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Black Facts for May 16th

1979 - A. Philip Randolph

Asa Philip Randolph was born on April 15, 1889 in Crescent City, Florida, to a Methodist Minister, James Randolph. In 1891, the Randolph family, strong supporters of equal rights for African Americans, moved to Jacksonville.

Randolph spent most of his youth in Jacksonville and attended the Cookman Institute, one of the first institutes to provide higher education to black Americans, in the same city. Randolph went through another migration when, after graduating from Cookman, he settled in New York in order to pursue his acting career.

During his time in the Harlem neighbourhood, Randolph juggled between college and jobs of a porter, elevator operator and waiter, while developing his rhetorical skills simultaneously. The following year, 1912, saw Randolph make his first move into politics by co-founding an employment agency, Brotherhood of Labour, in order to assist black workers.

In 1913, A. Philip Randolph started the Shakespearean Society in Harlem soon after he tied the knot with Lucille Green. Randolph set the building blocks of his acting career in this group only by taking up the lead roles in various productions of the society.

After the success of the Shakespearean Society, its co-founder, Chandler Owen, joined Randolph in another venture called The Messenger, a magazine set out to increase political awareness concerning the black minority. In the magazine, the two men talked about an equal black to white ratio in the armed forces and also called for an increase in wages. During this period of the First World War, Randolph also made efforts to unionize the African-American shipyard workers in Virginia and elevator operators in New York City.

After the war ceased, Randolph served as a lecturer at the Rand School of Social Science. The politician also tried running for office in New York State but could not succeed.

In 1925, Randolph founded the first successful black trade union, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and took his union into the American Federation of Labor during a period when the latter

2011 - Cook, Suzan Denise Johnson (1957– )

Suzan Johnson Cook is a religious leader, pastor, motivational speaker, and diplomat who was born on January 28, 1957, in Harlem, New York. Her father, Wilbert Johnson, was a trolley driver and later founder of a successful security company, and her mother Dorothy Johnson, was a public school teacher. The parents moved their family to the Bronx, New York, where young Suzan was raised.

Johnson Cook earned several degrees including a bachelor’s from Emerson College (1976), a master’s from the Teachers College at Columbia University (1978), a Master of Divinity and Doctorate of Ministry from Union Theological Seminary (1983 and 1990 respectively).

From 1983 to 1996, Johnson Cook was senior pastor at New York’s Marine Temple Baptist Church and a professor at New York Theological Seminary from 1988 to1996. In 1990 she became the first female and African American to be named New York City Policy Department’s (NYPD’s) chaplain, a position she held for twenty-one years.

In 1993 Johnson Cook earned a White House fellowship, where she advised President Bill Clinton on a range of domestic issues. She then consulted for the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development on faith-based initiatives from 1994 to 1997. President Clinton later appointed Johnson Cook to serve on his National Initiative on Race as his only faith advisor. In 1996 near the end of her service to the Clinton administration, Johnson Cook founded the Bronx Christian Fellowships Baptist Church, serving as its senior pastor and CEO until 2010. In 2002 she also become the first woman to serve as president of the influential Hampton University Ministers’ Conference which represents all the major historically black religious denominations.

Over her career, Johnson Cook traveled abroad to engage various religious groups. She has led interfaith delegations to Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and throughout the Caribbean. She also worked with the nongovernmental organization World Vision in its efforts to combat global poverty, and traveled to

1966 - Thurman Thomas

Thurman Lee Thomas is a retired professional football player who played as a running back with the Buffalo Bills. He was born on May 16, 1966 in Houston Texas. He started playing football at a young age. He was part of his high school football team at Missouri City Junior High School and Willowridge High School, where he led his school team to win the Texas Class 4A State Title. After high school, he attended college at Oklahoma State University where he played football with future NFL player Barry Sanders. He had an impressive college career, which included 897 rushes for 4595 yards, 43 touchdowns and 5,146 total yards. He was a candidate for the Heisman Trophy and was also selected to the College Football All-America Team in 1985 and 1987. He was also voted the conference Offensive Player of the Year in both those years.

A knee injury at the start of his junior year made him miss a few games. The following year he carried the ball 898 times, which was the record for the most rushing attempts made in Oklahoma State history. His jersey number 34 was retired when Thomas graduated. In 2008, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. In the 1988 NFL Draft, he was picked in the second round by the Buffalo Bills. In 1990, 1991 and 1993, Thomas was the rushing leader of the American Football Conference. During the first three seasons of his professional career, Thomas scored at least a hundred yards rushing in 12 games, all of which were won by the Buffalo Bills. In 1990 and 1991, he was voted to the All-Pro team. He was also selected to the Pro Bowls every year from 1989 to 1993. In 1991, he was chosen as the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player, which was also the year he became the 11th player in the history of the National Football League to achieve 2,000 yards.

Thurman Thomas holds the rushing record for Buffalo Bills as well as the record for total yards from scrimmage. He is also the only player in NFL history to be the highest scorer of total yards from scrimmage for four straight

2003 - Morocco

Morocco, about one-tenth larger than California, lies across the Strait of Gibraltar on the Mediterranean and looks out on the Atlantic from the northwest shoulder of Africa. Algeria is to the east and Mauritania to the south. On the Atlantic coast there is a fertile plain. The Mediterranean coast is mountainous. The Atlas Mountains, running northeastward from the south to the Algerian frontier, average 11,000 ft (3,353 m) in elevation.

Constitutional monarchy.

Morocco has been the home of the Berbers since the second millennium B.C. In A.D. 46, Morocco was annexed by Rome as part of the province of Mauritania until the Vandals overran this portion of the declining empire in the 5th century. The Arabs invaded circa 685, bringing Islam. The Berbers joined them in invading Spain in 711, but then they revolted against the Arabs, resenting their secondary status. In 1086, Berbers took control of large areas of Moorish Spain until they were expelled in the 13th century.

The land was rarely unified and was usually ruled by small tribal states. Conflicts between Berbers and Arabs were chronic. Portugal and Spain began invading Morocco, which helped to unify the land in defense. In 1660, Morocco came under the control of the Alawite dynasty. It is a sherif dynasty—descended from the prophet Muhammad—and rules Morocco to this day.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Morocco was one of the Barbary States, the headquarters of pirates who pillaged Mediterranean traders. European powers showed interest in colonizing the country beginning in 1840, and there were frequent clashes with the French and Spanish. Finally, in 1904, France and Spain concluded a secret agreement that divided Morocco into zones of French and Spanish influence, with France controlling almost all of Morocco and Spain controlling the small southwest portion, which became known as Spanish Sahara. Morocco grew into an even greater object of European rivalry by the turn of the century, almost leading to a European war in 1905 when Germany attempted to gain

1977 - Modibo Keita

Modibo Keita , (born June 4, 1915, Bamako, French Sudan [now in Mali]—died May 16, 1977, Bamako, Mali), socialist politician and first president of Mali (1960–68).

Keita was trained as a teacher in Dakar and entered politics in his native French Sudan (now Mali). In 1945 he cofounded and became secretary-general of the Sudanese Union. In 1946 the Sudanese Union merged with another anticolonial party, the African Democratic Rally, to form the US-RDA. Keita was briefly imprisoned by the French in 1946. Two years later, however, he won a seat in the territorial assembly of French Sudan, and from 1956 to 1958 he served as a deputy in the French National Assembly, becoming its first African vice president.

Meanwhile, Keita had become president of the US-RDA and also mayor of Bamako (the capital). The US-RDA was by then the leading party in French Sudan, and in the elections of 1957 it won an overwhelming victory. In a 1958 referendum in French West Africa, Keita successfully campaigned for Sudan to become an autonomous state within the French Community. This state, the Sudanese Republic, was formed in November 1958. Though eager to create a West African federation of former French territories, Keita finally settled for a Mali Federation made up only of Senegal and his own Sudan. In January 1959 he became president of this short-lived federation, which split apart in August 1960 owing to disagreements between the Sudanese and Senegalese. Keita remained as president of the Sudan, which a congress of the ruling US-RDA proclaimed the independent Republic of Mali in September 1960.

An outspoken Marxist, Keita adopted socialist policies during Mali’s first eight years of independence. His government nationalized key sectors of the economy and established close ties with communist countries. His regime, though repressive, seemed firmly established, but by 1967 Mali was experiencing growing economic and financial problems. Keita tried to enlist French support for the Malian currency, a move that aroused discontent within

1955 - James Agee

James Agee , (born November 27, 1909, Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.—died May 16, 1955, New York, New York), American poet, novelist, and writer for and about motion pictures. One of the most influential American film critics in the 1930s and ’40s, he applied rigorous intellectual and aesthetic standards to his reviews, which appeared anonymously in Time and signed in The Nation.

Agee grew up in Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountain area, attended Harvard University, and wrote for Fortune and Time after he graduated in 1932. Permit Me Voyage, a volume of poems, appeared in 1934. For a proposed article in Fortune, Agee and the photographer Walker Evans lived for about six weeks among sharecroppers in Alabama in 1936. The article never appeared, but the material they gathered became a book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), illustrated by Evans and accompanied by lyrical prose in which Agee dealt with both the plight of the people and his subjective reaction to it.

Although his film criticism is not well-known, Agee’s lively intelligence and discerning wit make his reviews as pleasureable to read as any writing with more serious intent. Like the best critics, he wrote as a fellow viewer rather than as an insider with superior opinions. Among his enthusiasms were his deep appreciation for the artistry of older filmmakers such as Aleksandr Dovzhenko, Jean Vigo, and D.W. Griffith. Agee was exceptionally sentient on the films of John Huston, and most authorities believe that he single-handedly resurrected the silent comedies of actors such as Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. Of the latter he wrote:

His lucid, well-crafted prose was peppered with judicious and keen wit. Reviewing the musical You Were Meant for Me (1948), he wrote the single sentence “That’s what you think.”

From 1948 until his death, Agee worked mainly as a film scriptwriter, notably for The African Queen (1951) and The Night of the Hunter (1955). His novel A Death in the Family (1957), which is about the effect of a man’s sudden death on his

1929 - Conyers, Jr., John (1929- )

John Conyers, Jr. was born on May 16, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan.  He attended public schools and graduated in 1947 from Northwestern High School.  After high school, he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the United Automobile Workers Union  (UAW).  Conyers worked for the Lincoln Car Factory, where he became a director of education for UAW Local 900.

Conyers enlisted in the United States Army in August 1950 and became a second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.  He was discharged from the army in 1954 after seeing combat in the Korean War.

Conyers returned to Wayne Sate University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1957, and a Juris Doctor degree in 1958 from Wayne State University’s School of Law.  After passing the bar in 1959 Conyers began practicing law in his hometown, Detroit, Michigan.  

His brief stint in private practice was interrupted in 1958 when he became a legislative assistant to Fifteenth District Michigan Congressman John Dingell, Jr.  Conyers worked for Dingell until 1961 and then became a referee for the Michigan Workmen’s Compensation Department.  With the support of Congressman Dingell, 35-year-old John Conyers was elected to the United States Congress in 1964, representing Michigan’s Fourteenth Congressional District.     

In 1971 Conyers was one of the thirteen founders of the Congressional Black Caucus.  In 1974 he achieved notoriety as a member of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee that brought charges against then President Richard Nixon.  He also introduced the legislation in 1983 that created the Dr. Martin Luther King national holiday.  John Conyers, Jr. continues to serve in Congress until this day and is the second most senior representative in that body.  Currently he chairs the House Judiciary Committee.  He is married to the former Monica Esters and they have two children, John III and Carl Edward.

University of Washington