2007 to provide scholarship assistance for University of Michigan School of Information master’s students, mainly those interested in urban librarianship.In 2018 Clara Stanton Jones was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in the historical category. Research more about his great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion is an American community leader, politician and activist. She is Vice President of Community Relations and Government Affairs for Thomson Reuters Legal business. She served as mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1994 until 2001, the first African American and first woman to hold that position.Today in our History – May 13, 1951 – Sharon Sayles Belton (May 13, 1951) was born.Sayles Belton was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, as one of four daughters of Bill and Ethel Sayles. After her parents separated, she lived for one year with her mother in Richfield, Minnesota, where she was the only African American in East Junior High School, then moved to south Minneapolis to live with her father and stepmother. She attended Central High School in Minneapolis. She volunteered as a candy striper at Mount Sinai Hospital, and later worked as a nurse’s aide. She served briefly a civil rights activist in the state of Mississippi.Sayles Belton attended Macalester College in Saint Paul, where she studied biology and sociology. She later worked as a parole officer with victims of sexual assault. Like her grandfather Bill Sayles, she became a neighborhood activist. In 1983, Sayles Belton was elected by the Eighth Ward to the Minneapolis City Council. She was inspired by working with mayor Donald M. Fraser. She represented the state at the 1984 Democratic National Convention, where Minnesota politician Walter Mondale was nominated for President of the United States. A member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, Sayles Belton was elected city council president in 1990.In 1993, she announced her candidacy for mayor. With the help of three phone banks and a staff of ten, she was elected on a platform that included reform of the police department, the first African American and the first woman mayor in the city’s 140-year history. She defeated DFL former Hennepin County Commissioner John Derus. She was reelected in 1997, defeating Republican candidate Barbara Carlson. Sayles Belton held the position for two terms, from January 1, 1994, to December 31, 2001. The city also addressed archaic utilities billing, outdated water treatment and neighborhood flooding. By the end of the decade, Minneapolis had increased property values, the city had its first increase in population since the 1940s, and there was reversal of a “50-year economic slide.” Fraser credits Sayles Belton with stabilizing neighborhoods amid racial tensions, supporting the school system, and being an able and savvy city manager. Critics opposed the use of city subsidies for downtown development, said to total $90 million combined for the Target store and Block E.In the 2001, election Sayles Belton lost her party’s endorsement and the Democratic primary to R. T. Rybak, who received the support of the powerful Minneapolis Police Federation. After leaving the mayor’s office, Sayles Belton became a senior fellow at the Roy Wilkins Center for Human Relations and Social Justice. The center is part of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.Sayles Belton worked in community affairs and community involvement for the GMAC Residential Finance Corporation, headquartered in Minneapolis. In 2010, she joined Thomson Reuters as vice president of Community Relations and Government Affairs, based in Eagan, Minnesota.She is married to Steven Belton, with whom she raised three children: Kilayna, Jordan, and Coleman. Sayles Belton is involved in race equality, community and neighborhood development, public policy, women’s, family and children’s issues, police-community relations and youth development. In 1978 she co-founded the Harriet Tubman Shelter for Battered Women in Minneapolis. She is a co-founder of the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She contributed to the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, Clean Water Partnership, Children’s Healthcare and Hospital, the American Bar Association, the Bush Foundation, the United States Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and Hennepin County Medical Center by chairing or serving on their boards.• Gertrude E. Rush Distinguished Service Award presented by the National Bar Association• Rosa Parks Award, presented by the American Association for Affirmative Action• A bust of Sayles Belton was unveiled in Minneapolis City Hall on May 16, 2017, which was declared Sharon Sayles Belton day in Minnesota by Governor Mark Dayton.Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was a good friend of mine back in the day when I worked and went to college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have to say that his sister was the only person in a club atmosphere who could hold the crowd better. He was an American singer and musician. His 1981 album Breakin’ Away spent two years on the Billboard 200 and is considered one of the finest examples of the Los Angeles pop and R&B sound. The album won him the 1982 Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. In all, he won seven Grammy Awards and was nominated for over a dozen more during his career.He also sang the theme song of the 1980s television series Moonlighting, and was among the performers on the 1985 charity song “We Are the World.”Today in our History – May 12, 1986 -Alwin Lopez Jarreau (March 12, 1940 – February 12, 2017). HBO’s Comic Relief featured him in a duet with Natalie Cole singing the song “Mr. President”, written by Joe Sterling, Mike Loveless, and Ray Reach. Jarreau was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 12, 1940, the fifth of six children. His father was a Seventh-day Adventist Church minister and singer, and his mother was a church pianist. Jarreau and his family sang together in church concerts and in benefits, and Jarreau and his mother performed at PTA meetings. Jarreau was student council president and Badger Boys State delegate for Lincoln High School. At Boys State, he was elected governor. Jarreau went on to attend Ripon College, where he also sang with a group called the Indigos. He graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology. Two years later, in 1964, he earned a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa. Jarreau also worked as a rehabilitation counselor in San Francisco and moonlighted with a jazz trio headed by George Duke. In 1967, he joined forces with acoustic guitarist Julio Martinez. The duo became the star attraction at a small Sausalito nightclub called Gatsby’s. This success contributed to Jarreau’s decision to make professional singing his life and full-time career. In 1968, Jarreau made jazz his primary occupation. In 1969, he and Martinez headed south, where Jarreau appeared at Dino’s, The Troubadour, and Bitter End West. Television exposure came from Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, and David Frost. He expanded his nightclub appearances, performing at The Improv between the acts of such rising stars as Bette Midler, Jimmie Walker, and John Belushi. During this period, he became involved with the United Church of Religious Science and the Church of Scientology. Also, roughly at the same time, he began writing his own lyrics, finding that his Christian spirituality began to influence his work. In 1975, Jarreau was working with pianist Tom Canning when he was spotted by Warner Bros. Records. Soon he released his critically acclaimed debut album, We Got By, which catapulted him to international fame and won an Echo Award (the German equivalent of the Grammys in the United States).On Valentine’s Day 1976 he sang on the 13th episode of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, that week hosted by Peter Boyle. A second Echo Award would follow with the release of his second album, Glow. In 1978, he won his first Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for his album, Look to the Rainbow. One of Jarreau’s most commercially successful albums is Breakin’ Away (1981), which includes the hit song “We’re In This Love Together”. He won the 1982 Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for Breakin’ Away.In 1983 he released Jarreau. It was his third consecutive #1 album on the Billboard Jazz charts, while also placing at #4 on the R&B album charts and #13 on the Billboard 200. The album contained three hit singles: “Mornin'” (U.S. Pop #21, AC #2 for three weeks), “Boogie Down” (U.S. Pop #77), and “Trouble in Paradise” (U.S. Pop #63, AC #10). In 1984 the album received four Grammy Award nominations, including for Jay Graydon as Producer of the Year (Non-Classical).In 1984, his single “After All” reached 69 on the US Hot 100 chart and number 26 on the R&B chart. It was especially popular in the Philippines. His last big hit was the Grammy-nominated theme to the 1980s American television show Moonlighting, for which he wrote the lyrics.Among other things, he was well known for his extensive use of scat singing (for which he was called “Acrobat of Scat”), and vocal percussion. He was also a featured vocalist on USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” in which he sang the line, “…and so we all must lend a helping hand.” Another charitable media event, HBO’s Comic Relief, featured him in a duet with Natalie Cole singing the song “Mr. President”, written by Joe Sterling, Mike Loveless, and Ray Reach. Jarreau took an extended break from recording in the 1990s. As he explained in an interview with Jazz Review: “I was still touring, in fact, I toured more than I ever had in the past, so I kept in touch with my audience.I got my symphony program underway, which included my music and that of other people too, and I performed on the Broadway production of Grease. I was busier than ever! For the most part, I was doing what I have always done…perform live. I was shopping for a record deal and was letting people know that there is a new album coming. I was just waiting for the right label (Verve), but I toured more than ever.” In 2003, Jarreau and conductor Larry Baird collaborated on symphony shows around the United States, with Baird arranging additional orchestral material for Jarreau’s shows. Jarreau toured and performed with Joe Sample, Chick Corea, Kathleen Battle, Gregor Praecht, Miles Davis, George Duke, David Sanborn, Rick Braun, and George Benson. He also performed the role of the Teen Angel in a 1996 Broadway production of Grease. On March 6, 2001, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 7083 Hollywood Boulevard on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue.In 2006, Jarreau appeared in a duet with American Idol finalist Paris Bennett during the Season 5 finale and on Celebrity Duets singing with actor Cheech Marin. In 2009, children’s author Carmen Rubin published the story Ashti Meets Birdman Al, inspired by Jarreau’s music. In 2010, Jarreau was a guest on a Eumir Deodato album, with the song “Double Face” written by Jarreau, Deodato, and Nicolosi. The song was produced by the Italian company Nicolosi Productions. On February 16, 2012, Jarreau was invited to the famous Italian Festival di Sanremo to sing with the Italian group Matia Bazar.Jarreau was married twice. Jarreau and Phyllis Hall were married from 1964 until their divorce in 1968. Jarreau’s second wife Susan Elaine Player [it] (1954-2019) was fourteen years his junior. They were married from 1977 until his death in 2017 and had a son.It was reported on July 23, 2010, that Jarreau was critically ill at a hospital in France, after performing in Barcelonnette, and was being treated for respiratory problems and cardiac arrhythmias. He was conscious, in a stable condition and in the cardiology unit of La Timone hospital in Marseille, the Marseille Hospital Authority said, and he remained there for about a week for tests. In June 2012, Jarreau was diagnosed with pneumonia, which caused him to cancel several concerts in France. Jarreau made a full recovery and continued to tour extensively for the next five years until February 2017. On February 8, 2017, after being hospitalized for exhaustion in Los Angeles, Jarreau canceled his remaining 2017 tour dates. On that date, the Montreux Jazz Academy, part of the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, announced that Jarreau would not return as a mentor to ten young artists, as he had done in 2015. On February 12, 2017, Jarreau died of respiratory failure, at the age of 76, just two days after announcing his retirement, and one month before his 77th birthday. He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills), not far from George Duke. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!