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Black Facts for October 15th

Birthdays

1969 - The Wyoming Black Fourteen (1969)

The Wyoming Black Fourteen were African American members of the 1969 University of Wyoming (UW) football team who protested playing a game with Brigham Young University (BYU) because of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s ban on black males holding the priesthood in the church and other racial restrictions. The priesthood ban applied exclusively to men of African descent.  

The 14 players, Jerry Berry, Tony Gibson, John Griffin, Lionel Grimes, Mel Hamilton, Ron Hill, Willie Hysaw, Jim Isaac, Earl Lee, Don Meadows, Tony McGee, Ivie Moore, Joe Williams, and Ted Williams, were part of a successful Wyoming football team. Under Head Coach Lloyd Eaton, the Wyoming Cowboys had won three consecutive Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championships and in 1969 it was considered the best football team to ever play for the University.  

The protest began on October 15, 1969 when Willie Black, a 32-year-old math graduate student and head of Wyoming’s Black Student Alliance, upon learning of the LDS ban on black male priests, brought a letter titled “We Must Protest,” to University administrators. The letter described the race issues of the Mormon church, including the priesthood restriction and other prohibitions such as barring all women and men of African ancestry from participation in temple rituals.  Black’s letter called for all Wyoming football players and students to protest LDS church policies during the scheduled game with BYU, three days later on October 18.  

Two days before the game, the 14 black players walked to the athletic complex to discuss options for how they might protest. They eventually decided to wear black armbands but nonetheless compete in the game. On October 17, the day before the game, Coach Eaton upon hearing about their decision, ordered the players to the bleachers where he reprimanded them, and then released them from the team, revoking their athletic scholarships. The University announced that the Board of Trustees supported Coach Eaton’s decision and said “the players will

1996 - Robert Williams

Robert Williams , in full Robert Franklin Williams (born February 26, 1925, Monroe, North Carolina, U.S.—died October 15, 1996, Baldwin, Michigan), American civil rights leader known for taking a militant stance against racism decades before the Black Power and black nationalist movements of the late 1960s and early ’70s adopted similar philosophies. As early as the late 1940s, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating him, Williams was advocating armed self-reliance for migrant labourers and victims of civil rights abuses—views that were uncommon at the time among civil rights activists.

Williams was the son of a railroad worker. After working at various factory jobs and serving in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1954 to 1955, Williams returned to his North Carolina birthplace, Monroe, in 1957 to head the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Biographers say that the first thing Williams saw when he got off the bus in his hometown was the police chief of Monroe (Jesse Helms, Sr., the father of the future U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, Jr.) beating a black woman. Williams later called that a defining moment in his life.

Williams first gained international media attention in early 1958 when Monroe refused to integrate a public swimming pool built with federal tax funds. When African Americans, led by Williams, refused to accept a promise of building a separate pool for blacks at an unspecified future date, the town filled in the pool with concrete rather than allow it to be integrated.

In October 1958 Williams advocated on behalf of two African American boys, aged seven and nine, who were charged with rape and jailed after the nine-year-old reportedly allowed a six-year-old white girl to kiss him on the cheek. The boys were sentenced to reform school, where they were to stay until age 21. With Williams’s intervention, they were released after four months. In the spring of 1959, Williams was again the subject of national attention when the NAACP

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