Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Joe Frazier Legacy: Top 5 Boxing Champion

Smokin’ Joe Frazier, who died on November 7, 2011, defeated Muhammad Ali in 1971 to become the undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

Frazier trained and developed as a boxer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

He won three Golden Glove titles (1962 -1964).  Joe also won the gold medal for boxing at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavy weight in 1960.  He defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavy weight championship for the first time.

Ali won the crown again in 1974 by beating George Foreman.  “The Greatest” became the first in boxing history to win the heavy-weight title three times when he took out Leon Spinks in 1978.

Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army (he was a conscientious objector on religious and moral grounds).  He was stripped of his first title in 1967.

Five time World Middleweight boxing Champion “Sugar" Ray Robinson won the title for the first time by defeating Jake La Motta on February 14, 1951.  Robinson lost and regained the crown during the 1950’s, winning it for the fifth time on March 25, 1958 beating Carmen Basilio.

Michael Gerald Tyson turned professional in 1985. He stopped WBC champion Trevor Berbick in the second round in 1986 to become the youngest heavyweight champion in history at age 20.

Tyson defeated Larry Holmes, Tony Tubbs, Frank Bruno, Carl Williams, and Michael Spinks early in his career.  Later, Tyson would lose to James “Buster” Douglas.  Tyson reclaimed the WBC and WBA titles in 1996.

In 2002, Mike suffered an eighth-round knockout in an unsuccessful title bid against Lennox Lewis.  When Mike Tyson retired in 2005, he had 50 wins, 6 loses, and 2 ties with 44 knockouts.

Named “Fighter of the Century,” in 1960, Joe Louis Barrow was a boxing folk hero.  He was known as “The Brown Bomber” when he stepped into the ring.  Born in Lafayette, Alabama (1914), Lewis worked his way up the ranks to become a contender.

He captured the heavyweight championship in 1937, and defended his title 25 times.  Lewis was champion from 1937-1949.  He’s the only champion to defend boxing’s top title while in the military, and during war.

Listen to the production of Joe Louis’ historic fight.

Posted by Hugh Smith on 11/16 at 09:00 PM
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Black History People Android App

Black History People Android AppDiscover the profiles of nearly 100 black history people in the free Black History People App for Android smart phones.

Authors, poets, civil rights, politics, education, sports, entertainment, art, business, inventors, law, medicine, science, aviation, and music are categories you can explore in the app.

You can Download the Black History People App directly to your Android smart phone using the web browser in your phone.  Install it after downloading.

If you use a Blackberry, iPhone, or a full featured cell phone with a web browser…no problem.  The app exists as it’s own website at

Posted by Hugh Smith on 05/11 at 09:45 PM
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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

An American Odyssey of the First Black NASCAR Driver

Wendell Scott was no angel.

At age 20, he had his first encounter with the law.

The so called “Jackie Robinson” of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), despite the odds, succeeded using his street smarts to win at the racing game.

It didn’t hurt that Scott perfected the art of running moonshine in fast cars in the back roads of south - central Virginia prior to breaking the stock car color line in 1952.

Hard Driving: the Wendell Scott Story, the American Odyssey of NASCAR’S first black driver is a dramatic profile of an inspired achiever who wouldn’t give up while pursuing his dream.

The roadblocks were many, back in the Brown vs. the Board of Education days, as the modern civil rights struggle was kicking off in the 1950s.

Hard Driving gives a blow by blow description of Scott’s emergence as an African American community celebrity across the South at race tracks where his presence was ridiculed by the racists of the day.

I enjoyed reading Scott’s perspective on exactly what happened during the early years of his career.

As a black history month project, the Wendell Scott story deserves your attention.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 08/05 at 01:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cullen Jones is Big Swimmer in Beijing

In August of 2006, we wrote about swimmer Cullen Jones, and the role he would play on the 2008 US Olympic team.

Jones swam the 3rd leg of the 4 x 100 meter freestyle relay in Beijing to help the US team win the 2008 gold.

Take another look at Cullen Jones, the first African American to hold a swimming world record.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 08/13 at 01:02 AM
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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

6 Black History People Create Olympic Game Highlights

As the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China get ready to role, we feature a blast from the past with 6 black history people who created Olympic Game highlights:

  1. Award winning Olympic athlete Willye White is the only American woman to participate in five different Olympiads and finish in the top 12 in her events.

    She competed at age 16 in Melbourne Australia in 1956 when she won a silver medal in the long jump.  White was on the Olympic team in Rome in 1960.

    She won a silver medal in the 400 meter relay in Tokyo in 1964.  White was also successful competing in 1968 (Mexico City), and 1972 (Munich, Germany).

  2. Muhammad Ali won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavyweight boxer in 1960.

  3. “Smokin’” Joe Frazier won the gold medal for boxing at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

  4. Ralph Metcalfe was a standout in track at the 1932 and 1936 Olympic games.

  5. In 1936, Jesse Owens made history in Berlin, Germany.  A member of the U.S. Olympic track team, Owens became the first American to win four gold medals.

  6. Tennessee State University’s Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome (100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, and relay team).

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 08/05 at 07:30 PM
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami

Later this Summer, a new documentary, Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami, will find its way to a PBS television station near you.

This 2008 production begins in 1960 as it traces the young boxer known as Cassius Clay through his training at Miami, Florida’s Fifth Street Gym.

The release of the one hour documentary is timed to coincide with the August 8 - August 24 Summer Olympics in Beijing, although many PBS stations will repeat the program this Fall.

Ali’s trainer Angelo Dundee talks about the role Miami played in launching the boxing great.

Historian Manning Marable, journalist David Remnick, and Ali biographer Thomas Hauser offer commentary and insight during the program.

Ali’s Miami neighbors and friends also weigh-in with their recollections.

Watch for Muhammad Ali: Made in Miami in the coming months.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 06/25 at 07:30 PM
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Black History's Forgotten Sportin' Life Players

Beyond Jackie Robinson, Tiger Woods, Wilma Rudolph, and other famous sports legends, black history honor rolls are filled with many other competitive athletes who made their mark.

Here are 5 sports originals who richly deserve a second look, although they may not be the best known.

  1. Alice Coachman - Represented the women’s track team at Tuskegee Institute.  Alice was the only woman on the 1948 U.S. Olympic team to win a gold medal in track and field (high jump).

  2. Dan Bankhead - The first African American pitcher in Major League Baseball (August 1947 for the Brooklyn Dodgers).

  3. Fritz Pollard - First black All-American (1916).  This football legend played for Brown University between 1915 - 1916.  He played in the first Rose Bowl game (January 1, 1916 - Brown vs. Washington State).

  4. Marshall W. “Major” Taylor - A cyclist who won the World Cycle Racing Championship in 1899.  Taylor won the U.S. trophy in 1900.  He was called the fastest bike rider in the world.

  5. Pele’ - Born Edson Arantes De Nascimento in Tres Coracoes, Brazil, “The Black Pearl” became the most famous soccer player in the world.  At 17, he led the Brazilian team to their first World Cup in Sweden (1958).

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/25 at 01:02 AM
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Monday, February 04, 2008

5 African Americans who Changed the World

Here are 5 outstanding African Americans who made contributions during the 20th century to change our world.  These 5 black history people usually rise to the top in the spotlight during black history month.

1) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the father of the modern civil rights movement.  He was born Michael Luther King, January 15, 1929, in Atlanta Georgia.

Dr. King earned his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955 (a Doctorate in Theology).

He married Coretta Scott King in 1953.  The young 26 year-old Martin organized the Montgomery bus boycott with the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and the NAACP in 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat to whites.

King became the first leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.  By 1961, he was supporting freedom rides to integrate Southern lunch counters and rest rooms.

His famous “I Have a Dream Speech” was delivered on the Washington D.C. mall in 1963.  King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.  He was assassinated in 1968 as he was preparing to lead a labor protest march on behalf of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.

2) Rosa Parks

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that segregation on common carrier buses was illegal.  The decision was reached primarily because of the Montgomery bus boycott that lasted one year.

Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress, refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger (December 1, 1955).  Arrested for her act, Parks eventually found justice in the courts.

In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented her with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor for a U.S. civilian.

3) Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall, (1908-1993), was born in Baltimore, Maryland.  “Mr. Civil Rights,” changed history in 1954 when he successfully argued Brown vs. the Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Brown case outlawed segregation in schools.

Marshall was educated at Lincoln University and Howard Law School.  He began practicing law in 1933, became assistant special counsel for the NAACP in 1936, then chief counsel in 1938.

He was the first director/chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (1940-1961).

In 1961, President John Kennedy appointed him Second Circuit United States Court of Appeals judge.  By 1965 he was appointed solicitor general in the Department of Justice.

Marshall was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 becoming the first African American on the court.

Thurgood Marshall is considered the most prominent civil rights lawyer of the 20th Century.

4) Jackie Robinson

U.S. Army Lieutenant and former UCLA football great Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), entered major league baseball in 1945 by signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm team, the Montreal Royals.

Robinson, the first ever black player at the start of the 1947 season, was one of three African Americans on the roster of a major league baseball franchise by the end of 1947 (joined by Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, and Henry Thompson of the St. Louis Browns).

5) Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavy weight in 1960.

He defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavy weight championship for the first time.  Ali won the crown again in 1974 by beating George Foreman.

"The Greatest” became the first in boxing history to win the heavy-weight title three times when he took out Leon Spinks in 1978.

Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army (he was a conscientious objector on religious and moral grounds).  He was stripped of his first title in 1967.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/04 at 01:02 AM
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Henry Aaron the Trailblazer for Survivor Barry Bonds

Two different eras, two different people, and one amazing record that continues to astonish the sports world.

Hank Aaron’s America of the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s was a different world from today’s social environment in and outside of baseball.

Aaron’s achievement was clearly associated with not only sports greatness, but with civil rights advancement and black history, reflective of mid and late 20th Century cultural changes in America.

It’s clear that the Aaron milestone, more than Barry Bonds’ achievement (noted below), was a crowning confirmation of the capabilities of African Americans (in a society of doubters) during the age of Ali, R&B, and Roots.

Let’s look back on the Aaron legacy.

Henry Aaron is the only corporate executive in the world that can brag about hitting 755 lifetime home runs as a player in United States Major League Baseball.

Hammerin’ Hank passed Babe Ruth’s record on April 8th, 1974 when he hit home run number 715.

Aaron became a professional player in 1952 for the Indianapolis Clowns, a black barnstorming team.  The National League Milwaukee Braves purchased his contract for $2,500 and assigned him to their Eau Claire Wisconsin farm team the same year.

Hank Aaron was promoted to Jacksonville in the Sally League in 1953 finally breaking in at the major league level in 1954, never to look back.

On August 1, 1982, Aaron was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  He’s now the second greatest home run hitter of all time (Barry Bonds passed him with 756 on August 7, 2007).

In life after baseball, Henry Aaron has been a success in the business world as a corporate Vice President of Community Relations for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 08/08 at 08:00 AM
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist

In an age of specialization, Paul Robeson was known as a true “Renaissance Man."

He spoke or read over 20 languages, including Russian and Chinese.

Robeson may have been the most internationally famous African American in the 1930’s.  He carved out a lasting legacy as a world class artist, activist, singer, actor, lawyer, and athlete.

A Phi Beta Kappa Rutgers University graduate and a Columbia Law School graduate, Robeson was the first African American “All American."

He shifted his focus from the arts to social causes in the mid 1930’s when he became involved in the labor movement.  A 1934 visit to the Soviet Union was the first of his many international trips.

Paul Robeson was denied a passport by the U.S. Government between 1950 - 1958 because of his growing outspoken sympathetic views towards communism.

Mr. Robeson was an extraordinary talent and humanist.

Robeson’s legendary performances include roles as Shakespeare’s Othello, and Eugene O’Neill’s Emperor Jones.

He also left a lasting impression in the stage version of Porgy and Bess.  In Hollywood, he starred in Showboat, and King Solomon’s Mines.

There’s a new 2007 DVD box set, Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist, featuring highlights of his amazing film career.

The box set also contains an incredible compilation of all things Robeson, including the audio of a 1958 radio interview he granted to Pacifica.

Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist is an outstanding DVD box set appropriate for an intimate introduction to a man who is a unique personality among black history people.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 04/18 at 08:15 PM
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Muhammad Ali Lands Living Legend Honor from Africa

Muhammad Ali has been honored as a “Living Legend” by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Ghanaian based African Communications Agency (ACA).

"The Greatest” is a 2007 inductee into the ECOWAS Hall of Fame.

Ali’s African connection dates back to 1974, when he faced George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire for the “Rumble in the Jungle."

Mr. Ali accepted his award by telephone from the United States during an elegant awards banquet held at the Nicon Hilton Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria.

Dr. Erieka Bennett, Vice Chairman of the ACA and founder of the Diaspora African Forum proclaimed “we are honored to celebrate the life of Muhammad Ali."

Accepting the award, a grateful Ali declared “this tribute is especially meaningful to me as we celebrate Black History Month here in America."

Past ECOWAS Living Legend Award recipients include:

  • Nelson Mandela (former South African President)
  • Kofi Anan (former United Nations Secretary General)
  • Dudley Thompson (former Jamaican Ambassador to Nigeria)
  • Ruth Sando Perry, (former President of Liberia)
  • Professor Wole Soyinka, (Nigeria)
  • Dr. Babacar Ndiaye (former President, African Development Bank)
  • Dr Bamanga Tukur (former Nigerian Minister of Industry)

Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavy weight in 1960.

He defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavy weight championship for the first time.  Ali won the crown again in 1974 by beating George Foreman.

"The Greatest” became the first person in boxing history to win the heavy weight title three times when he took out Leon Spinks in 1978.

Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army (he was a conscientious objector on religious and moral grounds).  He was stripped of his first title in 1967.

The official Muhammad Ali website has much more for you to enjoy!

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 03/28 at 10:15 AM
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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Black History People Visionaries and Pioneers

  • "What did Barbara Jordan do for us?”
  • "I need a report on Diana Ross”
  • “Something on Frederick Douglass”
  • “Do you have information on Malcolm X?”

These are four actual questions from among the many we received in the past week!  Yes, it is hard to find reliable information about African American visionaries and pioneers.

Here are 26 twentieth century personalities responsible for moving the American Dream forward you need to know about (in random order):

  1. Langston Hughes
  2. Marian Anderson
  3. Thomas Bradley
  4. Dr. Ralph J. Bunche
  5. Coretta Scott King
  6. Frederick Douglass
  7. Dr. Charles Drew
  8. Sammy Davis Jr.
  9. Shirley Chisholm
  10. Jesse Owens
  11. James Meredith
  12. Ella Fitzgerald
  13. William H. Hastie
  14. Richard Wright
  15. Malcolm X
  16. Diana Ross
  17. Charles H. Houston
  18. A. Philip Randolph
  19. Andrew Young
  20. Barbara Jordan
  21. Ronald Dellums
  22. Bo Diddley
  23. Rosa Parks
  24. Duke Ellington
  25. Lena Horne
  26. Joe Louis

    If you’d like to learn more about these achievers, (and you’ve signed up for our free black history biographies via email...and have confirmed your subscription), then you’ll be among the first to be able to benefit from an exciting new project profiling these African American legends coming soon.

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    Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/15 at 09:45 AM
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    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    Joe Louis Boxing Gloves K.O. Smithsonian

    On Wednesday, January 31, 2007, Joe Louis‘ famous boxing gloves were donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

    Listen to the production of Joe Louis’ historic second fight with Max Schmeling.

    A Windsor, Ontario Canada collector donated the gloves (worn in the first Louis - Schmeling encounter, which Louis lost).

    The family making the donation had the gloves in their possession for over 70 years!

    The Smithsonian already had the towel tossed in the ring to end the June 1938 rematch, along with other related items.

    As a special Black History Month treat, listen to our special production featuring my narration and hear how Joe Louis made boxing history.

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    Posted by Hugh Smith on 02/01 at 09:45 PM
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    Saturday, October 07, 2006

    Baseball Ambassador Buck O'Neil (1911-2006)

    John “Buck” O’Neil, who recently passed away at 94, was the first black major league baseball coach.

    The Chicago Cubs hired the former Negro League first baseman and manager in 1962.

    In recent years, O’Neil promoted the game, did many interviews, and appeared on radio and television programs, including Ken Burns’ PBS documentary, “Baseball."

    Buck proudly reviews his career in his autobiography, “I was Right on Time."

    Here are some Buck O’Neil highlights...

    • 1942 & 1943: Negro League All Star
    • 1945: Lead the Negro league with a .353 batting average
    • Between 1938 - 1955, he managed the Miami Giants, the Shreveport Acme Giants, the Memphis Red Sox, and the Kansas City Monarchs
    • Played baseball in both Cuba and Mexico

    O’Neil was one of many Negro League players on the 2006 special election ballot to possibly enter the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

    Although he didn’t make it, here’s a very good candidate profile of Buck O’Neil by Raymond Doswell from the ballot.

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    Posted by Hugh Smith on 10/07 at 11:58 AM
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    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Black History Swimmer Floats to the Top

    Almost 20 years have passed since Los Angeles Dodgers Vice President Al Campanis got fired for saying on national television (Ted Koppel’s Nightline in 1987) that blacks were not good swimmers because they lacked buoyancy.

    Cullen Jones was only three years old when Campanis made that statement.

    Twenty-two year old Jones has just received a seven year $2 million dollar endorsement deal from Nike, putting him in Tiger Woods and Serena Williams territory.

    Jones is the first African American to hold a swimming world record.  He recently accomplished the feat in the 50-meter freestyle.

    Look for Jones in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  He wants to duplicate the efforts of 2000 gold medal winning sprinter Anthony Ervin.

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    Posted by Hugh Smith on 09/21 at 07:49 PM
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