July 20 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – July 20 *

1934 – Henry Dumas is born in Sweet Home, Arkansas. He will move
to the village of Harlem in New York City at the age of
ten. He will attend City College and then join the Air
Force. While in the Air Force he will spend a year on
the Arabian Peninsula, where he will develop an interest
in the Arabic language, mythology, and culture. He will
be active in civil rights and humanitarian activities,
including transporting food and clothing to protesters
living in Mississippi and Tennessee. In 1967, he will
work at Southern Illinois University as a teacher,
counselor, and director of language workshops in its
“Experiment in Higher Education” program. It is there
where he meets Eugene Redmond, a fellow teacher in that
program. He and Redmond will read their poetry at common
gatherings; Redmond especially remembers him reading “Our
King Is Dead,” his elegy for Martin Luther King, Jr. He
will also frequent the offices of the East St. Louis
Monitor, which Redmond edits. He will inspire interest
for his unique vision of black people in the diaspora.
In many ways he will become a cultural icon in African
American literary circles. He will claim Moms Mabley and
gospel music as particular influences upon him. He will
join the ancestors on May 23, 1968 at the age of 33 after
being mistakenly shot and killed by a New York City
Transit policeman. Over the course of the ten months that
he lives in East St. Louis, he and Redmond will forge the
collaborative relationship that would prove so fruitful
to his posthumous Career. His literary legacy is kept
alive almost single-handedly by Redmond. His first
collection of short fiction is entitled “Arks of Bones
and Other Stories” (edited by Redmond in 1974), which
includes nine stories and in which his largely mythic
vision of African American existence is apparent.
Redmond’s commitment to making his work readily available
to scholarly communities will continue in the publication
of “Goodbye, Sweetwater” (1988) and “Knees of a Natural
Man: The Selected Poetry of Henry Dumas” (1989). The
first volume contains eight of the stories that first
appeared in “Ark of Bones,” along with excerpts from
Dumas’s unfinished novel, “Jonoah and the Green Stone”
(1976), stories from “Rope of Wind” (1979), and three
selections from “Goodbye Sweetwater.” One of the stories
in the final section is “Rain God,” which develops the
African American folk belief that, when it is raining and
the sun is shining, the devil is beating his wife. Three
young black boys literally witness this phenomenon as
they are on their way home one rainy-sunny day. The
second volume contains previously published as well as
unpublished poems, including several poems with the title
“Kef” and an accompanying number, and “Saba,” with the
same pattern. Some of the poems in “Knees” had appeared
in “Play Ebony: Play Ivory” (1974), a collection of his
poetry, which Redmond will edit singly in 1974 and which
he co-edits in 1970. His poetry is inspired by African
American music, particularly blues and jazz (he studied
with Sun Ra), and he develops themes consistent with the
Black Aesthetic of the 1960s. His poetry also focuses,
in keeping with his fiction, on themes of nature and the
natural world.

1954 – Freeman Bosley, Jr., St. Louis’ first African American
mayor, is born in St. Louis, Missouri. He will attend
Saint Louis University and Saint Louis University Law
School. He will graduate from Saint Louis University in
1976 with two undergraduate degrees, a B.A. in Urban
Affairs and a B.A. in Political Science. He will receive
his Juris Doctorate from Saint Louis University Law
School in 1979. His public service career will begin
when he becomes the first African American St. Louis
Circuit Clerk for the 22nd Judicial Circuit – a position
he will hold for ten years. He will serve as the 3rd
Ward Democratic Committeeman, chairman of the St. Louis
City Democratic Central Association, and the first
African American chairman of the Democratic Party in St.
Louis City. After winning the April 6, 1993 election
with 66.5% of the vote, he will become the first African
American Mayor of St. Louis. He will oversee the battle
against the Flood of 1993, help to orchestrate the $70
million bailout of Trans World Airlines and help to move
the Los Angeles Rams football team to St. Louis from
Anaheim, California. He will be defeated in his bid for
re-election.

1967 – The first National Conference of Black Power opens in
Newark, New Jersey. The four-day meeting is attended
by 1,100 African Americans.

1967 – A night of racially motivated disturbances occurs in
Memphis, Tennessee.

1973 – The National Black Network begins operations. It is the
first African American owned and operated radio news
network.

1974 – Baseball great, Hank Aaron, breaks Ty Cobb’s record, as
he appears in game number 3,034 of his career. Aaron,
age 40, is playing in his 20th season of major league
baseball.

1988 – In the most formidable attempt ever by an African
American to become President of the United States.
Jesse Jackson receives 1218 delegates votes of the
2,082 needed for the Democratic party’s nomination,
finishing second to Michael Dukakis. In his second bid
for the nomination, Jackson garners wide popular
support and captures 92% of African American and 12%
of white votes in primary elections and caucuses. The
previous night, Jackson electrifies the delegates with
a ringing speech encouraging them to “keep hope alive.”

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

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