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Black Facts for January 17th

2017 - Tears We Cannot Stop: Michael Eric Dyson Explains Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy to Us Today

On January 17, 2017, eighty-eight years after the birth of the most revered civil rights leader in the 20th Century, Georgetown University scholar, social activist, reverend, and best-selling author Michael Eric Dyson describes in his new book, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, his assessment of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King for our generation. He also describes for BlackPast.org why he was inspired to write Tears We Cannot Stop, a book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations will want to read. We at BlackPast.org appreciate Dr. Dyson’s willingness to share this special discussion of his new book with our audience.

Martin Luther King, Jr., is the most quoted black man on the planet. His words are like scripture to you and, yes, to us too. His name is evoked, his speech referenced, during every racial crisis we confront. He has become the language of race itself. He is, too, the history of black America in a dark suit. But he is more than that. He is the struggle and suffering of our people distilled to a bullet in Memphis. King’s martyrdom made him less a man, more a symbol, arguably a civic deity. But there are perils to hero worship. His words get plucked from their original contexts, his ideas twisted beyond recognition. America has washed the grit from his rhetoric.

Beloved, you say you love King, or at least admire him, but we don’t really know him, not the King who was too black and too radical for most of America. King drank from roots deep in black culture. He bathed in black language. He sprang from a black moral womb. Black teachers and preachers shaped King. They gave him fuel for his journey and the inspiration to change the world. King told the truth about you in black America, to black America, in ways he couldn’t tell you. He said the toughest things about you in sacred black spaces. He did it because he felt safe with us. He did that to let us know that he knew what we were up against. He did it to let us know we weren’t

1996 - Jordan, Barbara (1936-1996)

Barbara Charline Jordan was born in Houston Texas’s Fifth Ward on February 21, 1936. She received her education in public schools in Texas and graduated from Texas Southern University in 1956 with a B.A. in political science and history. Jordan then received her LL.B. from Boston University School of Law in 1959.  She was admitted to the Massachusetts and Texas bars in 1960. Afterwards she decided to practice law in her hometown, Houston.  At the time Jordan was only the third African American woman to be licensed to practice law in Texas.

Barbara Jordan entered Houston politics in the early 1960s.  Though unsuccessful in obtaining the nomination as state representative in 1962 and 1964, in 1966 she became the first African American since 1883 to serve in the Texas Senate and the first black woman elected to that body.  She later served as president pro tem of the state senate and for one day in 1972, served as acting governor of the state.  

In November 1972 Jordan, a Democrat and protégée of former President Lyndon Johnson, defeated Republican Congressman Paul Merritt to represent Texas’s Eighteenth District in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Jordan was known for her expert knowledge in constitutional matters.  With help from former President Johnson, Jordan obtained a seat on the House Judiciary Committee where in 1974 she earned a national reputation for her prominent role in the President Richard Nixon impeachment hearings.   

Jordan’s name appeared as a sponsor on several major pieces of legislation including the Consumer Goods Pricing Act of 1975, the Voting Rights Act of 1975 (an extension of the more famous 1965 measure), and the Equal Rights Amendment in 1977. The Voting Rights Act of 1975 extended to Spanish-heritage, American Indian, Alaskan Natives, and Asian American language minorities the provisions which had successfully registered to vote thousands of African Americans in the South in the previous decade.  Jordan also helped extend the state ratification deadline for the Equal Rights

Spirituality Facts

1927 - Eartha Kitt

Eartha Kitt was a singer and actress who recorded the hit holiday song “Santa Baby”. She was born on January 17, 1927 in South Carolina to an African American mother and a white father. She was raised by Anna Mae Riley, as her biological mother had abandoned her. It wasn’t until later that she realized that her mother was actually Mamie Kitt. She never got to know her biological father though. At the age of 8, she moved to New York City. There she enrolled at the New York School of Performing Arts where she won a scholarship to study with Katherine Dunham. She later joined the Katherine Dunham Company where she performed as a singer and dancer.

Between 1943 to 1948, she toured with the group before launching her solo career. She was particularly popular in Paris, where she performed at nightclubs. During her European tours, she became fluent in French and was known to sing in 7 different languages. In Paris, Kitt met Orson Welles, a movie director who cast her as Helen of Troy in the play Dr. Faustus in 1950. Two years later, she starred in the Broadway musical “New Faces of 1952” for which she sang the songs “Monotonous”, “Uska Dara” and “C’est Si Bon”.

Her other movies during the 1950s were “Mark of the Hawk” in 1957 and “St. Louis Blues” in 1958. Her 1959 film “Anna Lucasta” won her the first and only Academy Award nomination of her career. In the 1960s, Kitt played the role of Catwoman on the television series Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Her portrayal of her character was memorable and unique. Her singing career was also very successful. Some of the biggest hits of her career include “Let’s Do It”, “Champagne Taste”, “Just an Old Fashioned Girl”, “Love for Sale”, “I’d Rather Be Burned as a Witch”, “Under the Bridges of Paris” and perhaps her most popular song, the Christmas holiday hit “Santa Baby”. She also performed on Broadway such as “Mrs. Patterson”, “Shinbone Alley” and “Jolly’s Progress”.

Kitt was known to be blunt, outspoken and short tempered. In 1968, she attended a lunch at the

1942 - Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time. He was born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali was a fiercely serious child, who had experienced the harsh realities of racism at a very young age. He started training to be a boxer at the age of 12 because his bike was stolen outside a fair. When he reported the incident to a police officer named Joe Martin, and said that he wanted to beat up the thief, Martin replied that he would have to learn to fight first. So the young Ali started training under the same policeman every day after school.

Ali was very strict with his training. He woke up early every morning to go for a run, and after school he would go to the gym to train under Martin’s guidance. He also had a very healthy diet, and never touched alcohol, cigarettes or junk food. From the beginning, he was very confident in his abilities and would claim that he would become the greatest boxer in the world. He had a unique fighting style, and was a very fast mover – so fast that he was able to back away from punches before the opponent could attack, instead of ducking like others did. He also kept his hands by his sides, rather than using them to cover his face.

Ali had his first amateur fight in 1954, which he won. After several more victories, he went on to win the 1956 Golden Gloves tournament for novices in the light heavyweight category. In 1959 he won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, and the Amateur Athletic Union’s national title in the light heavyweight division. Next year, in 1960, he made it to the U.S. Olympic boxing team that competed in the Rome Olympics, where he defeated the Polish-man Zbigniew Pietrzkowski to win the Olympic gold medal. He gained immense fame back home, and soon turned professional, backed by the Louisville Sponsoring Group. In 1964, after defeating fellow American Sonny Liston, he achieved his ultimate dream – the title of heavyweight champion of the world.

Shortly after winning the title, Ali embraced a new

1982 - Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade is a professional NBA player who plays for the Miami Heat. He was born on January 17, 1982 in Chicago, Illinois to Dwyane Sr. and Jolinda Wade. His parents separated when he was very young and Wade and his older sister Tragil initially went to live with their mother. She was financially unstable, and lived in a crime ridden neighborhood in Chicago. At the age of 8, his sister sent Wade to live with his father, so he could move away from the negative influences of their surroundings. Wade credits his older sister as a driving force in his life, and someone who helped to steer him in the right direction.

Wade’s father lived with his new wife and children and soon moved to a new suburb with a better atmosphere. He attended Harold L. Richards High School in Oak Lawn and began to play basketball with his father, stepbrothers and new friends. His older stepbrother Demetrius was a proficient basketball player at their high school, and Wade learnt a lot playing with him. He also played on his school’s football team but always remained dedicated to basketball. By his junior year, he was a regular member of the varsity basketball team and after improving his skills and leaping 4 inches during the summer, Wade began to be recognized as a star player.

He had impressive stats and began to be recognized as a potential recruit by several colleges. His success continued into his senior year but because of his poor academic performance, he was rejected by many of the colleges he applied to. His high school coach, Jack Fitzgerald provided him with immense support, and helped Wade to get admission at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Because of his grades, he was ineligible to play on the team but the head coach took him on as a partial qualifier. During the 2000-01 season, Wade couldn’t participate in the team’s games but was allowed to play and practice with them otherwise. His stats remained impressive, and during his junior year, Wade led his college to their first Conference USA championship and a

1931 - Wilder, Lawrence Douglas (1931- )

Born in Richmond, Virginia on January 17, 1931, Lawrence Douglas Wilder was the first African American to be elected governor in the United States of America. For four years Wilder served as the governor of Virginia (1990-1994).  Currently he is serving as the mayor of Richmond, Virginia.

Wilder began his education in a racially segregated elementary school, George Mason Elementary, and attended all-black Armstrong High School in Richmond.  In 1951 he received a degree in chemistry from Virginia Union University in his hometown.  After college, Wilder joined the United States Army and served in the Korean War, where he earned a Bronze Star for heroism. After the war, Wilder worked in the Virginia state medical examiner’s office as a chemist. Using the G.I. Bill, Wilder graduated from Howard University Law School in 1959 and soon afterwards established Wilder, Gregory and Associates.

In 1969 Wilder entered politics, winning a seat in the Virginia State Senate during a special election.  Wilder became the first African American state senator in Virginia since Reconstruction. He spent the next sixteen years in the Virginia Senate before being elected Lieutenant Governor in 1985.  Four years later Wilder won the Virginia Governorship and was inaugurated on January 13, four days before his 58th birthday.

During his tenure as governor Wilder granted a controversial pardon to basketball star Allen Iverson, a popular high school basketball player who was accused of assaulting a woman.  Although Wilder was not persuaded by the evidence presented in the case, many people in Virginia felt his decision was racially motivated.  Wilder, however, also presided over fourteen executions in the state.  Barred from running for a second term, Wilder left the governor’s office in January 1994.

Although a Democrat for most of his career, Wilder developed a reputation as a law and order fiscal conservative, a position that appealed to many conservative voters in Virginia.  He also publicly sparred with fellow Democrat Senator Chuck

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