Category: 1950 – 1999

March 21, 1973- Wilma Rudolph

GM – FBF – “I believe in me more than anything in this world.” Wilma Rudolph

Remember – “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us. – “Wilma Rudolph

Today in our History – March 21, 1973 – Wilma Rudolph voted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1973.

Wilma Rudolph was a sight to behold. At 5-foot-11 and 130 pounds, she was lightning fast. Wilma watchers in the late 1950s and early ’60s were admonished: don’t blink. You might miss her. And that would be a shame.

Wilma Rudolph was the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics.

At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Rudolph became “the fastest woman in the world” and the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics. She won the 100- and 200-meter races and anchored the U.S. team to victory in the 4 x 100-meter relay, breaking records along the way.

In the 100, she tied the world record of 11.3 seconds in the semifinals, then won the final by three yards in 11.0. However, because of a 2.75-meter per second wind — above the acceptable limit of two meters per second — she didn’t receive credit for a world record. In the 200, she broke the Olympic record in the opening heat in 23.2 seconds and won the final in 24.0 seconds. In the relay, Rudolph, despite a poor baton pass, overtook Germany’s anchor leg, and the Americans, all women from Tennessee State, took the gold in 44.5 seconds after setting a world record of 44.4 seconds in the semifinals.

Rudolph’s Olympic performances (she also won a bronze medal at age 16 in the relay at Melbourne in 1956) were spectacular. But it is the story of how she got there that makes her accomplishments legendary.

She was born prematurely on June 23, 1940 in St. Bethlehem, Tenn. She weighed 4 1/2 pounds. The bulk of her childhood was spent in bed. She suffered from double pneumonia, scarlet fever and later she contacted polio. After losing the use of her left leg, she was fitted with metal leg braces when she was 6.

“I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to get them off,” she said. “But when you come from a large, wonderful family, there’s always a way to achieve your goals.”

Rudolph grew up in a poor family, the 20th of her father Ed’s 22 children (from two marriages). Although she never shared a home with all her siblings and half-siblings at once, there were still plenty of brothers and sisters to serve as “lookouts” if she mischievously removed her braces.

Her brothers and sisters took turns massaging her crippled leg every day. Once a week her mother Blanche, a domestic worker, drove her 90 miles roundtrip to a Nashville hospital for therapy.

Years of treatment and a determination to be a “normal kid” worked. Despite whooping cough, measles and chicken pox, Rudolph was out of her leg braces at age 9 and soon became a budding basketball star.

When she was 11, her brothers set up a basketball hoop in the yard. “After that,” her mother said, “it was basketball, basketball, basketball.”

At the all-African-American Burt High School, Rudolph played on the girls’ basketball team, where her coach, C.C. Gray, gave her the nickname, “Skeeter.”

“You’re little, you’re fast and you always get in my way,” he said.

Rudolph became an all-state player, setting a state record of 49 points in one game. Then Ed Temple came calling.

Temple, the Tennessee State track coach, asked Gray to form a girls’ track team so he could turn one of the forwards into a sprinter. And Wilma was the one.

She had natural ability she couldn’t explain. “I don’t know why I run so fast,” she said. “I just run.”

She loved it enough to begin attending Temple’s daily college practices while still in high school. Temple’s dedication was inspiring. He was a sociology professor at Tennessee State and unpaid coach. He drove the team to meets in his own car and had the school track, an unmarked and unsurfaced dirt oval, lined at his own expense.

But Temple was no soft touch. He made the girls run an extra lap for every minute they were late to practice. Rudolph once overslept practice by 30 minutes and was made to run 30 extra laps. The next day she was sitting on the track 30 minutes early.

Unity and teamwork were Temple’s passions. He reminded reporters after Rudolph became famous that there were three other gold medalists on the platform with her during the relay event. Almost the entire 1960 Olympic team, coached by Temple, came from his Tennessee State team.

Rudolph didn’t forget her teammates, either. She said her favorite event was the relay because she got to stand on the platform with them. Regardless, the press and fans in Rome flocked to her.

The newspapers called her “The Black Pearl” and “The Black Gazelle.” After the Olympics, when the team competed in Greece, England, Holland and Germany, it was the charming, beautiful Rudolph, fans wanted to watch perform.

Sports Illustrated reported that mounted police had to keep back her admirers in Cologne. In Berlin, fans stole her shoes then surrounded her bus and beat on it with their fists until she waved.

“She’s done more for her country than what the U.S. could have paid her for,” Temple said.

She did more than promote her country. In her soft-spoken, gracious manner, she paved the way for African-American athletes, both men and women, who came later.

When she returned from Rome, Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington, who was elected as “an old-fashioned segregationist,” planned to head her welcome home celebration. Rudolph said she would not attend a segregated event.

Rudolph’s parade and banquet were the first integrated events in her hometown of Clarksville.

Rudolph especially inspired young African-American female athletes. Most notable was Florence Griffith Joyner, the next woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics (1988).

“It was a great thrill for me to see,” Rudolph said. “I thought I’d never get to see that. Florence Griffith Joyner — every time she ran, I ran.”

Bob Kersee, husband and coach of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, said Rudolph was the greatest influence for African-American women athletes that he knows. His wife went further. “She was always in my corner,” said Joyner-Kersee, winner of six Olympic medals. “If I had a problem, I could call her at home. It was like talking to someone you knew for a lifetime.”

Rudolph touched Olympians and non-Olympians alike. She had four kids of her own and in her post-Olympic years she worked as a track coach at Indiana’s DePauw University and served as a U.S. goodwill ambassador to French West Africa.

She said her greatest accomplishment was creating the Wilma Rudolph Foundation, a not-for-profit, community-based amateur sports program.

“I tell them that the most important aspect is to be yourself and have confidence in yourself,” she said. “I remind them the triumph can’t be had without the struggle.”

Honors kept coming for Rudolph. She was voted into the Black Athletes Hall of Fame in 1973 and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1974. NBC made a movie about her life from her autobiography, “Wilma.”

Rudolph died of brain cancer at age 54 on Nov. 12, 1994 in Nashville. Her extraordinary calm and grace are what people remember most about her. Said Bill Mulliken, a 1960 Olympics teammate of Rudolph’s: “She was beautiful, she was nice, and she was the best.” Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

March 19, 1969- James Sims Elected President

GM – FBF – “If you were Jewish, African American, Japanese, or Chinese, you lived in that neighborhood,” – Lydia Sims

Remember – “They dreamed of a place where you’d be able to send a kid to whatever school you wanted, you’d be able to buy a house wherever you could afford,” – Lydia Sims

Today in our History – March 19, 1969 – The Spokane, WA Community Action Council elected James Sims president.

During World War II, Lydia Sims moved from Newark, New Jersey, to Spokane with her husband, James Sims, an Army Air Force soldier stationed at Geiger Airfield. At the end of the war, the Sims family decided to remain in Spokane. For 10 years they lived in the Garden Springs housing project, a complex in west Spokane inhabited primarily by former military families. There they raised their sons, James McCormick and twins Ron and Donald. Lydia Sims’s political views were strongly influenced by racial discrimination, which she vehemently opposed. In the 1960s, as a student at Eastern Washington University, she participated in a movement to desegregate schools in Cheney, Washington. Later, she served on the state’s Human Rights Coalition, the League of Women Voters, the Human Rights Council, and the Washington State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

In the late 1960s, she became personnel director of the Spokane Community Action Council, an agency that managed Head Start and various community centers. In 1975 she became the city’s affirmative action specialist, and in 1976 joined the newly established Spokane City Affirmative Action Department. She was eventually appointed human resources director for the city of Spokane, the first African American department manager in that city’s history. In this position Sims helped African Americans, women, and other minority groups find opportunities in Spokane’s job market. In the 1980s, Sims became the first African American female branch president of the Spokane National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

After serving in the military, James Sims, who had a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln University and a master’s in history from Gonzaga University, applied for a position with the Washington state Office of Community Development. Although he excelled in the civil service exam for the position, the state denied Sims the job. Sims enlisted the help of renowned Spokane civil rights attorney Carl Maxey and sued the state. He won the case and was employed as a state social worker. He later worked with state employees as a union organizer.

In the 1950s, James Sims served as a minister at the Calvary Baptist Church, and in the mid-1960s, he became pastor of the New Hope Baptist Church. In 1956 Sims was elected president of the Spokane NAACP, replacing James Chase. As president, he often publicly criticized the city for its reluctance to hire African Americans. Sims also exposed restaurants, hotels, automobile repair shops, and banks for not hiring blacks. On March 19, 1969, the Spokane Community Action Council elected Sims president partly because of his year long campaign to get city agencies to hire African Americans.

After James Sims’s death in the 1990s, Lydia Sims retired to Edmonds, Washington, and continued her advocacy. In 2000, with her son, King County Executive Ron Sims, she co-launched the Healthy Aging Partnership, an information and assistance line for the elderly at the Central Area Senior Center in King County. Lydia Sims died on June 23, 2012. Research more thid great american and share with your babise. Make it a champion day!

March 18, 1963- Vanessa Lynn Williams

GM – FBF – “You’re always going to have people that are naysayers, that don’t believe in your talent, that don’t believe that you have any kind of longevity.” – Vanessa Williams

Remember – ” I am lucky to have three daughters who are completely different. I look at my daughters and I have different relationships with all three and there are parts of each personality that are very special.” – Vanessa Williams

Today in our History – March 18, 1963 –

Vanessa Lynn Williams is a Grammy nominated singer, former beauty queen and television and film actress. She was born on March 18, 1963 in Bronx, New York but soon moved to a more fashionable neighborhood. Her parents, Milton and Helen Williams, both worked as music teachers and so Williams and her brother Chris were exposed to and surrounded by music from their childhood. She was a talented musician and learnt to play the piano, violin and French horn by the age of 10. Other than playing, singing and songwriting, she also trained as a dancer and planned to become the first African American “Rockettes” dancer. She was a conscientious student and graduated from high school in 1981. She won the “Presidential Scholarship for Drama” and was one of only 12 students to gain admittance at the Carnegie Mellon University theater arts program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. However, she refused their offer and chose to attend Syracuse University in New York.

As a freshman at Syracuse, she took a job as a receptionist and makeup artist for local photographer Tom Chiapel for whom she later posed as a nude model. However, she was not happy with the results of the shoot and did not give permission for publication. While she was studying theater and music at Syracuse, she was offered a candidacy in the “Miss Greater Syracuse pageant” which she initially hesitated to accept, but later did and won with ease. In 1983, she was crowned Miss New York and just 6 months later, she made history by being crowned the first African American “Miss America”. She shot to fame overnight, receiving offers for dozens of product endorsements, $25,000 scholarship prize money and lines of interviews and magazine spreads.

Vanessa is the first African American recipient of the Miss America title when she was crowned Miss America 1984 in September 1983. Several weeks before the end of her reign, however, a scandal arose when Penthouse magazine bought and published unauthorized nude photographs of Vanessa. Vanessa was pressured to relinquish her title, and was succeeded by the first runner-up, Miss New Jersey 1983, Suzette Charles. Thirty-two years later, in September 2015, when Vanessa served as head judge for the Miss America 2016 pageant, former Miss America CEO Sam Haskell made a public apology to her for the events of 1984

Unfortunately however, her fame was rocked by an equally dreadful scandal. The nude photos of her which Chiapel had earlier taken were published in “Penthouse” magazine. This was a huge setback for her career, as the Miss America pageant board asked her to resign her post, and most, if not all of her product endorsements were withdrawn. She was officially allowed to keep her title, but requested not to attend next year’s coronation ceremony. She filed a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse but later dropped it after several months of futile litigation. She also dropped out of university and chose to try to set her career back on track. Initially, it seemed too daunting a task as she only received minor roles because of her tarnished reputation. However, her public relations expert Ramon Hervey II, who was later to become her husband, managed to find her a worthy role in the 1987 movie “The Pick Up Artist” also starring Molly Ringwald and Robert Downey, Jr.

Williams then signed a record contract with PolyGram and released her first album titled “The Right Stuff” in 1988. The album was certified Gold, and won her the “Best New Female Artist” award from the NAACP. Her second album, “The Comfort Zone,” was released in 1991 and was a phenomenal success. It went triple platinum and received 5 Grammy nominations. The song “Save the Best for Last” from this album is her most popular song to date. Her third album “The Sweetest Days” was released in 1994. It went platinum and received 2 Grammy nominations. All in all, she has 11 Grammy nominations but no wins.

Williams has also appeared in a wide range of television shows and films. Her TV roles include the role of Wilhelmina Slater in “Ugly Betty” and Renee Filmore-Jones in “Desperate Housewives”. Her popular film roles include “Eraser”, “Soul Food”, “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor”. She has also worked in theatre, and some of her shows include the musicals “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Into the Woods” as well as Tony Award nominated play “The Trip to Bountiful”.

Vanessa Williams has been married twice, first to her agent Ramon Hervey II, with whom she had three children, from 1987 to 1997. Next she married an NBA basketball player named Rick Fox. The marriage lasted from 1999 to 2004 and produced one child. The 51 year old actress has recently announced her third engagement to an accountant named Jim Skip. Reserach more about this American Shero T.V. Star, Movie Star, Theather Star, Model and Songbird. Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Eight GOLD Albums. Share with your babies and make it a champion day!

March 17, 1955- Billy McKinney

GM – FBF- “The United States has far more to offer the world than our bombs and missiles and our military technology.” -Rep. Cynthia McKinney (US Congress – D – GA)

Remember – “Eight generations of African-Americans are still waiting to achieve their rights – compensation and restitution for the hundreds of years during which they were bought and sold on the market. ( US Congress – D – GA) – Rep. Cynthia McKinney

Today in oue History – 
Cynthia Ann McKinney was born on March 17, 1955 in Atlanta, Georgia to parents Billy McKinney, who was a police officer and to a mother, Leola Christion McKinney, who was a nurse. Her father was a political activist who challenged his employer, the Atlanta Police Department, for its practice of racial discrimination. This desire to use activism in the cause of racial justice was inherited by Cynthia McKinney who initiated her first petition against racism while still in school. In 1971 she challenged a teacher at the Catholic institution for using racist language. Meanwhile, her father, Billy McKinney was elected to the Georgia State Legislature in 1973 as a Democrat.
After completing St. Joseph’s High School in Atlanta in 1973, McKinney in 1978 received a degree in international relations from the University of Southern California. This degree would serve her well in the future as became increasingly concerned about the role and impact of U.S. foreign around the world. McKinney then entered the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. There she met and Jamaican politician Coy Grandison and returned to Jamaica with him. 
McKinney’s political career began in 1986 when her father, Billy McKinney persuaded his 31-year-old daughter become a write-in campaign for another legislative seat. Without any campaigning because she lived in Jamaica at the time, and little help from other Democrats, Cynthia McKinney still managed to get 20% of the total vote. Two years later she decided to mount an all-out campaign for the seat. Elected in 1988 at the age of 33, McKinney was one of the youngest members of the state legislature. She and her father became the first father-daughter pair in the Georgia legislature. 
McKinney soon became controversial in the Georgia legislature for opposing the Gulf War and for challenging the chamber’s dress code by wearing slacks instead of dresses. She also joined Georgia civil rights leaders in a lawsuit to increase the number of black judges appointed in the state.
In 1992, McKinney ran for Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District seat. She won and remained in the U.S. House of Representatives for a decade. While in Congress McKinney was appointed to the Armed Services Committee and the International Relations Committee where she served as Ranking Member on its International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, she also led the Women’s Caucus Task Force on Children, Youth and Families.
While agreeing with most of the Clinton administrations policies, she challenged the Administration on the North American Free Trade Agreement. She also called for the end of U.S. arms sales to nations with a history of human rights violations. She also continued to be a strong voice for racial justice issues. She opposed welfare reform in 1996 because she felt it would intensify the conditions facing impoverished black women and children. She called for election reform after the 2000 presidential election partly because of what she termed the disfranchisement of many Florida African American voters. 
In 2002, McKinney was defeated in the Democratic Primary race by DeKalb County Judge Denise Majette. An estimated 40,000 Republicans voted in the Democratic Primary to defeat McKinney, angry over a controversial interview she had given earlier that year at a Berkeley, California radio station where she alleged that the Bush Administration had prior knowledge about the 9-11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
In 2004, McKinney returned to Congress where she became most noted for her criticism of the Bush Administration for its lack of support for Hurricane Katrina victims. In 2006 McKinney lost in the Democratic Primary to DeKalb County attorney Hank Johnson. On December 8, 2006, in her last major act as a member of Congress, McKinney introduced legislation to Impeach President George Bush because of his conduct of the Iraq War. Reserch more about black women in congress and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

March 16, 1956- Mahalia Jackson

GM – FBF -“God can make you anything you want to be, but you have to put everything in his hands”. Mahalia Jackson

Remember – “Time is important to me because I want to sing long enough to leave a message. I’m used to singing in churches where nobody would dare stop me until the Lord arrives!” Mahalia Jackson

Today in our History – In 1956, Mahalia Jackson made her debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.

20th century recording artist Mahalia Jackson, known as the Queen of Gospel, is revered as one of the greatest musical figures in U.S. history.
Born on October 26, 1911, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Mahalia Jackson started singing as a child at Mount Moriah Baptist Church and went on to become one of the most revered gospel figures in the U.S. Her recording of “Move On Up a Little Higher” was a major hit and she subsequently became an international figure for music lovers from a variety of backgrounds. She worked with artists like Duke Ellington and Thomas A. Dorsey and also sang at the 1963 March on Washington at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She died on January 27, 1972.

Early Life
Born Mahala Jackson on October 26, 1911, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Charity Clark and Johnny Jackson, she became one of gospel music’s all-time greats, known for her rich, powerful voice that cultivated a global following. The young Mahala grew up in a Pitt Street shack and started singing at 4 years old in the Mount Moriah Baptist Church. When she started to sing professionally, she added an “i” to her first name.

Brought up in a devout Christian family, Jackson still found herself influenced by the secular sounds of blues artists like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Jackson’s sanctified style of performance would also rely upon freer movement and rhythm when contrasted to the styles seen in more conservative congregations.

Major Gospel Hit
After moving to Chicago as a teen with the aim of studying nursing, Mahalia Jackson joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church and soon became a member of the Johnson Gospel Singers. She performed with the group for a number of years. Jackson then started working with Thomas A. Dorsey, a gospel composer; the two performed around the U.S., further cultivating an audience for Jackson. She also took on a number of jobs — working as a laundress, beautician and flower shop owner for example — before her musical career went into the stratosphere. She wed Isaac Hockenhull in 1936, with the two later divorcing.

While she made some recordings in the 1930s, Mahalia Jackson tasted major success with “Move On Up a Little Higher” in 1947, which sold millions of copies and became the highest selling gospel single in history. She became more in demand, making radio and television appearances and going on tour, eventually performing in Carnegie Hall on October 4, 1950 to a racially integrated audience. Jackson also had a successful 1952 tour abroad in Europe, and she was especially popular in France and Norway. She had her own gospel program on the CBS television network in 1954 and scored a pop hit with “Rusty Old Halo.”

An International Star
In 1956, Jackson made her debut on The Ed Sullivan Show and in 1958 appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island, performing with Duke Ellington and his band. Ellington and Jackson worked together on an album released the same year under Columbia Records titled Black, Brown and Beige. Future Columbia recordings from Jackson included The Power and the Glory (1960), Silent Night: Songs for Christmas (1962) and Mahalia (1965).

In 1959, Jackson appeared in the film Imitation of Life. By the end of the decade, much of Jackson’s work featured crossover production styles; she was an international figure, with a performance itinerary that included singing at President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration.

Civil Rights Work
Jackson was also an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. She sang at the March on Washington at the request of her friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963, performing “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned.” In 1966, she published her autobiography Movin’ On Up.After King’s death in 1968, Jackson sang at his funeral and then largely withdrew from public political activities.

In her later years, Mahalia Jackson had several hospitalizations for severe health problems, giving her final concert in 1971 in Munich, Germany. She died of a heart attack on January 27, 1972. Jackson is remembered and loved for her impassioned delivery, her deep commitment to spirituality and her lasting inspiration to listeners of all faiths. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

March 14, 1977- Fannie Lou Hamer

GM – FBF – “You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap” – Fannie Lou Hamer

Remember – , “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

Today in our History – March 14, 1977 –

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was a civil rights activist whose passionate depiction of her own suffering in a racist society helped focus attention on the plight of African-Americans throughout the South. In 1964, working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Hamer helped organize the 1964 Freedom Summer African-American voter registration drive in her native Mississippi. At the Democratic National Convention later that year, she was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an integrated group of activists who openly challenged the legality of Mississippi’s all-white, segregated delegation.
Born Fannie Lou Townsend on October 6, 1917, in Montgomery County, Mississippi. The daughter of sharecroppers, Hamer began working the fields at an early age. Her family struggled financially, and often went hungry.
Married to Perry “Pap” Hamer in 1944, Fannie Lou continued to work hard just to get by. In the summer of 1962, however, she made a life-changing decision to attend a protest meeting. She met civil rights activists there who were there to encourage African Americans to register to vote. Hamer became active in helping with the voter registration efforts.
Hamer dedicated her life to the fight for civil rights, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This organization was comprised mostly of African American students who engaged in acts of civil disobedience to fight racial segregation and injustice in the South. These acts often were met with violent responses by angry whites. During the course of her activist career, Hamer was threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at. But none of these things ever deterred her from her work.In 1964, Hamer helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which was established in opposition to her state’s all-white delegation to that year’s Democratic convention.
She brought the civil rights struggle in Mississippi to the attention of the entire nation during a televised session at the convention. The next year, Hamer ran for Congress in Mississippi, but she was unsuccessful in her bid.Along with her political activism, Hamer worked to help the poor and families in need in her Mississippi community.
She also set up organizations to increase business opportunities for minorities and to provide childcare and other family services. Hamer died of cancer on March 14, 1977, in Mound Bayou, Mississippi.

March 11, 1959- Lorraine Vivian Hansberry

GM – FBF – “Seems like God don’t see fit to give the black man nothing but dreams – but He did give us children to make them dreams seem worthwhile.” – Lorraine Hansberry

Remember – “There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing.” – Lorraine Hansberry

Today in our History – March 11, 1959 – A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre – Lorraine Vivian Hansberry – Playwright(1930–1965) was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Nannie Louise Hansberry, a teacher, and Carl Hansberry, a real-estate broker. Her progressive parents examined her birth certificate, and after seeing the word “Negro” printed by the hospital, immediately crossed it out and wrote “Black.” The Hansberry family bought a house at 6140 S. Rhodes Ave. in Washington Park—a white, upper-middle-class neighborhood that the playwright later described as “hellishly hostile.” They were violently attacked by their neighbors, who were constantly trying to get the family to leave the neighborhood. The Hansberrys refused, and agreed to stay in their home at all costs. “I [remember] my desperate and courageous mother, patrolling our house all night with a loaded German Luger, doggedly guarding her four children,” Hansberry wrote.
The Hansberrys’ white neighbors were so intent on pushing them out of the neighborhood (and the family was so intent on staying) that the Hansberry v. Lee case made it to the Illinois Supreme Court. When the state ruled against the Hansberry family, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision, allowing the family to stay in their home. Thanks to the Hansberrys’ persistence, it was no longer legal for white residents in the United States to push African Americans out of their neighborhoods. While writing for the progressive black newspaper Freedom, Hansberry discovered Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem,” published in his book Montage of a Dream Deferred. “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat or crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”
The young author began working on a play exploring the struggles of a poor, black family living in Chicago, loosely based on her own family’s story. Originally titled The Crystal Stair (a line from the Langston Hughes poem “Mother to Son”), A Raisin in the Sun centers on the Youngers, a lower-class family who is offered a sum of money to stay away from the white neighborhood where they have purchased their dream home.
A Raisin in the Sun made history, becoming the first play written by a black woman (a 29-year-old, no less) to ever be produced on Broadway. But the journey to the Great White Way wasn’t easy—it took over a year for producer Philip Rose to raise enough funds to bring the play to New York. After short pre-Broadway tryouts in Philadelphia, New Haven and Chicago, A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway on March 11, 1959 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, starring Sidney Poitier as Walter Lee Younger, a struggling son with big dreams, Claudia McNeil as his mother Lena and Ruby Dee as his hardworking wife Ruth. Hansberry wrote two screenplay adaptations of A Raisin in the Sun, but both were rejected by Columbia Pictures for being too controversial. The third time proved to be the charm, and a draft that more closely resembled the stage play was greenlit. Poitier, Dee and McNeil all reprised their roles for the film, which won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival. After a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer, Hansberry died at the age of 34, the same night her second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, closed on Broadway. A passage from the play is engraved on her gravestone: “I care. I care about it all. It takes too much energy not to care. The why of why we are here is an intrigue for adolescents; the how is what must command the living. Which is why I have lately become an insurgent again.”
Robert Nemiroff, Hansberry’s ex-husband, became a champion of the late playwright’s work after her death. He adapted many of her unpublished poems, stories and letters into the play To Be Young, Gifted and Black, which premiered off-Broadway in 1968. Singer-songwriter Nina Simone, a close friend of Hansberry, wrote a song of the same name in her memory.
After the success of A Raisin in the Sun on the Great White Way, Nemiroff teamed up with Charlotte Zaltzberg to write the book for a musical adaptation of Hansberry’s groundbreaking play. Judd Woldin and Robert Brittan wrote the score, a mix of jazz, blues, gospel and of course, traditional musical theater. “It is a strange [musical] but a good one,” The New York Times reported. “It warms the heart and touches the soul.” Starring Joe Morton as Walter Lee, Ernestine Jackson as Ruth and Virginia Capers as Mama Lena, Raisin won two Tony Awards, including Best Musical. On the 30-year anniversary of the beloved drama’s Broadway premiere, PBS aired an uncut, three-hour TV adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun starring Danny Glover and Esther Rolle. Director Bill Duke told The Los Angeles Times, “This play transcends time and race. It applies to all poor people. What Lorraine says is something that should be said often: Folks that don’t have money, folks that society looks down its nose at, are some of the noblest spirits among us.”
Raisin returned to the Great White Way for the second time, starring stage and screen great Phylicia Rashad, Tony winner Audra McDonald and rapper-turned-actor Sean “P. Diddy” Combs in his Broadway debut. “At this point of my life, it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever done because it’s so intense, it’s so emotional, it’s so hard,” Combs told the Associated Press. The production made history at the Tony Awards when Rashad was honored with the Best Actress in a Play trophy, becoming the first African-American woman to receive the honor. Director Kenny Leon reassembled his leading players for a 2008 adaptation of the production, which was seen by 12.7 million viewers on ABC.
Five decades after Raisin first opened on Broadway, playwrights still continue to be inspired by Hansberry’s gripping drama. Bruce Norris’ homage to the iconic story, Clybourne Park, was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play. As part of its 50th anniversary season, Maryland’s Center Stage produced Clybourne Park in repertory with the world premiere of Beneatha’s Place, focusing on the untold story of Walter Lee’s younger sister. Dubbed The Raisin Cycle, the new plays have introduced the Younger family to a brand new audience.
Now, director Kenny Leon (who also helmed the 2004 revival) brings the Younger family back to their very first Broadway home at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Why did he want to bring the drama back after only ten years? “This is the play that keeps on giving,” he told “If all the other great American plays—Death of a Salesman, Streetcar, A Moon for the Misbegotten—if they have been done every four or five years, surely [it’s time] to revisit A Raisin in the Sun.” Featuring Denzel Washington as Walter Lee, LaTanya Richardson Jackson as Lena and Sophie Okonedo as Ruth, the new production opened officially on April 3,2014. Research more by watching this great American Play with your babies and make it a champion day!

March 8, 1954- Mattwilda Dobbs

GM – FBF – “I was so afraid for myself if I would have married” Martin L.King. -Mattiwilda Dobbs

Remember – ” Music that I sing is not for the masses but most for the people who enjoy Opera” – Mattiwilda Dobbs

Today in our History – March 8, – The First black to preform at New York’s Town Hall on March 8, 1954.

Mattiwilda Dobbs (July 11, 1925 – December 8, 2015) was an African-American coloratura soprano and one of the first black singers to enjoy a major international career in opera. She was the first black singer to perform at La Scala in Italy, the first black woman to receive a long-term performance contract at the Metropolitan Opera, New York and the first black singer to play a lead role at the San Francisco Opera.

Dobbs was born in Atlanta, Georgia, one of six daughters of John and Irene Dobbs, who were leaders in the state’s African-American community. She began piano lessons at the age of seven, and sang in community and church choirs.
Dobbs attended Spelman College where she studied home economics and considered becoming a fashion designer. Her teachers encouraged her to study music, however, and she began to study voice, graduating with a degree in Spanish and music in 1946. Following her graduation, she moved to New York City and studied with German soprano Lotte Leonard while completing a Master’s degree in Spanish at Columbia University.

Dobbs won a number of scholarships, including the Marian Anderson Award in 1947, and a John Hay Whitney Fellowship. The funds from these awards enabled her to move to Europe in 1950 and pursue her studies there, notably with Pierre Bernac.

Dobbs initially performed in Europe as a concert recitalist, however after winning the International Music Competition in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1951, she went on to sing at the major festivals and opera houses throughout the continent. She made her professional operatic debut at the Holland Festival, as the Nightingale in Stravinsky’s The Nightingale, in 1952. She made her debut at the Glyndebourne Festival, as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, in 1953. Her success at this festival led to a performance contract at London’s Covent Garden from 1953 to 1958.

Her La Scala debut in 1953 was at the invitation of conductor Herbert von Karajan. Dobbs performed the role of Elvira in L’italiana in Algeri, which also marked the first time a black artist sang in that opera house. In a review of her performance, the British magazine Opera called her “the outstanding coloratura of her generation”.

She made her debut at the Royal Opera House in London, as the Woodbird in Siegfried, in 1953. She also appeared at the Paris Opéra, the Vienna State Opera, and at the opera houses of Hamburg and Stockholm. In 1954, she sang before Queen Elizabeth II and the King and Queen of Sweden at Covent Garden Theatre.

In the 1960s Dobbs continued to perform in Europe, particularly in Sweden, where she lived with her husband. Her successful, high-profile European career is considered significant in setting an example to younger black female singers such as Leontyne Price, Shirley Verrett, Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle.

Her American Dobbs sang the role of Zerbinetta again in her first appearance in the United States at New York’s Town Hall on March 8, 1954 and received great critical acclaim.Next was a recital with the Little Orchestra Society, in New York City, in 1954. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut, as Gilda in Rigoletto, on November 9, 1956. In a review of her performance, Carl Van Vechten wrote that Dobbs’ was “glorious … a warm and brilliant coloratura, and the best Gilda in my experience.” Although African-American singer Marian Anderson had performed at the Met the previous year, Dobbs was the first African-American to be offered a long-term contract by the Met. In eight seasons, she performed 29 times, including Zerbinetta, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Oscar in Un ballo in maschera. She also appeared at the San Francisco Opera in 1955, where she was the first African-American to play a lead role.

Following the example set by other African-American performers, Dobbs refused to perform for segregated audiences. She later stated that this hurt her career as she declined offers of work in the southern states. When the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium was de-segregated in 1961, Dobbs was the first person to sing to an integrated audience in the city. After de-segregation, she performed in Atlanta in a series of operas produced by Blanche Thebom.
Dobbs retired from performing in 1974, and began teaching at the University of Texas, where she was the first African-American on the faculty. She continued her teaching career as professor of voice at Howard University in Washington, D.C., before retiring to Arlington County, Virginia.
In 1989 Dobbs was elected to the board of directors of the Metropolitan Opera.

Dobbs’s coloratura soprano was praised for its freshness and agility, as well as tonal beauty, and was considered an ideal voice for sound recording. However, she can be heard in relatively few recordings, as she spent her early career in Europe. When she returned to the United States in 1954 Roberta Peters had become a top soprano recording artist.
Dobbs’s notable recordings include Die Entführung aus dem Serail (in English), opposite Nicolai Gedda (who was born the same day as she was, July 11, 1925) and conducted by Yehudi Menuhin, Les pêcheurs de perles conducted by René Leibowitz, and a recital of opera arias and songs, released in 1998 by Testament Records. She sang both Olympia and Antonia in a complete recording of The Tales of Hoffmann featuring Leopold Simoneau and Heinz Rehfuss, and conducted by Pierre-Michel Le Conte, which was issued in 1958 by Epic in stereo in the USA and by Concert Hall in Europe, and reissued on CD in 2008. She also recorded the title role of Zaide under Leibowitz in Paris in 1952, and excerpts from Rigoletto alongside Rolando Panerai.

In 1954, the King and Queen of Sweden awarded Dobbs the Order of the North Star.
In 1979, Dobbs received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Spelman College.
In 1980, the Library of Congress held an exhibition on her life.
In 1983, Dobbs received the James Weldon Johnson Award in Fine Arts from the Atlanta National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Martin Luther King, Sr. wanted his son Martin Luther King, Jr. to marry Dobbs, as her father was an active civil rights activist and a friend of his.
Dobbs was married twice. Her first husband, Spaniard Luis Rodriguez, died of a liver ailment in June 1954, fourteen months after their wedding. In late 1957 she married Bengt Janzon, a Swedish newspaperman and public relations executive. Janzon died in 1997. Dobbs was the aunt of the first black Mayor of Atlanta, Maynard Jackson and sang at his inauguration in January 1978.Dobbs died from cancer on December 8, 2015 at her home in Atlanta at the age of 90. Research more about this great American abd share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

March 7, 1961- The Selma To Montgomery March

GM – FBF – “How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.: – 
Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.

Remember – ” Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom.” – Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.

Today in our History – March 7, 1961 – The Selma to Montgomery march was part of a series of civil-rights protests that occurred in 1965 in Alabama, a Southern state with deeply entrenched racist policies. In March of that year, in an effort to register black voters in the South, protesters marching the 54-mile route from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery were confronted with deadly violence from local authorities and white vigilante groups. As the world watched, the protesters—under the protection of federalized National Guard troops—finally achieved their goal, walking around the clock for three days to reach Montgomery. The historic march, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s participation in it, raised awareness of the difficulties faced by black voters, and the need for a national Voting Rights Act.


Even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade discrimination in voting on the basis of race, efforts by civil rights organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register black voters met with fierce resistance in southern states such as Alabama.

In early 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. and SCLC decided to make Selma, located in Dallas County, Alabama, the focus of a black voter registration campaign. King had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and his profile would help draw international attention to the events that followed.

Alabama Governor George Wallace was a notorious opponent of desegregation, and the local county sheriff in Dallas County had led a steadfast opposition to black voter registration drives.

As a result, only 2 percent of Selma’s eligible black voters (about 300 out of 15,000) had managed to register to vote.
EDMUND PETTIS BRIDGE. On February 18, white segregationists attacked a group of peaceful demonstrators in the town of Marion, Alabama. In the ensuing chaos, an Alabama state trooper fatally shot Jimmie Lee Jackson, a young African-American demonstrator.

In response to Jackson’s death, King and the SCLC planned a massive protest march from Selma to the state capitol of Montgomery, 54 miles away. A group of 600 people, including activists John Lewis and Hosea Williams, set out from Selma on Sunday, March 7.

The marchers didn’t get far before Alabama state troopers wielding whips, nightsticks and tear gas rushed the group at the Edmund Pettis Bridge and beat them back to Selma. The brutal scene was captured on television, enraging many Americans and drawing civil rights and religious leaders of all faiths to Selma in protest.

Hundreds of ministers, priests, rabbis and social activists soon headed to Selma to join the voting rights march.


On March 9, King led more than 2,000 marchers, black and white, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge but found Highway 80 blocked again by state troopers. King paused the marchers and led them in prayer, whereupon the troopers stepped aside.

King then turned the protesters around, believing that the troopers were trying to create an opportunity that would allow them to enforce a federal injunction prohibiting the march. This decision led to criticism from some marchers, who called King cowardly.

That night, a group of segregationists attacked another protester, the young white minister James Reeb, beating him to death. Alabama state officials (led by Wallace) tried to prevent the march from going forward, but a U.S. district court judge ordered them to permit it.


Six days later, on March 15, President Lyndon B. Johnson went on national television to pledge his support to the Selma protesters and to call for the passage of a new voting rights bill that he was introducing in Congress.

“There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem,” Johnson said, “…Their cause must be our cause too. Because it is not just Negros, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome.”

Some 2,000 people set out from Selma on March 21, protected by U.S. Army troops and Alabama National Guard forces that Johnson had ordered under federal control. After walking some 12 hours a day and sleeping in fields along the way, they reached Montgomery on March 25.

Nearly 50,000 supporters—black and white—met the marchers in Montgomery, where they gathered in front of the state capitol to hear King and other speakers including Ralph Bunche (winner of the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize) address the crowd.

“No tide of racism can stop us,” King proclaimed from the building’s steps, as viewers from around the world watched the historic moment on television.


On March 17, 1965, even as the Selma-to-Montgomery marchers fought for the right to carry out their protest, President Lyndon Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress, calling for federal voting rights legislation to protect African Americans from barriers that prevented them from voting.

That August, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, which guaranteed the right to vote (first awarded by the 15th Amendment) to all African Americans. Specifically, the act banned literacy tests as a requirement for voting, mandated federal oversight of voter registration in areas where tests had previously been used, and gave the U.S. attorney general the duty of challenging the use of poll taxes for state and local elections.

Along with the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act was one of the most expansive pieces of civil rights legislation in American history. It greatly reduced the disparity between black and white voters in the U.S. and allowed greater numbers of African Americans to participate in politics and government at the local, state and national level. Events like this reminds us of how Important It is to have strong women. Bless of our Mothers, Sisters, Aunts and Daughters who took a moment and converted it to MOVEMENT, make ita champion day!

March 6, 1972-Zoe Dusanne

GM- FBF – Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. – Zoë Dusanne

Remember – “The NAACP in Seatle needs a new vision and I want to help them travel down that road with all of the recources that I can gather” – Zoe Dusanne

Today in our History – March 6, 1972 – the Seattle Art Museum honored Zoë Dusanne with an exhibition of contemporary art.

Described by those who knew her as exotic, flamboyant, and colorful, Zoë Dusanne, was an art dealer and collector who opened Seattle’s first professional modern-art gallery, the Zoë Dusanne Gallery, in 1950 and who worked tirelessly to both introduce modern art to a northwest audience and to promote northwest art and artists to a larger international art community.

Dusanne was born Zola Graves on March 24, 1884 in Kansas to Letitia Denny and John Henry Graves, a stonemason. Although she was self-taught with respect to modern art, her artistic bent was nourished early in life by her parents. When the Graves family lived in Iowa at the turn of the 20th century, for example, Letitia took the young Zoë on summer trips to Chicago to attend the theater and to visit the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1903 Zoë spent one year at Oberlin College followed by a semester at the University of Illinois, Urbana. It was during this time that Zoë met her first husband, George Young, whom she married in 1904. The union produced Zoë’s only child, Theodosia, in 1909. By 1912 Zoë was separated and decided to follow her parents to Seattle. A divorce from George followed after her arrival in Seattle. Zoë’s second marriage, in 1919 to Dr. Frederick Boston, lasted only a few years.

In 1928 Zoë and then teenaged Theodosia left Seattle for New York. Sometime during her residence in New York, Zoë began using the last name Dusanne. While living in Greenwich Village, Zoë’s passion for collecting modern art began in earnest. At the height of the Great Depression Zoë found that artists were the first to feel the impact of hard times, and often sold their works at a fraction of their earlier value. Little by little during these years Zoë amassed a collection of modern art which she brought back to Seattle in 1942.

In 1947 at age 63, Zoë built a home overlooking Seattle’s Lake Union that was specifically designed to double as an art gallery, and on November 12, 1950, Dusanne opened her collection to the public. From the mid-1940s until the late-1950s, Zoë was a force to be reckoned with as she worked to introduce modern art to a Pacific Northwest audience and to promote northwest art internationally. She sold and donated her own works to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), and facilitated the donation of many others. She lent works to the Henry Art Gallery and to SAM for exhibition. At Zoë’s urging, Life magazine featured the four artists who would later became known as the “mystical” painters of the “Northwest School”—Mark Tobey, Kenneth Callahan, Guy Anderson, and Morris Graves—in its September 28, 1953 issue. The Life magazine article propelled the “Northwest School” to national prominence. Zoë also traveled to Europe persuading Peggy Guggenheim to donate a Jackson Pollock to SAM.

Despite her influence within the greater Seattle community, Dusanne could not stop the 1958 demolition of her home and gallery necessitated by the building of the Seattle Freeway. In 1959 she reopened in a new location but was unable to recapture the luster and glory of her original gallery. In 1964 she closed the gallery permanently spending the remaining few years of her life with her daughter. In 1977, five years after her death on March 6, 1972, the Seattle Art Museum honored Zoë Dusanne with an exhibition of contemporary art that included works by many of the artists whom Zoë had promoted. It was a fitting way to honor a woman whose influence on culture in Seattle was considerable. Research more About this great woman and share with your bibies. Make it a champion day!