* Today in Black History – June 15 *
1864 – Congress passes a bill equalizing pay, arms, equipment
and medical services of African American troops.
1877 – Henry Ossian Flipper, born a slave in Thomasville,
Georgia in 1856, is the first African American cadet
to graduate from the United States Military Academy at
West Point, New York. Flipper, who was never spoken to
by a white cadet during his four years at West Point,
was appointed a second lieutenant in the all-African
American 10th Cavalry, stationed at Fort Sill in Indian
Territory. He will join the ancestors on May 3, 1940.
1921 – Bessie Coleman, a 28-year-old native of Amarillo,
Texas, who learned French in order to communicate with
instructors, receives a pilot’s certificate from the
Federation Aeronautique Internationale in France. She
is the first African American woman to become a licensed
1921 – Erroll Garner is born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He
will become an accomplished pianist who will play by ear.
Much of his early work will be lost because it will not
be written down. His best known composition will be
“Misty.” He will be an ASCAP Award-winning jazz pianist.
Some of his other hits will be “Dreamy,” “That’s My Kick,”
“Moment’s Delight,” and “Solitaire.” He will be honored
on a stamp by the U.S. Postal Service. He will join the
ancestors on January 2, 1977.
1938 – Billie Leo Williams, baseball player (Rookie of the Year
1961), and Chicago Cubs outfielder, is born in Whistler,
Alabama. After accumulating a lifetime .290 batting average
with 426 homers and 1475 runs batted in, he will be elected
to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. His number 26 will be
retired at Wrigley Field. His will be the second number
retired by the Cubs, the first being Ernie Banks’ number 14.
Following his departure from the Cubs, the number has been
reassigned to other players from time to time, although he
will reclaim it during several intervals of coaching with
the Cubs after his playing days had ended. In 1999, he will
be named as a finalist to the Major League Baseball All-
Century Team. During the 2010 season, the Cubs will honor
him with a statue outside of Wrigley Field. The statue will
be unveiled in a pre-game ceremony before their game on
September 7 against the Houston Astros. In 2011, he will be
appointed as a member of the Hall of Fame’s Veterans
Committee “Golden Era” group.
1951 – Joe Louis knocks out Lee Savold in a closed-circuit TV
fight seen by fight fans in movie theatres in six cities.
1969 – O’Shea Jackson is born in Los Angeles, California. Known
later as “Ice Cube,” he will be the first member of the
seminal Californian rap group N.W.A. to leave, and he will
quickly establish himself as one of hip-hop’s best and
most controversial artists. From the outset of his career,
he will court controversy, since his rhymes were profane
and political. As a solo artist, his politics and social
commentary will sharpen substantially, and his first two
records, “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” and “Death Certificate,”
will be equally praised and reviled for their lyrical
stance, which happens to be considerably more articulate
than many of his gangsta peers. As his career progresses,
Ice Cube’s influence begins to decline, particularly as he
tries to incorporate elements of contemporary groups like
Cypress Hill into his sound, but his stature never
diminished, and he will remain one of the biggest rap stars
throughout the ’90s. He will also become an actor and will
have his acting debut in John Singleton’s “Boyz N the Hood.”
1971 – The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of
closing Jackson, Mississippi, swimming pools rather than
integrating them. The ruling is considered by many to
indicate the Court’s resistance to increased integration.
1971 – Vernon E. Jordan Jr., former executive director of the
United Negro College Fund, is appointed executive director
of the National Urban League.
1987 – Michael Spinks defeats Gerry Cooney in round five of their
heavyweight boxing match in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
1990 – St. Clair Drake joins the ancestors after succumbing to a
heart attack in Palo Alto, California. The noted sociologist
and anthropologist was the author of numerous books,
including the important ‘Black Metropolis’ which he
co-authored with Horace Cayton. In 1969, he established and
served as Director of the African and Afro-American Studies
Program at Stanford University, a program often imitated by
other colleges and universities.
1996 – Ella Jane Fitzgerald joins the ancestors. Dubbed the
‘First Lady of Song,’ she was the most popular female jazz
singer in the United States for more than half a century.
During her lifetime, she sold over 40 million albums and won
13 Grammy awards. Born in Newport News, Virginia, Fitzgerald
began singing after impressing the audience at the Apollo
Theater’s Amateur Night in 1934. She could imitate every
instrument in an orchestra and worked with all the jazz
greats, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Nat King Cole
to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, and Benny Goodman. She
performed at top venues all over the world, and her
audiences were as diverse as her vocal range. She received
the National Medal of Arts, France’s Commander of Arts and
Letters Award, Kennedy Center Honors, and numerous honorary
doctorates for her continuing contributions to the arts.
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Rene’ A. Perry.