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Black Facts VIII
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Unveiling The Past To Connect The Future...


1974: Baseball player Hank Aaron hits his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth's record, which had stood since 1935. He received hate mail and threats.


1975: Playwright Ntozake Shange receives considerable acclaim for her theater piece "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow is Enuf".


1976: Barbara Jordan, congressional representative from Texas, delivers the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, confirming her reputation as one of the most eloquent public speakers of her era.


1981: Civil rights leader Andrew Young is elected mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, an office he held through 1989


1983: Writer Alice Walker receives the Pulitzer Prize for "The Color Purple"


1984: "The Cosby Show", starring comedian Bill Cosby, becomes one of the most popular situation comedies in television history and is praised for its broad cross-cultural appeal and avoidance of racial stereotyping.


1989: President George Bush nominates Colin Powell chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the first black officer to hold the highest military post in the United States.


1990: Author Walter Mosley publishes his first novel, "Devil in a Blue Dress", which introduces the enduring character "Easy" Rawlins, an unwilling amateur detective from the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1948.


1991: With much fanfare, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is appointed W.E.B. Du Bois professor of humanities at Harvard University where he proceeded to build the university's Department of Afro-American Studies.


Thugs, pimps, “players” and wanna-bes — you can all sit down. This is what a real “bad” man looks like.

The only thing tougher than being black in America in the 1950s was being black and being first.

Charles L. Gittens was both.

Mr. Gittens was the first black man ever accepted into the US Secret Service as an agent, and the first to head up its prestigious, high-profile and high-stakes Washington office.

He suffered a fatal heart attack July 29, 2011. He joined the Secret Service in 1956. Two decades later, at an age when most supervisors are content to run their offices from the office, he was on the streets with his agents, literally chasing down and tackling counterfeiters. Waiting for his younger agents to catch up didn’t seem to bother him any.

Still, when you think Secret Service, you think Presidential protection, something Mr. Gittens had a hand in for every President from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Jimmy Carter.

Do you know what kind of a badass you have to be to make a living stepping into harm’s way on behalf of the most powerful men on Earth? Especially in an era when being black in America could still get you lynched?

Even after retiring from the Secret Service in 1979, he wasn’t done. Instead, he joined the US Justice Department — as a full-time Nazi hunter for the Office of Special Investigations.


1974: Acress Cicely Tyson is lauded for her role as the 110 year old title character of the television drama "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman, which was adapted from the Ernest J. Gaines novel.


1975: Tennis player Arthur Ashe wins the singles title at Wimbledon, becoming the first black winner of a major men's singles championship.


1977: Benjamin L. Hooks becomes the executive director of the NAACP, succeeding Roy Wilkins. Stressing the need for affirmative action and increased minority voter registration, Hooks served until 1993.


1982: Playwright Charles Fuller wins the Pulitzer Prize for drama for "A Soldier's Play", which examines conflict among black soldiers on a Southern army base during World War II.


1983: Harold Washington wins the Democratic nomination by upsetting incumbent Mayor Jane Byrne and Richard M. Daley and is elected the first African-American mayor of Chicago.


1986: Paywright August Wilson receives the Pulitzer Prize for "Fences", winning it again for "The Piano Lesson" in 1990. Both are from his cycle of plays chronicling the black American experience.


1989: Modern dancer Judith Jamison becomes the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American dance Theater, following Ailey's death.


1990: Jazz Drummer Art Blakey dies. Since founding the Jazz Messengers in 1954, he is responsible for nurturing generations of young jazz musicians, including Clifford Brown, Jackie McLean, and Lee Morgan, among many others.


On January 13, 1990 L.Douglas Wilder, above, is sworn in as Governor of the State of Virginia becoming the first elected Black Governor in U.S. History. During his governance Virginia was voted among the best run states, had a budget surplus and balanced budget.  Another example of his wise judgment was his pardon of Alan Iverson after five months of Iverson's 15 year sentence. Iverson went on to become a star basketball player in the NBA. Wilder left office in 1994 because Virginia does not allow governors to serve successive terms.  His political aspirations not yet satisfied, Wilder ran for and was elected Mayor of the City of Richmond, Virginia and was sworn in on January 2, 2005 becoming the first directly elected Mayor of Richmond in sixty years


1991: The Senate votes 52-48 to confirm the nomination of Justice Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court following charges of sexual harassment by former aide Anita Hill during confirmation hearings.


1974: Boxerf George Foreman, previously undefeated in professional bouts, falls to Muhammad Ali in eight rounds at Kinshasha, Zaire -- the storied "Rumble in the Jungle"


1975: Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, dies. After his son renames the organization and integrates it into orthodox Islam, Minister Louis Farrakhan reclaims and rebuilds the Nation of Islam.


1977: Alex Haley's "Roots; The saga of an American Family (1976)" is adapted for television, becoming one of the most popular shows in the history of American television.

1978: Sociologist William Julius Wilson publishes "The Declining Significance of Race", which maintains that class division and global economic changes, more than racism created a large black underclass.


1982: Singer Michael Jackson creates a sensation wih the album "Thriller", which becomes one of the most popular albums of all time, selling more than 40 million copies.


1983: Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson announces his intention to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, becoming the first African-American to make a serious bid for the presidency.


1987: Basketball forward Julius Erving, noted for his balletic leaps toward the basket and climactic slam dunks, retires after becoming the third professional player to score a career total of 30,000 points.


1990: John Edgar Wideman becomes the first author to twice receive the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, for his novels "Sent For You Yesterday" (1983) and "Philadlephia Fire" (1990)


1992: Riots break out in Los Angeles, sparked by the acquittal of four white police officers caught on videotape beating Rodney King, a black motorist. The riots cause at least 55 deaths and $1 billion in damage.

1992: West Indian poet and playwright Derek Walcott receives the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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