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Black Facts for September 26th

1936 - Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela , original name Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela, original Xhosa name Nkosikazi Nobandle Nomzamo Madikizela (born September 26, 1936, Bizana, Pondoland district, Transkei [now in Eastern Cape], South Africa), South African social worker and activist considered by many black South Africans to be the “Mother of the Nation.” She was the second wife of Nelson Mandela, from whom she separated in 1992 after her questionable behaviour and unrestrained militancy alienated fellow antiapartheid activists, including her husband.

The daughter of a history teacher, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela moved to Johannesburg in 1953 to study pediatric social work. She met Mandela in 1956, became his devoted coworker, and married him in 1958. At the start of her husband’s long imprisonment (1962–90), Madikizela-Mandela was banned (severely restricted in travel, association, and speech) and for years underwent almost continual harassment by the South African government and its security forces; she spent 17 months in jail in 1969–70 and lived in internal exile from 1977 to 1985. During these years she did social and educational work and became a heroine of the antiapartheid movement. Her reputation was seriously marred in 1988–89, however, when she was linked with the beating and kidnapping of four black youths, one of whom was murdered by her chief bodyguard.

After Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Madikizela-Mandela initially shared in his political activities and trips abroad. In May 1991 she was sentenced to six years in prison upon her conviction for kidnapping, but the sentence was later reduced to a fine. She made a political comeback in 1993 with her election to the presidency of the African National Congress Women’s League, and in 1994 she was elected to Parliament and appointed deputy minister of arts, culture, science, and technology in South Africa’s first multiracial government, which was headed by her husband. Madikizela-Mandela continued to provoke controversy with her attacks on the

1937 - Smith, Bessie (1894-1937)

Along with Ma Rainey and Mamie Smith, singer Bessie Smith helped pioneer the genre of blues music and propel it into popular culture. Her early death at the age of 43 cut short a career that influenced the direction of American music and contributed to the success of African Americans in the performing arts.

Smith was born into poverty most likely on April 15, 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee to William Smith, a preacher, and Laura Smith. Both parents died when Bessie was young. To help support her orphaned siblings, Bessie began her career as a Chattanooga street musician, singing in a duo with her brother Andrew to earn money to support their indigent family.

In 1912 at the age of 18 she joined the traveling Moses Stokes Company, where she met and became friends with Georgia blues performer Gertrude Ma Rainey. Smith traveled with the show as a singer and dancer and then as a performer with the Theater Owners Booking Association (TOBA), the leading vaudeville circuit for black American performers during the 1920s and 1930s. With TOBA, Smith gradually built up a regional and eventually a national following. In 1921 she was ready to record, but early auditions with recording companies like Okeh were unsuccessful.

However, the year 1923 proved significant to Smith both personally and professionally. She married night watchman John “Jack” Gee, and she made her recording debut with Columbia Records teaming with pianist Clarence Williams. Evidence suggests that both Gee and Williams siphoned money from Bessie’s earnings as her career took off.

Initially, Smith and Williams recorded two songs, “Gulf Coast Blues” and “Down Hearted Blues,” which sold more than 750,000 in its first year of release. Following her debut success, Columbia Records promoted her as “Queen of the Blues,” but the press soon upgraded her nickname to “Empress of the Blues.”

During her career, Smith also worked with musicians such as James P. Johnson, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman and Louis Armstrong. Throughout the 1920s she made more than 160

1981 - Serena Williams

Serena Jameka Williams is a professional tennis player, ranked No. 1 in women’s singles tennis as of August 2014, a rank she has held 5 times in her career. She is the younger sister of tennis star Venus Williams. She was born on September 26, 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan to Richard and Oracene Williams, and is the youngest of their 5 daughters. Richard Williams was a farmer in Louisiana who was an avid tennis fan and wanted to see his daughters succeed as professional tennis players. He bought instructional tapes and books to teach himself and his wife, so they could then teach their daughters in turn.

The family moved to Compton, California when Serena was three years old, where she started training at the run down tennis courts near their house along with her sister Venus. She played her first match at the age of 4 and half years. Both sisters displayed exceptional talent and enrolled in the U.S. junior Tennis Association. By 1991, Serena was ranked number one in the junior under 10 rankings with a win-loss record of 46-3. Although the girls had been dominating the junior circuit, Richard felt that they needed more time to focus on school and less pressure of competing in tournaments, so he withdrew both daughters from junior tournaments and focused on training them at home. He invited a tennis coach named Rick Macci to his home to watch his daughters play. Macci was duly impressed and invited the girls to join his academy in Florida. Subsequently, the family relocated to Florida where the girls enrolled at Macci’s academy and stayed there till 1995. This was also the year that Serena turned pro, and within two years her ranking increased from 304 to 99 which landed her a $12 million shoe deal with Puma.

Several people criticized Richard’s actions in pulling his daughters out of the junior tours and turning them pro, and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) did not let her enter into professional WTA tournaments until 1997 when she was aged 16. She gained prominence in tennis circles however, by beating world