June 29 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – June 29 *

1868 – The Louisiana legislature meets in New Orleans. The
temporary chairman of the house is an African American
representative, R.H. Isabelle. Oscar J. Dunn presides
over the senate. Seven of the thirty-six senators are
African American. Thirty-five of the 101
representatives are African American.

1886 – James Van Der Zee is born in Lenox, Massachusetts. He
will become one of America’s foremost photographers and
a major chronicler of the visual history of the Harlem
Renaissance. His photographic subjects will include
Marcus Garvey, Madame C.J. Walker, Bill “Bojangles”
Robinson, Countee Cullen, Daddy Grace and many others.
He will obtain national recognition at age 82 when his
collection of 75,000 photographs, spanning a period of
six decades of African American life, is discovered by
the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His photos will be
featured in 1969 as part of the “Harlem on my Mind”
exhibition. From the 1970s until he joins the ancestors
on May 15, 1983, Van Der Zee will photograph many
celebrities who had come across his work and promoted
him throughout the country.

1919 – Lloyd Richards is born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. His
family will move to Detroit, Michigan soon after he is
born. After graduating from Wayne State University, he
will start a theater group in Detroit with a handful of
friends and classmates. At that time, the American theater
will be entirely centered in New York City. Richards will
move there in 1947 to pursue an acting career. Roles for
African American actors will be hard to come by, but he
will work on Broadway in “Freight and The Egghead” and on
radio throughout the 1950s. He will also teach acting and
direct off-Broadway productions. In 1958, he will become
the first person of African descent to direct a Broadway
play in modern times when he galvanizes Broadway with his
production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.”
This production, a realistic portrayal of a contemporary
Black working class family in Chicago, will begin a new era
in the representation of African Americans on the American
stage. In the 1960s, he will direct the Broadway productions
“The Long Dream,” “The Moon Besieged,” “I Had a Ball” and
“The Yearling.” In 1966, he will become head of the actor
training program at New York University’s School of the Arts.
He will be Professor of Theater and Cinema at Hunter College
in New York City when he is tapped to become dean of the
prestigious Yale University School of Drama in 1979. At the
same time he will become Artistic Director of the highly
influential Yale Repertory theater. Throughout his career,
he will seek to discover and develop new plays and
playwrights, as Artistic Director of the National Playwrights
Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Theatre Center, as
a member of the Playwrights’ selection committee of the
Rockefeller Foundation and of the New American Plays program
of the Ford Foundation. His long search for a major new
American playwright will bear fruit with the 1984 production
of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” by August Wilson. Throughout
the 1980s and into the ’90s, he will direct the Yale Rep and
New York productions of the successive installments of August
Wilson’s multi-part chronicle of African American life. The
plays in this cycle will include “Fences,” “Joe Turner’s Come
and Gone,” “The Piano Lesson,” “Two Trains Running” and “Seven
Guitars.” His productions for television include segments of
“Roots: The Next Generation,” “Bill Moyers’ Journal” and
“Robeson,” a presentation on the life of the African American
actor and activist Paul Robeson, who will be an early
inspiration for the young Lloyd Richards. He will also deal
with Robeson’s life and legacy in the 1977 theatrical
production “Paul Robeson.” He will be the recipient of the
Pioneer Award of AUDELCO, the Frederick Douglass Award and,
in 1993, will be awarded the National Medal of the Arts. He
will also serve as President of the Society of Stage Directors
and Choreographers. In 1991, he will retire from his posts as
Dean of the Yale University School of Drama and as Artistic
Director of Yale Rep, but he will remain Professor Emeritus at
Yale University, and continue to teach, direct, and search for
new plays and playwrights. He will be inducted into the Academy
of Achievement in 1987. He will join the ancestors on June 29,
2006.

1943 – Eva Narcissus Boyd is born in Belhaven, North Carolina. She will
move to Brighton Beach, New York at a young age. As a teenager,
she will work as a babysitter for songwriters Carole King and
Gerry Goffin. Amused by Eva’s individual dancing style they
wrote “The Loco-Motion” with Dee Dee Sharp in mind. She
will record it as a demo and music producer Don Kirshner will
be impressed by the song and Eva’s voice and will release it
as is. This will be the birth of “Little Eva”. The song will
become an instant hit after Little Eva demonstrates the song
and dance steps on American Bandstand. It will reach #1 in the
U.S. in 1962. After the success of “The Loco-Motion”, Eva will
be unfortunately stereotyped as a dance-craze singer and will
be given limited material. The notorious 1962 single “He Hit Me
(And It Felt Like a Kiss)” was inspired by the abuse Eva
suffered from her then-boyfriend. She will continue to tour and
record throughout the sixties, but her commercial potential
will plummet after 1964. Little Eva’s other hits will be “Keep
Your Hands Of My Baby”, “Somekind Of Wonderful” and “Let’s
Turkey Trot”. She will retire from the music business in 1971.
She will return to live performing with other artists of her era
on the cabaret and oldies circuits in the 1990’s. She will
continue performing until cervical cancer stops her in October
of 2001. She will join the ancestors after succumbing to the
illness on April 10, 2003 in Kinston, North Carolina.

1949 – South Africa begins its apartheid policy of racial segregation.
This includes a ban against racially-mixed marriages.

1950 – Mabel Keaton Staupers of the National Association of Colored
Graduate Nurses receives the Spingarn Medal in honor of her
advocacy of integration of African American graduate nurses
into the American workplace.

1964 – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed.

1968 – Marlin Briscoe becomes the first African American quarterback
to play professional football in the modern NFL.

1970 – NAACP chairman Stephen Gill Spottswood tells the NAACP annual
convention that the Nixon administration is “anti-Negro” and
is pressing “a calculated Policy” inimical to “the needs and
aspirations of the large majority” of citizens.

1972 – U.S. Supreme Court rules, in a five to four decision, that the
death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment which violates
the Eighth Amendment. African Americans and members of other
minority groups constitute 483 of the 600 persons awaiting
execution.

1972 – The NAACP Annual Report states the unemployment of “urban Blacks
in 1971 was worse than at anytime since the great depression
of the thirties.” The report also says that more school
desegregation occurred in 1971 than in any other year since
the 1954 school decision.

1983 – The Apollo Theatre, in Harlem, New York, is declared a cultural
landmark.

1988 – Motown Records is sold for $ 61 million to an investment group
that includes a venture-capital firm, record executive Jheryl
Busby, and others. The company, which was founded by Berry
Gordy in 1959, produced some of the biggest rhythm and blues
performers of all time including the Supremes, the Temptations,
the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye.

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

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