Black Facts for January 28th

1948 - Thompson, Bennie G. (1948- )

Bennie G. Thompson, United States Representative from Mississippis Second Congressional District, is the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and as such is one of the most influential African American members of Congress.

Thompson was born in Bolton, Mississippi on January 28, 1948 to Will Thompson, an auto mechanic, and Annie Lauris Thompson, a teacher.   He earned a BA in political science from Tougaloo College in 1968, and then earned MS and MA degrees from Jackson State University in 1972.  He worked for one year as a school teacher in Madison, Mississippi after graduating from Tougaloo.

Thompson became interested in politics while a student at Tougaloo College where he spent time as a grassroots campaigner and voter registrar.  Soon after graduating in 1968, he successfully ran for alderman of his hometown of Bolton and now is the longest-serving African American elected official in Mississippi.  In 1973, he was elected mayor of Bolton.  During his tenure as mayor, he commissioned a property reassessment effort that uncovered deliberate devaluation of property owned by the city’s white officials to avoid higher taxes.  In 1980 he was elected to the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, and in 1993 he successfully ran for Congress, winning the open seat in the Second District after Congressman Mike Espy vacated it to become Secretary of Agriculture in the William Clinton Administration.  Thompson defeated Henry Espy, brother of the former congressman, and James Meredith, a noted civil rights activist.  

As a liberal Democrat, Thompson strives to be a voice for the poor and disadvantaged and is a leading voice on issues relating to civil rights, education, and healthcare reform.  In 1975 he filed a lawsuit to increase funding at Mississippi’s historically black universities.  The suit finally was settled in 2004 for $503 million after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeals case.  In 1998, he protested discriminatory hiring practices of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries,

1986 - Ronald McNair

Ronald McNair , in full Ronald Erwin McNair (born October 21, 1950, Lake City, South Carolina, U.S.—died January 28, 1986, in flight, off Cape Canaveral, Florida), American physicist and astronaut who was killed in the Challenger disaster.

McNair received a bachelor’s degree in physics from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, in 1971 and a doctoral degree in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, in 1976. At MIT, McNair worked on the then recently invented chemical lasers, which used chemical reactions to excite molecules in a gas such as hydrogen fluoride or deuterium fluoride and thus produced the stimulated emission of laser radiation. McNair became a staff physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California, where he continued studying lasers.

In 1978 McNair was selected as a mission specialist astronaut by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). He, along with Guion S. Bluford, Jr., and Frederick Gregory, were the first African Americans selected as astronauts. His first spaceflight was on the STS-41B mission of the space shuttle Challenger (February 3–11, 1984). During that flight astronaut Bruce McCandless became the first person to perform a space walk without being tethered to a spacecraft. McNair operated the shuttle’s robotic arm to move a platform on which an astronaut could stand. This method of placing an astronaut in a specified position using the robotic arm was used on subsequent shuttle missions to repair satellites and assemble the International Space Station.

McNair was assigned to the STS-51L mission of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1985. The primary goal of the mission was to launch the second Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-B). It also carried the Spartan Halley spacecraft, a small satellite that McNair, along with mission specialist Judith Resnik, was to release and pick up two days later using Challenger’s robotic arm after Spartan observed Halley’s Comet during its

1990 - Hutchins, Hutchen R. (1903-1990)

Hutchen R. Hutchins, born on June 30, 1903, was part of a small but active cadre of African American Communists operating in the Pacific Northwest during the 1930s. Originally from the East Coast, Hutchins attended the Lenin School in Moscow in the late 1920s. In 1932 he was sent to Seattle by the Communist Party USAs Central Committee in New York to serve on a three-member District Executive Committee. That same year he helped organize one of the largest demonstrations of unemployed workers in the states history. Hutchins reportedly clashed with Party members in the Northwest who, according to Bellingham organizer Eugene Dennett, considered him overbearing and doctrinaire. In 1933 he was replaced, along with the other two members of the Executive Committee, by a new Executive Secretary.

Hutchins stayed in Seattle and retained a Marxist political orientation, although it is unclear whether he remained an official member of the Communist Party. Throughout the latter half of the1930s he served as president of the Negro Workers Council, an Urban League program designed to provide education and support for working-class African Americans. Susie Revels Cayton, the matriarch of the influential Cayton family and herself a devoted Communist, was Hutchinss vice-president on the Council. In 1940, in response to the Boeing Company and the International Association of Machinists longstanding policy of racial exclusion, Hutchins organized a broad coalition of African American community leaders into the Committee for the Defense of Negro Labors Right to Work at the Boeing Airplant (CDNL). Hutchins used his position as a correspondent for Seattles African American newspaper, The Northwest Enterprise, to publicize the CDNLs campaign. Both the Boeing Company and the IAM continued to resist integration even after Franklin Roosevelts June 1941 executive order prohibiting hiring discrimination in defense industries. However, due in large measure to Hutchins work on the CDNL and for The Northwest Enterprise, Boeing hired

1995 - Nascimento, Beatriz (1942-1995)

Brazilian political activist Beatriz Nascimento was born on July 12, 1942, to Rubina Pereira do Nascimento and Francisco Xavier de Nascimento in Aracaju, capital of the Northeast Brazilian state of Sergipe. She migrated with her family, including ten brothers to Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s. At the age of twenty-eight, she started college at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (FURJ) and graduated in 1971 after interning in the National Archives with historian José Honório Rodrigues.

Nascimento worked as a history teacher in the state schools, connecting history with research. She was one of the founders of the Grupo de Trabalho André Rebouças in 1974 at Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) in Rio. The Grupo shared with black Brazilian university students race-related issues in education. Beatriz appeared as speaker at the Quinzena do Negro (Black Fortnight) held at the University of São Paulo in 1977, a meeting of major black researchers.

Upon completing her post-graduation courses at UFF, she was best known for the widely-circulated movie Ori created in 1989. The film, narrated by Nascimento, presented her personal history as a way of addressing the black community represented in the idea of quilombo. The film contained meetings and speeches of the Movimento Negro between 1977 and 1988.

Over a period of twenty years, Beatriz became a noted scholar of race-related issues and was one of Brazil’s greatest specialists addressing diasporic experiences of Africans and their descendants in Brazil the nation’s history and culture. Working alongside researchers such as Eduardo Oliveira and Hamilton Cardoso, Nascimento published articles in journals such as Revista de Cultura Vozes, Estudos Afro-Asiáticos e Revista do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional, plus being interviewed numerous times by newspapers and national magazines.

In addition to her intellectual curiosity about black Brazil, Nascimento was a poet. Her poetry showcased the experiences of being a black woman.

On January 28, 1995, Nascimento was