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Black Facts for April 21st

2007 - Juanita Millender-McDonald (1938-2007)

Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1938, Juanita Millender McDonald was an educator and member of the United States House of Representatives.  She received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands and a master’s degree from California State University at Los Angeles.  

Millender-McDonald taught in the Los Angeles School District, and was the editor of Images, a textbook designed to improve the self-esteem of young women.  As director of gender-equity programs for the school district, Millender-McDonald received national recognition when she served on the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future.  

In 1990, Millender-McDonald became the first African-American elected to the Carson City Council.  She was elected mayor pro tem for Carson in 1991, and won a set in the California State Assembly in 1992.

Millender-McDonald announced her candidacy for the U.S. representative of California’s Thirty-Seventh Congressional District after Representative Walter R. Tucker III resigned. She defeated eight other candidates in the March 1996 Democratic primary, and ran unopposed in the general election.  She was sworn into office in April 1996, and was reelected to five terms. Millender-McDonald was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and served on the House Committee on Small Business, and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  She was also the first African American woman to chair the Committee on House Administration.  

In the House, Millender-McDonald had a liberal voting record.  She worked on issues which included election reform and genocide in Darfur and Cambodia.  She also worked with Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and Ambassador John Miller on human trafficking and women’s rights issues.  Millender-McDonald drew national attention in 1996 when she had then-CIA director John Deutch address the community of Watts, California, about allegations that profits from domestic sales of crack cocaine were funneled to the CIA-backed Contras in Nicaragua.

Throughout much of

1943 - Kole Omotoso

Kole Omotoso , (born April 21, 1943, Akure, Nigeria), Nigerian novelist, playwright, and critic who wrote from a Yoruba perspective and coupled the folklore he learned as a child with his adult studies in Arabic and English. His major themes include interracial marriage, comic aspects of the Biafran-Nigerian conflict, and the human condition—as exemplified in friendship between the Yoruba and the Igbo and in relationships between children and parents.

Omotoso completed his secondary education at King’s College (1962–63) in Lagos, Nigeria, and attended the University of Ibadan, from which he graduated in 1968. After receiving a doctoral degree from the University of Edinburgh (1972) in Scotland, he lectured at Ibadan in the department of Arabic and Islamic studies (1972–76) and held a position in the drama school (1976–88) at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Omotoso later was a professor of English at the University of the Western Cape (1991–2000) in Bellville, South Africa, and he worked in the drama department at the University of Stellenbosch (2001–03) in Matieland, South Africa.

Omotoso wrote fiction, drama, and criticism. His novels include The Edifice (1971), The Combat (1972), Fella’s Choice and Sacrifice (both 1974), The Scales (1976), To Borrow a Wandering Leaf (1978), and Just Before Dawn (1988); his plays The Curse (1976) and Shadows in the Horizon (1977); and his single volume of short stories Miracles and Other Stories (1973; rev. ed. 1978). From the 1980s, Omotoso took an increasingly public role as an African intellectual; among the many works of nonfiction he contributed are The Form of the African Novel (1979, reprinted 1986), Season of Migration to the South: Africa’s Crises Reconsidered (1994), and Woza Africa (1997; Come on, Africa!: Music Goes to War).

2016 - Prince

Prince , original name Prince Rogers Nelson, later called the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, the Artist, and (born June 7, 1958, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.—died April 21, 2016, Chanhassen, Minnesota), singer, guitarist, songwriter, producer, dancer, and performer on keyboards, drums, and bass who was among the most talented American musicians of his generation. Like Stevie Wonder, he was a rare composer who could perform at a professional level on virtually all the instruments he required, and a considerable number of his recordings feature him in all the performing roles. Prince’s recording career began with funk and soul marketed to a black audience; his early music also reflected the contemporary musical impact of disco. Later records incorporated a vast array of influences, including jazz, punk, heavy metal, the Beatles, and hip-hop, usually within an overall approach most informed by funky up-tempo styles and soulful ballads; the latter often featured his expressive falsetto singing.

Taking an early interest in music, Prince began playing the piano at age 7 and had mastered the guitar and drums by the time he joined his first band at age 14. With very few African American residents, his hometown, Minneapolis, Minnesota, was an unlikely site for the development of a major black star, but Prince even managed to lead other local musicians, most notably Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, to major success.

Mirrored by correspondingly intense music, Prince’s lyrics often address sexuality and desire with frankness and imagination. Much of his work, in its lyrics and imagery, struggles with the constriction of social conventions and categories. As one of his biographers put it, “The whole thrust of Prince’s art can be understood in terms of a desire to escape the social identities thrust upon him by simple virtue of his being small, black, and male.”

Prince explored typographical oddities in his song titles and lyrics as another way of evading convention. In 1993 he announced that he had changed his name to a

1921 - Gabriel Okara

Gabriel Okara , in full Gabriel Imomotimi Gbaingbain Okara (born April 21, 1921, Bumodi, Nigeria), Nigerian poet and novelist whose verse had been translated into several languages by the early 1960s.

A largely self-educated man, Okara became a bookbinder after leaving school and soon began writing plays and features for radio. In 1953 his poem “The Call of the River Nun” won an award at the Nigerian Festival of Arts. Some of his poems were published in the influential periodical Black Orpheus, and by 1960 he was recognized as an accomplished literary craftsman.

Okara’s poetry is based on a series of contrasts in which symbols are neatly balanced against each other. The need to reconcile the extremes of experience (life and death are common themes) preoccupies his verse, and a typical poem has a circular movement from everyday reality to a moment of joy and back to reality again.

Okara incorporated African thought, religion, folklore, and imagery into both his verse and prose. His first novel, The Voice (1964), is a remarkable linguistic experiment in which Okara translated directly from the Ijo (Ijaw) language, imposing Ijo syntax onto English in order to give literal expression to African ideas and imagery. The novel creates a symbolic landscape in which the forces of traditional African culture and Western materialism contend. Its tragic hero, Okolo, is both an individual and a universal figure, and the ephemeral “it” that he is searching for could represent any number of transcendent moral values. Okara’s skilled portrayal of the inner tensions of his hero distinguished him from many other Nigerian novelists.

During much of the 1960s Okara worked in civil service. From 1972 to 1980 he was director of the Rivers State Publishing House in Port Harcourt. His later work includes a collection of poems, The Fisherman’s Invocation (1978), and two books for children, Little Snake and Little Frog (1981) and An Adventure to Juju Island (1992).

1925 - Wilson Jr., Harrison B. (1925– )

Esteemed educator, legendary basketball coach, and successful university president, Harrison Wilson Jr. was born on April 21, 1925, in Amsterdam, a small city in upstate New York. His mother Marguerite Ayers was a school teacher, and his father Harrison Wilson Sr. worked in construction. Dr. Wilson’s grandson is the 2014 Super Bowl champion football player and quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson.   

In 1944 at the age of nineteen, Wilson enrolled at all-black Kentucky State University where he eventually received his B.A. His time at Kentucky State was interrupted, however, by a two-year period in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1947.  While at Kentucky State, Wilson was an honor student as well as a star athlete in basketball, football, baseball, and track.  

In the early 1950s, he received his master’s degree and his D.H.S. in Health Science and Administration from Indiana University. From 1948 to 1964, Dr. Wilson worked at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University) where he served as a professor, an administrator, and a basketball coach.

From 1951 to 1964, he was the head basketball coach at Jackson State, and is considered to be the architect of modern basketball at that institution. His 371-93 career record ranks him first on Jackson State University’s all-time wins list. He never had a losing season in his thirteen years at the helm of the Tigers’ program and led two of his teams to 29 win seasons in 1955 and 1963; the latter team won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship.  

Dr. Wilson served as chair of the Department of Health and Physical Education from 1960 until 1967 at Jackson State University and then served as chair and professor of health and physical education at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1967 to 1970.  He was assistant to the president of Fisk University in Nashville from 1970 to 1975. Later that year, he was named the third president of Norfolk State University (NSU).  

His successful tenure at Norfolk spanned twenty-two years