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Black Facts for April 4th

Literature Facts

1968 - (1968) Martin Luther King, Jr., “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”

The following speech, a sermon Dr. Martin Luther King gave at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968, was the last public appearance before his assassination the next day.  King, in Memphis to support a strike by garbage workers, gives a poignant vision of the victorious future of the civil rights struggle, but without him there to witness its final triumph.  To many in the audience and beyond, King’s speech seemed to predict his own death

Thank you very kindly, my friends. As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about. It"s always good to have your closest friend and associate to say something good about you. And Ralph Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world. I"m delighted to see each of you here tonight in spite of a storm warning. You reveal that you are determined to go on anyhow.

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God"s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn"t stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn"t stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn"t stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and

1950 - Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson , in full Carter Godwin Woodson (born Dec. 19, 1875, New Canton, Va., U.S.—died April 3, 1950, Washington, D.C.), American historian who first opened the long-neglected field of black studies to scholars and also popularized the field in the schools and colleges of black people. To focus attention on black contributions to civilization, he founded (1926) Negro History Week.

Of a poor family, Woodson supported himself by working in the coal mines of Kentucky and was thus unable to enroll in high school until he was 20. After graduating in less than two years, he taught high school, wrote articles, studied at home and abroad, and received his Ph.D. from Harvard University (1912). In 1915 he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History to encourage scholars to engage in the intensive study of the black past. Prior to this work, the field had been largely neglected or distorted in the hands of historians who accepted the traditionally biased picture of blacks in American and world affairs. In 1916 Woodson edited the first issue of the association’s principal scholarly publication, The Journal of Negro History, which, under his direction, remained an important historical periodical for more than 30 years.

Woodson was dean of the College of Liberal Arts and head of the graduate faculty at Howard University, Washington, D.C. (1919–20), and dean at West Virginia State College, Institute, W.Va. (1920–22). While there, he founded and became president of Associated Publishers to bring out books on black life and culture, since experience had shown him that the usual publishing outlets were rarely interested in scholarly works on blacks.

Important works by Woodson include the widely consulted college text The Negro in Our History (1922; 10th ed., 1962); The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1915); and A Century of Negro Migration (1918). He was at work on a projected six-volume Encyclopaedia Africana at the time of his death.

1918 - Smythe-Haith, Mabel Murphy (1918-2006)

The daughter of college graduates, Mabel M. Smythe-Haith is so far the only black American woman who was named a U.S. ambassador after her husband had earlier served in the same capacity.  Mabel Murphy was born into a family of four siblings on April 3, 1918 in Montgomery, Alabama. At age 15 she entered Spelman College, then an all-black school for women in Atlanta, Georgia, where she was soon named an editor for the Campus Mirror and a choir member.

Murphy transferred to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and completed her bachelor’s degree there in 1937. Two years later she married Hugh H. Smythe, whom she had first met in Atlanta. Their union produced a daughter, Karen Pamela Smythe.

Acquisition of a master’s degree from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in economics and law from the University of Wisconsin prepared Smythe to teach briefly at three historically black institutions, Fort Valley Normal and Industrial Institute (now Fort Valley State University) in Georgia, Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, and Tennessee A&I University (now Tennessee State University) in Nashville, Tennessee between 1937 and 1939.  Subsequently Murphy taught at Brooklyn College in New York, Shiga University in Japan, where she learned the Japanese language, and finally Northwestern University, from which she retired in 1985 as the Melville J. Herskovits Professor and Director of African Studies. In retirement she was a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Smythe had also worked as a deputy director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she helped Thurgood Marshall in preparing the monumental Brown v. Board of Education desegregation case. She and her husband, Hugh, assisted James H. Robinson in launching Operation Crossroads Africa in 1958, a forerunner of and inspiration for the U.S. Peace Corps. She also served as a delegate to the 13th General Conference of UNESCO in 1964, a consultant for Encyclopedia Britannica; and Director and as Vice President of the

1950 - The Association for the Study of African American Life and History: A Brief History

In the following account Professor Malik Simba of California State University, Fresno, describes the century-long histry of the largest organized body dedicated to the research and promotion of African American history.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) is the oldest and largest historical society established for the promotion of African American history.  Carter Godwin Woodson founded it as the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) in 1915.  The name was  later changed to the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History in 1972.  The Associations‘  mission statement describes its purpose "to promote, research, preserve, interpret, and disseminate information about Black life, history and culture to the global community.”  The Association’s vision statement still refers to itself as “the premier Black heritage learned society…[which]will continue the Carter G. Woodson legacy.”  

Dr. Woodson, known as the father of Negro History, created two publications in support of the ASNLH, the Journal of Negro History and  the Negro History Bulletin.  In 1926 he initiated the national campaign to celebrate black history through annual Negro History Week observances.  Woodson purposely chose the second week in February between the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  Woodson explaining that in  publicizing the  records, contributions, and accomplishments of Black people, the Association’s aim “…is not spectacular propaganda or fire-eating agitation.  Nothing can be accomplished in such fashion…The aim of this organization is to set forth facts in scientific form, facts properly set forth will tell their own story.”  

Leaning strongly on historical objectivity as a change agent for race relations progress, Woodson was a product of his time, place, and experience.  The themes of the annual ASNLH meetings  were driven by Woodson’s  personal history as a son of ex-slaves, a child laborer in West Virginia coal mines, a older high

2007 - Eddie Robinson

Eddie Robinson , byname of Edward Gay Robinson (born Feb. 13, 1919, Jackson, La., U.S.—died April 3, 2007, Ruston, La.), American collegiate gridiron football coach, who set a record (later surpassed) for most career wins (408). He spent his entire head-coach career at Grambling State University in Louisiana. On Oct. 7, 1995, having guided Grambling to a 42–6 win over Mississippi Valley State, he became the first coach to claim 400 victories.

Robinson attended Leland College in Baker, La., where he played quarterback and led the team to a combined 18–1 record over the 1939 and 1940 seasons. During his final two years at Leland, he also served as an assistant coach. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1941 and received a master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1954.

In 1941 Grambling (then known as Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute) hired Robinson to coach football and basketball and teach physical education. In his first season he had no assistants and no budget for replacing equipment. He handled virtually everything himself, from mowing the field to taping players’ ankles to writing accounts of the games for the local newspaper. That season his team posted a record of 3–5. The next season, however, he guided the team to a perfect 8–0 record.

Robinson’s Grambling Tigers went on to have two more perfect seasons, capture 17 conference titles, and win several National Negro championships. In the 1960s, after several decades when football at historically black colleges went largely unnoticed by most football fans, Robinson’s Grambling teams gained fame for sending more players into professional football than any school except Notre Dame. Among the more than 200 of his players who went on to compete in the National Football League were Hall of Fame members Willie Davis, Willie Brown, and Buck Buchanan. The racial integration of college football in the South in the 1970s ended this brief period of football glory for Grambling and other black colleges.

Surpassing Bear Bryant’s record for wins,