GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was killed during an attack by a group of white men on him and two other black men, in Howard Beach, Queens, New York, United States in a racially charged incident. Two of the black men were severely beaten, including the young man who was killed after being hit by a car as he was chased onto a highway by the mob.The dead youth was originally from Trinidad and had immigrated to the United States in 1973, and lived in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The incident heightened racial tensions in New York City. His death was the second of three infamous racially motivated killings of black men by white mobs in New York City in the 1980s. The other victims were Willie Turks in 1982 and Yusuf Hawkins in 1989.Two days after the event, three local teenagers were arrested, and charged with second-degree murder. On December 21, 1987, they were convicted of manslaughter for the death. In total, nine people were convicted of charges related to the young man’s death.Today in our History – December 21, 1986 – Michael Griffith (March 2, 1963 – December 21, 1986) died.Late on the night of Friday, December 19, 1986, four black men, Michael Griffith, 23; Cedric Sandiford, 36; Curtis Sylvester and Timothy Grimes, both 20, were riding in a car when it broke down on a deserted stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard near the Broad Channel neighborhood of Queens.Three of the men walked about three miles north to seek help in Howard Beach, a mostly white community, while Sylvester remained behind to watch the car. They argued with some white teens who were on their way to a party, then left. By 12:30 a.m. on the 20th, the men reached the New Park Pizzeria, near the intersection of Cross Bay Boulevard and 157th Avenue. After a quick meal the men left the pizzeria at 12:40 a.m. and were confronted by a group of white men, including the group they had earlier confronted. Racial slurs were exchanged and a fight ensued.Sandiford and Griffith were seriously beaten; Grimes escaped unharmed. While trying to evade his attackers, Griffith ran onto a nearby highway where he was accidentally struck and killed by a car driven by a man not involved in the fight. His body was found on the Belt Parkway at 1:03 a.m. Griffith’s death provoked strong outrage and immediate condemnation by then-Mayor of New York City Ed Koch, who referred to the case as the “No. 1 case in the city”. Two days after the event, on December 22, three local teenagers, Jon Lester, Scott Kern, and Jason Ladone, students at John Adams High School, were arrested, and charged with second-degree murder. The driver of the car that struck Griffith, 24-year-old Dominick Blum, was not charged with any crime; a May 1987 grand jury returned no criminal charges against him. The Griffith family, as well as Cedric Sandiford, retained the services of Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, two attorneys who would become involved in the Tawana Brawley affair the following year. Maddox raised the ire of the NYPD and Commissioner Benjamin Ward by accusing them of trying to cover up facts in the case and aid the defendants. After witnesses repeatedly refused to cooperate with Queens D.A. John J. Santucci, Governor of New York Mario Cuomo appointed Charles Hynes special prosecutor to handle the Griffith case on January 13, 1987. The move came after heavy pressure from black leaders on Cuomo to get Santucci, who was seen as too partial to the defendants to prosecute the case effectively, off the case. Twelve defendants were indicted by a grand jury on February 9, 1987, including the original three charged in the case. Their original indictments had been dismissed after the witnesses refused to cooperate in the case.After a lengthy trial and 12 days of jury deliberations, the three main defendants were convicted on December 21, 1987 of manslaughter, a little over a year after the death of Griffith. Kern, Lester and Ladone were convicted of second-degree manslaughter, and Michael Pirone, 18, was acquitted. Ultimately nine people would be convicted on a variety of charges related to Griffith’s death.On January 22, 1988, Jon Lester was sentenced to ten to thirty years’ imprisonment. On February 5, Scott Kern was sentenced to six to eighteen years’ imprisonment, and on February 11, 1988, Jason Ladone received a sentence of five to fifteen years’ imprisonment.In December 1999, the block where Griffith had lived was given the additional name “Michael Griffith Street.” Jason Ladone, then 29, was released from prison in April 2000 after serving 10 years, and later became a city employee. He was arrested again in June 2006, on drug charges. In May 2001, Jon Lester was released and deported to his native England where he studied electrical engineering and started his own business. He died on August 14, 2017 at age 48 of what some suspect was a suicide. He left behind a wife and three children. Scott Kern was released from prison in 2002, the last of the three main perpetrators to be released.In 2005, the Griffith case was brought back to the public’s attention after another racial attack in Howard Beach. A black man, Glenn Moore, was beaten severely with a metal baseball bat by Nicholas Minucci, who was convicted of hate crimes in 2006. The case was revisited yet again by the media, after the death of Michael Sandy, 29, who was beaten and hit by a car after being chased onto the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn, New York, in October 2006. 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 is a Broadway musical, with music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen. Based on the show business aspirations and successes of R&B acts such as The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and others, the musical follows the story of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called “The Dreams”, who become music superstars.Staged with a mostly African-American cast and originally starring Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, Ben Harney, Cleavant Derricks, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Obba Babatundé, the musical opened on December 20, 1981, at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway. The musical was then nominated for 13 Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical, and won six. It was later adapted into a motion picture from DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures in 2006. The film starred Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, and Keith Robinson.Today in our History – December 20, 1981 – Dreamgirls the musical opened on Broadway in New York City at the Imperial Theater.Dreamgirls had its beginnings as a project for Nell Carter. Playwright Tom Eyen and conductor Henry Krieger first worked together on the 1975 musical version of Eyen’s play The Dirtiest Show in Town. Carter appeared in the musical, and her performance inspired Eyen and Krieger to craft a musical about black back-up singers, which was originally called One Night Only and then given the working title of Project #9. Project #9 was workshopped for Joseph Papp; Nell Carter was joined at this time by Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine, who were to play her groupmates. The project was shelved after Carter departed to appear in the soap opera Ryan’s Hope in 1978.A year later, Project #9 was brought back to the table, after catching the interest of Michael Bennett, then in the midst of his success with A Chorus Line. Ralph and Devine returned, and Bennett had Eyen, who was to direct, begin workshopping Big Dreams, as the musical was now known. Joining the cast at this time were Ben Harney, Obba Babatunde, Cleavant Derricks, and twenty-year-old gospel singer Jennifer Holliday as Carter’s replacement (after Carter accepted an offer from NBC to star in Gimme a Break).However, Holliday left the project during the workshopping phase, as she disliked the material and was upset that her character, Effie White, died at the conclusion of the first act. Eyen, Bennett, and Krieger continued to iron out the story and songs. Cheryl Gaines and Phyllis Hyman were both considered as replacements for Holliday.After two mildly successful workshops which included Jenifer Lewis as Effie, Holliday returned to the project, now known as Dreamgirls. However, she found Effie’s role had been reduced significantly in favor of Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Deena character, and Holliday eventually quit the project again.After acquiring funding from music industry mogul David Geffen and fellow co-financiers ABC Entertainment, Metromedia, and the Shubert family, Bennett called Holliday back and agreed to rewrite the show’s second act and build up her character. Gender and racial issues are represented in Dreamgirls being a black-cast musical with three female lead roles. Being set in the 1960s, the Black Power Movement was influential on the story line with black artists starting to succeed in the music industry and black music becoming accessible to all audiences, which is a representation of racial boundaries being broken down.The story is based on three women working their way up in the music industry to achieve their dreams while the most powerful people in the industry are men. In the end, the women stand up for their rights and become influential figures.Dreamgirls premiered on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on December 20, 1981, and closed on August 11, 1985, after 1,521 performances. The production was directed by Michael Bennett, produced by Bennett, Bob Avian, Geffen Records, and The Shubert Organization, and choreographed by Bennett and Michael Peters. It starred Sheryl Lee Ralph as Deena Jones, Jennifer Holliday as Effie White, Loretta Devine as Lorrell Robinson, Ben Harney as Curtis Taylor, Jr., Cleavant Derricks as James “Thunder” Early, and Obba Babatundé as C. C. White. Dreamgirls proved to be a star-making vehicle for several of its performers, particularly Holliday, whose performance as Effie received significant praise.Holliday’s recording of Effie’s solo “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” was a #1 single on the Billboard R&B charts in 1982. For the Dreamgirls original cast recording, the producers decided to present the complex musical sequences as individual songs, cutting approximately half of the score. The cast recording won two Grammy awards, Best Musical Album and Best Vocal Performance for Jennifer Holliday’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”.Bennett took Dreamgirls on an abbreviated national tour in 1983, with Jennifer Holliday remaining as Effie, with Larry Riley, Linda Leilani Brown, Arnetia Walker, Lawrence Clayton, and Cleavant Derricks’ twin brother Clinton Derricks-Carroll as her co-stars. Because of high costs, only three cities were played before the road production was dissolved.A second tour began in 1985, with Sharon Brown as Effie. By 1987, Lillias White, Jennifer Holliday’s original understudy, had taken over the role. The tour ended with a Broadway revival at the Ambassador Theatre, which ran from June 28, 1987 to November 29, 1987, and was nominated for the 1988 Tony Award, Best Revival. By this time, Michael Bennett had fallen ill due to AIDS-related complications, and he died on July 2, 1987.A US tour began in 1997 with direction and choreography by Tony Stevens, based on the original direction and choreography by Michael Bennett. The tour was set to open on Broadway in July 1998, however it ultimately closed in Upstate New York while waiting for a Broadway theatre to become available. In 2004, another national tour began starring American Idol contestant Frenchie Davis, who gained praise for her role as Effie.Another US tour began at the Apollo Theater, New York City in November 2009, with direction and choreography by Robert Longbottom, new scenic design by the original set designer Robin Wagner, and new costume designs by William Ivey Long. American Idol alum Syesha Mercado starred as Deena, with Adrienne Warren as Lorrell, Moya Angela as Effie, Chester Gregory as Jimmy, and Chaz Lamar Shepherd as Curtis. This production included a new song for Deena and the Dreams at the top of Act II (“What Love Can Do”), as well as the song “Listen” from the film, which was re-written as a duet between Deena and Effie. In 2011 the creative team took the production to Montecasino, South Africa with a local cast, however it closed early and a planned (what?) never eventuated.In 2001 a concert performance of the show was staged on Broadway at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts starring Lillias White as Effie, Audra McDonald as Deena, Heather Headley as Lorrelle, Billy Porter as Jimmy, Darius de Haas as C.C. and Norm Lewis as Curtis. The concert was in benefit of the Actors Fund of America, and was one of the first major public gatherings to be held in New York City after 9/11. It was recorded and later released in its entirety on CD.In February 2016 it was confirmed that Dreamgirls would have its London premiere at The Savoy Theatre with Amber Riley taking on the role of Effie White. Riley initially performed the role for 7 out of 8 shows per week, but as of August 2017 performs at 5, with Marisha Wallace and Karen Mav serving as alternates (despite the ‘alternate’ title being dropped when Riley was reduced to 6 shows per week in July 2017). Beginning November 20, 2017, Moya Angela, who played the role of Effie in the 2009 US tour, Marisha Wallace and Karen Mav all share the role of Effie. It is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, with Scenic Design by Tim Hatley and Costume Design by Gregg Barnes.In June 2018, it was announced that the production would close on January 12, 2019 and a UK tour of the show would begin later that year. Casting, dates and venues are yet to be confirmed. Research more about this great American Champion event and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion is an American actress and former fashion model. In a career spanning more than seven decades, she has become known for her portrayal of strong African-American women. She is the recipient of three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Black Reel Awards, one Screen Actors Guild Award, one Tony Award, an honorary Academy Award, and a Peabody Award.Having appeared in minor film and television roles early in her career, she garnered widespread attention and critical acclaim for her performance as Rebecca Morgan in Sounder (1972); she was nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her work in the film. Tyson’s portrayal of the title role in the 1974 television film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman won her further praise; among other accolades, the role won her two Emmy Awards and a nomination for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.She has continued to act in film and on television in the 21st century. In 2011, she played the role of Constantine Jefferson in the award-winning film The Help.She has also played the role of Ophelia Harkness in American Broadcasting Company’s legal drama How to Get Away With Murder since the show’s inception in 2014, for which she was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series five times.In addition to her screen career, she has appeared in various theater productions. She received a Drama Desk Award in 1962 for her Off-Broadway performance in Moon on a Rainbow Shawl. She also starred as Carrie Watts in the Broadway play The Trip to Bountiful, winning the Tony Award, the Outer Critics Award, and the Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Play in 2013. She was named a Kennedy Center honoree in 2015. In November 2016, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honor in the United States. In 2020, she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.Today in our History – December 19, 1924 – Cicely L. Tyson was born.Tyson was born in Harlem on December 19, 1924, the daughter of Frederica Tyson, a domestic worker, and William Augustine Tyson, who worked as a carpenter, painter, and at any other jobs he could find. Her parents were immigrants from Nevis in the West Indies. Her father arrived in New York City at age 21 and was processed at Ellis Island on August 4, 1919. Tyson was discovered by a photographer for Ebony magazine and became a popular fashion model. Her first acting role was on the NBC series Frontiers of Faith in 1951. Tyson played her first film role in Carib Gold in 1956. She became the first African American to star in a television drama when she starred in the celebrated series East Side/West Side(1963–1964). She also had a role in the soap opera The Guiding Light. In the early 1960s, Tyson appeared in the original cast of French playwright Jean Genet’s The Blacks. She played the role of Stephanie Virtue Secret-Rose Diop; other notable cast members included Maya Angelou Make, James Earl Jones, Godfrey Cambridge, Louis Gossett Jr, and Charles Gordone.The show was the longest running off-Broadway non-musical of the decade, running for 1,408 performances. On March 25, 1963, Tyson appeared on the game show To Tell The Truth as a decoy contestant for Shirley Abicair. She appeared with Sammy Davis Jr. in the film A Man Called Adam (1966) and starred in the film version of Graham Greene’s The Comedians (1967). Tyson had a featured role in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968) and appeared in a segment of Roots. In 1972, Tyson played the role of Rebecca Morgan in the critically acclaimed film Sounder. She was nominated for both the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her work in Sounder, and also won the NSFC Best Actress and NBR Best Actress Awards.In 1974, Tyson played the title role in the television film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Tyson’s portrayal of a centenarian black woman’s life from slavery until her death before the Civil rights movement won her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie and an Emmy Award for Actress of the Year – Special. Tyson was also nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work in this television film.Tyson’s acclaimed television roles include: Binta in the 1977 miniseries Roots, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress – Miniseries or a Movie; Coretta Scott King in the 1978 miniseries King, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie; Marva Collins in the 1981 television film The Marva Collins Story, for which she received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie, and Muriel in the 1986 television film Samaritan: The Mitch Snyder Story, for which she received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special.In 1991, Tyson appeared in Fried Green Tomatoes as Sipsey. In the 1994–95 television series Sweet Justice, Tyson portrayed a civil rights activist and attorney named Carrie Grace Battle, a character she shaped by reportedly consulting with noted Washington, D.C. civil rights and criminal defense lawyer Dovey Johnson Roundtree.Other notable film roles include the dramas Hoodlum (1997) and Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), and the television films Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994) (for which she received her third Emmy Award) and A Lesson Before Dying (1999). In 2005, Tyson co-starred in Because of Winn-Dixie.In 2010, Tyson appeared in Why Did I Get Married Too? and narrated the Paul Robeson Award-winning documentary, Up from the Bottoms: The Search for the American Dream. In 2011, Tyson appeared in her first music video in Willow Smith’s 21st Century Girl. That same year, she played Constantine Jefferson, a maid in Jackson, Mississippi, in the critically acclaimed period drama The Help.Set in the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, the film won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Acting Ensemble and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.At the 67th Tony Awards on June 9, 2013, Tyson won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Miss Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. She also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for the role. In 2013, Tyson played a supporting role in the horror film The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia. Since 2014, Tyson has guest-starred in How to Get Away with Murder as Ophelia Harkness, the mother of main character Annalise Keating (Viola Davis); for this role, she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series in 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. In 2020, she was in the popular movie A Fall From Grace featured on Netflix. In addition to her Screen Actor Guild Award, her Tony Award, her Emmy Awards, and her Black Reel Awards, Tyson has received several other honors.Tyson has received honorary degrees from Clark Atlanta University, Columbia University; Howard University; and Morehouse College, an all-male historically black college. In 1977, Tyson was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. In 1980, she received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. In 1982, Tyson was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award. The award is given to outstanding women who, through their endurance and the excellence of their work, have helped to expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. In 1988, Tyson received a Candace Award for Distinguished Service from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women. In 2005, Tyson was honored at Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Ball. She has also been honored by the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Council of Negro Women.The Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts, a magnet school in East Orange, New Jersey, was named after her in 2009. Tyson was awarded the NAACP’s 2010 Spingarn Medal for her contribution to the entertainment industry, her modeling career, and her support of civil rights.Tyson was a recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2015. She was awarded the United States’ highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Barack Obama in November 2016. In September 2018, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that Tyson would receive an honorary Academy Award. On November 18, 2018, Tyson became the first African-American woman to receive an honorary Oscar. In 2018, Tyson was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. She was chosen to be inducted into the Television Academy’s Hall of Fame in 2020. At age 18, Tyson married Kenneth Franklin on December 27, 1942. The marriage was later dissolved. Tyson first dated jazz trumpeter Miles Davis in the 1960s when he was in the process of divorcing dancer Frances Davis. Davis used a photo of Tyson for his 1967 album, Sorcerer. Davis told the press in 1967 that he intended to marry Tyson in March 1968 after his divorce was finalized, but he married singer Betty Davis that September.Tyson and Davis rekindled their relationship in 1978. They were married on November 26, 1981 in a ceremony conducted by Atlanta mayor Andrew Young at the home of actor Bill Cosby. Their marriage was tumultuous due to Davis’ volatile temper and infidelity. Davis credited Tyson with saving his life and helping him overcome his cocaine addiction. They resided in Malibu, California and New York City, until she filed for divorce in 1988. Their divorce was finalized in 1989, two years before Davis died in 1991. Tyson has no children. She is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Research more about this great American Champion. Share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion is an American tennis coach and former top 10 professional tennis player. McNeil was a singles semifinalist at the US Open in 1987 and Wimbledon in 1994, a women’s doubles finalist at the Australian Open in 1987 with Zina Garrison and French Open mixed-doubles winner in 1988 with Jorge Lozano.Today in our History – December 18, 1963 – Lori McNeil was born and will win 42 professional tennis titles.McNeil was born the youngest of four siblings to mother Dorothy and father Charlie McNeil, who played professional football with the San Diego Chargers during the 1960s.Moving from San Diego to Houston, McNeil developed her tennis skills at MacGregor Park playground, a public facility in the Third Ward district. It was there she became close childhood friends with fellow future professional tennis player, Zina Garrison. Lori McNeil attended Oklahoma State University for two years and played tennis for the Cowgirls, reaching the 1983 NCAA quarterfinals (losing to eventual champion Beth Herr from USC).McNeil played on the WTA Tour for 19 years from 1983–2002. She won a total of 10 singles and 33 doubles titles during her career. Her career-high world rankings were No. 9 in singles (in 1988) and No. 4 in doubles (in 1987).In 1987, McNeil received the WTA Most Improved Player of the Year award.McNeil is perhaps best remembered for her results against Steffi Graf. In 1992, she defeated Graf 7–6, 6–4 in the first round of the WTA Tour Championships, marking the first time since 1985 that Graf had lost in the opening round of a tournament.Then, in 1994, McNeil beat Graf 7–5, 7–6 in the first round at Wimbledon, the first time in Grand Slam history that a defending champion had suffered a first-round loss.That year, McNeil went on to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon before losing to eventual-champion Conchita Martínez, 6–3, 2–8, 8–10. This equalled McNeil’s best-ever Grand Slam singles performance – she also reached the semifinals at the US Open in 1987 (after defeating six-time champion Chris Evert in the quarterfinals) where she lost to Graf, 6–4, 2–6, 4–6.Despite never winning a women’s doubles Grand Slam title, she reached the quarterfinal stage or better on 22 occasions at Grand Slam level, and won multiple WTA Tour doubles titles with many of the leading doubles players of the era, including Martina Navratilova, Gigi Fernández, Rennae Stubbs, Katrina Adams, Zina Garrison and Helena Suková.From 2001-2004, McNeil coached former top-5 player Amanda Coetzer. Partnering together, coach and student reached the doubles quarterfinals of the 2002 Australian Open. In 2004 and 2008, McNeil was also Assistant Coach to the US Olympic tennis teams. In 2006, McNeil was inducted into the ITA Hall of Fame. 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 noted African American barber and businessman, was born in 1827 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was the mulatto son of a famous antebellum judge, John Catron (one of the justices in the Dred Scott case), and a slave mother, Sally Thomas, who purchased James’s freedom when he was six years old. However, under Tennessee law, he remained a slave as long as he resided in the state. Therefore, he was not legally freed until March 6, 1851.Today in our History – December 17,1913 –James P. Thomas (1827-1913)opens a Barbara Shop in his Tennessee home.James Thomas became an apprentice in the barbershop of another slave named Frank Parrish. Through his apprenticeship, he became a successful barber in Nashville and opened his own shop in the house where he was born. His shop was close to the Davidson County courthouse, the Tennessee state capitol, and several major banks, providing James with a host of influential businessmen and politicians as regular customers. Through his connections, he had the opportunity to travel with President Polk’s cousin to several northern cities including Cincinnati, Buffalo, Albany, and New York City in 1848.In 1851, Thomas’s master, Ephraim Foster, petitioned the Davidson County court to formally grant James Thomas his freedom. The court ordered James emancipated on March 6, 1851. Since Tennessee law required that freed men leave the state, Thomas petitioned to stay. His petition was granted and he became the only freed black man in Nashville and possibly all of Tennessee.In 1856, Thomas left Nashville and to join boyhood friend William Walker in Central America as part of an effort to establish a confederation of states in the region. When Thomas learned that Walker intended to establish a dictatorship over the region and reintroduce slavery, Thomas returned to the United States. On returning in 1857, Thomas settled briefly in St. Louis and then engaged in land speculation in Kansas Territory and Iowa. He married a beautiful, wealthy, free mulatto woman named Antoinette Rutger in 1868 after ten years of courtship.Thomas began to invest in real estate in St. Louis, built and renovated apartments, and invested in railroad and insurance company stock. By 1870 he had become one of the wealthiest men in Missouri, white or black. At the height of his financial power, James Thomas controlled an estate worth an estimated $250,000 which include 48 rented apartments, real estate in several sections of the city, and owned mansions in St. Louis and Alton, Illinois. He and his wife frequently traveled to Europe, visiting Rome, Berlin, Paris and London. The Thomases led “colored” society in St. Louis.James Thomas suffered from the economic depression of 1893-1896 and was forced to mortgage many of his properties. He never recovered from the economic downturn. Retiring from his real estate businesses, he decided to devote the rest of his time to his children (his wife, Antoinette, died in 1897), and the writing of his autobiography in 1904 which he titled From Tennessee Slave to St. Louis Entrepreneur: The Autobiography of James Thomas.James Thomas died in St. Louis on December 17, 1913. 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 an American politician, diplomat, and activist. Beginning his career as a pastor, Young was an early leader in the civil rights movement, serving as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and a close confidant to Martin Luther King Jr. Young later became active in politics, serving as a U.S. Congressman from Georgia, United States Ambassador to the United Nations in the Carter Administration, and 55th Mayor of Atlanta. Since leaving office, Young has founded or served in many organizations working on issues of public policy and political lobbying.Today in our History – December 16, 1976 – Andrew Jackson Young Jr. (born March 12, 1932) was appointed by President Jimmy Carter Ambassador and Chief US Delegate to the United Nations. Andrew Young was born on March 12, 1932, in New Orleans, to Daisy Young, a schoolteacher, and Andrew Jackson Young Sr., a dentist. Young’s father hired a professional boxer to teach Andrew and his brother to defend themselves. In a 1964 interview with author Robert Penn Warren for his book, Who Speaks for the Negro?, Young recalls the tensions of segregation in New Orleans, especially growing up in a fairly well-to-do household. He recalls his parents trying to “compensate for segregation” by providing for their children but were reluctant to help less wealthy black communities in the area. Young attended Dillard University for one year before graduating from Howard University. He then earned a divinity degree from Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1955. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Young was appointed to serve as pastor of a church in Marion, Alabama. It was there in Marion that he met Jean Childs, who later became his wife. Young became interested in Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of nonviolent resistance as a tactic for social change. He encouraged African Americans to register to vote in Alabama, and sometimes faced death threats while doing so. It was at this time that he became a friend and ally of Martin Luther King Jr.In 1955 he accepted a pastorate at Bethany Congregational Church in Thomasville, Georgia. In 1957, Young and Jean moved to New York City when he accepted a job with the Youth Division of the National Council of Churches. While in New York, Young regularly appeared on Look Up and Live, a weekly Sunday morning television program on CBS, produced by the National Council of Churches in an effort to reach out to secular youth. Young served as a pastor of the Evergreen Congregational Church in Beachton, Georgia, during from 1957 to 1959. In 1960, he joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. No longer satisfied with his work in New York City, Young moved to Atlanta, Georgia, in 1961 upon the invitation of Bernard Lafayette and worked to register black voters. Young played a key role in the 1963 events in Birmingham, Alabama, serving as a mediator between the white and black communities as they negotiated against a background of protests.In 1964, Young was named executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. As a colleague and friend of Martin Luther King Jr., he was a strategist and negotiator during the Civil Rights Campaigns in Birmingham (1963), St. Augustine (1964), Selma (1965), and Atlanta (1966). He was jailed for his participation in civil rights demonstrations, both in Selma, Alabama, and in St. Augustine, Florida. The movement gained congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Young was with King in Memphis, Tennessee, when King was assassinated in 1968.In 1970, Young ran as a Democrat for Congress from Georgia, but was unsuccessful. After his defeat, Rev. Fred C. Bennette Jr. introduced him to Murray M. Silver, an Atlanta attorney, who served as his campaign finance chairman. Young ran again in 1972 and won. He later was re-elected in 1974 and in 1976. During his four-plus years in Congress, he was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, and was involved in several debates regarding foreign relations, including the decision to stop supporting the Portuguese attempts to hold on to their colonies in southern Africa.Young also sat on the powerful Rules Committee and the Banking and Urban Development Committee. Young opposed the Vietnam War, helped enact legislation that established the U.S. Institute for Peace, established the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and negotiated federal funds for MARTA and the Atlanta Highways.In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Young to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Young was the first African-American to hold the position. Atlanta city councilman Wyche Fowler won the special election to fill Young’s seat in Congress.Although the US and the UN enacted an arms embargo against South Africa, In 1981, after being urged by a number of people, including Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., Young ran for mayor of Atlanta. He was elected later that year with 55% of the vote, succeeding Maynard Jackson. As mayor of Atlanta, he brought in $70 billion of new private investment.He continued and expanded Jackson’s programs for including minority and female-owned businesses in all city contracts. The Mayor’s Task Force on Education established the Dream Jamboree College Fair that tripled the college scholarships given to Atlanta public school graduates. In 1985, he was involved in renovating the Atlanta Zoo, which was renamed Zoo Atlanta.Young was re-elected as mayor in 1985 with more than 80% of the vote. Atlanta hosted the 1988 Democratic National Convention during Young’s tenure. He was prohibited by term limits from running for a third term. During his tenure, he talked about how he was “glad to be mayor of this city, where once the mayor had me thrown in jail.”After leaving the mayor’s office in early 1990, Young launched a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1990. He ran in a primary that included three former or future governors of Georgia: then lieutenant governor Zell Miller, then-state senator Roy Barnes, and former governor Lester Maddox. The field also contained then state representative Lauren “Bubba” McDonald. The first poll put Young at 38 percent to Miller’s 30 percent, 15 percent for Maddox and 10 percent for Barnes with McDonald trailing at 7 percent. Young campaigned hard but by the primary, with no central message, his campaign ran into trouble against the well-heeled and prepared lieutenant governor. Miller led the primary with 40 percent to Young’s 29 percent and 21 percent for Barnes, Maddox got 7 percent and McDonald rounded out at 3 percent. Future U.S. senator Johnny Isakson won the Republican nomination. After Miller’s stunning and broad-based primary win, Young’s campaign floundered. Many think he failed in his effort by trying to garner support amongst rural, conservative white voters, rather than turning out his urban and African-American base.Also, Young never found an issue that roused supporters, unlike Miller, who won voters by championing a state lottery. Miller won the runoff, 2 to 1 and ended Young’s gubernatorial aspirations for good.Young has been a director of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, and is also the chairman of the board for the Global Initiative for the Advancement of Nutritional TherapyIn 1996, Young was co-chairman of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.From 2000 to 2001, Young served as president of the National Council of Churches.In 2003, Young founded the Andrew Young Foundation, an organization meant to support and promote education, health, leadership and human rights in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean.[From February to August 2006, Young served as the public spokesman for Working Families for Wal-Mart, an advocacy group for the retail chain Wal-Mart.[dead link] Young resigned from the position soon after a controversial interview with the Los Angeles Sentinel, in which, when asked about Wal-Mart hurting independent businesses, he replied, “You see those are the people who have been overcharging us, and they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs.”In 2007, GoodWorks Productions released the documentary film Rwanda Rising, about Rwanda’s progress since the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Young also served as the film’s narrator. Rwanda Rising premiered as the opening night selection at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2007.An edited version of Rwanda Rising served as the pilot episode of Andrew Young Presents, a series of quarterly, hour-long specials airing on nationally syndicated television.On January 22, 2008, Young appeared as a guest on the television show The Colbert Report. Host Stephen Colbert invited Young to appear during the writers’ strike, because, in 1969, Young and Colbert’s father had worked together to mediate a hospital workers’ strike. Young made another appearance on The Colbert Report on November 5, 2008, to talk about the election of Barack Obama to the presidencyOn January 9, 2015, Young gave the keynote address at Vanderbilt University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Day. The theme was “Dismantling Segregation: Race, Poverty, and Privilege”, and Young spoke about his experiences in Selma, stories of traveling with King, and his advice to the next generation of leaders.On May 13, 2019, Young gave the keynote address at Emory University’s spring commencement ceremony.On May 29, 2020, Young remarked on the protests in Atlanta in reaction to the killing of George Floyd. He stated that riots, violence, and looting “hurt the cause instead of helping it”.Young has four children with his first wife, Jean Childs Young, who died of liver cancer in 1994. His mother-in-law was Idella Jones Childs. He married Carolyn McClain in 1996.In September 1999, Young was diagnosed with prostate cancer which was successfully removed with surgery in January 2000. Research more about this great American and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was blues legend and one of the greatest guitarists in music history, transitioned last week. With hits such as “The Thrill is Gone” (1969), “To Know You is to Love You” (1973), “Never Make a Move Too Soon” (1978), and “Midnight Believer” (1978), he defined music in America and around the world.His talents influenced countless other artists, including Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the Rolling Stones. He loved to tour and interact with audiences by telling short stories about loves and loves lost, between songs.He was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. He introduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending, shimmering vibrato and staccato picking that influenced many later blues electric guitar players. All Music recognized he as “the single most important electric guitarist of the last half of the 20th century”.He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and is one of the most influential blues musicians of all time, earning the nickname “The King of the Blues”, and is considered one of the “Three Kings of the Blues Guitar” (along with Albert King and Freddie King, none of whom are blood related). He performed tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing on average at more than 200 concerts per year into his 70s. In 1956 alone, he appeared at 342 shows.He was born on a cotton plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, and later worked at a cotton gin in Indianola, Mississippi. He was attracted to music and the guitar in church, and began his career in juke joints and local radio. He later lived in Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago, and as his fame grew, toured the world extensively. He died at the age of 89 in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 14, 2015.Today in our History – December 15, 2006 – B.B. King receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom.Riley B. King was born on a plantation near the town of Itta Bena, Mississippi on September 16, 1925. As a child, he sang in local gospel choirs and at age 12, purchased his first guitar for $15.00. King made his way to Memphis, Tennessee where in 1948 he got his big break – performing on the Sonny Boy Williamson radio show on KWEM.His performance led to short 10-minute segments on the black-staffed radio station WDIA. The popularity of the segments prompted King to adopt a catchy radio name. He started using Beale Street Blues Boy, then shorten it to Blues Boy King, and eventually decided on B. B. King. In 1949, B. B. King started recording his songs and touring across the country.At a performance in Twist, Arkansas, two male patrons got into a fight that caused a fire. B. B. King barely escaped the club with his Gibson guitar. After learning that the fight was over a woman named Lucille, B. B. King decided to name his guitar after her, as a reminder to never fight over a woman.In 2006, B. B. King received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. The honor is bestowed to those who have contributed to the national interest of the United States, through actions of world peace, culture, and other significant public endeavors. Resrearch more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion event Producers Kevin McCollum, Doug Morris, and Motown Founder Berry Gordy announced December 14 the complete cast for the new national tour of Motown The Musical, which will launch January 11, 2017, at the Stanley Theatre in Utica, NY.Today in our History – December 14, 2016 – Motown “The Musical” is announced. Reprising their roles for this new tour are Chester Gregory as Berry Gordy, Allison Semmes as Diana Ross, and Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye. The production also stars David Kaverman as Smokey Robinson, with CJ Wright and Raymond Davis Jr. portraying Berry Gordy’s boyhood counterpart and the roles of young stars Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.The company will also feature Michelle Alves, Malcolm Armwood, Erick Buckley, Darilyn Castillo, Judith Franklin, Jeremy Gaston, Alyssa V. Gomez, Garfield Hammonds, Rod Harrelson, Jared Howelton, Louis James Jackson, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, Ramone Owens, Devin Price, Alana Randall, Tavia Riveè, Matthew Sims Jr., Kimberly Ann Steele, Doug Storm, Daniel Robert Sullivan, Gabriella Whiting, Galen J. Williams, and Ricardo A. Zayas.Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, Motown The Musical, according to production notes, is the “true American dream story of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and so many more.” The production features more than 50 classic hits, such as “My Girl” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” among many others.The musical also has staging by Schele Williams, choreography by Patricia Wilcox and Warren Adams, scenic design by David Korins, costume design by Tony Award nominee ESosa, lighting design by Tony Award winner Natasha Katz, sound design by Tony Award nominee Peter Hylenski, projection design by Daniel Brodie, hair and wig design by Charles LaPointe, casting by Wojcik | Seay Casting, arrangements and orchestrations by Grammy and Tony Award nominee Ethan Popp, who also serves as music supervisor in reproducing the classic “Sound of Young America,” with co-orchestrations and additional arrangements by Tony Award nominee Bryan Crook, and dance arrangements by Zane Mark.Motown debuted on Broadway April 14, 2013, playing through January 18, 2015, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The musical made a short-lived return to Broadway July 12-31, 2016, at the Nederlander Theatre.Motown is produced by Tony winner Kevin McCollum, Chairman and CEO of SONY Music Entertainment Doug Morris, and Motown Founder Berry Gordy, in association with Work Light Productions. Research more about this great American Champion event and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!
GM – FBF – Today’s American Champion was an African-American singer and political activist. She promoted racial pride through her support and promotion of music education for African Americans.Born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, she learned to play the piano at age three and took voice and violin lessons as a child. Due to her very light skin color and light hair, many people suggested that she try to pass for white in order to further her musical career. She refused to deny her heritage and remained intensely proud of her roots throughout her life. She moved with her parents to Detroit, Michigan where she graduated from high school in 1886. After high school, she worked as an elementary school teacher before meeting and marrying Edwin Henry Hackley, an attorney and newspaper publisher from Denver, Colorado.During her time in Denver she founded the Colored Women’s League and co-founded the Imperial Order of Libyans with her husband. She received her bachelor’s degree from the Denver School of Music in 1900. She promoted racial pride through music. In 1905, she separated from her husband and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she was the music director for the Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion.Later in life, she trained artists such as Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, and R. Nathaniel Dett. In 1911, she formed the Vocal Normal Institute in Chicago, Illinois.In 1916, Hackley published The Colored Girl Beautiful, a “how to” on becoming a refined African American lady. A special collection, of African Americans in the Performing Arts, was founded in her name at the Detroit Public Library in 1943.Today in our History – December 13, 1922 – Emma Azalia Hackley diedEmma Azalia Smith Hackley was an African American singer and Denver political activist born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1867. Her parents, business owners Henry and Corilla Smith, moved to Detroit where she attended Washington Normal School, graduating in 1886. Smith, a child prodigy learned to play the piano at three and later took private voice, violin and French lessons.Emma Smith worked as an elementary school teacher for eighteen years. During that period she met and married Edwin Henry Hackley, a Denver attorney and editor of the city’s black newspaper, the Denver Statesman. In 1900 Hackley received her music degree from Denver University. In 1905-1906 she studied voice in Paris with former Metropolitan Opera star Jean de Reszke.Hackley was active in black Denver’s civic and social life. She founded the Colored Women’s League and served as executive director of its local branch. She and her husband also founded the Imperial Order of Libyans which fought racial discrimination and promoted patriotism among African Americans.Hackley separated from her husband in 1905 and moved to Philadelphia where she became director of music at the Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion. While there she helped organize the People’s Chorus which later became the Hackley Choral Society. The group proved popular in the Philadelphia area and gave her the opportunity to study voice in Paris in 1905-1906 with former Metropolitan Opera star Jean de Reszke.Despite her stellar training, Hackley did not pursue a professional career. Instead she spent much of the rest of her life training a younger generation of singers including Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes and R. Nathaniel Dett. She did give benefit concerts to raise money for additional training for these and other singers.Following a third European trip in 1909, preceded by her divorce from her husband, Hackley began giving classical music lectures throughout the United States After a brief Canadian tour in 1911 she created the Vocal Normal Institute in Chicago in the hope of providing an institution where artists could develop their professional abilities. Hackley also published her own collection of music under the title Colored Girl Beautiful. When the Vocal Normal Institute failed in 1916, Hackley turned her attention to African American folk music and organized the Folk Songs Festivals movement in black schools and churches across the South.In 1920, despite failing health, Hackley traveled to Tokyo, Japan where she introduced black folk music to an international audience at the World Sunday School Convention. During a 1921 California tour Hackley collapsed on stage while performing in San Diego and was brought back to Detroit. Emma Azalia Hackley died from a cerebral hemorrhage on December 13, 1922 in Detroit. 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 Negro league baseball catcher. Baseball historians consider him to be among the very best power hitters and catchers in the history of any league, including Major League Baseball (MLB). In 1972, he became the second Negro league player to be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He played for the Homestead Grays from 1930 to 1931, moved to the Pittsburgh Crawfords from 1932 to 1936, and returned to the Grays from 1937 to 1939 and 1942 to 1946. In 1937, he played for Ciudad Trujillo in Trujillo’s Dominican League and from 1940 to 1941, he played in the Mexican League for Rojos del Águila de Veracruz. Gibson served as the first manager of the Santurce Crabbers, one of the most historic franchises of the Puerto Rico Baseball League.He was known as the “black Babe Ruth”. In fact, some fans at the time who saw both Ruth and him play called Ruth his name. He never played in the major leagues because of the unwritten “gentleman’s agreement” that prevented non-white players from participating. He stood 6-foot-1 (185 cm) and weighed 210 pounds (95 kg) at the peak of his career. Today in our history – December 12, 1911 – Joshua Gibson (December 12, 1911 – January 20, 1947) was born.Was the myth larger than the reality? Not really.But the applause Josh Gibson received should have been louder. He was considered the best power hitter of his era in the Negro Leagues and perhaps even the majors.Gibson was born on Dec. 21, 1911, in Buena Vista, Ga. His father moved his family to Pittsburgh in 1923 rather than try and continue to nurse a crop from his meager farm.Josh’s education ended after the ninth grade. His introduction to organized baseball came at age 16 when he joined the Gimbels A.C. In 1929, the Crawford Colored Giants, a semi-pro team in Pittsburgh, convinced him to leave the Gimbels and join their squad.He became a professional by accident July 25, 1930 while sitting in the stands. When Homestead Grays catcher Buck Ewing injured his hand, Gibson was invited to replace him because his titanic home runs were already well known in Pittsburgh.“If someone had told me Josh hit the ball a mile, I would have believed them,” said Sam Jethroe, who starred for the Cleveland Buckeyes.His legendary feats with the Homestead Grays have many experts regarding Gibson as the sport’s greatest home run hitter. Negro Leagues statistics of the time are largely incomplete, but the legend of Gibson’s power has always been larger than life.The 6-1, 220-pound Gibson was nearly indestructible behind the plate. He occasionally played left field or third base, but never for more than a game or two.Gibson’s natural skills were immense. His powerful arm, quick release and agility made base runners wary of trying to steal.But hitting is what made Gibson the second-highest paid player in black baseball behind Satchel Paige, another future Hall of Famer.The Sporting News, baseball’s written authority for decades, credited Gibson in 1967 with hitting a 580-foot home run in Yankee Stadium. The ball landed two feet from the top of the bleacher wall.“Josh was a better power hitter than Babe Ruth, Ted Williams or anybody else I’ve ever seen,” said former Cleveland Buckeye pitcher and manager Alonzo Boone. “Anything he touched was hit hard.He could power outside pitches to right field. Shortstops would move to left field when Josh came to the plate.”In 1972, Gibson was elected to the Hall of Fame. He passed away on Jan. 20, 1947.Paige may have put it best when describing Josh at the plate: “You look for his weakness and while you’re looking’ for it, he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.”Research more about this great American Champion and share it with your babies. Make it a champion day!