Category: 1950 – 1999

January 3- Adam Powell

GM – FBF – We stand the risk of failure, because you refused to take risks. So life demands risks.

Remember – “The black masses must demand and refuse to accept nothing less than that proportionate percentage of the political spoils such as jobs, elective offices and appointments… They must reject the shameful racial tokenism that characterizes the political life of America today.” Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. NYC (D)

Today in our History – Adam Powell was named as the Charman of the House. December 3, 1961

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. (November 29, 1908 – April 4, 1972) was a Baptist pastor and an American politician, who represented Harlem, New York City, in the United States House of Representatives (1945–71). He was the first person of African-American descent to be elected from New York to Congress. Oscar Stanton De Priest of Illinois was the first black person to be elected to Congress in the 20th century; Powell was the fourth.

Re-elected for nearly three decades, Powell became a powerful national politician of the Democratic Party, and served as a national spokesman on civil rights and social issues. He also urged United States presidents to support emerging nations in Africa and Asia as they gained independence after colonialism.

In 1961, after 16 years in the House, Powell became chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, the most powerful position held by an African American in Congress. As Chairman, he supported the passage of important social and civil rights legislation under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Following allegations of corruption, in 1967 Powell was excluded from his seat by Democratic Representatives-elect of the 90th Congress, but he was re-elected and regained the seat in the 1969 United States Supreme Court ruling in Powell v. McCormack. He lost his seat in 1970 to Charles Rangel and retired from electoral politics.

In 1961, after 15 years in Congress, Powell advanced to chairman of the powerful House Education and Labor Committee. In this position, he presided over federal social programs for minimum wage and Medicaid (established later under Johnson); he expanded the minimum wage to include retail workers; and worked for equal pay for women; he supported education and training for the deaf, nursing education, and vocational training; he led legislation for standards for wages and work hours; as well as for aid for elementary and secondary education, and school libraries. Powell’s committee proved extremely effective in enacting major parts of President Kennedy’s “New Frontier” and President Johnson’s “Great Society” social programs and the War on Poverty. It successfully reported to Congress “49 pieces of bedrock legislation”, as President Johnson put it in an May 18, 1966, letter congratulating Powell on the fifth anniversary of his chairmanship.Powell was instrumental in passing legislation that made lynching a federal crime, as well as bills that desegregated public schools. He challenged the Southern practice of charging Blacks a poll tax to vote. Poll taxes for federal elections were prohibited by the 24th Amendment, passed in 1964. Voter registration and electoral practices were not changed substantially in most of the South until after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provided federal oversight of voter registration and elections, and enforcement of the constitutional right to vote. In some areas where discrimination was severe, such as Mississippi, it took years for African Americans to register and vote in numbers related to their proportion in the population, but they have since maintained a high rate of registration and voting. Research more About this great American and tell your babies. Make it a champion day!

January 14 1990- Wilder

GM – FBF – In the first rule of politics, you know, Harry Truman, the buck stops here. Take responsibility. What I’ve learned over the years is that people will give people in politics a lot of rope if they just take responsibility.

Remember – “My experience politically has always been that one-word definition of politics: money. Keep your eye on the buck. And that tells you where the American people are going to be.” – Douglas Wilder (Governor -VA – D)

Today in our History – Wilder was elected governor on November 8, 1989, defeating Republican Marshall Coleman by a spread of less than half a percent. The narrow victory margin prompted a recount, which reaffirmed Wilder’s election. He was sworn in on January 14, 1990 by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.. In recognition of his landmark achievement as the first elected African-American governor, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People awarded Wilder the Spingarn Medal for 1990.

Wilder had a comfortable lead in the last polls before the election. The unexpected closeness of the election may have been due to the Republicans’ strong get out the vote efforts. Wilder had been candid about his pro-choice position in relation to abortion. Some observers believed the close election was caused by the Bradley effect, and suggested that white voters were reluctant to tell pollsters that they did not intend to vote for Wilder.

During his tenure as governor, Wilder worked on crime and gun control initiatives. He also worked to fund Virginia’s transportation initiatives, effectively lobbying Congress to reallocate highway money to the states with the greatest needs. Much residential and office development had taken place in Northern Virginia without its receiving sufficient federal money for infrastructure improvements to keep up. He also succeeded in passing state bond issues to support improving transportation. In May 1990 Wilder ordered state agencies and universities to divest themselves of any investments in South Africa because of its policy of apartheid, making Virginia the first Southern state to take such action.

During his term, Wilder carried out Virginia’s law on capital punishment, although he had stated his personal opposition to the death penalty. There were 14 executions by the electric chair, including the controversial case of Roger Keith Coleman. In January 1994 Wilder commuted the sentence of Earl Washington, Jr, an intellectually disabled man, to life in prison based on testing of DNA evidence that raised questions about his guilt. Virginia law has strict time limits on when such new evidence can be introduced post-conviction. But in 2000, under a new governor, an STR-based DNA test led to the exclusion of Washington as the perpetrator of the murder for which he had been sentenced. He was fully exonerated by Governor Jim Gilmore for the capital murder and he was released from prison.

During his term, Wilder had strained relations with Charles Robb, US Senator and former Governor. Many papers described this as a “feud.”

Wilder left office in 1994 because of Virginia’s prohibition of successive gubernatorial terms. The next governor elected was Republican George Allen.arch more about this great American and teach your babies. Make it a Champion day!

Febuary 1 1998- Lillian E. Fishburne

GM – FBF – If you believe in yourself and have dedication and pride – and never quit, you’ll be a winner. The price of victory is high but so are the rewards.

Remember – The promotion to Rear Admiral was a goal that I set for myself to obtaining while in the U.S. Navy. With God’s help and my dedication to the job it was done. – Rear Admiral U.S. Navy – Lillian Elaine Fishburne,

Today on our History – February 1, 1998 – Lillian E. Fishburne, the first African American woman to become a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy, was born on March 25, 1949 in Patuxent River, Maryland. Fishburne was raised in Rockville, Maryland where she attended Richard Montgomery High School. In 1971, she graduated from Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. In February 1973, Fishburne became an Ensign after graduating from the Women Officers School at Newport, Rhode Island.

Fishburne’s first naval assignment was at the Naval Air Test Facility, Lakehurst, New Jersey, as a Personnel and Legal Officer. From August 1974 to November 1977, Fishburne was an Officer Programs recruiter in Miami, Florida. For the next three years, 1977 to 1980, Fishburne was the Officer in charge of the Naval Telecommunications Center at the Great Lakes, Illinois Naval Base.

Fishburne earned her Master of Arts in Management from Webster College in St. Louis, Missouri in 1980 and for the next two years was a student at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. In 1982, Fishburne earned her Master of Science in Telecommunications Systems Management at the Naval Postgraduate School. After graduating, Fishburne served for two years at the Command, Control, Communications Directorate for the Chief of Naval Operations.

Fishburne held assignments in Japan, Washington, D.C., and Key West, Florida for the next decade. In December 1994, she became Chief of the Command and Control Systems Support Division for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. She then served as commander of the Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station in Wahiawa, Hawaii from 1995 to 1998. On February 1, 1998, she attained the rank of Rear Admiral and was promoted by the President of the United States, Bill Clinton.

After three years as the Director of the Information Transfer Division for the Space, Information Warfare for the Chief of Naval Operations, in Washington, D.C., Fishburne retired in February 2001. Her decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, two Meritorious Service Medals, two Navy Commendation Medals, and the Navy Achievement Medal. Fishburne is married to Albert J. Sullivan, a native of Daytona Beach, Florida. They have a daughter named Cherese. Research more about this great American and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 31 1994- Woodrow Wilson (Woody)

GM – FBF – This is last entry for the year 2018 and I have a different story for every day of this year. I want to thank all of you who have stopped by and gotten something from the daily posts and for the ones who went on to share the daily posts.

One hundred years ago 1919 was called “The Red Summer” with all of the lynching’s that Black people faced. I will tell many of those stories in 2019.

Today’s Story is about a Black athlete who broke the color barrier in professional football in 1946 (a year before Jackie Robinson integrated major league baseball) and is regarded as having the first dignified role for a black actor in a feature motion picture. Enjoy!

Remember – “ I have been able to serve my country, play professional football and do acting in Hollywood. I have a good life” – Woodrow Wilson Stride

Today in our History – December 31, 1994 – Woodrow Wilson Woolwine (Woody) Strode dies.

(B. 28 July 1914 in Los Angeles, California; d. 31 December 1994 in Glendora, California), Strode was one of two sons of Baylous Strode, Sr., a brick mason, and Rose Norris Strode, a homemaker; Baylous Jr. was the couple’s only other child.

Strode was tall and thin as a youngster, and his athletic ability did not materialize until he reached junior high school. After a growth spurt, he developed into a fine all-around athlete, earning all-city honors in football and all-state recognition in track and field at Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. His athletic ability interested several major colleges on the West Coast. He chose the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), at the time a relatively young institution that had recently moved to a new campus in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. In going to college, Strode fulfilled his father’s wish that he “get an education.”

During the late 1930s Jackie Robinson and Kenny Washington, also black athletes, were the bright stars on the UCLA gridiron, but Strode was also outstanding. It was at this time that Strode prepared for the decathlon (a ten-event track and field sport) in the 1936 Olympic trials.

Because of his muscular physique, Strode was asked to pose for an art class. He also caught the attention of the acclaimed German cinematographer Leni Riefenstahl, who took several still photographs of Strode and had him pose for a sculptor. The Nazi leader Adolf Hitler saw the photographs and sent Riefenstahl to America to film Strode. A painting of Strode was used, ironically—given Hitler’s thoughts on Aryan supremacy—as part of the Berlin Olympic Festival in 1936.

When Strode finished his schooling at UCLA, the National Football League (NFL) was still an all-white organization. Blacks had no opportunity to play in the nation’s only major professional football league. However, Strode and Washington did play with the Hollywood Bears of the Pacific Coast League, a minor league, and they actually earned more money than many NFL players.

During the late 1930s Strode and his UCLA teammate Washington began working in the service department at Warner Brothers Studio. After he left UCLA, Strode’s contacts at Warner Brothers allowed him to secure small roles in motion pictures, including Sundown (1941), Star-Spangled Rhythm(1942), and No Time for Lave (1943). But Strode was mainly an athlete during this time. When not playing football, he trained as a wrestler and won several professional matches. In 1941 he married Luana Kalaeloa, a Hawaiian princess. They later had two children: a son, Kalaeloa (known as Kalai), and a daughter, June.

When World War II broke out, Strode joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He was stationed at March Field in Riverside, California, where he was a member of one of the top service football teams, the Fourth Air Corps Flyers. Commenting on Strode, Paul Stenn (“Stenko”), a ten-year NFL player, recalled, “I played along side of him—and he was good. I had played pro football and I can tell you Woody Strode was as good as the NFL players. He just needed a chance to prove it.”

Strode got that chance after the war. When the Cleveland Rams moved their franchise to Los Angeles in 1946, they became the first major league team to play on the West Coast. The Rams wanted to play in Memorial Coliseum, a 100,000-seat stadium. Leaders of the black community reasoned that if the team was going to play in a public facility, then all Americans should be entitled to play on the team. Pressure was brought to bear, and in the spring of 1946 Strode and Washington signed on with the Rams, becoming the first blacks to play in the NFL since the league’s pioneering days in the 1920s. Unfortunately, both Strode, then age thirty-two, and Washington, then twenty-nine, were past their athletic prime. Underutilized by the Rams, Strode caught only four passes for thirty-seven yards and was waived at the end of the 1946 season.

The next season, Strode signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Age and football injuries caught up with him by 1950, and Strode returned to the United States to pursue a professional wrestling career in Los Angeles. The “movie crowd” often attended the wrestling matches, and this led to Strode’s full-time acting career.

A talent agent signed him, and he appeared in several movies that today would be known as “action” films. Strode often played the role of a gladiator or jungle warrior. He gained notoriety as a gladiator in the 1960 epic film Spartacus. That same year Strode starred in the title role of Sergeant Rutledge, a part that many consider to be the first dignified black character in American cinema. Strode continued to land meaningful roles throughout the 1960s and made films in Italy in the 1970s. He also made regular television appearances, ranging from a starring role in Ramar of the Jungle to a part in The Quest.

One of Strode’s last major roles was in the 1984 film The Cotton Club. After he did several other feature films and a television movie (A Gathering of Old Men, 1987), Strode retired to a ranch in Glendora, California, with his second wife, Tina (Strode remarried on 10 May 1982 after Luana’s death in 1980 from Parkinson’s disease). Strode died on New Year’s Eve, 1994, in Glendora of natural causes about a year after he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He was buried with full military honors in Riverside National Cemetery in California.

Strode was a versatile athlete who made his mark in the world of sports, but he is best remembered as one of the first blacks to integrate the modern NFL. He also left an important legacy of more than fifty feature films. His many significant roles opened the door for other black actors to follow—much like his role as a black pioneer in professional football led the way for future black athletes. Research more about Black athletes turning to movie stars and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 24 1989- Ernest Nathan

GM – FBF – Today’s story takes us to the “Crescent City” of New Orleans, LA. Where a lot of U.S. History was made and still making history. The culture of the bayou is different than anywhere else in our country. The foods, music, dance and heritage keeps a lot of people from all over the world to visit and be part of it. So, when it comes to politics it is the same way. Enjoy!

Remember – “The people of New Orleans, work together, play together and make history together” – Mayor Ernest Nathan Morial

Today in our History – December 24,1989 – Ernest Nathan Morial dies.

Ernest Nathan Morial, known as Dutch Morial (October 9, 1929 – December 24, 1989), was an American political figure and a leading civil rights advocate. He was the first African-American mayor of New Orleans, serving from 1978 to 1986. He was the father of Marc Morial, who subsequently served as Mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002.

Morial, a New Orleans native, grew up in the Seventh Ward. His father was Walter Etienne Morial, a cigarmaker, and his mother was Leonie V. (Moore) Morial, a seamstress. He attended Holy Redeemer Elementary School and McDonogh No. 35 Senior High School. He graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1951. In 1954, he became the first African American to receive a law degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Morial came to prominence as a lawyer fighting to dismantle segregation and as president of the local from 1962 to 1965.

He followed in the cautious style of his mentor A.P. Tureaud in preferring to fight for Civil and political rights in courtroom battles,rather than through sit-ins and demonstrations. After unsuccessful electoral races in 1959 and 1963, he became the first black member of the Louisiana State Legislature since Reconstruction when he was elected in 1967 to represent a district in New Orleans’ Uptown neighborhood. He ran for an at-large position on New Orleans’ City Council in 1969 and 1970, and lost narrowly. He then became the first black Juvenile Court judge in Louisiana in 1970. When he was elected to the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in 1974, he was the first black American to have attained this position as well.

New Orleans renamed its convention center, which spans over 10 blocks, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in 1992 for the late mayor. The convention center has been a major economic engine for the city’s large tourist industry and, in 2005, became a highly publicized national symbol when it served as a makeshift evacuation center in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In 1997, the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center posthumously honored Morial with the dedication of the Ernest N. Morial Asthma, Allergy and Respiratory Disease Center. The facility is Louisiana’s first comprehensive center for the education, prevention, treatment and research of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

“Dutch” suffered and eventually died from complications associated with asthma. Morial was the 23rd general president of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter organization established for African Americans. In 1993, Morial was named one of the first thirteen inductees into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield, the first African American so honored.

A public school in New Orleans East was named after him: Ernest N. Morial Elementary. Research more about black Mayors in American Cities and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 20 1986

GM – FBF – Today’s story is a painful one because it is close to home being that I am from New Jersey and it was nothing for us to go to NYC or any of the five sections known as Burrows. In the 1980s, several racially motivated attacks dominated the headlines of New York City newspapers. On September 15, 1983, artist and model Michael Stewart died on a lower Manhattan subway platform from a chokehold and beating he received from several police officers. A year later, on October 29, an elderly grandmother, Eleanor Bumpers, was murdered by a police officer in her Bronx apartment as he and other officers tried to evict her.

Later that year, on December 22, a white man, Bernhard Goetz, shot and seriously wounded four black teenagers he thought were going to rob him on a subway train in Manhattan. The Howard Beach racial incident in late 1986 propelled the predominantly Italian and Jewish community into the national spotlight, exposing racial hatred in New York City. Enjoy!

Remember – “I could recall 25 years ago as a kid, I would not recommend anyone black stopping there,” said Representative Gregory W. Meeks, who is black and represents Old Howard Beach, east of Cross Bay Boulevard. “Today, it’s definitely a different place.”

Today in our History – On December 20, 1986, a black man was killed and another was beaten in Howard Beach, Queens, New York, United States in a racially charged incident that heightened racial tensions in New York City.

The man attacked was 23-year-old Michael Griffith (March 2, 1963 – December 20, 1986), who was from Trinidad and had immigrated to the United States in 1973, and lived in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He was killed after being hit by a car as he was chased onto a highway by a mob of white youths who had beaten him and his friends. Griffith’s 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 Hawkinsin 1989.

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 in a deserted stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard near the Broad Channelneighborhood 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. When Sandiford, Grimes, and Griffith left the restaurant at 12:40 a.m., a mob of twelve white youth awaited them with baseball bats, tire irons, and tree limbs. The gang, led by Jon Lester, 17, included Salvatore DeSimone, 19, William Bollander, 17, James Povinelli, 16, Michael Pirone, 17, John Saggese, 19, Jason Ladone, 16, Thomas Gucciardo, 17, Harry Bunocore, 18, Scott Kern, 18, Thomas Farino, 16, and Robert Riley, 19.

Racial slurs were exchanged and a fight ensued. Sandiford and Griffith were seriously beaten; Grimes escaped unharmed. The mob attacked Griffith and Sandiford. Grimes, who drew a knife on the angry mob, escaped with minor injuries. Sandiford begged, “God, don’t kill us” before Lester knocked him down with a baseball bat. With the mob in hot pursuit, the severely beaten Griffith ran the nearby Belt Parkway where he jumped through a small hole in a fence adjacent to the highway. As he staggered across the busy six-lane expressway, trying to escape his attackers, he was hit and instantly killed by a car driven by Dominic Blum, a court officer and son of a New York police officer. His body was found on theBelt Parkway at 1:03 a.m.

The incident sparked immediate outrage in New York’s African American community, prompting black civil rights activist Reverend Al Sharpton to organize several protests in Howard Beach, as well as the Carnarsie and Bath Bay sections of Brooklyn. Other leaders, including newly elected black Congressman Floyd Flake and Brooklyn activists Sonny Carson and Rev. Herbert Daughtry, called for boycotts of all white-owned Howard Beach businesses.

New York Governor Mario Cuomo appointed a special prosecutor, Charles J. Hynes, who brought manslaughter, second degree murder, and first degree assault charges against four leaders of the mob, Jon Lester, Jason Ladone, Scott Kern and Michael Pirone. The other men were charged with lesser offenses.

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 did not return criminal charges against him.

To protest the killing of Griffith, 1,200 demonstrators marched through the streets of Howard Beach on December 27, 1986. A heavy NYPD presence kept angry white locals, who were screaming at the crowd of marchers, in check.
The Griffith family, as well as Cedric Sandiford, retained the services of Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason(who was later disbarred), 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.[10] Scott Kern was released from prison, last of the three main perpetrators, in 2002.

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 Black harassment in communities and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 16 1988- Sylvester James

GM – FBF – Growing up in Trenton,N.J. in a Christian Church upbringing, I noticed that at the time there was a lot of genders, cross genders in the choir. The Church of God In Christ was big in hosting musical events state wide and nationally which put you in contact with a wide verity of people. Joining the New Jersey Mass Choir took it to another level as you interacted with larger gender groups.

As I worked on the radio and dance clubs, also acted as master of ceremonies for groups, Individuals and acts that came through Southeast Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. Let’s face it back in the day it was tough to “Come out of the closet” there was no acceptance as a society for THOSE PEOPLE that we now call LGBTQ and the emotional swing and acceptance was tough for many great artists but there was one that I had the opportunity to meet during the days of Disco and would always sell out any venue especially my beloved POISON APPLE DISCOTECHE which I helped design and was program director, the building was fire coded at 5,000 people. Enjoy today’s story!

Remember – “I was black, gay and some form of gender queer before there was that term.” – Sylvester James

Today in our History – December 16, 1988 – Sylvester James died.

Sylvester James, American singer and songwriter, was born in the Watts section of Los Angeles, California to Sylvester James and Letha Weaver on September 6, 1947. He grew up with his mother and stepfather Robert Hurd, as well as five siblings: John James, Larry James, Bernadette Jackson, Bernadine Stevens, and Alonzo Hurd. Raised attending the Palm Lane Church of God and Christ in Los Angeles, James became a young gospel star performing at churches and conventions across California.

James graduated from Jordan High School in Los Angeles in 1969. He studied interior design for two years at Leimert Beauty College, Los Angeles and also studied archeology, working at the Museum of Ancient History at the La Brea Tar Pits. During this time, he co-founded the recording group, the Disquotays.

After moving to San Francisco in 1967, he joined the Cockettes, a theater troupe, singing jazz and blues standards of the 1920s and 1930s; in November 1971, the Cockettes performed at the Anderson Theater in New York City’s East Village. Sylvester made his debut album on the Blue Thumb label with Lights Out (1971), followed in 1973 by Sylvester and Bazaar. In 1976, Sylvester hired the singers Martha Wash and Izora Armstead-Rhodes. Record producer Harvey Fuqua discovered the group and signed them with Fantasy Records which produced the album Sylvester in 1977.

James performed at the Rock Show at Winterland in San Francisco, opened for Chaka Khan, appeared at the Castro Street Fair with Harvey Milk, and was profiled in GQ magazine. In 1978, James performed on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and on The Merv Griffin Show. On March 11, 1979, Sylvester performed at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House and was awarded the Key to the City by Mayor Diane Feinstein. The concert was released as the album Living Proof. Also in 1979, Disco International Magazine deemed him Best Male Disco Act.

Over the course of his career, James sang a variety of genres, including ballads, jazz, blues, gospel, R&B, rock, torch songs, soul, and disco. He toured South America, Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America. The album Step II in 1978 included the Gold-record hits “You Make Me Feel (Might Real)” and “Dance (Disco Heat)” and received three Billboard Disco Forum Awards. Three more albums followed: Stars (1979), Sell My Soul (1980), and Too Hot to Sleep (Fantasy/ Honey Records, 1981). After working with Fantasy, Sylvester joined Megatone Records in 1981 and produced the albums All I Need (1982), Call Me (1983), and M-1015 (1984). In December 1986, on New Year’s Eve, he appeared on The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.

In 1986, Sylvester joined Warner Brothers to produce his final album Mutual Attraction, which included the hit “Someone Like You.” He also sang with Aretha Franklin for her album Who’s Zooming Who? In later years, he became an AIDS awareness activist. His last public appearance was leading the People Living with AIDS/ARC group at San Francisco’s Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 26, 1988. The 1988 Castro Street Fair in San Francisco was themed as a tribute to his work. Sylvester James died on December 16, 1988 in San Francisco. Research more LGBTQ artist and share with your babies and make it a champion day!

December 15 2003

GM – FBF – One of the toughest things in the world is to be denied by your people. Everywhere you go your called names or looked down upon and all that you are trying to do is live your life as a mixed race person. When I was teaching/coaching at Red Bank Regional High School at that time the make up of the student population was (60% White 30% Black 10% Asian) in Monmouth County, N.J; I had twin girls who came during the Christmas season and stayed for the second semester and were gone. The story was that they had had problems with other two High Schools during the first semester- fighting, abuse and disruption during the school day near the Army Base (Fort Monmonth). They never were involved in any extra-circular activities and it got so bad they ate lunch in my classroom in the back where they could study and have some quiet time because everyone in school knew that you had a safe place in Coach Hardison’s classroom. So I had them for Homeroom and taught them both black history before lunch and had them for AP U.S. History II at the end of the day. Many days they came to school and class crying, angry and mad. I always wondered what happened to them since this was their senior year of high school. Today’s story is about a young baby who lived her life knowing that her father was not only white but one of the most powerful men in America. Enjoy!

Remember – “I am not bitter. I am not angry. In fact, there is a great sense of peace that has come over me in the past year,” she said. “I feel as though a great weight has been lifted. I am Essie Mae Washington-Williams, and at last I feel completely free.” – Essie Mae Washington-Williams

Today in our History – December 15, 2003, U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond’s interracial daughter confirmed.

Essie Mae Washington-Williams (October 12, 1925 – February 4, 2013) was an American teacher, author, and writer. She is best known as the eldest child of Strom Thurmond, Governor of South Carolina and longtime United States Senator, known for his pro-racial segregation policies. Of mixed race, she was born to Carrie Butler, a 16-year-old African-American girl who worked as a household servant for Thurmond’s parents, and Thurmond, then 22 and unmarried. Washington-Williams grew up in the family of one of her mother’s sisters, not learning of her biological parents until 1938 when her mother came for a visit and informed Essie Mae she was her mother. She graduated from college, earned a master’s degree, married, raised a family, and had a 30-year professional career in education.

Washington-Williams did not reveal her biological father’s identity until she was 78 years old, after Thurmond’s death at the age of 100 in 2003. Though he had little to do with her upbringing, he had paid for her college education, and took an interest in her and her family all his life. In 2005, she published her autobiography, which was nominated for the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize.

Washington was the daughter of Carrie Butler, who was 16 when her daughter was born, and Strom Thurmond, then 22. Carrie Butler worked as a domestic servant for Thurmond’s parents. She sent her daughter from South Carolina to her older sister Mary and her husband John Henry Washington to be raised in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. The girl was named Essie after another of Carrie’s sisters, who fostered her briefly as an infant. Essie Mae grew up with her cousin, seven years older than she, who she believed was her half-brother.

Washington was unaware of the identity of her biological parents until 1941, when she was 16. Her mother told her the full story then and took her to meet Thurmond in person. 
Washington and her mother met infrequently with Thurmond after that, although they had some contact for years. After high school, Washington-Williams worked as a nurse at Harlem Hospital in New York City, and took a course in business education at New York University.

She did not visit the segregated South until 1942, when she met relatives in Edgefield, S.C. After having grown up in Pennsylvania, Washington was shocked by the racial restrictions of the South. She returned to the north to live with relatives during the war years. After Thurmond returned from World War II, she started college at the all-black South Carolina State College (SCSC) in the fall of 1947. Thurmond quietly paid for her college education. She met and married future lawyer Julius Williams at SCSC in 1948. Her first child, Julius Williams Jr., was born in 1949. As a result, Essie Mae Washington-Williams dropped out of college in the summer of 1949 to begin raising the first of her four children.

During the late 1950s and 1960s, the years of national activism in the civil rights movement, Washington occasionally tried to discuss racism with Thurmond, who was known for his long-time political support of segregation, but he brushed off her complaints about segregated facilities. Nevertheless, Washington-Williams felt that she made a significant impact on Thurmond during their private conversations on race and race relations and that Thurmond’s policies towards African-Americans were affected as a result. In 1976, for example, Thurmond nominated Matthew J. Perry, whom Essie Mae dated in 1947 shortly before she met her first husband, to the U.S. Court of Military Appeals. Thurmond became the first Southern senator to nominate an African American for a federal judgeship.

Following the death of her husband in 1964, Washington moved again to Los Angeles, California, where she completed her undergraduate studies to receive a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Los Angeles in 1969 and earned a master’s degree in education at the University of Southern California. She had a 30-year career as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District from 1967 through 1997. She was a longtime member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, which she joined while at South Carolina State.

In 1949, Washington left college before her junior year after marrying Julius T. Williams, a law student at SCSC, the previous year. After his graduation from law school, they moved to his home town, Savannah, Georgia, where he established a law practice and was active in the NAACP. They had two sons and two daughters together. He died in 1964. Three children live in the Seattle, Washington, area, and one daughter lives near Los Angeles. Washington-Williams has numerous grandchildren.

In 2004, Washington-Williams said that she intended to be active on behalf of the Black Patriots Foundation, which was raising funds to build a monument on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to honor American blacks who served in the Revolutionary War. This organization became defunct the following year. Another group is now raising funds for the monument.

Washington-Williams died February 4, 2013, in Columbia, South Carolina, at age 87.

When Washington-Williams announced her family connection, it was acknowledged by the Thurmond family. In 2004 the state legislature approved the addition of her name to the list of Thurmond children on a monument for Senator Thurmond on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds.

Washington-Williams applied for membership in the United Daughters of the Confederacy, based on her heritage through Thurmond to ancestors who fought as Confederate soldiers. She encouraged other African Americans to join lineage societies, in the interests of exploring their heritage and promoting a more inclusive view of American history. She said,
It is important for all Americans to have the opportunity to know and understand their bloodline. Through my father’s line, I am fortunate to trace my heritage back to the birth of our nation and beyond. On my mother’s side, like most African Americans, my history is broken by the course of human events.

The lineage society is open to female descendants of Confederate veterans of the American Civil War. As her father Thurmond had been a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, his completed genealogical documentation was deemed sufficient for her to qualify for membership, according to her lawyer, Frank Wheaton. She also intended to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.

In 2005, Washington-Williams was awarded an honorary Ph.D. in education from South Carolina State University at Orangeburg when she was invited to speak at their commencement ceremony.

She published a memoir, Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond (2005), written with William Stadiem. It explored her sense of dislocation based on her mixed heritage, as well as going to college in the segregated South after having grown up in Pennsylvania. It was nominated for both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Research more about famous mixed race children and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

December 10 1982- Pamela McAllister

GM – FBF – Today’s story takes me back to the Badger state of Wisconsin, where I spent 10 years getting a BA and MFA. Also I started my own business MaddLadd Productions during the beginning of the Disco era and worked on radio stations in Southeast Wisconsin to promote my business and was program director to a few of the most distinguished discotheques in the area including Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club in Lake Geneva, WI. My master’s degree was in Radio & Television Broadcasting which included some journalism classes in which I had an opportunity to meet today’s story headliner. Enjoy!

Remember – “We as black people should be qualified to run any newspaper in America”. – Pam McAllister Johnson

Today in our History – December 10, 1982 – Pamela McAllister Johnson became the first Black woman publisher of a mainstream paper, the Ithaca Journal.

Pam McAllister Johnson, American newspaper publisher, consultant. Member National Association Black Journalists, National Association Education in Journalism, New York State Publications Association, American Newspaper Publications assosiation, New York Association Black Journalists, Ithaca Business and Professional Women.; Club: Zonta.

Johnson, Pam McAllister was born on April 14, 1945 in McAlester, Oklahoma, United States. Daughter of Elmer Reuben and Esther Queen (Crump) McAllister.

Bachelor of Science, University Wisconsin, 1967, Master of Science, 1971, Doctor of Philosophy, 1977. Association professor journalism University of Wisconsin Madison,1971-1978. Associate professor Norfolk State University (Virginia), 1979-1981.

General executive Gannett Company, Inc., Bridgewater, New Jersey, since 1981. Assistant to public The Ithaca Journal, New York, 1981, president, public, since 1981. Director First Bank Ithaca.

Board of directors St. Bonaventure U., Olean, New York, Station WCNY-television, Syracuse, New York. Member of advisory board National Youth Communication, Syracuse, 1983.

Associate professor journalism University Wisconsin, Madison, 1971—1978. Associate professor Norfolk State University, Virginia, 1979—1981. General executive Gannett Company, Inc., Bridgewater, New Jersey, since 1981.

Assistant to public The Ithaca Journal, New York, 1981, president, public, 1981.

Director First Bank Ithaca. Board directors St. Bonaventure University, Olean, New York, Station WCNY-television, Syracuse. Member advisory board National Youth Communication, 1983.

Member of Ithaca Business and Professional Women, New York Association Black Journalists, married Newspaper Publications Association, New York State Publications Association, National Association Education in Journalism, National Association Black Journalists, Zonta.

Married Donald Nathanial Johnson, June 8, 1968. Children: Jason, Dawn.
Father: Elmer Reuben McAllister, Mother: Esther Queen (Crump) McAllister – Husband: Donald Nathanial Johnson, two children: Dawn Johnson and Jason Johnson. Research more about black women in journalism and share with your babies. Make it a champion day!

November 28 1961- Ernie Davis

GM – FBF – I know that many of you may have seen the movie The Express: The Ernie Davis Story, if you haven’t please see it. Today’s story is about that man, who came from humble beginnings in Elmira, NY. He was an American football player, a halfback who won the Heisman Trophy in 1961 and was its first African-American recipient.

He played college football for Syracuse University and was the first pick in the 1962 NFL Draft. Selected by the Washington Redskins of the National Football League (NFL) in December 1961, he was then almost immediately traded to the Cleveland Browns and issued number 45.

He was diagnosed with leukemia in the summer of 1962, and died less than a year later at age 23, without ever playing in a professional game. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979. Enjoy!

Remember – “Someplace along the line you have to come to an understanding with yourself, and I had reached mine a long time before, when I was still in the hospital. Either you fight or you give up.” – Ernie Davis

Today in our History – November 28, 1961 – Ernie Davis became the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. (December 14, 1939 – May 18, 1963)

ERNIE DAVIS A MAN OF COURAGE – When all his now-fabulous records are broken, as they surely will be someday, when the story of his personal tragedy is no more than an occasional recollection in the mind of an aging generation, Ernie Davis will still be remembered as the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. This award is given annually by New York’s Downtown Athletic Club to the best college football player. Of all such tributes it has come to be regarded as the most important. Sportswriters and broadcasters across the country select the winner, and the award implies something more than just ability on the playing field. It suggests character, too, a quality that Ernie Davis owned in abundance.

Ernie Davis was only 23 when he died in the Lakeside Hospital in Cleveland. During his short lifetime he had not had time to accomplish anything outside of sport; in fact, he had not even had time to fulfill his prime ambition in sport. From the time of his early athletic successes in high school, Ernie had set his heart and mind on being the best professional football player anywhere. He was a shy and quiet young man, and through football he could articulate his pride and the longing for respect and success that burned inside him like a roaring furnace.

Although every college that covets championship football would like to have had Ernie for a student, he chose Syracuse. “I wanted to play in the big time,” he explained, “and a lot of people including Jim Brown persuaded me that I’d have better opportunities there.” When Ernie took over Brown’s old position as the Syracuse halfback, he proudly wore Brown’s No. 44 jersey and during the next three years proceeded to break most of Brown’s records for ground gaining and point scoring.

Ernie followed Jim Brown to the Cleveland Browns as a pro, and, after the financial arrangements had been made, everyone thought that the pairing of these two strong, swift and elusive runners would return the Browns to their former eminence in the National Football League. There was to be a delay, however. Just as that season was about to begin, Ernie Davis was hospitalized with “a blood disorder.” It turned out to be acute monocytic leukemia, the most virulent form of blood cancer.

Davis was treated with a drug known as 6-MP, and within weeks his illness was in a state of total remission. No one knew if it would recur.

Wherever he went in Cleveland that fall, Ernie Davis was as much of a celebrity as if he had been scoring touchdowns for the team. “Hi ya, Ern,” “Hi, Ernie,” “How ya feeling, Ernie?” the fans would shout at him as he hurried, head down, through the stadium on the way to the team’s dressing room. A flicker of a smile would cross Ernie’s usually solemn face as he acknowledged a greeting or reluctantly paused to sign an autograph. He often sat on the bench with the team, one of them in all but uniform. “This is when it’s really frustrating,” he said one afternoon during the Browns’ game with the St. Louis Cardinals. “I’m in real good shape now. But it’s too late in the season to take the time during practice to work me into the setup.”

After the game Ernie went back to the dressing room to congratulate his victorious teammates, and many of the happy players slapped him on the back as if he had been a part of the triumph. Art Modell, the youthful president of the Browns, came up to Davis and said, “Ernie, why don’t you take the Thanksgiving weekend off? You could go spend some time with Helen.” Modeil winked at this reference to Ernie’s girl, Helen Gott, a Syracuse University senior from East Orange, New Jersey.

Later Davis talked about the future in his diffident way, as if every hesitant word were being pulled from within him by the greatest effort. “Starting next year,” he said, “I expect to play 10 or 11 years and then go into business. I’d like to get into purchasing or marketing, something like that where I could use what I learned in college.” Jimmy Brown got Ernie started before the winter was over, helping him land a job with Pepsi-Cola. In his spare time, Ernie played basketball to stay in shape.

Later that week Ernie Davis paid a call on Art Modell at the Browns’ office and said that he had to go into the hospital briefly for some additional treatment. They talked about the future of the football team and how Ernie believed this would be the year the Browns would regain the championship. Ernie apologized, as he often had, for the expense that his medical care was causing the Browns. He entered the hospital on Thursday May 16th and went into a coma on Friday, May 17th.

Early the next morning, Saturday, May 18th he died in his sleep and the news of his death shocked everyone who admires courage and sportsmanship and the many other good, human qualities that Ernie Davis brought to his surroundings. Research more about this great American hero and share with your babies. I will be in executive meetings all day and will not be able to respond to any posts. Make it a champion day!