El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora La Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula (The Village of Our Lady, the Queen of the Angels of Porziuncola)* was founded on this date in 1781. We call it L.A.
The Edsel was introduced by the Ford Motor Company 55 years ago today (1957), on Henry Ford II’s birthday. The car was named for his father, the only child of Henry and Clara Ford.
Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard on this date in 1957 in an attempt to prevent nine African-American students from entering Little Rock Central High School. Eventually President Eisenhower responded with the 101st Airborne.
Tom Watson (63) and Raymond Floyd (70) share this birthday. Between them they won 12 major golf championships but Watson (8) never won the PGA and Floyd (4) never won The Open [British].
Beyoncé is 31.
Beyoncé Knowles is one of the reigning queens of pop music, and one of the few pop stars left with a wholesome, good-girl image. She has sold more than 75 million records and as a member of the trio Destiny’s Child. Ms. Knowles was also the top winner at the Grammy Awards on Jan. 31, 2010, her six prizes the most in one night for any woman in the awards’ 52-year history.
Ms. Knowles has also acted in several films. In “Cadillac Records” she played the legendary blues singer Etta James, a former heroin addict and the daughter of a prostitute. Her role as the hard-living and emotionally scarred singer altered the direction of her latest album, “I Am…Sasha Fierce” (Music World/Columbia Records). The film opened in December 2008. Ms. Knowles’s previous work in “Dreamgirls” (2006) earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
Mitzi Gaynor is 81.
Richard Wright was born 104 years ago today. This from his obituary in The New York Times in 1960:
Mr. Wright was hailed by critics as the most eloquent spokesman for the American Negro in this generation and one of the most important literary talents of contemporary America.
His greatest success, both financial and literary, was “Native Son,” a harsh, realistic, brutal, angry novel that appeared in 1940. This story was based partly on Wright’s own experiences in the Chicago slums and partly on the case of Robert Nixon, a Chicago Negro who was put to death in the electric chair in 1938 for the murder of a white girl.
The novel won almost universal acclaim from reviewers. Charles Poore in The New York Times said that it was “enormously stirring,” and Peter Monro Jack, writing in The Sunday Times Book Review, called it the “Negro American tragedy.”
“Native Son” was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and enjoyed a large sale not only in the United States but also in most other countries, including the Soviet Union.
His next big success was the autobiography of his youth, “Black Boy,” issued in 1944. This was also a Book-of-the-Month Club choice and sold throughout the world. After World War II, Mr. Wright expatriated himself to Paris, where he could live more congenially with his white wife, Ellen Poplar of Brooklyn, whom he had married in 1940.
* The Spanish mission at the Pecos Pueblo had a similar name: Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles de Porciúncula de los Pecos. Porciúncula or Porziuncola is the name of a small chapel near Assisi, Italy, where St. Francis established the Franciscan Order in the early 13th century.