July 15 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – July 15 *

1822 – The city of Philadelphia opens its public schools for
African Americans.

1864 – General A. J. Smith, with fourteen thousand men, including
a brigade of African American troops, defeats Nathan B.
Forrest at Harrisburg, near Tupelo, Mississippi.

1869 – A.J. Hayne, an African-American captain of the Arkansas
militia, is assassinated.

1929 – Francis Bebey is born in Douala, Cameroon. He will become
a self-taught master guitarist, composer, and sanza player.
During his childhood, his family and teachers will attempt
to alienate him from the roots culture around him. As he
will relate to the press in France in 1984, “I was schooled
to ignore, and even to detest, traditional African styles.”
His musical family will surround him with a variety of
Western instruments, accordion, violin, piano, mandolin,
and–the instrument he will settle on at age nine–guitar.
Despite the efforts of his colonial-era instructors, he
will ‘discover’ Africa. A traditional doctor and musician,
Eya Mouéssé, will lead him to his first African music love
affair: the local harp and mouth-bow, which he will seek out
at all night celebrations in order to hear. As a teenager in
Douala, the capital, he will play guitar and drums in an
ashiko–Cameroonean highlife–band. The experience will lead
inevitably to his discovery of international dance styles of
the era, especially Afro-Cuban music and American swing
jazz. He will go to Paris to study at the Sorbonne in the
mid ’50s, and there his musical path will be altered yet
again when he discovers the classical guitar of Andre
Segovia and will begin to study the instrument. Upon
graduation, he will lead a jazz band in the city, and will
have the distinction of giving future Afropop superstar and
saxophonist Manu Dibangu his first professional gig. He will
come to the United States in 1958 to continue his studies at
New York University. As he travels in Africa and learns more
about its traditions, he will begin to create original
works, including socially aware and sometimes satirical
poems set to the music of traditional instruments like the
West African kora. In 1967, he will win the Grand Literary
Prize of Black Africa for his novel “Le Fils d’Agatha
Moudio.” In the 1980s, when he will be widely renowned as a
novelist, poet, composer and performer, he will begin to
play traditional African instruments himself. He will
record “African Sanza” in 1982, a set of original
compositions for the central African lamellophone (sometimes
called hand piano or thumb piano). His forays into sanza and
also ndewhoo (Pygmee flute) paralleled dramatic changes in
his approach to guitar. Inspired by his explorations in
African music, he will develop distinctive new techniques:
tapping the guitar to produce the sound of a talking drum,
and wrapping one bass string around the next to produce a
percussive snare drum effect. During the years when Afropop
will rise to international attention, he will be often cited
as a guiding force, a kind of father figure in the global
spread of African music. He will continue to tour, as much
as six months a year, with sons Patrick Jr. (Toops) and
Patrick, and also to record new works right to the end. He
will join the ancestors on May 28, 2001 after succumbing to
a sudden heart attack. He is sometimes referred to as the
father of world music.

1951 – Mary White Ovington, one of the white founders of the NAACP
and author of “The Walls Come Tumbling Down,” a history of
the NAACP, dies at the age of 86.

1961 – Forest Whitaker is born in Longview, Texas. He will attend
the Music Conservatory at the University of Southern
California in Los Angeles, as well as the Drama Studio
London. He will debut as a screen actor in 1982’s “Fast
Times at Ridgemont High.” He will follow with notable roles
in “Platoon,” “Good Morning, Vietnam,” and “The Color of
Money.” In 1988, he will play the role of musician Charlie
Parker in the film, “Bird,” for which he will win Best
Actor at the Cannes Film Festival. He will also appear in
the films “The Crying Game,” “Bloodsport,” “Phenomenon” and
direct “Waiting to Exhale.” He will be originally called
upon to write and direct a live-action movie adaptation of
Bill Cosby’s cartoon, “Fat Albert,” but differences between
the two will lead to him leaving production. He will be
considered for the role of Dr. Jonathon Crane (The
Scarecrow) in “Batman Triumphant.” The film will progress
as far as pre-production when Warner Brothers decides to
pull the plug. In 2002, he will be the host and narrator of
“The Twilight Zone,” which will last one season. In 2006,
he will join the cast of FX’s cop serial “The Shield,” as
Lieutenant John Kavanaugh. His performance as the tormented
internal affairs cop will help continue the show’s
popularity among viewers. He will be nominated for, and
win the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of
Idi Amin, the Ugandan dictator, in 2006 film, “The Last King
of Scotland.”

1968 – Ellen Holly integrates daytime television when she appears
on ABC’s “One Life To Live” as Carla, an African American
“passing” for white. The role is a marked departure for
the New York City-born African American, whose first
professional role was with Joseph Papp’s New York
Shakespeare Festival as the white Desdemona to William
Marshall’s Othello in 1958. Holly had been a featured
player in Papp’s company and had played several
Shakespearean roles, including Lady Macbeth opposite James
Earl Jones in “Macbeth” and Princess Katherine opposite
Robert Hooks in “Henry V,” before being signed to the soap
opera.

1969 – Rod Carew ties the major league record with his 7th steal of
home in a season.

1970 – James McGhee is sworn in as the first African American mayor
of Dayton, Ohio.

1973 – Willie McCovey becomes 15th major league player to hit 400
Home Runs.

1980 – Benjamin Hooks addresses the GOP convention after a lobbying
effort and threatens a walkout by 121 African American
delegates. Hooks speaks before the convention despite
leading candidate Ronald Reagan’s refusal to appear at the
NAACP convention earlier in the month.

1980 – New violence erupts in the riot-torn Liberty City section of
Miami, Florida. Two months after riots that killed 18 and
resulted in $ 100 million in property damage, the violence
will leave 40 injured and result in 40 arrests.

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

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