Category: African-American Firsts

Vanderbilt University Honors Trailblazing Student-Athlete Perry Wallace by Renaming a Street in His Honor

Perry Wallace (photo via vanderbilt.edu)

According to jbhe.comVanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee announced that part of 25th Avenue South in front of its Memorial Gymnasium will be ceremonially renamed “Perry Wallace Way” in memory of the trailblazing Vanderbilt student-athlete who integrated Southeastern Conference varsity basketball in 1967.

On December 2, 1967, Wallace made history when he played for Vanderbilt University in a game with Southern Methodist University. Two days later, he played in a game against Southeastern Conference rival, Auburn University. Wallace endured verbal abuse from fans and had objects thrown at him from the stands.

His story is told in Andrew Maraniss’ best-selling book Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (Vanderbilt University Press, 2014).

After graduating from Vanderbilt University and Columbia Law School, Wallace served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Later, Wallace entered the academic world and served on the faculty of the law schools at Howard University, the University of Baltimore, and American University.

WNBA Legend Lisa Leslie to Be Honored with Statue Outside Staples Center in Los Angeles

 

WNBA great Lisa Leslie (photo via flickr.com)

WNBA superstar and Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie will be the first female athlete honored with a statue outside of Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Arash Markazi reported the news, writing that the Los Angeles Sparks and Anschutz Entertainment Group still have to iron out the specific date but agreed Leslie will be the 11th statue outside of the famed sports and entertainment arena. Leslie’s statue will also be the first of a WNBA player outside of a team’s home arena.

According to bleacherreport.com, Leslie went to the Sparks in the WNBA’s inaugural draft in 1997 and played her entire career with the team through 2009. During her professional basketball career, Leslie won three league MVPs, two championships, four Olympic gold medals and three All-Star Game MVPs .

Leslie, who was the first WNBA player to dunk in a game, was also named to eight All-Star teams and 12 All-WNBA teams, including eight first-team selections. In addition to her WNBA achievements, she once scored 101 points in a half during a game for Morningside High in Inglewood, and was named first-team all-conference in each of her four seasons at USC.

Leslie will now be forever memorialized alongside statues of Los Angeles legends such as Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

John Warner Smith Appointed Poet Laureate of Louisiana, 1st Black Man to Hold the Position

John Warner Smith (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to jbhe.com, professor and writer John Warner Smith has been appointed by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and the state’s Governor, John Bel Edwards, to serve as the next Poet Laureate of Louisiana. This appointment makes Smith the first African American man to hold the position.

“John Warner Smith’s writing captures the human experience through meaningful, passionate poetry that moves your emotions. John is not only a talented and gifted poet, he is a trailblazer who devotes himself to education and the greater good of the community,” Gov. Edwards said.

“He is making history today as the first African American male appointed as Louisiana Poet Laureate, and I’m confident that John will serve our great state well. I want to thank the LEH for leading this search, and I congratulate all of the nominees whose writings tell the unique stories of Louisiana, the place we call home.”

Currently, Smith teaches English at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He has published four collections of poetry: Muhammad’s Mountain (Lavender Ink, 2018), Spirits of the Gods (University of Louisiana Lafayette Press, 2017), Soul Be A Witness (MadHat Press, 2016), and A Mandala of Hands (Kelsay Books-Aldrich Press, 2015). His fifth collection, Out Shut Eyes: New & Selected Poems on Race in Americais forthcoming this year from MadHat Press.

Read more: https://www.jbhe.com/2019/08/john-warner-smith-is-the-first-black-male-poet-laureate-for-the-state-of-louisiana/

Taylor Dumpson, 1st Black Female Student Body President at American University, Awarded over $700K in Suit Against Neo-Nazi Website Founder

Taylor Dumpson (SAMAD AROUNA/THE EAGLE)

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that white supremacists who used social media to threaten and harass Taylor Dumpson, the first African American female student body president of American University in Washington D.C., were liable for over $700,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.

In 2017, Taylor Dumpson was elected as American University’s student body president. The day after she was inaugurated, a hate crime targeted her on the basis of her race and gender. A masked person hung nooses around campus with bananas tied to them. Some bananas had “AKA” written on them – referencing Plaintiff’s historically black sorority.

Others read “Harambe bait,” referencing a gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo as a racist and threatening comparison to African Americans. Defendant Andrew Anglin, an avowed neo-Nazi and publisher of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, then directed his white supremacist followers to threaten and harass her on social media to amplify the harm of the hate crime.

In addition to other allegations, the suit alleged that Defendants interfered with the Ms. Dumpson’s ability to fully enjoy places of public accommodation and interfered with her equal opportunity to education. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and pro bono counsel Kirkland & Ellis LLP, along with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Plaintiff.

Continue reading “Taylor Dumpson, 1st Black Female Student Body President at American University, Awarded over $700K in Suit Against Neo-Nazi Website Founder”

Tony Nominee Lauren Ridloff to Play Marvel’s 1st Deaf Superhero in “The Eternals”

Lauren Ridloff (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

According to Entertainment Weekly and broadwayworld.com, Tony nominee Lauren Ridloff is set to be Marvel’s first deaf superhero in the upcoming film, The Eternals, which also stars Angelina Jolie (Thena), Richard Madden (Icarus), Kumail Nanjiani (Kingo), Brian Tyree Henry (Phastos), Salma Hayek (Ajak), Lia McHugh (Sprite), and Don Lee (Gilgamesh). Ridloff will play the role of Makkari and The Rider’s Chloe Zhao is directing the film.

Ridloff appeared in the 2018 Broadway revival of Children of a Lesser God and was nominated for a Tony for her performance as Sarah Norman. Ridloff appears in the Palme D’Or nominated film Wonderstruck, and can be seen in John Legend‘s music video, “Love Me Now.” Ridloff was also the first Miss Deaf America of African-American and Mexican descent.

During San Diego Comic-Con on July 20 director Zhao and several of the stars spoke about The Eternals, which is shooting in London and is scheduled to be released on November 6, 2020.

To quote from ew.com:

“It’s about this group of incredible immortals but through their journey we really get to explore what it means to be human and humanity on our time on this planet,” Zhao said.

“The Eternals are a race of immortal aliens sent to Earth by the Celestials to protect humankind from the Deviants,” added Madden. Ridloff also signed that she is playing the first deaf character in the MCU.

Hayek, speaking about being the leader of the group, told the crowd, “I take my inspiration from our leader, Chloe, who’s also a strong woman and it takes a strong woman to do a movie like this because it’s so big and amazing and I’m so excited to be a part of it. The way she approaches leadership as a woman, as a strong woman, is that she sees them as a family. So there’s a lot of mother instincts in this Eternal, who is not supposed to have kids. So this is very exciting, and I feel very honored to be a part of a movie that is going to allow people who never felt represented in superheroes, or in this case Eternals, represented because I am proud to have a diverse family.”

Said Jolie, “I’m so excited to be here. I’m going to work 10 times harder because I think what it means to be a part of the MCU, what it means to be an Eternal, to be a part of this family, I know what we all need to do. We have all read the script. We have all know what the task ahead is and we are all going to be working very very hard. I’m training. I am thrilled. Thank you so much.”

Lonnie Bunch, Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, to Become New Secretary of Smithsonian

Lonnie G. Bunch, III, Founding Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, moderates a panel on the “Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement: Views from the Front Line” at the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library. (Photo by Lauren Gerson via commons.wikipedia.org)

Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), was appointed the new Secretary of the Smithsonian on Tuesday. According to dcist.com, Bunch is the fourteenth person to hold the position in the Smithsonian’s 173-year history, and the first African American.

As Secretary, Bunch will manage the administration of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, 21 libraries, and the National Zoo. He is also responsible for its $1.5 billion annual budget. Bunch succeeds David J. Skorton, who announced his resignation in December.

“Lonnie has spent 29 years of his life dedicated to the Smithsonian, so he knows the institution inside and out,” said David Rubenstein, the chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents on Tuesday. The Board met at the Supreme Court earlier in the day unanimously elected Bunch as Secretary.

“He’s also highly regarded by members of Congress and highly respected by our donor base,” Rubenstein added, while also citing Bunch’s “incredible character” and his leadership of the NMAAHC as major assets.

“You’re going to make a historian cry,” Bunch said when he spoke at Tuesday’s press conference. “This is an emotional moment, because the Smithsonian means so much to me personally and professionally.”

Bunch was the first curator for the California African American Museum in Los Angeles in the 1980s and previously served as president and director of the Chicago History Museum from 2000 to 2005. In 2005, Bunch came to the Smithsonian to steward NMAAHC from conception. He shepherded both the David Adjaye-designed structure, did tireless fundraising, and helped build up and curate the museum’s collection from scratch.

The museum has been such a huge success that tickets are still largely required more than two years after opening, with visitors staying for hours longer than at other facilities. In its first year of operation, NMAAHC welcomed nearly 2.4 million visitors and was the fourth-most visited Smithsonian institution.

“It tells the unvarnished truth,” Bunch told DCist on the one-year anniversary of the museum’s opening. “I think there are people who were stunned that a federal institution could tell the story with complexity, with truth, with tragedy, and sometimes resilience.”

Over his tenure, Bunch and his team of curators made it a point to continue building a collection for the museum’s future, including acquiring artifacts from the Black Lives Matter movement, and to integrate D.C.’s own rich history into the fabric of the museum.

Read more: https://dcist.com/story/19/05/28/the-smithsonians-next-secretary-will-be-lonnie-bunch-the-head-of-the-african-american-history-museum/

Inaugural HBCU World Series Starts May 24th, Aims to Diversify College Baseball

According to Yahoo! Sports, the first of what organizations intend to be an annual event will feature the North Carolina A&T Aggies and Southern Jaguars at the Chicago White Sox Guaranteed Rate Field. It will join The Andre Dawson Classic as ways to promote HBCU schools, which are slowly watching their baseball programs fold.

Erwin Prentiss Hill, CEO of Black College Sports Group 360 (BCSG), told HBCU Sports he wants the event to “promote education opportunities to urban youth” who may not know of the schools or how to navigate the college admissions process.

 From HBCU Sports:

“Greatness comes from historically black colleges and universities. The bottom line is to get more urban youth back to our HBCU’s, so that talented young men and women can add to the legacy of our outstanding predominantly black universities.”

Baseball’s decline in lower-income communities

The cost of playing sports can add up quickly for families. It’s especially difficult to have to pay for a glove, cleats, bats and even uniform costs, now that there are fewer programs supported through park or school programs.

Participating on a travel team is even costlier and can require more shuttling around from parents, who might already be working multiple jobs to get by. Little League is so high-stakes it’s must-see TV in August.

Billy Witz covered the lack of African-American players on HBCU rosters Monday for the New York Times and noted the decline of baseball through the eyes of Bethune-Cookman athletic director Lynn Thompson. Thompson said places where he played sandlot ball in the 1960s were paved over for basketball courts and parking lots.

Recently, however, the percentage of black players on Major League Baseball‘s opening-day rosters in 2018 was the highest in six years at 8.4 percent. Between 2012 and 2017, 20 percent of first-round draft picks were African-American. Those numbers are in part due to MLB’s focus on its Urban Youth Academies that started in Compton, California, in 2006 and its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, launched in 1989.

“It’s been a huge investment for us,” Renee Tirado, MLB’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, said last spring. “Obviously growing the game amongst our players is a priority, so that uptick has definitely been from a concerted effort.”

Perhaps a focus on HBCU baseball will bring those numbers even higher in the coming years.

To read more: https://theshadowleague.com/ncat-southern-inaugural-hbcu-world-series/

Spike Lee, Regina King, “Black Panther” and More Win at 91st Academy Awards

Best Supporting Actress nominee for ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ Regina King accepts her Oscar during the 91st Annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 24, 2019. (Credit: Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

2019 is arguably the year of #OscarsSoBlack. According to the Los Angeles Times, this year set the record for the most individual Black winners of Academy Awards, with seven victors in six categories.

Regina King kicked it all off by winning first award of the evening for Best Supporting Actress for her work in “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Already a recipient of a Golden Globe for the same role, King gave an emotional, touching acceptance speech.

“To be standing here, representing one of the greatest artists of our time, James Baldwin, is a little surreal,” King said. “James Baldwin birthed this baby, and Barry [Jenkins, the director], you nurtured her, you surrounded her with so much love and support. So it’s appropriate for me to be standing here because I am an example of what happens when support and love is poured into someone.”

“Black Panther” collaborators Ruth E. Carter and Hannah Beachler made history with their wins, becoming the first African Americans to take home Oscars for Best Costume Design and Best Production Design, respectively.

“Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design, we made him an African king,” Carter said. Among those she thanked was director Ryan Coogler, whom she called “a guiding force.”

Beachler also acknowledged Coogler in her acceptance speech. “I stand here with agency and self-worth because of [director] Ryan Coogler, who not only made me a better designer, a better storyteller, a better person. When you think things are impossible, remember ‘I did my best, and my best is good enough.’”

Spike Lee accepts the Oscar for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman.” (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Spike Lee, along with writers Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz and Kevin Willmott (who is black), won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Black KkKlansman.”

After full-body hugging presenter (and “Jungle Fever” alum) Samuel L. Jackson, in his acceptance speech Lee paid tribute to his grandmother, whose mother was a slave, who lived to be 100 years old and put him through Morehouse College and New York University film school.

Lee also made the first direct political comments of the night: “The 2020 presidential election is around the corner. Let’s all mobilize, let’s all be on the right side of history. Make the moral choice between love versus hate,” he said.

“Let’s do the right thing!” Lee added. “You know I had to get that in there.”

Additionally, Peter Ramsey, co-director of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” won for Best Animated Feature.

Mahershala Ali won the Best Supporting Actor award for the second time in his career for his portrayal of pianist Don Shirley in “Green Book.” That movie also went on later in the evening to win the Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture categories.

Below is the full list of winners:

Best Picture

“Black Panther”
“BlacKkKlansman”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book” (WINNER)
“Roma”
“A Star Is Born”
“Vice”

Director

Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma” (WINNER)
Adam McKay, “Vice”

Lead Actress

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite” (WINNER)
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Lead Actor

Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (WINNER)
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Original Song

“All The Stars” from “Black Panther” by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
“I’ll Fight” from “RBG” by Diane Warren, Jennifer Hudson
“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns” by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman
“Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, Andrew Wyatt and Benjamin Rice (WINNER)
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch

Original Score

“BlacKkKlansman,” Terence Blanchard
“Black Panther,” Ludwig Goransson (WINNER)
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Nicholas Britell
“Isle of Dogs,” Alexandre Desplat
“Mary Poppins Returns,” Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

Adapted Screenplay

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
“BlacKkKlansman,” Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee (WINNER)
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Barry Jenkins
“A Star Is Born,” Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters Continue reading “Spike Lee, Regina King, “Black Panther” and More Win at 91st Academy Awards”

Dr. Saint Elmo Brady, 1st African American to Earn Ph.D. in Chemistry, Honored With a National Historic Chemical Landmark

Dr. Saint Elmo Brady (Credit: University of Illinois Archives)

According to jbhe.com, Dr. Saint Elmo Brady, the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry, has been honored by the American Chemical Society with a National Historic Chemical Landmark dedicated to him on the University of Illinois campus, where Brady earned his Ph.D. in 1916.

Additionally, plaques in his memory will be mounted on the campuses of four HBCUs where he served on the faculty: Fisk University, Tuskegee University, Howard University, and Tougaloo College.

Dr. Brady was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1884. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Fisk in 1908. After graduating from Fisk, he taught for four years at Tuskegee before leaving to earn his Ph.D. at U. of Illinois. He returned to teach at Tuskegee once again, followed by positions at Tougaloo, Howard, and Fisk. He served as chair of the chemistry departments at both Howard and Fisk. Dr. Brady passed away on December 25, 1966.

“This landmark designation recognizes the outstanding accomplishments and leadership impact that Dr. Brady has had on the chemical profession,” says ACS Immediate Past President Peter K. Dorhout, who presented the plaque at the designation ceremony on February 5.

“I am proud to be an alumnus of the university that was part of his legacy — dreaming, designing and executing the creation of four outstanding and impactful chemistry programs that have each worked to ensure access to higher education and the chemical professions for so many young African-American men and women over the last century.”

Source: https://www.jbhe.com/2019/02/saint-elmo-brady-honored-with-a-national-historical-chemical-landmark/

BHM: Meet Mary Eliza Mahoney, 1st Licensed African-American Nurse in U.S.

Mary Eliza Mahoney (photo via essence.com)

If you are a medical professional (particularly a Black medical professional), or just an overall Black history buff, you likely have heard of Mary Eliza Mahoney.

For those who have been denied tales of Mahoney’s excellence, she is heralded as the first African-American licensed nurse.

Mahoney worked in nursing for almost 40 years before retiring, but during her time as a medical professional, as well as long after, she was a champion of women’s rights. A trailblazer, not just as a Black person, but also as a woman.

Mahoney’s story starts in 1845 in Boston, where she was born to freed slaves. Her exact date of birth is unknown, but she is believed to have been born in the spring, the National Women’s History Museum notes.

Even as a teenager, Mahoney knew she wanted to become a nurse, and she began working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, which, as its name suggests, provided health care exclusively to women and their children. At the time, the hospital was also known for its all-women staff of doctors.

There, Mahoney worked from the ground up over the next 15 years, in jobs such as janitor, cook and washerwoman, while also seizing the opportunity to work as a nurse’s aide.

The hospital operated one of the first nursing schools in the United States, and as you can probably guess, in 1878 a then 33-year-old Mahoney was allowed to enter the hospital’s professional graduate school for nursing. During the intensive 16-month training program, students attended lectures and got hands-on experience in the hospital.

The program was rigorous, and according to the Women’s History Museum, of the 42 students who entered the program, only four, including Mahoney, completed the requirements in 1879. In the same breath, she became the first Black person in the U.S. to earn a professional nursing license.

Mahoney would go on to serve as a private-duty nurse for the remainder of her impeccable career (she decided against public nursing because of the rampant discrimination there) and became known across the East Coast for her “efficiency, patience and caring bedside manner,” according to the Women’s History Museum.

A staunch advocate of those within the profession, Mahoney became a member of the Nurses Associated Alumnae of the United States and Canada (NAAUSC, later known as the American Nurses Association) in 1896. But she faced discrimination at NAAUSC, which had a predominantly white membership, so Mahoney took it upon herself to co-found the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN) in 1908.

Keep reading: https://www.essence.com/black-history-month-2019/mary-eliza-mahoney-the-first-black-nurse/