Black Facts for March 21st

1950 - Oden, Ron (1950- )

Ron Oden is the first African American and the first openly gay man to hold the office of Mayor of Palm Springs, California. Born on March 21, 1950 in Detroit, Michigan, Oden attended Oakwood College (now University) in Huntsville, Alabama where he received a Bachelor of Arts in History, Sociology and Theology. He continued his studies in Family Life and Counselling at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, earning a Master of Arts Degree in Theology. Oden continued his education at the State University of New York in Albany, completing a Master of Arts Degree in Ethnic Studies. He has also pursued post-graduate courses in Marriage, Family and Child Counselling Studies at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California.  

Oden began his career in community and political involvement in 1990 when he moved to Palm Springs and began teaching as an adjunct Sociology instructor at College of the Desert. Oden also worked at Desert Career College, Chapman University and has served as pastoral care consultant at the Betty Ford Center.  

Concern about educational and social issues led Oden to enter local politics. In 1995 he was elected to Palm Springs City Council only five years after he arrived in the city. While on the council he advocated for social causes.  

In 2003, Oden was elected Mayor of Palm Springs, a city of approximately 40,000 residents known primarily as a resort and retirement destination in the Southern California desert. His election was significant because of both his race and his sexual orientation. Oden was the first openly gay African American elected to lead a California city. Although blacks comprise only 3% of the city’s population, the gay and lesbian population, an estimated 30 % of the total, is proportionately one of the largest of any California city.  

As a City Councilmember and as Mayor Oden worked tirelessly to promote respect for diversity through organizations such as the Palm Springs Human Rights Task Force, the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission, and the Palm

1938 - White, Lois Jean(1938- )

Lois Jean Barron White, the first African American President of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) was born in Nashville, Tennessee on March 21, 1938. She was raised by her grandmother, Rosa Barron, as her own mother lived away in Massachusetts.  White’s grandmother taught her the value of taking responsibility for her life and focused on doing the “right thing.” These life lessons resonated with White and helped to shape her professional decisions later in life.

White became interested in music as a child and initially studied piano before switching to the flute.  She was naturally very talented and was considered by some a child prodigy.  When the Nashville youth orchestra rejected her because of her race, the New York Herald Tribune reported the story and arranged for her to play with the New York City youth orchestra.

White earned a B.A. in Music at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee in 1960 and received further training at Indiana University. She then taught music at Mills College in Birmingham, Alabama from 1960 to 1962 and while there met her future husband, George White.  In 1963 she became a member of the Community Orchestra of Atlanta.  Four years later, in 1967, White and her family moved to Knoxville where she joined the Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra, serving primarily as a principal flutist.  She retired in 1991 after 24 years with the Orchestra.

White initially became involved with the Parent Teacher Association in Knoxville for the benefit of her son.  Recognizing the importance of both volunteer work and the central role of parents in their children"s educational development, she joined the Knoxville PTA and eventually was voted a representative to the PTA Council, which served as a link between the local and state chapters. She was soon thereafter asked to serve as cultural arts chairperson for the Tennessee PTA after her Council"s exhibit attracted considerable attention at the Tennessee State PTA Convention in Tennessee in 1981.   She was later asked to collaborate with other

Science Facts

2013 - Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe , in full Albert Chinualumogu Achebe (born November 16, 1930, Ogidi, Nigeria—died March 21, 2013, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.), Nigerian novelist acclaimed for his unsentimental depictions of the social and psychological disorientation accompanying the imposition of Western customs and values upon traditional African society. His particular concern was with emergent Africa at its moments of crisis; his novels range in subject matter from the first contact of an African village with the white man to the educated African’s attempt to create a firm moral order out of the changing values in a large city.

Achebe grew up in the Igbo (Ibo) town of Ogidi, Nigeria. After studying English and literature at University College (now the University of Ibadan), Achebe taught for a short time before joining the staff of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in Lagos, where he served as director of external broadcasting in 1961–66. In 1967 he cofounded a publishing company at Enugu with the poet Christopher Okigbo, who died shortly thereafter in the Nigerian civil war for Biafran independence, which Achebe openly supported. In 1969 Achebe toured the United States with fellow writers Gabriel Okara and Cyprian Ekwensi, lecturing at universities. Upon his return to Nigeria he was appointed research fellow at the University of Nigeria and became professor of English, a position he held from 1976 until 1981 (professor emeritus from 1985). He was director (from 1970) of two Nigerian publishers, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. and Nwankwo-Ifejika Ltd. After an automobile accident in Nigeria in 1990 that left him partially paralyzed, he moved to the United States, where he taught at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. In 2009 Achebe left Bard to join the faculty of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Things Fall Apart (1958), Achebe’s first novel, concerns traditional Igbo life at the time of the advent of missionaries and colonial government in his homeland. His principal character cannot

1990 - Namibia gains independence

The History of NamibiaThe country has ever since that historical day; 21 March 1990 enjoyed peace, stability and progress in many ways. Namibia is also known as the smile of Africa because, of its geographical position and the friendliness and warmth of its citizens. Currently the country has a population of 1.7 million and covers an area of approximately 824,269 square km. The country is divided into 13 regions. Namibia is a very diverse country with breathtaking landscapes from the Orange River, bordering South Africa up to the Okavango, the Kunene and the Zambezi in the North and North East respectively, all flowing rivers throughout the year and being the natural borders of Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. In the heart of this beautiful country lies the capital of Namibia, Windhoek. As the country itself, Windhoek was at one stage first occupied by Germany and then by South Africa. Namibia was a German protectorate from 1884 till 1915, when South Africa defeated the German colonial troops in the first year of the First World War. Throughout the years of being a protectorate, many Namibians lost their lives trying to fight the colonisers, the Germans as well as the South Africans. Out of that struggle many historically famous people were born and historical battles were fought. Hendrik Witbooi fought the Germans as early as 1880"s, 90"s and then again in 1904-07 uprising. On the other hand, Samuel Maharero declared war on the Germans in 1904. Other famous resistors were, Jakob Marengo, Simon Kooper and Mandume who became king of the Kwanyama in 1911 as a teenager and died at an early age fighting against the Portuguese and then against the South Africans. Today Hendrik Witbooi because of his many achievements and historical significance was honoured by getting a street called after him and being printed on Namibia"s currency.

1973 - Larry Holmes

Larry Holmes is a retired professional boxer who was the WBC Heavyweight Champion from 1978 to 1983. Holmes was also the Ring Heavyweight Champion from 1980 to 1985, and the IBF Heavyweight Champion from 1980 to 1985. Holmes is considered by many to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.

Larry Holmes was born on November 3, 1949 in Cuthbert, Georgia. During his childhood, Holmes’s family was generally in great financial difficulty and they were forced to survive on welfare. He even dropped out of school in the seventh grade so that he could work at a car wash for $1 an hour.

Holmes started amateur boxing at the age of nineteen. After winning his first few fights, he fought Duane Bobick (the world amateur heavyweight champion of the time) for the 1972 Olympic Trials; Holmes eventually lost the bout due to disqualification for excessive holding. The Bobick fight would be Holmes last amateur bout, and Holmes ended his amateur career with a record of 19 wins and 3 losses.

Holmes fought his first professional match on March 21, 1973, against Rodell Dupree. At first, Holmes worked as a sparring partner for some of the best heavyweight boxers in the world, including Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Earnie Shavers and Jimmy Young. Holmes recalled that these sparring sessions helped him earn the confidence that ultimately helped him become the world heavyweight champion.

In March 1978, Larry Holmes shocked the world by defeating the world heavyweight title contender Earnie Shavers by unanimous decision. The victory against Shavers was also surprising for the boxing world as Shavers was considered by many to be the hardest punching boxer of all time. The victory set Holmes up for a title shot against Ken Norton in June 1978.

Holmes’s match against Norton was extremely competitive. Some sources state that Holmes took the match in the fifteenth round, with all judges voting the earlier fourteen rounds as draws. Holmes, now the new WBC Heavyweight Champion, then fought against Alfredo Evangelista and Ossie Ocasio, both

1894 - Turner, Benjamin Sterling (1825-1894)

Benjamin Sterling Turner, a member of the United States House of Representatives from Alabama during the Reconstruction period, was born on March 17, 1825 in Weldon, North Carolina. He was raised as a slave and as a child received no formal education. In 1830 Turner moved to Selma, Alabama with his mother and slave owner. While living on the plantation he surreptitiously obtained an education and by age 20 Turner was able to read and write fluently. 

While still a slave Turner managed a hotel and stable in Selma.  Although his owner received most of the money for Turner’s work, he managed to save some of his earnings and shortly after the Civil War he used the savings he had accumulated to purchase the property.  The U.S. Census of 1870 reported Turner as owning $2,500 in real estate and $10,000 in personal property, making him one of the wealthiest freedmen in Alabama.

Turner also became a teacher in 1865 and helped establish the first school for African American children.  Two years later he became involved in politics.  After participating in the Republican State Convention in 1867, Turner was named tax collector of Dallas County.  The following year he won his first elective office when he became a Selma City Councilman.  In 1870 Turner was elected to the United States Congress as the first African American Representative in Alabama history. 

While in office Turner proposed bills that contributed funding for Civil War-related damages to several federal buildings in central Alabama and St. Paul"s Episcopal Church. Turner was also appointed to the House Committee on Invalid Pensions and was responsible for issuing pensions to Union war veterans.  Through his influence African American veterans received a pension of eight dollars a month.

Benjamin S. Turner fought for impoverished black farmers. In February of 1872 he called for the elimination of the tax on cotton because it was harmful to many of his constituents.  He also argued that the tax was unconstitutional because it singled out a specific cash

Literature Facts

1960 - What Was Apartheid in South Africa?

Apartheid is an Afrikaans word that means "separation." It is the name given to the particular racial-social ideology developed in South Africa during the twentieth century.

At its core, apartheid was all about racial segregation. It led to the political and economic discrimination which separated Black (or Bantu), Coloured (mixed race), Indian, and White South Africans.

What Led to Apartheid?

Racial segregation in South Africa began after the Boer War and really came into being in the early 1900s.

When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910 under British control, the Europeans in South Africa shaped the political structure of the new nation. Acts of discrimination were implemented from the very beginning.

It was not until the elections of 1948 that the word apartheid became common in South African politics. Through all of this, the white minority put various restrictions on the black majority. Eventually, the segregation affected Coloured and Indian citizens as well.

Over time, apartheid was divided into petty and grand apartheid. Petty apartheid referred to the visible segregation in South Africa while grand apartheid was used to describe the loss of political and land rights of black South Africans.

Before its end in 1994 with the election of Nelson Mandela, the years of apartheid were filled with many struggles and brutality. A few events hold great significance and are considered turning points in the development and the fall of apartheid.

What came to be known as "pass laws" restricted the movement of Africans and required them to carry a "reference book." This held identification papers as well as permissions to be in certain regions. By the 1950s, the restriction became so great that every black South African was required to carry one.

In 1956, over 20,000 women of all races marched in protest. This was the time of passive protest, but that would soon change.

The Sharpeville Massacre on March 21, 1960, would be the turning point in apartheid. This too was a protest against the pass laws and a

Facts About Women

Business Facts

1999 - Perry, Cynthia Shepard (1928- )

Cynthia Shepard Perry, a Republican and 25 year career diplomat, has served three Republican presidents. President Ronald Reagan appointed her as Chief of Education and Human Resources of the U.S. Agency for International Development where she served from 1982 to 1986, and named her Ambassador to Sierra Leone from 1986 to 1989. 

President H.W. Bush appointed her ambassador to Burundi where she served from 1989 to 1993.  President George W. Bush appointed her as U.S. Executive Director of the African Development Bank in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and Tunis, Tunisia in 2001.  As director, she promoted microlending projects for small start-up loans, especially for women. In addition, she analyzed African loan requests for schools, bridges, and projects to reduce poverty.

Her foreign service also included Director of Teacher/Peace Corps for Crossroads-Africa (1971-73); a member of diplomatic delegations to Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, and Liberia (1974); UN Economic Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1976); and Consultant to U.S. Information Services in Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia (1973-1976).

Born on Nov. 11, 1928, in Lost Creek near Terre Haute, Indiana, she was one of nine children.  Her parents were farmers who also taught her piano and painting.  In 1946, she graduated from segregated Otter Creek High School where she loved writing and was often the winner of writing contests.  Her interests in geography and global topics were fueled by her father’s service in France in World War I and her brothers’ assignments in World War II. 

In her 1998 memoir, All Things Being Equal: One Woman’s Journey, she states that “at age 16 she planned to be an ambassador.” With the help of family and the high school principal, she developed a 25-year plan. Her journey began with political science and foreign language degrees from Indiana State in 1968 and a Doctorate of Education from the University of Massachusetts in 1976.  During her doctoral program, she recruited volunteers for work in Africa.  She worked in several

Alveda King on Race Relations and MLK

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