July 11 African American Historical Events

Today in Black History – July 11 *

1836 – Antônio Carlos Gomes is born in Campinas, Brazil. He will
become the most distinguished nineteenth-century
Brazilian opera composer, who will also achieve
considerable success in Europe. Gomes will be the second
son of Fabiana Maria J. Cardoso and Manuel José Gomes, a
composer and bandleader born to a black freedwoman and
an unknown father. Manuel José also taught piano and
violin in Campinas and will introduce his two young sons
to the rudiments of music. Antônio Carlos will debut
publicly at the age of 11, playing the triangle in his
father’s orchestra in a ceremony honoring Emperor Pedro
II. He will study clarinet, violin, and piano, for which
he will compose his first pieces. His brother José Pedro
de Santana Gomes will study violin and viola and later
became Brazil’s most important late-nineteenth-century
violinist. In 1859 Antônio Carlos Gomes will enroll in
the Rio de Janeiro Conservatory of Music. He had already
composed his first mass (1854) and will soon be
commissioned to write a cantata by the conservatory’s
director, Francisco Manuel da Silva.The reigning master of
Brazilian opera, Antônio Carlos Gomes will achieve world
renown in 1870 when his opera Il Guarany premiers at La
Scala in Milan, Italy. Although he will adhere to the
conventions of mid-nineteenth-century Italian opera, he
will look to Afro-Brazilian themes for some of his operas
and instrumental works. Following the premiere of his
cantata The Last Hour at Calvary (1859), Gomes will be
appointed conductor at the Imperial Academy of Music and
National Opera. Gomes will write two operas Il Guarany
(1870) and Lo Schiavo (1889) which drew on Brazilian
subjects. In 1893 Gomes will tour the United States, where
he will conduct some of his works at Chicago’s Columbia
Universal Exhibition. Appointed to head the Conservatory
of Music in Belém, he will return to Brazil in 1895, but
will succumb to cancer three months after assuming the
directorship on September 16, 1896 in Belém, Brazil.

1905 – Niagara Movement meetings begin in Buffalo, New York.
Started by 29 intellectuals including W.E.B. Du Bois, the
Niagara Movement will renounce Booker T. Washington’s
accommodation policies set forth in his famed “Atlanta
Compromise” speech ten years earlier. The Niagara
Movement’s manifesto is, in the words of Du Bois, “We want
full manhood suffrage and we want it now….We are men!
We want to be treated as men. And we shall win.” The
movement will be a forerunner of the NAACP.

1915 – Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, a multitalented lawyer, politician,
and entrepreneur, joins the ancestors in Little Rock,
Arkansas. Active in the Underground Railroad, he worked
with Frederick Douglass and after success as a clothing
retailer, became the publisher and editor of “Mirror of
the Times,” the first African American newspaper in
California. The first African American elected a
municipal judge, Gibbs was also active in Republican
politics, serving as a delegate to national conventions
and as U.S. consul to Madagascar.

1925 – Mattiwilda Dobbs is born in Atlanta, Georgia. She will
become a coloratura (a soprano specializing in florid
ornamental trills & runs) in the 1950’s, making her
operatic debut at La Scala in Milan in 1953 and her U.S.
debut with the San Francisco Opera in 1955. She will
become the first African American to sing at La Scala and
the second African American woman to sing at the
Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Although Marian
Anderson, a Black opera singer from Pennsylvania, will
precede her to that stage in 1955, Dobbs will be the first
African American woman to be offered a long-term contract
by the Met. She will sing twenty-nine performances, in
six roles, over eight seasons. Following the example set
by African American performer and activist Paul Robeson,
she will refuse to perform for segregated audiences. In
Atlanta, she could perform in African American churches or
colleges, but she will not be able to perform for a large
integrated audience until the Atlanta City Auditorium is
desegregated in 1962, when she will be joined onstage and
given a key to the city by Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. It will be
the first of many performances in her home city. Before
the organization of the Atlanta Opera in 1985, she will
perform in operas produced and directed by the acclaimed
opera singer Blanche Thebom, and in 1974, she will sing at
the gala marking the inauguration of her nephew, Maynard
Jackson, as mayor of Atlanta. After retiring from the
stage, she will begin a teaching career at the University
of Texas, where she will be the first African American
artist on the faculty. She will spend the 1974-75 school
year as artist-in-residence at Spelman College, giving
recitals and teaching master classes. In 1979, Spelman
will award honorary doctorate degrees to both Dobbs and
Marian Anderson. She will continue her teaching career as
professor of voice at Howard University, in Washington,
D.C. She will serve on the board of the Metropolitan Opera
and on the National Endowment of the Arts Solo Recital
Panel. She will continue to give recitals until as late as
1990 before retiring to Arlington, Virginia. She will move
to a retirement center in Atlanta in 2013.

1931 – Thurston Theodore Harris is born in Indianapolis, Indiana.
He will become a rhythm and blues vocalist. He will be
best known for his recordings of “Little Bitty Pretty One,”
and “Over and Over.” He will join the ancestors in Pomona,
California after succumbing to a heart attack on April 14,
1990.

1948 – Earnest Lee “Ernie” Holmes is born in Jamestown, Texas. He
will become a professional football player and will be a
defensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He will be
part of the “Steel Curtain” front four and help Pittsburgh
in winning Super Bowls IX and X. He will join the ancestors
after being killed in an automobile accident on January 17,
2008.

1950 – Patricia Eva “Bonnie” Pointer is born in Oakland, California.
She will become a singer and member of the vocal group,
The Pointer Sisters. The four sisters will begin their
career singing gospel music and will eventually debut in
1973 as a secular group recording for ABC/Blue Thumb
Records. In 1974, the Pointer Sisters will perform at the
Grand Ole Opry, becoming the first African American female
group to do so. They also will become the first African
American female group to be number one on Billboard’s
country and western chart. They will change to a trio in
1977 when sister Bonnie signs as a solo act with Motown
Records. The group will be best known for their hits
“Slow Hand” (1981), “What a Surprise” (1981), “Excited”
(1982), “I Need You” (1983), and the Grammy Award-winning
“Jump” (1983) and “Automatic” (1984).

1953 – Leon Spinks is born in St. Louis, Missouri. He will win the
Olympic Light Heavyweight Gold Medal in 1976 and go on to
become a professional boxer. He will win his first nine
professional bouts, becoming the World Heavyweight Champion,
defeating Muhammad Ali. After losing to Ali in a rematch,
his career will decline and he will not be able to duplicate
his earlier successes.

1954 – The first White Citizens Council organizes in Indianola,
Mississippi. Reminiscent of the end of Reconstruction, the
Klan, the White Citizens’ Council, and other White
supremacist groups will attempt to prevent any further
progress in the civil rights movement.

1958 – Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine, African-American youths
who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock,
Arkansas, receive the Spingarn Medal for their “heroism and
pioneering roles in upholding the basic ideals of American
democracy in the face of continuing harassment and constant
threats of bodily injury.”

1960 – Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Upper Volta & Niger declare
independence from their European colonial rulers.

1977 – The Medal of Freedom is awarded posthumously to Rev. Martin
Luther King, Jr. in a White House ceremony.

1987 – Bo Jackson signs a $7.4 million contract to play football
for the Los Angeles Raiders for five years. Jackson becomes
a two-sport player as he continues to play baseball with
the Kansas City Royals.

1992 – Undeclared presidential hopeful Ross Perot, addressing the
NAACP convention in Nashville, Tennessee, startles and
offends his listeners by referring to the predominantly
African American audience as “you people.”

Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Rene’ A. Perry.

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