GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion is he is a professional basketball player for the National Basketball Association (NBA) who played for the Oklahoma City Thunder (formally known as Seattle Supersonics) and who now plays for the Brooklyn Nets.Today in our History – September 29, 1988 – Kevin Wayne Durant is born.Washington, D.C. to Wanda Durant and Wayne Pratt. Durant’s father abandoned the family when he was still an infant, leaving his mother and grandmother, Barbara Davis, to raise him. Durant’s father later returned to his life when Durant was 13 years old.Durant’s involvement in sports began when he played for a youth basketball team in Prince George’s County, Maryland called the PG Jaguars. Durant attended several Christian schools where he played high school basketball. His first two years were spent at the National Christian Academy located in Fort Washington, Maryland. Durant then attended Oak Hill Academy, a private Baptist secondary school in Mouth-of-Wilson, Virginia during his junior year and then transferred to Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Maryland for his senior year. Despite his frequent transfers, sports writers recognized his talent. Durant was named to Pride Magazine’s First Team list and USA Today’s First Team All-American lists.After graduating from high school in 2006, Durant attended the University of Texas at Austin where he played for the Texas Longhorns men’s basketball team. During his freshman year with the Longhorns, Durant started in every game and averaged 25.8 points per game and 11 rebounds. He helped lead the Longhorns to the second round of the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Men’s Basketball Championship which the Longhorns lost to the University of Southern California. At the end of his freshman year, Durant was national college player of the year (2007), First Team All-American (2007), winner of the Oscar Robertson and the Adolph F. Rupp Awards, and he was named the Big 12 Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.After playing one year with the Longhorns, Durant declared eligibility for the NBA Draft. He was picked second overall in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft by the Seattle Supersonics. During his rookie season, Durant was a member of the Rookie All-First Team and named NBA Rookie of the Year (2008). After the 2007-2008 season ended, the Supersonics relocated from Seattle, Washington to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and became the Oklahoma City Thunder.During Durant’s time with the Thunder, he was a seven-time NBA All-Star (2010-2016), NBA All-Star Game MVP (2012), four-time NBA scoring champion (2010-2012, 2014), and the league’s Most Valuable Player (2014). In 2012 Durant and Russell Westbrook led the Thunder to the NBA Championship Series where they lost in five games to the Miami (Florida) Heat, led by LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.Durant remained with the Thunder until the end of the 2016 season when he joined the Golden State Warriors. Together with teammates Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, the Warriors met in the 2017 NBA Championship Series where they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. Although the Warriors won their fifth national championship, it was the first for Durant who also earned MVP honors for the five-game series. In the summer of 2019, Durant signed with the Brooklyn Nets.Kevin Durant is single and has no children. On March 17, 2020, it was announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19. 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 an American singer whose style encompassed Chicago blues, electric blues, rhythm and blues and soul blues. Sometimes called “The Queen of the Blues”, she was known for her rough, powerful vocals.Today in our History – September 28 1828, Koko Taylor (born Cora Anna Walton, was born.Born on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee, Taylor was the daughter of a sharecropper. She left Tennessee for Chicago in 1952 with her husband, Robert “Pops” Taylor, a truck driver. In the late 1950s, she began singing in blues clubs in Chicago. She was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1962, and this led to more opportunities for performing and her first recordings. In 1963 she had a single on USA Records, and in 1964 a cut on a Chicago blues collection on Spivey Records, called Chicago Blues. In 1964 Dixon brought Taylor to Checker Records, a subsidiary label of Chess Records, for which she recorded “Wang Dang Doodle”, a song written by Dixon and recorded by Howlin’ Wolf five years earlier. The record became a hit, reaching number four on the R&B chart and number 58 on the pop chart in 1966, and selling a million copies. She recorded several versions of the song over the years, including a live rendition at the 1967 American Folk Blues Festival, with the harmonica player Little Walter and the guitarist Hound Dog Taylor. Her subsequent recordings, both original songs and covers, did not achieve as much success on the charts.”Taylor sounds like you always wanted those women with Big in front of their names to sound—powerful, even rough, without ever altogether abandoning her rather feminine register.”— Christgau’s Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981) Taylor became better known by touring in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and she became accessible to a wider record-buying public when she signed a recording contract with Alligator Records in 1975. She recorded nine albums for Alligator, eight of which were nominated for Grammy awards, and came to dominate ranks of female blues singers, winning twenty-nine W. C. Handy/Blues Music Awards. She survived a near-fatal car crash in 1989. In the 1990s, she appeared in the films Blues Brothers 2000 and Wild at Heart. She opened a blues club on Division Street in Chicago in 1994, which relocated to Wabash Avenue, in Chicago’s South Loop, in 2000 (the club is now closed).In 2003, she appeared as a guest with Taj Mahal in an episode of the television series Arthur. In 2009, she performed with Umphrey’s McGee at the band’s New Year’s Eve concert at the Auditorium Theater, in Chicago.Taylor influenced Bonnie Raitt, Shemekia Copeland, Janis Joplin, Shannon Curfman, and Susan Tedeschi.In her later years, she performed over 70 concerts a year and resided just south of Chicago, in Country Club Hills, Illinois.In 2008, the Internal Revenue Service said that Taylor owed $400,000 in unpaid taxes, penalties and interest, for the years 1998, 2000 and 2001. In those years combined, her adjusted gross income was $949,000. Taylor’s final performance was at the Blues Music Awards, on May 7, 2009. She suffered complications from surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding on May 19 and died on June 3. On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Koko Taylor among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make It A Champion Day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion has always been a favorite of mine. Unless you were taken music classes back in the day, you might have heard about him. I learned about him from my great Uncle Leon Busby from Berlin, NJ. Besides watching cowboy movies or listening to him play his “Mouth Organ”, he would share all of the great black people that were not in our history books. Uncle lived to be over 100 years’ old and I miss him but he opened my mind to researching our back heritage. So here is this great story: Today in our History – September 27, 1912 – W. C. Handy published “Memphis Blues.”Do you listen to the blues? If you haven’t, you’ve definitely heard music influenced by the blues (a song of sadness in which the second line often repeats the words of the first). Artists such as John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and Koko Taylor have made that sultry blues sound legendary, but before them, William Christopher Handy, the “Father of the Blues,” brought the African-American folk tradition into mainstream music. The publication of his song “The Memphis Blues” on September 28, 1912, changed the course of American popular song.By the 1960s, the blues sound had significantly influenced the development of jazz, classical music, and the rock and roll of such performers as Aretha Franklin and the Rolling Stones. Do the blues influence any of your favorite songs?Born in Alabama in 1873, W.C. Handy found his true calling when he began playing cornet with dance bands traveling the Mississippi Delta. Along the road, Handy wrote down and collected blues songs he heard in the 1890s. Audiences, however, wanted to hear ragtime dance tunes, the lively and popular music of the day, so that’s what he played. When he settled in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1909, Handy found a sophisticated population with a limitless appetite for music. Music was so popular in Memphis that an aspiring mayor, E.H. Crump, hired Handy as the bandleader for his campaign.Handy’s original tune, titled “Mr. Crump,” merged the blues sound with popular ragtime style. Overwhelmingly popular, the song led Crump to the mayor’s office and Handy to musical success. Changing the song’s name to “The Memphis Blues,” he watched the sheet music go on sale in department stores on September 28, 1912. The first thousand copies sold out in just three days. But Handy’s publisher deceived him and told him that the song had flopped, offering him just $50 to buy the rights. The composer agreed. Though cheated out of his first big hit, Handy went on to produce many other popular works, such as the “Yellow Dog Rag.” W.C. Handy became recognized around the world as the “Father of the Blues.” What other blues musicians do you know?In 1903 William Christopher Handy was leading a band called the Colored Knights of Pythias based in Clarksdale, in Mississippi’s Delta country, when one day he paid a visit to the little town of Tutwiler.”A lean loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me… His face had on it the sadness of the ages,” Handy writes in his 1941 autobiography, Father of the Blues.”As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularised by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars… The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard.”The music was “weird” because it was new.The blues is not, as some imagine, as old as the hills. According to David Wondrich, author of Stomp and Swerve: American Music Gets Hot, it was “a particular creature of the 1890s”.Handy describes the 12-bar form “with its three-chord basic structure (tonic-subdominant-dominant seventh)” as one widely used “by Negro roustabouts, honky-tonk piano players, wanderers and others of their underprivileged but undaunted clan from Missouri to the Gulf [of Mexico]”.It had become, he says, “a common medium through which any such individual might express his personal feelings in a sort of a musical soliloquy”.Handy himself was from a very different world. A skilled, musically-literate, and well-travelled band leader from northern Alabama, he nonetheless saw the possibilities in this form of music, and when in 1909 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, he took some of the music he had heard in Mississippi and rearranged it for his band.”It did the business too,” writes Handy. “Folks went wild about it.”In 1912, with the recording industry still in its infancy, Handy published one of his compositions on paper as Memphis Blues. It was a hit.”Handy’s Memphis Blues was hugely significant,” says Elijah Wald, author of The Blues: A Very Short Introduction. “It started the blues craze and made the blues a key marketing term.”Memphis Blues became the song of 1912, the song people were asking to hear in dance halls nationwide.”Memphis Blues was spread by the sale of sheet music and by the fact that every dance band in America was being asked to play it, and was playing it,” says Wald.For Handy, writing in the late 1930s, Memphis Blues “was the first of all the many published ‘blues’ and it set a new fashion in American popular music and contributed to the rise of jazz, or, if you prefer, swing, and even boogie-woogie”.As originally published, Memphis Blues is an instrumental piece, about three minutes long in the earliest recording.It contained both 16-bar melodies that the audience was used to, and innovative 12-bar sections, and mixed regular two-four time with the Afro-Cuban habanera dance rhythm.As for the melody, it uses “what have since become known as ‘blue notes’,” said Handy, “the transitional flat thirds and sevenths… by which I was attempting to suggest the typical slurs of the Negro voice”.From the moment it emerged into US mass culture, blues was popular music for both blacks and whites.Black dance styles had already been popular in white society for two decades. Teddy Roosevelt had even led a cakewalk – a former slaves’ dance – in the White House during his presidency (1901-1909).”It was an exaggerated dance and very hard to do. It was like the thing you used to see on Soul Train,” says Wondrich.The cakewalk paved the way for a host of other dances, including the turkey trot, the possum trot, and the grizzly bear. “These all came out of low music halls, dive bars and whorehouses, basically,” says Wondrich.If you had wanted to see such dancing in 1894, you would have had to go to red-light districts. But less than a decade later, these dances had been toned down and were being popularised by people such as the ballroom dancing enthusiasts Irene and Vernon Castle.Vernon was an Englishman from Norwich, Irene a white New Yorker, and together they became leaders of fashion in New York City. The dance that the Castles promoted was the foxtrot, which was invented in 1914. It was a little more sedate than the earlier animal dances but still had some of their sexy energy.The Castles had a night club near New York’s Times Square and they hired a black band leader, James Reese Europe, to supply the music. Europe’s Society Orchestra played the latest black dance music, including by 1914 Handy’s Memphis Blues. So the blues and the foxtrot emerged hand in hand.In 1914, Handy followed up Memphis Blues with his next hit, another 12-bar blues piece with a 16-bar habanera section. The song was called St Louis Blues. It was even more popular and influential than its predecessor and it went on to become a jazz standard played by musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Count Basie and, the queen of 1920s blues, Bessie Smith.Part of the success of the blues can be attributed to changes in the role of black people and women in US society.Blacks had fought with distinction in the Spanish-American War and would enlist en masse during World War I. One key difference between Handy’s blues and earlier black-inflected popular music, says Chris Kjorness of Longwood University, was that it was no longer played for laughs. It lacked the white mockery of the minstrel show.Women, meanwhile, were going out to work in ever larger numbers, especially in the big cities, in offices and department stores. They wanted to have fun.”Before the teens (1910-1920), the idea of going out dancing un-chaperoned didn’t exist,” says Wald. “But from the mid-teens you start to see dance halls where unmarried young people can go out to dance.”By 1917, records (78 rpm singles) had come of age. The Original Dixieland Jass [sic] Band – a white quintet from New Orleans – released Livery Stable Blues, which is thought to have sold as many as a million copies. Bessie Smith’s version of St Louis Blues was even filmed in a kind of predecessor of today’s music videos – she acts out the part of a woman knocked to the ground by a two-timing boyfriend, and then moves to a bar to sing the blues.There has always been more than one school of blues playing – the commercial and the non-commercial, the band and the solo performer – and the various schools have influenced and cross-fertilised each other.”The style that emerged in the 1910s and ’20s was largely created by professional entertainers and greeted by audiences as a modern pop trend,” says Wald.Blind Lemon Jefferson, the star of 1920s country blues, who sang and accompanied himself on the guitar, “devoted the overwhelming majority of his records to material that reflected the commercial blues craze,” Wald adds.A very different kind of musician also acknowledged his debt to Handy.”In a letter to Handy, George Gershwin thanked him for helping him to write Rhapsody in Blue,” says Barbara Broach, director of the W C Handy museum in Florence, Alabama.The blues went on to have a major influence on jazz, soul, rock and roll, and heavy metal.Handy did not invent the blues. As a musical style, it had deep roots in African-American culture. But the Memphis Blues did start the commercial blues craze. In Handy’s words, the song introduced “the blues form to the general public”, and the American public introduced it to the world. 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 Serena Jameka Williams (born September 26, 1981) is an American professional tennis player and former world No. 1 in women’s single tennis. She has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most by any player in the Open Era, and the second-most of all time behind Margaret Court (24). The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) ranked her world No. 1 in singles on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017. She reached the No. 1 ranking for the first time on July 8, 2002. On her sixth occasion, she held the ranking for 186 consecutive weeks, tying the record set by Steffi Graf. In total, she has been No. 1 for 319 weeks, which ranks third in the Open Era among female players behind Graf and Martina Navratilova.Williams is widely regarded to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She holds the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles combined among active players. Her 39 Grand Slam titles put her joint-third on the all-time list and second in the Open Era: 23 in singles, 14 in women’s doubles, and two in mixed doubles. She is the most recent female player to have held all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously (2002–03 and 2014–15) and the third player to achieve this twice, after Rod Laver and Graf. She is also the most recent player to have won a Grand Slam title on each surface (hard, clay and grass) in one calendar year (2015). She is also, together with her older sister Venus, the most recent player to have held all four Grand Slam women’s doubles titles simultaneously (2009–10).Williams has won a record of 13 Grand Slam singles titles on hard court. Williams holds the Open Era record for most titles won at the Australian Open (7) and shares the Open Era record for most titles won at the US Open with Chris Evert (6). She also holds the records for the most women’s singles matches won at majors with 362 matches and most singles majors won since turning 30-years-old (10).Williams has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, all with her sister Venus, and the pair are unbeaten in Grand Slam doubles finals. As a team, she and Venus have the third most women’s doubles Grand Slam titles, behind the 18 titles of Natasha Zvereva (14 with Gigi Fernández) and the record 20 titles won by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver. Williams is also a five-time winner of the WTA Tour Championships in the singles division. She has also won four Olympic gold medals, one in women’s singles and three in women’s doubles—an all-time record shared with her sister, Venus. The arrival of the Williams sisters has been credited with ushering in a new era of power and athleticism on the women’s professional tennis tour. She is ranked at No. 7 in the world by the WTA as of February 22, 2021. Earning almost $29 million in prize money and endorsements, Williams was the highest paid female athlete in 2016. She repeated this feat in 2017 when she was the only woman on Forbes’ list of the 100 highest paid athletes with $27 million in prize money and endorsements. She has won the ‘Laureus Sportswoman of the Year’ award four times (2003, 2010, 2016, 2018), and in December 2015, she was named Sportsperson of the Year by Sports Illustrated magazine. In 2019, she was ranked 63rd in Forbes’ World’s Highest-Paid Athletes list.Today in our History – September 26, 1981 – Serena Jameka Williams was born.One of the world’s greatest tennis players, Serena Jameka Williams was born on September 26, 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan. Williams storybook tennis career evolves into more dominance of the sport with each passing chapter.She made history as on September 11, 1999, when as a young seventeen-year-old, she became the second African American woman to win the US Open, following the historic Althea Gibson who won the US Open in 1957 and 1958. She and her older sister Venus Williams have been leaders in the sport during the 21st century.Serena and her sister Venus have represented the United States well in the Olympic Games, winning more gold medals than any other women in tennis. 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 an American actor and filmmaker. He portrayed Andy on TV’s The Amos ‘n’ Andy Show and directed films including the 1941 race film The Blood of Jesus. He was a pioneering African-American film producer and director.Today in our History – September 25, 1991 – Spencer Williams’s 1942 – movie Blood of Jesus is among the third group of 25 films added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry.Williams (who was sometimes billed as Spencer Williams Jr.) was born in Vidalia, Louisiana, where the family lived on Magnolia Street. As a youngster, he attended Wards Academy in Natchez, Mississippi. He moved to New York City when he was a teenager and secured work as call boy for the theatrical impresario Oscar Hammerstein. During this period, he received mentoring as a comedian from the African American vaudeville star Bert Williams. Williams studied at the University of Minnesota and served in the U.S. Army during and after World War I, rising to the rank of sergeant major. During his military service, Williams traveled the world, serving as General Pershing’s bugler while in Mexico before he was promoted to camp sergeant major. In 1917, Williams was sent to France to do intelligence work there. After World War I, Williams continued his military career; he was part of a unit whose job was to create war plans for the Southwestern United States, in case they might ever be needed. He arrived in Hollywood in 1923 and his involvement with films began by assisting with works by Octavus Roy Cohen. Williams snagged bit roles in motion pictures, including a part in the 1928 Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr. He found steady work after arriving in California apart from a short period in 1926 where there were no roles for him; he then went to work as an immigration officer. In 1927, Williams was working for the First National Studio, going on location to Topaz, Arizona to shoot footage for a film called The River. In 1929, Williams was hired by producer Al Christie to create the dialogue for a series of two-reel comedy films with all-black casts. Williams gained the trust of Christie and was eventually appointed the responsibility to create The Melancholy Dame. This film is considered the first black talkie. The films, which played on racial stereotypes and used grammatically tortured dialogue, included The Framing of the Shrew, The Lady Fare, Melancholy Dame, (first Paramount all African-American cast “talkie”), Music Hath Charms, and Oft in the Silly Night. Williams wore many hats at Christie’s; he was a sound technician, wrote many of the scripts and was assistant director for many of the films. He was also hired to cast African-Americans for Gloria Swanson’s Queen Kelly (1928) and produced the silent film Hot Biskits, which he wrote and directed, in the same year. Williams also did some work for Columbia as the supervisor of their Africa Speaks recordings. Williams was also active in theater productions, taking a role in the all African-American version of Lulu Belle in 1929. Due to the pressures of the depression coupled with the lowering demand for black short films, Williams and Christie separated ways. Williams struggled for employment during the years of the Depression and would only occasionally be cast in small roles. Movies included a brief appearance in Warner Bros.’ gangster film The Public Enemy (1931) in which he was uncredited. By 1931, Williams and a partner had founded their own movie and newsreel company called the Lincoln Talking Pictures Company. The company was self-financed. Williams, who had experience in sound technology, built the equipment, including a sound truck, for his new venture. During the 1930s, Williams secured small roles in race films, a genre of low-budget, independently-produced films with all-black casts that were created solely for exhibition in racially segregated theaters. Williams also created two screenplays for race film production: the Western film Harlem Rides the Range and the horror-comedy Son of Ingagi, both released in 1939. After a three-year hiatus from show business during the Great Depression, Williams began finding work again. He was cast in Jed Buell’s Black westerns between the years of 1938 and 1940. He played character roles in such black westerns as Harlem on the Prairie (1937), Two-Gun Man from Harlem (1938), The Bronze Buckaroo (1939), and Harlem Rides the Range (1939). Buell’s idea to hire Williams revolved around his ability to captivate the audience with his showmanship. Williams’ involvement in these films gave him a valuable learning experience in the black film genre. Although these films were considered to be crude films in their creation, Williams got the opportunity to start directing here and there even though his control was scarce. Alfred N. Sack, whose San Antonio, later Dallas, Texas based company Sack Amusement Enterprises produced and distributed race films, was impressed with Williams’ screenplay for Son of Ingagi and offered him the opportunity to write and direct a feature film. At that time, the only African American filmmaker was the self-financing writer/director/producer Oscar Micheaux.Besides being a film production company, Sack also had interests in movie theaters. He had more than one name for his ventures; they were also known as Sack Attractions and Harlemwood Studios. Sack produced films under all of his company’s various names. With his own film projector, Williams began traveling in the southern US, showing his films to audiences there. During this time, he met William H. Kier, who was also traveling the same circuit showing films. The two formed a partnership and produced some motion pictures, training films for the Army Air Forces, as well as a film for the Catholic diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Williams’s resulting film, The Blood of Jesus (1941), was produced by his own company, Amegro, on a $5,000 budget using non-professional actors for his cast. It was the first film he directed and Williams also wrote the screenplay. A religious fantasy about the struggle for a dying’ Christian woman’s soul, the film was a major commercial success. Sack declared The Blood of Jesus was “possibly the most successful” race film ever made, and Williams was invited to direct additional films for Sack Amusement Enterprises.There were problems that the producers faced with the technical aspects of the film. Despite these issues, Williams used his expertise to help with the camera, special effects and symbolism. The themes that he used in the film helped the film receive praise. Religious themes, including Protestantism and Southern Baptist, helped underpin the narrative. Despite the success that The Blood of Jesus enjoyed, Williams’s next film was considered an epic failure and seen by few. The attempt to create a wartime drama resulted in the film Marching On! (1943). Set with World War II as the backdrop, the film was badly made and was left in the shadow of the Army financed film The Negro Soldier (1944). Most of the narrative seen in Marching On was influenced by William’s own time in the army during World War I. Due to an uneven and uninteresting plot the film was seen as a dud and was unable to garner the social acknowledgment that Williams had hoped it would receive. Williams’s next film, Go Down Death (1944), is considered to be on par with The Blood of Jesus as the best overall primitive film that Williams made. Just like that movie, Williams directed, wrote the screenplay, and acted in the film. He gained inspiration for the story of the screenplay from the fable of the same name, written by the poet James Weldon Johnson. The years after his most successful films and the years preceding his mainstream success with Amos ‘n’ Andy found Williams in another career rut. Rather than continuing to make film in his primitive format, he began to try to follow mainstream Hollywood conventions. Williams’s attempts to conform in the film industry actually began to bog down his stories and his otherwise original films.In the next six years, Williams directed Brother Martin: Servant of Jesus (1942), Marching On! (1943), Go Down Death (1944), Of One Blood (1944), Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. (1946), The Girl in Room 20 (1946), Beale Street Mama (1947) and Juke Joint (1947). After working ten years in Dallas, Williams returned to Hollywood in 1950. Following the production of Juke Joint, Williams relocated to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he joined Amos T. Hall in founding the American Prior to his involvement with Amos ‘n’ Andy, Williams was immensely popular among the African-American audiences. U.S. radio comedians Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, who cast Williams as Andy, were able to claim that they were the ones who found Williams and gave him the chance to be seen in the limelight because he was virtually unknown amongst the white audience. In 1948, Gosden and Correll were planning to take their long-running comedy program Amos ‘n Andy to television. The program focused on the misadventures of a group of African Americans in the Harlem section of New York City. Gosden and Correll were white, but played the black lead characters using racially stereotypical speech patterns. They had previously played the roles in blackface make-up for the 1930 film Check and Double Check, but the television version used an African American cast. Gosden and Correll conducted an extensive national talent search to cast the television version of Amos ‘n Andy. News of the search reached Tulsa, where Williams was sought out by a local radio station that was aware of his previous work in race films. A Catholic priest, who was a radio listener and a friend, was the key to the whereabouts of Williams. He was working in Tulsa as the head of a vocational school for veterans when the casting call went out. Williams successfully auditioned for Gosden and Correll, and he was cast as Andrew H. Brown. Williams was joined in the cast by New York theater actor Alvin Childress, who was cast as Amos, and vaudeville comedian Tim Moore, who was cast as their friend George “Kingfish” Stevens. When Williams accepted the role of Andy, he returned to a familiar location; the CBS studios were built on the former site of the Christie Studios. Until Amos ‘n’ Andy, Williams had never worked in television. Amos ‘n Andy was the first U.S. television program with an all-black cast, running for 78 episodes on CBS from 1951 to 1953. However, the program created considerable controversy, with the NAACP going to federal court to achieve an injunction to halt its premiere. In August 1953, after the program had recently left the air, there were plans to turn it into a vaudeville act with Williams, Moore and Childress reprising their television roles. It is not known if there were any performances. After the show completed its network run, CBS syndicated Amos ‘n Andy to local U.S. television stations and sold the program to television networks in other countries. The program was eventually pulled from release in 1966, under pressure from civil rights groups that stated it offered a negatively distorted view of African American life. The show would not be seen on nationwide television again until 2012. While the show was still in production, Williams and Freeman Gosden clashed over the portrayal of Andy, with Gosden telling Williams he knew how Amos ‘n’ Andy were meant to talk. Gosden never visited the set again. Williams, along with television show cast members Tim Moore, Alvin Childress, and Lillian Randolph and her choir, began a US tour as “The TV Stars of Amos ‘n’ Andy” in 1956. CBS considered this a violation of their exclusivity rights for the show and its characters; the tour came to a premature end. Williams, Moore, Childress and Johnny Lee, performed a one-night show in Windsor, Ontario in 1957, apparently without any legal action being taken. Williams returned to work in stage productions. In 1958, he had a role in the Los Angeles production of Simply Heavenly; the play had a successful New York run. His last credited role was as a hospital orderly in the 1962 Italian horror production L’Orribile Segreto del Dottor Hitchcock. After his failed attempts to find success in the film industry once again, Williams decided to fully retire and began to live off of his pension that he was receiving from his time with the US Military. Williams died of a kidney ailment on December 13, 1969, at the Sawtelle Veterans Administration Hospital in Los Angeles, California. He was survived by his wife, Eula. At the time of his death, news coverage focused solely on his work as a television actor, since few white filmgoers knew of his race films. The New York Times obituary for Williams cited Amos ‘n Andy but made no mention of his work as a film director. A World War I veteran, he is buried at Los Angeles National Cemetery. When friends and family from Vidalia, Louisiana were interviewed for a local newspaper article in 2001, he was remembered as a happy person, who was always singing or whistling and telling jokes. His younger cousins also recalled his generosity with them for “candy money”; just as he was seen on television as Andy, he always had his cigar. On March 31, 2010, the state of Louisiana voted to honor Williams and musician Will Haney, also from Vidalia, in a celebration on May 22 of that year. Despite his contribution as a pioneer in black American film of the 1930s and the 1940s, Williams was almost completely forgotten after his death. While even to this day his legacy doesn’t enjoy the same recognition and praise that other black film pioneers such as Oscar Micheaux, in his time, Williams was considered one of the few successful black Americans involved in the film industry during this period. Recognition for Williams’ work as a film director came years after his death, when film historians began to rediscover the race films. Some of Williams’ films were considered lost until they were located in a Tyler, Texas, warehouse in 1983. One film directed by Williams, his 1942 feature Brother Martin: Servant of Jesus, is still considered lost. There were seven films in total; they were originally shown at small gatherings throughout the South. Most film historians consider The Blood of Jesus to be Williams’ crowning achievement as a filmmaker. Dave Kehr of The New York Times called the film “magnificent” and Time magazine counted it among its “25 Most Important Films on Race.” In 1991, The Blood of Jesus became the first race film to be added to the U.S. National Film Registry. Film critic Armond White named both The Blood of Jesus and Go Down Death as being “among the most spiritually adventurous movies ever made. They conveyed the moral crisis of the urban/country, blues/spiritual musical dichotomies through their documentary style and fable-like narratives.” However, Williams’ films have also been the subject of criticism. Richard Corliss, writing in Time magazine, stated: “Aesthetically, much of Williams’ work vacillates between inert and abysmal. The rural comedy of Juke Joint is logy, as if the heat had gotten to the movie; even the musical scenes, featuring North Texas jazzman Red Calhoun, move at the turtle tempo of Hollywood’s favorite black of the period, Stepin Fetchit. And there were technical gaffes galore: in a late-night scene in Dirty Gertie, actress Francine Everett clicks on a bedside lamp and the screen actually darkens for a moment before full lights finally come up. Yet at least one Williams film, his debut Blood of Jesus (1941), has a naive grandeur to match its subject.” It should also be realized that Williams often worked on a very meager budget. The Blood of Jesus was filmed for a cost of $5,000; most black films of that era had budgets of double and triple that amount. Williams began writing a book about his 55 years in show business in 1959. 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 an attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is most notably known for defending the survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. He was also father to the venerable civil rights advocate and historian John Hope Franklin.Today in our History – September 24, 1960 – Buck Franklin (May 6, 1879 – September 24, 1960) died.Buck Franklin was an attorney in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who is most notably known for defending the survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. He was also father to the venerable civil rights advocate and historian John Hope Franklin.Franklin was born the seventh of ten on May 6, 1879, near the town of Homer in Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory (currently Oklahoma). He was named Buck in honor of his grandfather who had been a slave and purchased the freedom of his family and himself. There is speculation that the true origins of the Franklins’ freedom came when Buck Franklin’s father, David Franklin, escaped from his plantation and changed his name early in the Civil War.Practicing law as a young man in the predominantly white town of Ardmore, Oklahoma, he faced racial prejudice and saw major flaws in the white judicial system. In one instance, he was literally silenced in a Louisiana courtroom because of his race. In response to this, he decided to focus on practicing law within African American communities and moved to the all-black town of Rentiesville, Oklahoma, where he would marry Mollie Parker Franklin and start his own family in 1915. Franklin later moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his family in 1921.In Tulsa, during 1921, racial tensions were extremely high. The town had one of the most affluent black communities in the nation—the Greenwood District, also known as ‘Black Wall Street’ which created a sharp divide between blacks and whites. In May of 1921, a young black man named Dick Rowland was in an elevator with a white woman named Sarah Page. It was alleged that he attempted to assault her, and he was promptly arrested. There was an altercation between a group of black and white people at the courthouse which, in the next twenty-four hours, would escalate to a massive one-day race riot that left approximately three hundred dead, much of the black population imprisoned, and the Greenwood District in ruins. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies and make it a champion day!Franklin and his family had managed to survive the riot. The Tulsa City Council, however, in the aftermath of the carnage, passed an ordinance that prevented the black people of Tulsa from rebuilding their community. The city planned instead to rezone the area from a residential to a commercial district. Franklin led the legal battle against this ordinance and sued the city of Tulsa before the Oklahoma Supreme Court, where he won. As a consequence, black Tulsa residents could and did begin the reconstruction of their nearly destroyed community.Franklin went on to write his own autobiography but would pass away on September 24, 1960, in Oklahoma, unable to see its final publication. Of his four children, John Hope Franklin would become a prominent historian and black intellectual of this time period. He contributed to the Brown v. Board of Education case and participated in the 1965 march for voting rights in Selma, Alabama. John Hope Franklin and his son would finalize B.C. Franklin’s autobiography, My Life and an Era: The Autobiography of Buck Colbert Franklin. 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 an American professional baseball outfielder. He began his 19-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career with the 1961 Chicago Cubs but spent the majority of his big league career as a left fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985 and the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame in 2014. He was a special instructor coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.He was best known for his base stealing, breaking Ty Cobb’s all-time major league career steals record and Maury Wills’s single-season record. He was an All-Star for six seasons and a National League (NL) stolen base leader for eight seasons. He led the NL in doubles and triples in 1968. He also led the NL in singles in 1972, and was the runner-up for the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1974.Today in our History – September 23, 1979 – Louis Clark Brock (June 18, 1939 – September 6, 2020) stole a record of 935 bases and became the all-time major league record holder.If it’s been said once, it’s been said a million times. The Cardinals’ acquisition of outfielder Lou Brock from the Chicago Cubs on June 15, 1964, ranks as perhaps the greatest steal in baseball history. St. Louis traded pitchers Ernie Broglio and Bobby Shantz and outfielder Doug Clemens in exchange for Brock and pitchers Jack Spring and Paul Toth.Over the course of his career with the Cardinals, Brock established himself as the most prolific base stealer in baseball history to that time. His 938 stolen bases stood as the major league record until Rickey Henderson bettered the mark in 1991. Brock’s total remains the National League standard, and he holds the major league record with 12 seasons of 50 or more steals.Brock led the N.L. in thefts on eight occasions (1966 to 1969 and 1971 to 1974). He set the season record with 118 in 1974, bettering the mark of 104 by Maury Wills during the 1962 campaign. In 1978, the N.L. announced that its annual stolen base leader would receive the Lou Brock Award, making Brock the first active player to have an award named after him.But Brock was more than a base burglar. He was a career .293 batter with 3,023 hits. Seven times he batted at a .300 or better clip. In 1967, Brock slugged 21 home runs and had 76 RBI from the leadoff spot. He also had 52 stolen bases to become the first player in baseball history with 20 homers and 50 steals.The following year, Brock topped the N.L. in doubles (46), triples (14) and stolen bases (62), the first player in the Senior Circuit to do so since Honus Wagner of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1908. Brock joined the 3,000-hit club Aug. 13, 1979, with a fourth-inning single off Dennis Lamp of the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium.Brock paid immediate dividends in St. Louis, batting .348 for the balance of the 1964 season and propelling the Cardinals from eighth place in the N.L. to a World Championship over the New York Yankees. The Cardinals won the World Series again in 1967 over the Boston Red Sox and were N.L. champions in 1968. Brock was at his best in postseason play.His .391 career batting average (34-for-87) is a World Series record, while his 14 stolen bases are tied for the most all time with Eddie Collins of the Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Sox.On the Cardinals’ career lists, Brock ranks first in stolen bases (888 – Vince Coleman is second with 549); second in games (2,289), at-bats (9,125), runs (1,427), hits (2,713), doubles (434) and total bases (3,776); fourth in triples (121); fifth in walks (681); and eighth in RBI (814). He was a six-time N.L. All-Star.Brock has remained active in baseball since retiring as a player following the 1979 season. He worked in the Cardinals’ broadcast booth from 1981 to 1984; was a baserunning consultant for the Minnesota Twins in 1987,Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988 and Montreal Expos in 1993; and has served as a special instructor for the Cardinals (baserunning and outfield play) since 1995. He was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in 1985. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an African-American artist and teacher who lived and worked in Washington, D.C., and is now recognized as a major American painter of the 20th century.Thomas is best known for the “exuberant”, colorful, abstract paintings that she created after her retirement from a 35-year career teaching art at Washington’s Shaw Junior High School.Thomas, who is often considered a member of the Washington Color School of artists but alternatively classified by some as an Expressionist, was the first graduate of Howard University’s Art department, and maintained connections to that university through her life.She achieved success as an African-American female artist despite the segregation and prejudice of her time.Thomas’s reputation has continued to grow since her death. Her paintings are displayed in notable museums and collections, and they have been the subject of several books and solo museum exhibitions. In 2019, Thomas’s 1970 painting, A Fantastic Sunset, sold at a Christie’s auction for $2.6 million.Today in our History – September 22, 1891 – Alma Woodsey Thomas was born.During the 1960s Alma Thomas emerged as an exuberant colorist, abstracting shapes and patterns from the trees and flowers around her. Her new palette and technique—considerably lighter and looser than in her earlier representational works and dark abstractions—reflected her long study of color theory and the watercolor medium.Red Sunset, Old Pond Concerto [SAAM, 1977.48.5] emphasizes the intensity of a sunset as it overtakes a landscape, penetrating layers of greenery to strike darkening water. Broken rows of color pats, a hallmark of her mature style, alternate with emphatic vertical bands.Their irregular intervals create a visual rhythm akin to music, while dappled reds, greens, and blue-blacks orchestrate subtle nuances and dramatic contrasts. Thomas frequently talked about “watching the leaves and flowers tossing in the wind as though they were singing and dancing.” She also liked to imagine seeing natural forms from a plane. Her lyrical interpretation of a pond at sunset suggests a blending of these two perspectives.As a black woman artist, Thomas encountered many barriers; she did not, however, turn to racial or feminist issues in her art, believing rather that the creative spirit is independent of race or gender. In Washington, D.C., where she lived and worked after 1921, Thomas became identified with Morris Louis, Gene Davis, and other Color Field painters active in the area since the 1950s. Like them, she explored the power of color and form in luminous, contemplative paintings.Lynda Roscoe Hartigan African-American Art: 19th and 20th-Century Selections (brochure. Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Art)”Man’s highest aspirations come from nature. A world without color would seem dead. Color is life. Light is the mother of color. Light reveals to us the spirit and living soul of the world through colors.”—Press Release, Columbus Museum of Arts and Sciences, 1982, for an exhibition entitled A Life in Art: Alma Thomas 1891–1978, Vertical File, Library, National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.Alma Thomas began to paint seriously in 1960, when she retired from her thirty-eight year career as an art teacher in the public schools of Washington, D.C. In the years that followed she would come to be regarded as a major painter of the Washington Color Field School.Born on September 22, 1891, in Columbus, Georgia, Thomas was the eldest of four daughters. Her father worked in a church and her mother was a seamstress and homemaker. Thomas’s family was well respected in Columbus, and she and her sisters grew up in comfortable surroundings. The family lived in a large Victorian house high on a hill overlooking the town where Thomas spent her childhood observing the beauty and color of nature. In 1907, when Thomas was fifteen years old, her father moved the family to Washington, D.C. She enrolled in Howard University, and in 1924 became the first graduate of its newly formed art department. Thomas’s teacher and mentor, James V. Herring, granted her use of his private art library, from which she gained a thorough background in art history. A decade later, she earned a Master of Arts degree in education from Columbia University.During the 1950s Thomas attended art classes at American University in Washington. She studied painting under Joe Summerford, Robert Gates, and Jacob Kainen, and developed an interest in color and abstract art. Throughout her teaching career she painted and exhibited academic still lifes and realistic paintings in group shows of African-American artists. Although her paintings were competent, they were never singled out for individual recognition.Suffering from the pain of arthritis at the time of her retirement, she considered giving up painting. When Howard University offered to mount a retrospective of her work in 1966, however, she wanted to produce something new. From the window of her house she enjoyed watching the ever-changing patterns that light created on her trees and flower garden. So inspired, her new paintings passed through an expressionist period, followed by an abstract one, to finally a nonobjective phase.Many of Thomas’s late-career paintings were watercolors in which bold splashes of color and large areas of white paper combine to create remarkably fresh effects, often accented with brush strokes of India ink.Although Thomas progressed to painting in acrylics on large canvases, she continued to produce many watercolors that were studies for her paintings. Thomas’s personalized mature style consisted of broad, mosaic-like patches of vibrant color applied in concentric circles or vertical stripes. Color was the basis of her painting, undeniably reflecting her life-long study of color theory as well as the influence of luminous, elegant abstract works by Washington-based Color Field painters such as Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Gene Davis.Thomas was in her eighth decade of life when she produced her most important works. Earliest to win acclaim was her series of Earth paintings—pure color abstractions of concentric circles that often suggest target paintings and stripes. Done in the late 1960s, these works bear references to rows and borders of flowers inspired by Washington’s famed azaleas and cherry blossoms. The titles of her paintings often reflect this influence. In these canvases, brilliant shades of green, pale and deep blue, violet, deep red, light red, orange, and yellow are offset by white areas of untouched raw canvas, suggesting jewel-like Byzantine mosaics.Man’s landing on the moon in 1969 exerted a profound influence on Thomas, and provided the theme for her second major group of paintings. In 1969 she began the Space or Snoopy series so named because “Snoopy” was a term astronauts used to describe a space vehicle used on the moon’s surface. Like the Earth series these paintings also evoke mood through color, yet several allude to more than a color reference. In Snoopy Sees a Sunrise of 1970, she placed a circular form within the mosaic patch of colors and accented it with curved bands of light colors. Blast Off depicts an elongated triangular arrangement of dark blue patches rising dramatically and evocatively against a background of pale pinks and oranges. The majority of Thomas’s Space paintings are large sparkling works with implied movement achieved through floating patterns of broken colors against a white background.In her last paintings, Thomas employed her characteristic short bars of color and impasto technique. The tones, however, became more subdued, and the formerly vertical and horizontal accents of Thomas’s brush strokes became more diverse in movement, and included diagonals, diamond shapes, and asymmetrical surface patterns. During the artist’s final years, the crippling effects of arthritis prevented her from painting as often as she wanted.Alma Thomas never married, and lived in the same house her father bought in downtown Washington in 1907. The final years of her life brought awards and recognition. In 1972 she was honored with one-woman exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art; that same year one of her paintings was selected for the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Before her death in 1978, Thomas had achieved national recognition as a major woman artist devoted to abstract painting. 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 French writer, poet, philosopher, and literary critic from Martinique. He is widely recognised as one of the most influential figures in Caribbean thought and cultural commentary and Francophone literature.Today in our History – September 21, 1928 – Edouard Glissant (21 September 1928 – 3 February 2011) was born.Édouard Glissant was born in Sainte-Marie, Martinique. He studied at the Lycée Schœlcher, named after the abolitionist Victor Schœlcher, where the poet Aimé Césaire had studied and to which he returned as a teacher. Césaire had met Léon Damas there; later in Paris, France, they would join with Léopold Senghor, a poet and the future first president of Senegal, to formulate and promote the concept of negritude. Césaire did not teach Glissant, but did serve as an inspiration to him (although Glissant sharply criticized many aspects of his philosophy); another student at the school at that time was Frantz Fanon.Glissant left Martinique in 1946 for Paris, where he received his PhD, having studied ethnography at the Musée de l’Homme and History and philosophy at the Sorbonne. He established, with Paul Niger, the separatist Front Antillo-Guyanais pour l’Autonomie party in 1959, as a result of which Charles de Gaulle barred him from leaving France between 1961 and 1965. He returned to Martinique in 1965 and founded the Institut martiniquais d’études, as well as Acoma, a social sciences publication. Glissant divided his time among Martinique, Paris and New York; since 1995, he was Distinguished Professor of French at the CUNY Graduate Center. Before his tenure at CUNY Graduate Center, he was a professor at Louisiana State University in the Department of French and Francophone Studies from 1988 to 1993. In January 2006, Glissant was asked by Jacques Chirac to take on the presidency of a new cultural centre devoted to the history of slave trade.Shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in 1992, when Derek Walcott emerged as the recipient, Glissant was the pre-eminent critic of the Négritude school of Caribbean writing and father-figure for the subsequent Créolité group of writers that includes Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphaël Confiant. While Glissant’s first novel portrays the political climate in 1940s Martinique, through the story of a group of young revolutionaries, his subsequent work focuses on questions of language, identity, space, history, and knowledge and knowledge production.For example, in his text Poetics of Relation, Glissant explores the concept of opacity, which is the lack of transparency, the untransability, the unknowability. And for this reason, opacity has the radical potentiality for social movements to challenge and subvert systems of domination. Glissant demands the “right to opacity,” indicating the oppressed—which have historically been constructed as the Other—can and should be allowed to be opaque, to not be completely understood, and to simply exist as different. The colonizer perceived the colonized as different and unable to be understood, thereby constructing the latter as the Other and demanding transparency so that the former could somehow fit them into their cognitive schema and so that they could dominate them. However, Glissant rejects this transparency and defends opacity and difference because other modes of understanding do exist. That is, Glissant calls for understanding and accepting difference without measuring that difference to an “ideal scale” and comparing and making judgements, “without creating a hierarchy”—as Western thought has done.In the excerpt from Poetics of Relation, “The Open Boat”, Glissant’s imagery was particularly compelling when describing the slave experience and the linkage between a slave and the homeland and the slave and the unknown. This poem paralleled Dionne Brand’s book in calling the “Door of No Return” an Infinite Abyss. This image conveys emptiness sparked by unknown identity as it feels deep and endless. “The Open Boat” also discussed the phenomenon of “falling into the belly of the whale” which elicits many references and meanings. This image parallels the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale, realizing the gravity of biblical references as the Bible was used as justification for slavery. More literally, Glissant related the boat to a whale as it “devoured your existence”. As each word a poet chooses is specifically chosen to aid in furthering the meaning of the poem, the word “Falling” implies an unintentional and undesirable action. This lends to the experience of the slaves on the ship as they were confined to an overcrowded, filthy, and diseased existence among other slaves, all there against their will. All of Glissant’s primary images in this poem elicit the feeling of endlessness, misfortune, and ambiguity, which were arguably the future existence of the slaves on ships to “unknown land”.Slave ships did not prioritize the preservation of cultural or individual history or roots, but rather only documented the exchange rates for the individuals on the ship, rendering slaves mere possessions and their histories part of the abyss. This poem also highlights an arguable communal feeling through shared relationship to the abyss of personal identity. As the boat is the vessel that permits the transport of known to unknown, all share the loss of sense of self with one another. The poem also depicts the worthlessness of slaves as they were expelled from their “womb” when they no longer required “protection” or transport from within it. Upon losing exchange value, slaves were expelled overboard, into the abyss of the sea, into another unknown, far from their origins or known land.This “relation” that Glissant discusses through his critical work conveys a “shared knowledge”. Referring back to the purpose of slaves—means of monetary and property exchange—Glissant asserts that the primary exchange value is in the ability to transport knowledge from one space or person to another—to establish a connection between what is known and unknown.Glissant’s development of the notion of antillanité seeks to root Caribbean identity firmly within “the Other America” and springs from a critique of identity in previous schools of writing, specifically the work of Aimé Césaire, which looked to Africa for its principal source of identification. Glissant is notable for his attempt to trace parallels between the history and culture of the Creole Caribbean and those of Latin America and the plantation culture of the American south, most obviously in his study of William Faulkner. Generally speaking, Glissant’s thinking seeks to interrogate notions of centre, origin and linearity, embodied in his distinction between atavistic and composite cultures, which has influenced subsequent Martinican writers’ trumpeting of hybridity as the bedrock of Caribbean identity and their “creolised” approach to textuality. As such, he is both a key (though underrated) figure in postcolonial literature and criticism, but also he often pointed out that he was close to two French philosophers, Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, and their theory of the rhizome.Glissant died in Paris, France, on 3 Februay 2011, at the age of 82. 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 s an American actress, producer, and political activist. She has been named one of the most versatile and accomplished actors of her generation. She has been nominated for an Academy Award, two Grammy Awards, and eighteen Emmy Awards (winning four); additionally, she received a Golden Globe Award and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. In 2020, The New York Times ranked Woodard seventeenth on its list of “The 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century”. She is also known for her work as a political activist and producer. Woodard is a founder of Artists for a New South Africa, an organization devoted to advancing democracy and equality in that country. She is a board member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Today in our History – September 20, 1987 – Alfre Woodard wins her second Emmy for outstanding guest performance in the dramatic series L.A. Law. (1987).Woodard began her acting career in theater. After her breakthrough role in the Off-Broadway play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf (1977), she made her film debut in Remember My Name (1978). In 1983, she won major critical praise and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Cross Creek. In the same year, Woodard won her first Primetime Emmy Award for her performance in the NBC drama series Hill Street Blues. Later in the 1980s, Woodard had leading Emmy Award-nominated performances in a number of made for television movies, and another Emmy-winning role as a woman dying of leukemia in the pilot episode of L.A. Law. She also starred as Dr. Roxanne Turner in the NBC medical drama St. Elsewhere, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 1986, and for Guest Actress in 1988.In the 1990s, Woodard starred in films such as Grand Canyon (1991), Heart and Souls (1993), Crooklyn (1994), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), Primal Fear (1996), and Star Trek: First Contact (1996). She also drew critical praise for her performances in the independent dramas Passion Fish (1992), for which she won an Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as Down in the Delta (1998). For her lead role in the HBO film Miss Evers’ Boys (1997), Woodard won Golden Globe, Emmy, Screen Actors Guild, and several other awards. In later years, she has appeared in several blockbusters, like K-PAX (2001), The Core (2003), and The Forgotten (2004), starred in independent films and won her fourth Emmy Award for The Practice in 2003.From 2005 to 2006, Woodard starred as Betty Applewhite in the ABC comedy-drama series Desperate Housewives and later starred in several short-lived series. She appeared in the critically acclaimed films 12 Years a Slave (2013), Juanita (2019), Clemency (2019, for which she was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role) as well as the box office hits Annabelle (2014), and Captain America: Civil War (2016), and the remake of The Lion King (2019).Woodard was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma to Constance, a homemaker, and Marion H. Woodard, an entrepreneur and interior designer. She is the youngest of three children. Woodard attended Bishop Kelley High School, a private Catholic school in Tulsa, graduating from there in 1970. She studied drama at Boston University, from which she graduated. Woodard made her professional theater debut in 1974 on Washington, D.C.’s Arena Stage. In 1976, she moved to Los Angeles, California. She later said, “When I came to L.A., people told me there were no film roles for black actors. I’m not a fool. I know that. But I was always confident that I knew my craft.”Her breakthrough role was in the Off-Broadway play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf in 1977. The next year, Woodard made her film debut in Remember My Name, a thriller written and directed by Alan Rudolph. In the same year, she had a leading role in The Trial of the Moke, a Great Performances television movie co-starring Samuel L. Jackson.In the 1990s, Woodard also continued her work in television, earning considerable acclaim for her performances. For The Piano Lesson (1995), a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, she won her first Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie, as well as being nominated for another Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie. In the next year, she received a Primetime Emmy nomination for her performance as the Queen in the critically acclaimed Hallmark miniseries, Gulliver’s Travels, based on the classic Jonathan Swift novel. In 1997, she had the leading roles in both The Member of the Wedding (based on the novel by Carson McCullers) and Miss Evers’ Boys (on HBO). Her performance as the title character in the latter film, as a nurse who consoled many of the subjects of the notorious 1930s Tuskeegee Study of Untreated Blacks with Syphilis, earned widespread critical acclaim, sweeping all television awards in the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie category, including Primetime Emmy (besting nominees Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Glenn Close, and Stockard Channing), Golden Globe, Satellite, NAACP, CableACE, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. In the 2000s, Woodard’s film career showcased her versatility in a range of genres, including the ensemble comedy-drama What’s Cooking? (2000), the romantic drama Love & Basketball (2000) as the lead character’s mother, science fiction films K-PAX (2001), The Core (2003), and The Forgotten (2004), the biographical drama Radio (2003), comedies The Singing Detective (2003) and Beauty Shop (2005), the romantic drama Something New (2006), and the dance-musical Take the Lead (2006). Woodard also was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance as a drug addict in the Holiday Heart (2000). In addition, she performed voice work in a variety of feature and television documentaries, as well as a voice role in Walt Disney’s Dinosaur. The film was a financial success, grossing over $349 million worldwide. Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!