Friday, September 29, 2006

Tuskegee Airman Coleman A. Young Flies through Detroit's Hard Times

Coleman A. Young, (1918-1997), Detroit’s first African American mayor, got the city out of bankruptcy (1981), rebuilt business and residential housing along the Detroit River, and integrated the Detroit Fire and Police Departments.

President Clinton praised Young as “not only a great mayor of Detroit, but an inspiration to so many city leaders throughout the nation.” Young was elected Mayor on November 6, 1973, and reelected four times in 1977, 1981, 1985, and 1989.

He decided in 1993 not to seek a sixth term.  Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Young’s family relocated to Detroit when Coleman was five.

Although he was the product of an excellent Roman Catholic elementary school education with top grades, he was denied admission to several of the outstanding Detroit high schools because of discrimination.

Young dropped out of high school, worked for the Ford Motor Company, then the post office.

He was a bombardier-navigator with the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  Young read about A. Philip Randolph and the union movement, and became involved as an organizer in 1951.

Young founded the National Negro Labor Council.  He was elected to the Michigan Constitutional Convention in 1960, and as a Michigan State Senator in 1964.

He was the first African American to serve on the National Democratic Committee in 1968.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 09/29 at 08:31 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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Friday, September 15, 2006

Nat King Cole’s place in Television History

It’s the Fall season featuring lots of television program premiers.

In 1957, Nat King Cole, (1919-1965), became the first African American to host a nationwide network television program.

He was born in Montgomery, Alabama, and raised in Chicago.  A legendary pop and jazz singer, Cole had many hits including “Mona Lisa,” “Rambling Rose,” and “The Christmas Song."

Sadly, during the 1950’s, attracting commercial sponsorship to the Nat King Cole Show was a challenge for the producers.  Though short lived on network television, Cole was a trailblazer preceding the many who have followed him.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 09/15 at 02:13 PM
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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Oprah's Impact 20 Years Later

Friday, September 8, 2006, marks the twentieth anniversary of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The program entered national syndication in the USA on September 8, 1986.  “Oprah” would eventually become the highest-rated talk show in television history.

In 1988, Winfrey established Harpo Studios, a production facility in Chicago, Illinois.  She was the third woman in the American entertainment industry (after Mary Pickford and Lucille Ball) to own her own studio.

The Oprah Winfrey Show is seen by an estimated 49 million viewers a week in the United States, and is broadcast internationally in 122 countries.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 09/07 at 11:31 PM
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Friday, September 01, 2006

Guion S. Bluford Spaces Out

Lockheed Martin has won NASA’s multibillion-dollar go ahead to build the Orion crew exploration vehicle, a spaceship that will take astronauts back to the international space station, the moon, and beyond.

Orion will carry cargo, or up to six crew members.  The craft will travel to the international space station by 2014, and carry up to four astronauts to the moon and back by 2020.

When it comes to black history people in space, one person to salute among many is Guion Stewart Bluford Jr.

The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native became the first black American astronaut in space aboard the space shuttle Challenger on August 30, 1983.

He earned a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering with a minor in laser physics from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1978.

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Posted by Hugh Smith on 09/01 at 12:45 PM
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