Nov. 15, 1948:   The Post-Gazette’s reporter Ray Sprigle disguised as a black man.

Ray Sprigle was a top-notch investigative journalist. "He posed as a black-market meat operator to expose graft and corruption in the war-rationing system; he got himself committed to a mental institution to prove inhumane conditions; he disguised himself as a black man traveling through the South to produce a groundbreaking 21-part series in 1948" (Post-Gazette, Sept. 16, 1986).

In 1937, Sprigle won the newspaper’s first Pulitzer Prize for a story proving that Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who was then newly appointed to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court by President Roosevelt, had been once a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Sprigle’s report was accompanied by transcripts, names, signed affidavits, Black’s application for membership in the Klan from Sept. 11, 1923, his membership dues and Black’s handwritten resignation from July 9, 1925.

This photograph captures Ray Sprigle posing as a black man for the 1948 series titled “‘I was a Negro in the South for 30 Days.” In this disguise and using the name James R. Crawford, Sprigle traveled through the South and experienced firsthand what life was like for 10 million people living under Jim Crow’s system of legal segregation.  To “pass” as an African American, as Springle writes in one of his dispatches, he “had shaved head, practically down to the skull, had my glasses reset in enormous black rims, and acquired a cap that drooped like a Tam o’Shanter.” Only twice in his month-long travels was his status as a black man “even remotely questioned.” 

(Photo credit: Unknown)

— Mila Sanina

10

Today in Black History: August 9th, 2014

  • On this day in 1995, It was declared as International Day of the World’s Indigenous People. The International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is observed on August 9 each year to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population. This event also recognizes the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to improve world issues such as environmental protection. It was first pronounced by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1994, marking the day of the first meeting of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, in 1982.

  • On this day in 1987, Beatrice Foods is acquired by Reginald Lewis. Beatrice Foods is acquired by Reginald Lewis. It is the largest business acquisition ever by an African American. 

  • On this day in 1975, Julian Adderly died. Julian Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley was a jazz alto saxophonist of the hard bop era of the 1950s and 1960s. Adderley is remembered for his 1966 single “Mercy Mercy Mercy”, a crossover hit on the pop charts, and for his work with trumpeter Miles Davis, including on the epochal album Kind of Blue (1959). He was the brother of jazz cornetist Nat Adderley, a longtime member of his band.

  • On this day in 1963, Whitney Houston was born. Whitney Elizabeth Houston was an American singer, actress, producer, and model. In 2009, Guinness World Records cited her as the most awarded female act of all time. Houston was one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 200 million records worldwide. She released six studio albums, one holiday album and three movie soundtrack albums, all of which have diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification. Houston’s crossover appeal on the popular music charts, as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for “How Will I Know”, influenced several African American women artists who follow in her footsteps.
    Houston is the only artist to chart seven consecutive No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hits. She is the second artist behind Elton John and the only woman to have two number-one Billboard 200 Album awards (formerly “Top Pop Albums”) on the Billboard magazine year-end charts. Houston’s 1985 debut album Whitney Houston became the best-selling debut album by a woman in history.[9] Rolling Stone named it the best album of 1986, and ranked it at number 254 on the magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.Her second studio album Whitney (1987) became the first album by a woman to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
    Houston’s first acting role was as the star of the feature film The Bodyguard (1992). The film’s original soundtrack won the 1994 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Its lead single “I Will Always Love You”, became the best-selling single by a woman in music history. With the album, Houston became the first act (solo or group, male or female) to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period under Nielsen SoundScan system. The album makes her the top female act in the top 10 list of the best-selling albums of all time, at number four. Houston continued to star in movies and contribute to their soundtracks, including the films Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher’s Wife (1996). The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack became the best-selling gospel album in history.

  • On this day in 1961, James B. Parsons became the first Black person to be appointed to the Federal District Court in the continental United States. On August 9, 1961, Parsons was nominated by President John F. Kennedy to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois vacated by Judge Philip L. Sullivan. Parsons was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 30, 1961, and received his commission the same day. He was the first black person given the prestigious appointment to the Federal bench, which under Article III is a life term.In 1974, author Joseph Goulden wrote a book about Federal judges called The Benchwarmers that was very critical of Parsons. Goulden claimed that a poll of Chicago lawyers revealed that only 15% had a favorable opinion of the judge. Goulden also claimed that Parsons had sat on the bench while drunk and that an overwhelming number of lawyers complained that he was unable to understand the issues in complex cases. Nevertheless, Parsons served as chief judge from 1975 to 1981, assuming senior status on August 30, 1981. Parsons served in that capacity until his death, in 1993, in Chicago.

  • On this day in 1960, the Race Riot happened in Jacksonville, Florida. Because of its high visibility and patronage, the Hemming Park and surrounding stores were the site of numerous civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s. Black Sit-ins began on August 13, 1960 when students asked to be served at the segregated lunch counter at Woolworths, Morrison’s Cafeteria and other eateries. They were denied service and kicked, spit at and addressed with racial slurs. This came to a head on “Ax Handle Saturday”, August 27, 1960. A group of 200 middle aged and older white men (allegedly some were also members of the Ku Klux Klan) gathered in Hemming Park armed with baseball bats and ax handles. They attacked the protesters conducting sit-ins. The violence spread, and the white mob started attacking all African-Americans in sight. Rumors were rampant on both sides that the unrest was spreading around the county (in reality, the violence stayed in relatively the same location, and did not spill over into the mostly-white, upper-class Cedar Hills neighborhood, for example). A black street gang called the “Boomerangs” attempted to protect the demonstrators. Police, who had not intervened when the protesters were attacked, now became involved, arresting members of the Boomerangs and other black residents who attempted to stop the beatings.
  • Nat Glover, who worked in Jacksonville law enforcement for 37 years, including eight years as Sheriff of Jacksonville, recalled stumbling into the riot. Glover said he ran to the police, expecting them to arrest the thugs, but was told to leave town or risk being killed.
    Several whites had joined the black protesters on that day. Richard Charles Parker, a 25-year old student attending Florida State University was among them. White protesters were the object of particular dislike by racists, so when the fracas began, Parker was hustled out of the area for his own protection. The police had been watching him and arrested him as an instigator, charging him with vagrancy, disorderly conduct and inciting a riot. After Parker stated that he was proud to be a member of the NAACP, Judge John Santora sentenced him to 90 days in jail. Jacksonville remained as two cities, one white and one black well into the 1970s and beyond. Throughout this time there remained a “Colored Town” section that was almost exclusively Black with its own businesses, professional offices, restaurants, theaters and was a near photo-negative reflection of the nearly all-white downtown area. Ghettos and shacks could be seen below the highways into the 1970s and beyond.
  • On this day in 1948, ”I Was a Negro in the South for 30 Days” published .The series, written by Ray Sprigle (who was actually a white reporter), describes his experiences while disguised as a black man within the ‘Jim Crow ruled’ South. The articles formed the basis of Sprigle’s 1949 book In the Land of Jim Crow
  • On this day in 1936, Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics.James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens was an American track and field athlete and four-time Olympic gold medalist.
    Owens specialized in the sprints and the long jump and was recognized in his lifetime as “perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history”. His achievement of setting three world records and tying another in less than an hour at the 1935 Big Ten track meet has been called “the greatest 45 minutes ever in sport” and has never been equaled. At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, Owens won international fame with four gold medals: 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump, and 4x100 meter relay. He was the most successful athlete at the games and as such has been credited with “single-handedly crush[ing] Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy.”

  • On this day in 1905, Robert N.C. Nix  was born. Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix, Sr. was the first African American to represent Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives. The Robert N.C. Nix Federal Building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is named in his honor.In 1958, he defeated two opponents in a special election to fill a congressional vacancy left by Earl Chudoff in the House of Representatives. An elected official who rarely wanted or attracted widespread publicity, he supported mostly liberal legislation. He was reelected 10 times. He worked for the passage of the landmark legislation promoting the American Civil Rights Movement and privately sought to prevent the House from denying Rep. Adam Clayton Powell his seat in 1967. In 1975, he introduced an amendment to the Foreign Military Sales Act requiring the Defense Department to provide the U.S. Congress with information on identities of agents who negotiate arms sales for American firms

(Oh and I added a full page for these facts. They’re on my blog if you’re wanting to see other facts from February or whatever falls under that hashtag. Enjoy ^_^)