October 12

Dorie Miller (October 12, 1919 - November 24, 1943) was a Messman Third Class with no artillery training when, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he began loading and firing the .50-caliber anti-aircraft machine guns aboard the USS West Virginia. He also carried wounded sailors to safety and moved the injured captain, Mervyn Bennion, from his exposed position on the damaged bridge to a sheltered spot behind the conning tower. On the original list of commendations for actions on December 7, Miller was listed only as an "unnamed Negro", but the efforts of the NAACP and the Pittsburgh Courier resulted in his being awarded the Navy Cross the following the following May, the first African American to receive the award.  Nearly two years after Pearl Harbor, he was killed in action during the Battle of Makin when the USS Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine. He was portrayed in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor by Cuba Gooding, Jr.


Frances Dana Barker Gage (October 12, 1808 – November 10, 1884) was a leading American reformer, feminist and abolitionist. She worked closely in the early women's rights movement in the United States. She was among the first to champion voting rights for all citizens without regard to race or gender and was a particularly outspoken supporter of giving newly freed African American women the franchise during Reconstruction, along with African American men who had formerly been enslaved.

William C. (Billy) McClain (October 12, 1866 – January 19, 1950) was an African American acrobat, comedian and actor who starred in minstrel shows before World War I. He wrote, produced and directed several major stage and outdoor extravaganzas, and wrote a number of popular songs. He was influential in extending the range of minstrel shows far beyond the traditional conventions of the time, giving them appeal to much wider audiences.

Christopher M. (Chris) Smith (October 12, 1879 - October 4, 1949) started traveling with Medicine Shows when young and went into vaudeville where he performed in an acts with Elmer Bowman and Jimmy Durante. Smith wrote and also did some acting and appeared in vaudeville with his partner Elmer Bowman. In 1911 and 1912, he wrote some excellent syncopated instrumentals including the “Honky Tonk Monkey Rag.” In 1914, he had his biggest hit, Ballin The Jack which was written with Jim Burris and started a dance craze that lasted the decade.

John Preston "Pete" Hill (October 12, 1882 – December 19, 1951) was an American outfielder and manager in baseball's Negro leagues from 1899 to 1925. He played for the Philadelphia Giants, Leland Giants, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Milwaukee Bears, and Baltimore Black Sox. Hill starred for teams owned by Negro league executive Rube Foster for much of his playing career. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

W. Montague Cobb (October 12, 1904 - November 20, 1990) was the first African American to earn a doctorate in anthropology (1932). He also held an MD from Howard Medical School (Case Western Reserve University, 1929) and taught anatomy at Howard, researching the consequences of racism and collecting data to disprove racially biased studies and writing over 1000 articles on a variety of physical anatomy topics and issues relating to African American health.. He also fought for equality in health care and medical education. Dr. Cobb was national president of the NAACP from 1976 to 1982 as well as being active in the National Urban League and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

Jay Saunders Redding (October 12, 1906 - March 2, 1988) taught literature and writing at a number of HBCU's and PWI's, including his alma mater, Brown, where he was the first African American on the faculty and taught the first course on the Negro in Literature at a northern school. Dr Redding was also the first African American to hold an endowed chair at Cornell University (1970). He wrote poetry, fiction, and extensive nonfiction on the black experience. His New York Times obituary called him "probably the most eminent Negro writer of nonfiction in this country."

Ann Petry (October 12, 1908 – April 28, 1997) became the first African American woman writer with book sales topping a million copies Her novel The Street (1946) was based on her experiences after moving to Harlem in 1939 after having spent her life in  Old Saybrook, Connecticut, a small, mostly white town where her father was a pharmacist. Her late novels, Country Place (1947) and The Narrows (1951) did not sell as well but received critical acclaim. She also wrote articles for newspapers such as The Amsterdam News, or The People's Voice, and published short stories in The Crisis, but also worked at an after-school program at P.S. 10 in Harlem.

Mahala Ashley Dickerson (October 12, 1912 - February 12, 2007) was the first black female attorney admitted to the Alabama and Alaska bar associations. During her long legal career, she was known as an advocate for the rights of the poor and underprivileged, women, and minorities. In 1983 Dickerson became the first African American president of the National Association of Women Lawyers. In 1995 the National Bar Association honored Dickerson by presenting her with the Margaret Brent Award.

Alice Childress (October 12, 1916 - August 14, 1994) acted with the American Negro Theater for 11 years, earning a Tony nomination when ANT's Anna Lucasta was produced on Broadway. As a playwright, she was the first African American woman to have her work professionally produced and her Trouble in Mind won an Obie in 1956. She is best known for her YA novel A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich, for which she also wrote the screenplay for the 1979 film featuring starring Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield.

Essie Mae Washington-Williams (October 12, 1925 - February 4, 2013) was the mixed-race daughter of one-time segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond who kept her parentage secret for more than 70 years. The daughter of Thurmond and his family's black maid, Washington-Williams did not come forward until her father's death in 2003 at age 100. "I am Essie Mae Washington-Williams, and at last I am completely free," she said at a news conference revealing her secret.

Charles Gordone (October 12, 1925 - November 16, 1995) was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his play "No Place to be Somebody" (1970). It was also the first off-Broadway play to be honored. He had previously won an Obie (1964) for his performance in "Of Mice and Men." He co-founded both New York's Vantage Theater and Committee for the Employment of Negro Actors, and later taught Theater Arts at Texas A&M University..

Napoleon Brown Goodson Culp (October 12, 1929 – September 20, 2008) better known by his stage name Nappy Brown, was an American R&B singer. His hits include the 1955 Billboard chart #2, "Don't Be Angry", "Little By Little", and "Night Time Is the Right Time". His songs, along with those of his peers and contemporaries (such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Fats Domino), were among the first wave of African-American pop music to become noticed and popular with white audiences.

Richard Claxton "Dick" Gregory (born October 12, 1932) was performing in Chicago when Hugh Hefner saw his show and hired him to appear at the Playboy Club. This was followed by appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Jack Paar, and Gregory became one of the first African American comedians to have a large white following. His humor often addressed the contemporary issues of segregation and racism which were being brought to the national spotlight by the civil rights movement. In the early 1960s, Gregory befriended Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers and went to Mississippi to march for black voting rights. After Evers’s 1963 murder, Gregory gave up performing full-time to become more involved in the Civil Rights movement.

James "Sugar Boy" Crawford, Jr. (October 12, 1934  – September 15, 2012) was an American R&B musician based in New Orleans. He was the author of "Jock-A-Mo" (1954), recreated as "Iko Iko" by the Dixie Cups and recorded by many other artists. In a 2002 interview for Offbeat magazine, told how his career came to an abrupt halt in 1963, after a severe beating at the hands of state troopers incapacitated him for two years, forcing him to leave the music industry. In 1969, he decided to sing only in church. In 2012 he made a guest appearance singing gospel in an episode of the HBO series Treme. He died one month before the episode aired.

Samuel David (Sam) Moore (born Ocober 12, 1935) is an American soul and R & B singer, half of the duo Sam and Dave from 1961 to 1981. He is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Grammy Hall of Fame, Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and a Grammy Award and multi-Gold Record Award-winning recording artist. In 2008, based on a poll of other musicians, Rolling Stone named Sam Moore one of the 100 greatest singers of the rock era.

Joyce Ladner (born October 12, 1943) was a SNCC leader and organizer while at Tougaloo College. She graduated in 1964 with a BA in sociology, then earned a PhD at Washington University in St Louis. She taught in Illinois, Connecticut, Tanzania, and Washington DC before being named interim president of Howard University, the first woman to hold that position. She is a noted researcher and public commentator on children's issues, including education and trans-racial adoption.

Photo Gallery

Little Richard with The Beatles on October 12 1962 at The Tower Ballroom in New Brighton Wallasey England
Michelle Obama and Steve Harvey, October 12, 2012


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