Today In Black History: February 10
1. 1907 – Grace Towns Hamilton born
The first African American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly, Grace Towns Hamilton was also the first female of her race in the Deep South to hold a public office of such consequence. She was among eight African Americans sent to the state legislature in a special election in June 1965; they were the first to enter the lower house since the end of Reconstruction. Hamilton represented her district in mid-Atlanta continuously for the next eighteen years, becoming known to her peers as “the most effective woman legislator the state has ever had.”
Hamilton, born in Atlanta on February 10, 1907, was the oldest of the four surviving children of Harriet McNair and George Alexander Towns. She grew up in the sheltered environs of Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University), an integrated institution,where her father was a professor of English and pedagogy. Taught from her earliest years that she had a duty to serve her race, she was educated from grade school through college at Atlanta University, where she received an undergraduate degree in 1927. At Ohio State University, which awarded her a master’s degree in psychology in 1929, she earned her expenses by working in Columbus for the Young Women’s Christian Association. (read more)
2. 1927 – Leontyne Price born
Mary Violet Leontyne Price was born February 10, 1927, and raised in the colored section of Laurel, Mississippi. Her mother, Kate, was a midwife, and her father, James, worked in a sawmill. She was nurtured under the watchful eye of the community, which extended even to her aunt’s employers, The Chisholms, a family who lived in a white, affluent section of town. Her musical talents were encouraged, and her voice frequently was heard at area social events.
Price received a scholarship to attend Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio. She began as a music education major, but she completed her studies there in voice. With the assistance of Paul Robeson and the school’s administration, in addition to the financial backing of the Chisholm family, Price next went to Juilliard. (read more)
3. 1940 – Roberta Flack born
Robert Flack was born February 10, 1937, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, a small town located about 10 miles (18 kilometers) from the city of Asheville, North Carolina. She is best known for her love ballad “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, released in 1969. She earned a music scholarship to Howard University and graduated with a BA in Music… See full bio »
4. 1946 – Jackie Robinson born
Born January 31, 1919, in Cairo, Georgia, Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play major league baseball. Throughout his decade-long career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he made advancements in the cause of civil rights for black athletes. In 1955, he helped the Dodgers win the World Series. He retired in 1957, with a career batting average of .311. (read more)
5. 1955 – Luisa “Lucy” Harris born
The first woman drafted by a men’s professional basketball team, Harris was a three-time All-American at Delta State University in Mississippi, in 1975, 1976, and 1977, as Delta State won the AIAW championship all three years. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound center scored 1,060 points in 1976-77, averaging 31.2 a game, with a high of 58 points against Tennessee Tech. She also averaged 15 rebounds a game.
During her career, she scored 2,981 points, an average of 25.9 per game, and had 1,662 rebounds, an average of 14.4 a game.
Harris became Delta State’s first black homecoming queen in 1975, a year in which she starred for the U. S. teams in the World University Games and the Pan-American Games. She also played for the 1976 silver medal Olympic team. (read more)
In 1964 Congress passed Public Law 82-352 (78 Stat. 241). The provisions of this civil rights act forbade discrimination on the basis of sex as well as race in hiring, promoting, and firing. The word “sex” was added at the last moment. According to the West Encyclopedia of American Law, Representative Howard W. Smith (D-VA) added the word. His critics argued that Smith, a conservative Southern opponent of federal civil rights, did so to kill the entire bill. Smith, however, argued that he had amended the bill in keeping with his support of Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party with whom he had been working. Martha W. Griffiths (D-MI) led the effort to keep the word “sex” in the bill. In the final legislation, Section 703 (a) made it unlawful for an employer to “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions or privileges or employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” The final bill also allowed sex to be a consideration when sex is a bona fide occupational qualification for the job. Title VII of the act created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to implement the law. (read more)
Before assuming his post as Federal Reserve Bank Governor, Brimmer served as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 1955 and in 1956. During that period he was dispatched to Sudan to help that newly independent nation establish a central bank. A teaching position followed in 1958 at Michigan State University and at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1961. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy appointed Brimmer as deputy assistant secretary of commerce for economic policy and then assistant secretary for economic affairs. In 1966, he was appointed to the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve Bank by President Lyndon B. Johnson. (read more)
Ronald H. Brown, a former Supreme Court lawyer and leader of the National Urban League, is elected chairman of the Democratic Party National Committee. He was the first African American to hold the top position in a major political party in the United States.
Brown, born in Washington, D.C., in 1941, was raised in New York City‘s Harlem, where he worked as a welfare caseworker before joining the U.S. Army. After holding important positions in the National Urban League, an advocacy group for the renewal of inner cities, he became a member of the U.S. Supreme Court bar and served as chief counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
As chairman of the Democratic Party, Brown played a pivotal role in securing the 1992 election of Bill Clinton, the first Democratic president in 12 years. In 1993, he was appointed America’s first African American secretary of commerce by President Clinton, a capacity in which he served until April 3, 1996, when he and 32 other Americans were killed when their plane crashed into a mountain in Croatia. Brown had been leading a delegation of business executives to the former Yugoslavia to explore business opportunities that might help rebuild the war-torn region.
Alex Haley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Roots: The Saga of an American Family,” which chronicled his ancestors’ origins in Africa and their passage from slavery to freedom in America, died yesterday at Swedish Hospital Medical Center in Seattle. He was 70 years old and had homes in Knoxville, Tenn., Norris, Tenn., and Seattle.
He died of cardiac arrest, said a spokeswoman for the hospital, Jane Ann Wilder. Mr. Haley’s son, William Alexander Haley, said at a news conference in Seattle yesterday that his father had apparently suffered a heart attack and been taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was scheduled to speak today at the Bangor Naval Submarine Base at Bremerton, Wash., 15 miles from Seattle.
“Roots,” which was published in 1976, spurred an interest in genealogy among Americans of many ethnic heritages. The ABC television mini-series fashioned from the book attracted millions of viewers early in 1977.