KatherineDunham.jpgJune 22

1909—One of this nation’s major pioneers in Black theatrical dance, Katherine Dunham, is born on this day in 1909 in Joliet, Ill. Dunham was one of the century’s most multi-talented Black artists. She was a dancer, choreographer, songwriter and actor with a degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago. Dunham’s heyday in dance was from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. She was also a political activist. One of her last acts was a 47-day hunger strike to protest U.S. treatment of Haitian boat people. She died in May 2006 at 97.

2001—Actor Whitman Mayo dies of a heart attack in Atlanta, Ga. He was 70. Mayo is best known for his role as “Grady” on the hit television series “Sanford and Son.”

June 23
1940—Childhood polio victim Wilma Rudolph is born in Clarksville, Tenn. Rudolph would go on to become one of the greatest Olympic athletes America has ever produced. She actually competed in her first Olympics at the age of 16. But it was in 1960 at the Rome Olympics where she distinguished herself by winning three gold medals in track and field events. Rudolph was the 20 or 22 child born to Ed and Blanch Rudolph. She would die young—at the age of 54—of brain cancer.


1997—Betty Shabazz, the widow of Black nationalist leader Malcolm X, dies in New York City as a result of injuries she received three weeks earlier in a house fire at her Yonkers, N.Y., home. Ironically, the fire was set by her grandson Malcolm Shabazz. Betty Shabazz was born Better Jean Sanders in Detroit, Mich. She went to school at Tus­ke­gee (now university) Institute in Alabama and became a nurse.
June 24

1936—One of the nation’s foremost Black educators Mary McLeod Bethune is appointed director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. The agency was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs designed to combat the lingering effects of the Great Depression. Bethune had become one of the most influential Black women in America when she received her appointment. The South Carolina native was also the founder-president of Florida’s Bethune-Cookman College.

1968—Hundreds are arrested as law enforcement agents moved in to forcibly close “Resurrection City” in the nation’s capital. The tent city was part of the Poor People’s Campaign—a dream of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to unite poor people of all races to force Congress to pass legislation to better the conditions of the nation’s poor. The effort was carried forth by King’s chief lieutenant Rev. Ralph Abernathy. But Congress never responded in a meaningful way to the campaign.

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