* Today in Black History – January 27 *
1869 – William Mercer Cook (later Will Marion Cook), who will become
a noted composer and conductor, is born in Washington, DC.
Beginning study of the violin at age 13, at 15 he will win a
scholarship to study at the Oberlin Conservatory. Among other
accomplishments, he will introduce syncopated ragtime to New
York City theatergoers in his operetta “Clorinda.” In 1890,
he will become director of a chamber orchestra touring the East
Coast. He will prepare Scenes from the Opera of Uncle Tom’s
Cabin for performance. The performance, which is to take place
at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, is cancelled. “Clorindy; or,
The Origin of the Cakewalk” — a musical sketch comedy in
collaboration with Paul Laurence Dunbar — is the next piece he
will compose, in 1898. It will be the first all-Black show to
play in a prestigious Broadway house, Casino Theatre’s Roof
Garden. After this period, he will be composer-in-chief and
musical director for the George Walker-Bert Williams Company. As
he continues to write, he will produce many successful musicals.
Best known for his songs, he will use folk elements in an
original and distinct manner. Many of these songs will first
appear in his musicals. The songs will be written for choral
groups or for solo singers. Some are published in “A Collection
of Negro Songs” (1912). Later in his career, he will be an
active choral and orchestral conductor. He will produce several
concerts and organize many choral societies in both New York and
in Washington, D.C. The New York Syncopated Orchestra, that he
creates, will tour the United States in 1918 and then go to
England in 1919 for a command performance for King George V.
Among his company will be assistant director Will Tyers, jazz
clarinetist Sidney Bechet, and Cook’s wife, Abbie Mitchell. One
of his last shows will be “Swing Along” (1929), written with Will
Vodery. He will join the ancestors on July 19, 1944.
1894 – Frederick Douglass ‘Fritz’ Pollard is born in Chicago,
Illinois. He will become a football star at Brown
University in 1915 and lead them to the first Rose Bowl
game, played on January 1, 1916. This will make him the
first African American to play in the Rose Bowl. He will
also become the first African American named an All-American.
After leaving Brown University, he will become one of the
first African Americans to play professional football and
will become the first African American quarterback and the
first African American head coach, both with the NFL Akron
Indians. When the NFL bans African American players from
its ranks in 1933, Pollard will organize the first African
American professional football team, the Brown Bombers of
Harlem. After fifteen years in professional football,
Pollard will establish the first all African American
investment company in the country, and run New York City’s
first African American tabloid newspaper. He will also be
involved in the production of some of America’s first
all-African American movies. He will join the ancestors on
May 11, 1986.
1915 – The United States Marines occupy Haiti. This occupation
will continue until 1934. Americans will serve as officials
of the Haitian government and control its finances, police
force, and public works.
1930 – Robert Calvin Brooks (Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland) is born in Rosemark,
Tennessee. He will become a singer and start his career as
a member of The Beale Streeters with Johnny Ace. He will
become a solo artist with the Malaco label and record “That’s
the Way Love Is,” “Call on Me,” “Turn on Your Love Light,”
and “Ain’t Nothin’ You Can Do.” Along with such artists as
Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Junior Parker, he will develope
a sound that mixes gospel with the Blues and Rhythm & Blues.
He will be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981, the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and receive the Grammy
Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. He will join the
ancestors on June 23,2013.
1952 – Ralph Ellison’s powerful novel “Invisible Man” wins the
National Book Award.
1961 – Leontyne Price makes her debut at the Metropolitan Opera
House in New York City. She sings in the role of Leonora
in “Il Trovatore”. Price is the seventh African American
singer to make a debut at the Met. Marian Anderson will be
the first in 1955.
1972 – Mahalia Jackson, gospel singer, joins the ancestors in
Evergreen Park, Illinois at the age of 60. Born in New
Orleans, Louisiana, she began her singing career with the
Salem Baptist Choir in Chicago, Illinois. She achieved
national fame with her recording of “Move on Up A Little
Higher,” which sold over a million copies. Many considered
her rich contralto voice the best in gospel music.
1972 – In Columbia, South Carolina, the white and African American
United Methodist conferences of South Carolina — separated
since the Civil War — vote in their respective meetings to
adopt a plan of union.
1984 – Carl Lewis betters his own two-year-old record by 9-1/4
inches when he sets a new, world, indoor-record with a long
jump mark of 28 feet, 10-1/4 inches in New York City.
1984 – Singer Michael Jackson’s hair catches on fire during the
filming of a Pepsi commercial in Los Angeles at the Shrine
Auditorium. Pyrotechnics did not operate on cue, injuring
the singer. Jackson is hospitalized for a few days and fans
from around the world send messages of concern.
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Mr. Rene’ A. Perry.