Twenty Nine Questions

By Michael-Louis Ingram BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: April 23, 2012

By Michael – Louis Ingram

Associate Editor


It goes without saying that February is the red – headed stepchild of all the months of the year. Not only is it the shortest month, it’s also the month most want to go by as quickly as possible because of the winter condition.


You won’t know it by the lack of response, but it is also Black History Month. The contributions of Black men and women to this society sometimes are acknowledged as swiftly as someone can read a teleprompter and read all about the stereotype du jour…


With history being altered at the speed of blight, textbooks twisted and Internet internecine, as many of us have known for a long time – the lion must eat the hunter’s ass up, if his rendition of the hunt is to be revealed…can a brotha get a ROAR one time?


As I have started putting my notes for this piece down on the 27th of February, I am more than dismayed to see the likes of a cable television channel that dedicates itself to HISTORY has not spent five seconds speaking on or showing anything remotely relevant about what Black people have brought to the table from a historical, societal or otherwise standpoint.


So, in honor of the leap year, we’re gonna leap outta February with 29 (or, as jazz/funk man Lenny White might say, “twennynine”) questions that I know even Alex Trebek won’t even throw down on…


Well, maybe one…or two…




Who was the first Black head coach in the National Hockey League?


Dirk Graham, a scrappy right – winger from Regina, Saskatchewan became the first Black head coach while playing with the Chicago Blackhawks. In the early 1990s Graham was one of the Blackhawks’ best players and earned the distinction of also becoming the first Black player to be designated team captain.


In 1998, Graham was named head coach and although his coaching career was not nearly as successful, that Chicago thought enough of his talent makes it worth the mention.



Who was the last switch – hitter to win baseball’s Most Valuable Player award?


Gotcha! (well, kinda/sorta) Vida Blue, then a pitcher with the Oakland Atheletics, won the MVP Award in 1971. Blue, a two – sport star from Mansfield, Louisiana, had a 24-8 record in 1917, winning both the Cy Young and MVP awards. Blue also led the American League in complete games (24), shutouts (8) and posted an earned run average of 1.82.



Who is the only NBA player to shoot jump shots from the free throw line?


Basketball Hall – of- Famer Hal Greer was probably one of the most unsung scorers in history. A hot – shooting guard coming out of Marshall University in 1958, Greer became a star with the Syracuse Nationals (who would eventually become the Philadelphia 76ers).Greer played 15 seasons and was adept at the mid-range jumper.


Throughout his entire career, Greer would shoot his free throws the same way he shot his jumper, once noting in an interview that it (free throw) was merely about “following through on technique.” Given that sound premise, it is amazing that no player since has ever attempted to emulate Greer’s approach at the charity stripe.


Hal Greer would retire with 21,586 points a world championship (was part of the 1966 team that ended the Boston Celtics eight – year consecutive championship streak) and was recognized as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All Time. Greer’s #15 is one of nine retired positions by the team.



Who is the first Black pro football player to ever lead the league in scoring – in his rookie season?


Gene Mingo, an all-purpose back was Mr. Indispensable for the Denver Broncos of the then – fledgling American Football League in 1960, leading the league with 123 points scored. Mingo kicked 18 out of 28 field goals and kicked 33 out of 36 extra points.In addition, Mingo also ran for 323 yards and four TDs; caught 19 passes for 156 yards and another TD – and returned a punt for 76 yards and a touchdown. The latter score was also the first punt return for a touchdown ever recorded in the AFL.


Along with being the first Black placekicker, Mingo still holds the team record for the longest punt return.


Mingo, who played 11 seasons (five as a Bronco) was also the league’s leading scorer in 1962 with 137 points. Surprisingly, in spite of his significant contributions to the early success of the team, Mingo’s #21 has not yet been recognized by the Broncos via either retirement or acknowledgement on their Ring of Fame.



Who is the only player in Major League Baseball to have reached base more than official times at bat?


If you were watching like I was in 2004, then you know whether you love or hate him, Barry Lamar Bonds’ talent was not to be denied. As the most feared at – bat in MLB, Bonds achieved an unreal 376 times on base via 135 hits, 232 walks and 9 hit-by-pitches on 373 AB’s during the 2004 season.



Who is the single game record holder for most points scored in girls’ high school basketball?


Epiphanny Prince rang up an astounding 113 points playing for New York City power Murray Bergtraum High during the Public School Athletic League’s 2006 season. The 5’9″ Prince opted to forego her junior year at Rutgers University to play abroad, and is currently contemplating playing for Russia in this year’s Summer Olympics (after being granted Russian citizenship in 2009).



Who is the only NFL rookie QB to rally his team from two 14 – point deficits in the same season?


In spite of Elvis – type hype and out – n – out stupidity re the cult of personality, the answer is current free agent Vince Young. A first – round selection of the Tennessee Titans, Young was came in with less fanfare in spite of beating heavily favored USC and their pivot, Matt Leinart who was also a first – rounder with Jay Cutler in that Draft class.


On Sunday November 26, 2006, Vince Young led his first NFL fourth-quarter comeback, against the New York Giants. With the Giants leading 21-0, the tide suddenly changed after New York quarterback Eli Manning threw an interception to Adam Jones.


Young followed with 21 consecutive points on successful TD drives until Manning threw a second pick to Jones with less than a minute remaining.He then coolly led the Titans downfield and kicker Rod Bironas completed the comeback with the game winning field goal and the 24 – 21 victory.


Young came through again versus the Indianapolis Colts the following week, overcoming a 14 – point hole and winning the game on a 60 yard FG by Bironas.


It’s worth mentioning that the Giant win was lauded as a great beginning for Young. He went 24/35 for 249 yards and two touchdowns, with a 107.9 passer rating. He also rushed 10 times for 69 yards and a touchdown.


While Young would receive the Offensive Rookie of the Year that season, he would be plagued by personality differences by his then – head coach Jeff Fisher, who, at one point, questioned his manhood as part of a not-so-subtle smear campaign (in my humble opinion), co – opting him into NFL limbo.


As far more mediocre talent gains employment on team rosters, Young, a two – time Pro Bowl QB with a record of 31 – 19 as a starter; is getting the screws put to him by the league.


8. Who holds the season – long record for most assists by a NHL goaltender?


In the 1983 – 84 NHL season, the freewheeling Edmonton Oilers were in major attack mode. With a roster of stars like Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Paul Coffey, they amassed106 points and looked to end the reign of the New York Islanders.


A footnote from that season (which ended with the Islanders defeating the Oilers in the Cup Final) was the emergence of goalie Grant Fuhr, who at the time was backing up starter Andy Moog.


In a part- time role, Fuhr showed flashes of the talent that would wrest the Cup from the Islanders and help the Oilers to begin their own dynasty in the 1980s.


Fuhr’s skills in the net and his puck – handling ability was pivotal in setting off certain aspects of the Oilers’ offense. Often Fuhr would send long passes up ice to his wingers and defensemen who often cheated up front.


Of the 425 goals scored by the Oilers that year, Fuhr assisted on 14 of them; no other goalie has ever come remotely close.


9. What NFL Hall of Famer was responsible for managing a top -selling recording group?


Yeah, I know – I threw an easy one. The great Jim Brown, further moving on with his life post – football while in California, managed four talented individuals who became known as The Friends of Distinction; the quartet had two million selling songs and recorded five albums during Brown’s time with the group.


Faster than you can say

Icandigithecandigitshecandigit wecandigittheycandigitdigit, the Friends had a hit with a vocal version of Hugh Masekela’s “Grazing in the Grass,”and followed up a year or so later with their signature hit, “Goin’ In Circles.”


And now here is your bonus “twenty questions” on other Black History stuff…

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Who invented the traffic signal?

A. Garrett Augustus Morgan (1877 – 1963) received a patent for his invention in 1923. He also received patents for his invention in England and Canada after selling his invention to General Electric for $40,000.



Who played a key role in the advancement of transportation around the world?

Granville T. Woods (1856 – 1910). Woods studied electrical engineering and secured his first patent in 1884 for a steam boiler furnace.

Woods developed more than 35 mechanical and electrical inventions, among them a multiplex railway telegraph, which allowed messages to be sent between trains.

Woods also invented an electric car powered by overhead wires, an automatic air brake and a third rail system for electric trains many cities around the world utilize to this day.



Who is the most unsung hero of the American Revolution?

In the mind of some Black historians, it is Phoebe Fraunces. She was the daughter of “Black Sam” Fraunces, at whose tavern in New York City Gen. George Washington and staff ate and gathered to plan the revolution. In 1776, the British attempted to jack Washington by using a mole – an Irish agent named Thomas Hickey. Hickey gained Washington’s trust and soon became one of his personal guards. After cozying up to Phoebe, Hickey attempted to use his influence over her to have her slip Washington a dish of poisoned peas. In spite of her affection for Hickey, Fraunces warned Washington, who threw the peas in the yard, where the chickens that ate them soon died.

Hickey was hanged before a reported crowd of 20,000. Instead of Washington saying “I can’t tell a lie,” regarding the chopped cherry tree, they should tell the truth about Phoebe Fraunces’ saving the life of the “father of his country.”



Was Ludvig von Beethoven Black?


German anthropologist Frederick Hertz makes mention of Beethoven’s “Negroid traits”, “dark skin” and “flat, thick nose.”

Lynn Kane, a classically – trained violinist and orchestra director in a New York – area school district says she came across many such references throughout her study.

“I had to do a research paper on several composers while at Indiana University,” says Kane. “A book of Beethoven’s letters made reference to his being a Moor and having Moorish features. I saw similar references later while studying at Yale and at the University of South Carolina.”

I used the book, “100 Amazing Facts about the Negro – With Complete Proof” by the great researcher J.A. Rogers as my source for a book report on Beethoven in fourth grade. My teacher lost her muthafuckin’ mind at the sound of hearing “Beethoven” and “Black” in the same sentence; she snatched the book and would not give it back it to me.

My Moms had to literally go up to the school to retrieve the book; the teacher was so worked up by it that the book was crumpled up and damaged – clearly it seemed she was torn over tearing the book.

Seeing the condition of the book saved me an ass whipping because my mother knew I had always taken good care of my books.

But seeing the look on Miss McCafferty’s face is something I will never forget…



Who founded the city of Chicago?

Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable (1754 – 1818), a seaman and entrepreneur, built the first settlement and trading post along the Chicago River in 1779. Although Pointe du Sable passed away in 1818, it wasn’t until October 25, 1968 that the state of Illinois recognized him as the true founder of Chicago.



Has there ever been a Black President of the United States (before Barack Obama)?


According to several sources, the answer is yes. Warren G. Harding, the 29th president (1920 – 23) was under fire during his campaign for the land’s highest office by an Ohio college professor, William Estabrook Chancellor. Chancellor allegedly published thousands of pamphlets, revealing Harding to be a mulatto Black man.


“The Shadow of Blooming Grove” by Francis Russell alludes to this as well. But probably the clearest evidence comes from Rogers, whose book, “The Five Negro Presidents,” has Harding on its cover – with his paternal grand – uncle, Oliver Harding. The elder Harding has dark skin – and Negroid features.



Who is the founding father of techno music?


Detroit disc jockey Juan Atkins started a Motown sound of his own with his creation of electronic – influenced grooves.My colleague from Vancouver, Canada, DJ Don Chow, remembers Atkins as a great performer on the circuit in the 1980s. “Atkins performed a song on his own label called “No UFOs” in 1985. Without question, he was the first.” Other Black pioneers like Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May helped to create a genre that would garner them much fame, but little fortune.



Who was the first teacher of former slaves?


Charlotte Forten (1830 – 1880) was a Philadelphia woman who volunteered to teach ex – slaves. “The Sea Islands, which are located off the South Carolina coast, were under Union control very early in the Civil War,” says Rebecca Edwards, assistant professor at Vassar College. “A school was set up as an experiment and Forten, along with other volunteers, went down to help the community there.”



Who was the first Black female to be named head of a police force?


Beverly Harvard became Atlanta’s top cop on October 26, 1994.



Who was the first African born on American soil?


William Tucker was born and baptized in Jamestown, Virginia on January 3, 1624.



Who was the first Russian author to write in his native language?


Alexsandr Sergeevich Pushkin (1799 – 1831) is acknowledged as one of Russia’s best authors; but unlike many before him, he wrote in his native language instead of Greek. Puskin, a poet and playwright known for “Boris Gudenov,” has a museum dedicated to his works in Moscow. Essayist Gretchen Gerzina, in discussing the trials and tribulations of recognizing Black contributions in Europe, stated, “Every Russian schoolchild knows of Pushkin as a major contributor to their collective culture. That fact in itself presents a challenge to American teachers to credit the accomplishment, rather than the color of the person responsible.”



How did the Rock of Gibraltar get its name?


The Rock of Gibraltar is named after a Moor ex – slave.

Translated from “Gebal – Tarik,” Gibraltar means “mountain of Tarik.” The Moorish warrior Tarik captured the area, formerly called Calpe, in 711 A.D.



Who was the first Black person to win the Nobel Peace Prize?



Ralph Bunche won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950.

Bunche helped mediate the negotiations between the Arab nations and the state of Israel after their war in 1948.



Who invented the egg beater?


William Johnson patented the egg beater in 1884. Think about that the next time you hear someone in a diner yell, “Scramble two!”



Did Black people fight against America in the first Revolution?


Yes! Africans loyal to the British Empire fought against the U.S. in the Revolutionary War. Although the British lost the war, African loyalists were given a tract of land (roughly 7500 acres) in what is now Digby, Nova Scotia.



Who invented the pencil sharpener?


Kindergarten kids and architects everywhere are thankful for J.L. Love, who patented the pencil sharpener on November 23, 1897.



Who invented the mop?



W. Stewart made it easier for sailors to swab decks when he patented the mop on June 13, 1893.



Who is the father of military strategy?


Hannibal, son of Hannibal Barca of Carthage, was the scourge of the Roman Empire, campaigning against them in the Punic Wars. While marching through conquered territory in Spain and France, the general led an army of soldiers and war elephants over the Alps. According to historical accounts, in spite of losing two – thirds of his attacking force in the effort, Hannibal defeated Rome and their million – man army for over a decade by land and by sea.

Recognized as the greatest battle strategist ever, Hannibal’s tactics are taught in the leading military academies of the world.



Who led the second successful boycott against segregation?


While many even in our compromised public school system can point to the efforts of Martin Luther King and others in the bus boycott in Montgomery Alabama, another boycott led by the Rev. Charles Kenzie Steele was going on in Tallahassee Florida.Steele helped create the Inter – Civic Council, formed after two Black students refused to give up their seats to a White woman. In spite of great resistance, Steele and the Council’s efforts prevailed.


Steele also helped King form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and years after the Tallahassee bus boycott was settled, a statue of Steele was erected and the new bus terminal was built with his name on the edifice.



Who is France’s greatest author?


This could well be at least a two drink argument among many, but for my money, it is Alexandre Dumas. The author of The Three Musketeers and (one of my all – time favorites) The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most read authors ever. While this generation indulges in movie remakes of the aforementioned titles, very few attempt to reveal that Dumas was Black.


In closing, as the earlier nine questions fit the script for what we primarily do at BASN, make no mistake – it’s not all we do; and those who seek to stifle, condemn and minimize contributions by Black folks, will do so at their peril. I say this knowing that I am –