Today in history, actor James Earl Jones received the National Medal of Arts, Palestinian cartoonist Naji Salim al-Ali was shot and killed in London, and the great George Clinton was born.
This is Marc Steiner, and today is July 22nd. Welcome to This Day In History.
(James Earl Jones on Obama, Race and Activism)
That was the voice of James Earl Jones, who received the National Medal of Arts today in 1992 from President George H. W. Bush for his outstanding contributions to the cultural life of the United States. He grew up in rural Mississippi and moved North with his family at the age of 8 to Michigan. The trauma of leaving Mississippi left him with a speech impediment, a stutter. He refused to speak. It was not until he wrote a poem that impressed his schoolteacher in Michigan that he was encouraged to speak aloud. And that voice made him famous. He acted in The Great White Hope. played the voice of Mustafa in The Lion King, and Darth Vader in the Star Wars films.
This is the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene celebrated by Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran faiths. Mary Magdalene is mentioned throughout the canonical texts of the New Testament as Jesus’ confidant and heroine of the faith and they’re at his Crucifixion and Resurrection. The more-recently discovered Gnostic gospels, particularly the Gospel of Mary, depict her differently, exalting Mary as the Apostle of the Apostles and Jesus’s leading disciple, challenging long-held views of women in the early church.
From Paris to Rouen, they sped at 10 to 12 miles an hour for 6 hours over winding bumping roads, the first ever automobile race took place today in 1894. Even though just speeding through at 12 miles an hour, the Comte Jules-Albert de Dion crossed the finish line first, but his steam-powered car was disqualified and the gas-powered first Peugeot driven by Albert Leamtre won the day.
With a dashing patch over his left eye, American pioneering aviator Wiley Post completed the first around-the-world solo flight in 1933; it took him 18 and half hours.
In 1948, amidst the war between Jewish settlers and the British in Palestine, the right wing Jewish underground group Irgun blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. 91 people were killed — mostly civilians — and among them, 19 Jews. Some like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu see it as an act of liberation; others see it, as an act of terrorism taking the lives of innocent civilians. One of the leaders of this attack, Meacham Begin later became Prime Minister of Israel
And related on this day in 1987, a Palestinian cartoonist Naji Salim al-Ali was shot and killed in London outside of the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Qabas. Naji Salim was a Palestinian refugee, once detained by the Israelis; popular with the masses of Arabs, his cartoons attacked not only the Israeli occupation but also Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leadership and the autocratic Arab states. His cartoon character Handala became a symbol of resistance and freedom for many in the Arab and African world. The man arrested for his killing was a double agent working for the Israeli Mossad and the Palestinian authority.
And it’s the birthday of Emma Lazarus, her sonnet “ The New Colossuses “ written in 1883 has become not only one of the most famous poems in the world, but a beacon for democracy, liberty and freedom:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
That is on the Bronze Plaque that sits on the base of the Statue of Liberty.
And it’s the Birthday of Quincy Thomas Troupe, Jr., the son of Negro League star catcher Quincy Troupe. A star athlete at Grambling, Troupe then joined the army and met the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre when he was stationed in France, who told him after reading his writing to become a poet. Troupe went to California, helped found the Watts Writers Workshop, creating the Black Arts movement along with the likes of Amiri Baraka and Nikki Giovanni. The Writer’s Workshop was burned to the ground, a victim of the FBI’s Cointelpro program, but Troupe went on to become friends with James Baldwin, on whom he wrote a poem. He wrote the seminal biography of Miles Davis, and the the book The Pursuit of Happiness that became a film starring Will Smith, and he remains one of our leading poets and writers.
And speaking of writers, we lost last night the man who brought us Ragtime and more, the great EL Doctorow passed away at 87
And here’s a song for your July the 22nd. Today is the birthday of the great George Clinton, born today in Kannapolis, North Carolina in 1941. And so we listen to “We Want The Funk” by George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic to celebrate.
(We Want the Funk)
To continue your exploration of this day in history, take a look at some of our favorite sources: Charles H. Wright Museum: Today in Black History; African American Registry; BlackPast; NYTimes on this Day; EyewitnessToHistory.com; The Civil War Trust; Voices in Labor: Today in Labor History; Union Communication Services at The Worker Institute: Today in Labor History; BBC On This Day; The Holocaust History Project; PBS African American World; PBS; Today in Women’s History; South African History Online; This Day In North American Indian History; Jewish Virtual Library; The People History; Wikipedia List of Historical Anniversaries; Yenoba; and This Day in Music