For the Week of August 7-13
1970—Four people, including the presiding judge, are killed during a courthouse shootout in Marin County, Calif. A group of Blacks led by 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson stage an assault on the courthouse in a bid to free Jackson’s brother—famed Soledad Brother and militant activist George Jackson. Jonathan was among those who died. Professor and communist Angela Davis was charged with providing the guns for the bloody escape attempt but she would later be found not guilty.
1865—Explorer Matthew Henson is born in Baltimore, Md. Henson would become the first person to reach the North Pole on April 6, 1909. However, it was his boss Robert E. Perry who would receive widespread public recognition and a presidential citation for the honor. But in later years, records would show that Henson actually beat Perry to the top of the world. Henson would comment that when Perry discovered that he had beat him to the North Pole, he became “hopping mad.” Years would pass before Henson would gain some recognition for his accomplishment. Nevertheless, to this day, most history books still continue to give the honor to Perry.
1936—Sprinting sensation Jesse Owens wins a total of four Gold Medals at the Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Born in Lawrence County, Ala., Owens gained international fame for his victories in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump and the 4×100 meter relay. His victories undermined Adolph Hitler’s claims of White, especially German, superiority over all other peoples. However, Owens disputed claims that the Nazi leader was so infuriated with him that he refused to shake his hand. According to Owens, during his only encounter with Hitler, “the Chancellor waved and I waved back.” The pack-a-day cigarette smoker died at the relatively young age of 66 on March 31, 1980.
1963—Whitney Houston, one of the greatest singers of the past 50 years, was born on this day in Newark, N.J. Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born into a family of accomplished singers. Her mother was Thelma Houston—an excellent gospel and R&B performer and her cousin was song stylist Dionne Warwick. During her heyday in the 1980s, Houston sold approximately 170 million albums including such hits as “You Give Good Love,” “Saving All My Love for You,” “How Will I Know?” and “The Greatest Love of All.” The singer was found dead in the bathtub of her Beverly Hilton Hotel room on Feb. 11, 2012, hours before a pre-Grammy party. She was 48.
1987—Lawyer and entrepreneur Reginald Lewis completes the largest business acquisition ever accomplished by an African-American when he purchases Beatrice Foods in a leveraged buyout for $985 million. Under his leadership, the firm would soon become the first Black-owned company to achieve over $1 billion in annual sales. Lewis made the Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans in 1992 with an estimated net worth of $400 million. Unfortunately, the Baltimore, Md., native would die of brain cancer at the age of 50 on Jan. 19, 1993. His contribution to telling Blacks how to achieve economic success came in his book entitled “Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun?”