Celebrating Black History Month


To celebrate Black History in America, The Beautiful Machine Magazine is highlighting the dedication and work of the many African Americans who have made our country so great!

Henry "Hank" Aaron


Hammerin' Hank Aaron is a legendary African American baseball player whose Major League Baseball career spanned from 1954 through 1976. His home runs were a thing to behold and he hit a record 755 of them. His record held until Barry Bondp broke it on August 7, 2007, hitting a total of 762 before he retired. Babe Ruth is the only other player ot hit over 700 homeruns.

Aaron is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. In 1999, editors at The Sporting News ranked Hank Aaron fifth on their list of "Greatest Baseball Players". During his professional career, Aaron performed at a consistently high level for an extended period of time. He hit 24 or more home runs every year from 1955 through 1973, and is the only player to hit 30 or more home runs in a season at least fifteen times.

Hank Aaron was born February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama to proud parents Estella Aaron and Herbert Aaron. He had seven brothers and sisters, and one of his brothers, Tommie Aaron, managed to play Major League Baseball as well.

Henry Aaron's family was poor, and he spent much of his childhood on a farm picking cotton. Many say that this helped to give him really strong hands which helped him to hit home runs. Being a part of a family that could not afford baseball equipment did not deter him from trying to play baseball anyway. Hank would make his own bats and balls from materials he found. He also practiced hitting bottle caps with sticks.

As a freshman and sophomore in high school, Hank Aaron played outfield and third base for the baseball team at his school and assisted his team in winning the Mobile Negro High School Championship in both years. He was also very good at football. In fact, he had a few scholarship offers for football. He instead turned those offers down so that he could concentrate on baseball. Aaron was a cross-handed hitter and a power-hitter. When Hank was only fifteen years old, he had his first tryout with a franchise of the major leagues. It was with the Brooklyn Dodgers, but he was not selected to the team.

In 1951 Hank Aaron quit school to play in the Negro Leagues for the Indianapolis Clowns. After leading his club to victory in the league's 1952 World Series, Aaron was recruited the following June to the Milwaukee Braves for $10,000. The Braves assigned their new player to one of their farm clubs, The Eau Claire Bears, where Hank Aaron was named Northern League Rookie of the Year.

In 1953, Aaron was one of the first five black players in the South Atlantic League. He moved from shortstop to second base, but it didn't affect his hitting. Though faced with the racism of the south, he sparked Jacksonville to the Sally League pennant by leading the league in batting (.362), RBI (125), runs (115) and hits (208). He was voted the league's MVP.

At spring training the next year, it didn't look like 20 year old Hank Aaron would make the Braves. But then Bobby Thomson suffered a broken ankle sliding into second. The Braves needed an outfielder to replace Thomson, and the 6-foot, 160 pound Aaron won the competition, taking over as the regular left fielder.

On April 13, Aaron made his major league debut sporting the number 5, and was hitless in five at-bats against the Cincinnati Reds' left-hander Joe Nuxhall. Two days later Aaron collected his first major league hit, a single off Cardinals' pitcher Vic Raschi., and the following week, Aaron hit his first major league home run, also off Raschi. Over the next 122 games, Aaron batted .280 with thirteen homers before he suffered a fractured ankle on September 5th. Hank Aaron decided to change his number to his lucky 44. As Aaron's career continued he would hit 44 home runs in four different seasons, and he would hit his record-breaking 715th career home run off Dodgers pitcher Al Downing, who coincidentally also wore number 44.

In 1955, Hank Aaron made his first All-Star team, and it was the first of his 21 All-Star game appearances, which tied a record. He completed the season with a .314 average, 27 homeruns, as well as 106 RBIs. In 1956, Hank Aaron managed to get two National League batting titles and he hit .328.

In 1957, Hank Aaron won his only National League Most Valuable Player Award. This year he batted .322 and also led the National League in home runs as well as runs batted in. On September 23, 1957, Hank Aaron hit a two-run walk-off home run in the eleventh inning of a game that he was playing against the Cardinals. The win resulted in Hank Aaron being carried off of the field by his teammates. The Milwaukee team then went on to win the World Series competing against the New York Yankees. Hank Aaron hit .393 and managed seven RBIs and three homers.

Although Aaron himself downplayed the "chase" to surpass Babe Ruth, baseball enthusiasts and the national media grew increasingly excited as he closed in on the home run record. During the summer of 1973, he 39 year old Hank Aaron hit 40 home runs in 392 at-bats, ending the season one home run short of the record. He hit home run number 713 on September 29, 1973, and with one day remaining in the season, many expected him to tie the record. But in his final game that year, playing against the Houston Astros (led by manager Leo Durocher, who had once roomed with Babe Ruth), he was unable to achieve this. After the game, Aaron stated that his only fear was that he might not live to see the 1974 season.

Over the winter, Aaron was the recipient of death threats and a large assortment of hate mail from people who did not want to see a black man break Ruth's nearly sacrosanct home run record. The threats extended to those providing positive press coverage of Aaron. Lewis Grizzard, then editor of the Atlanta Journal, reported receiving numerous phone calls calling them "nigger lovers" for covering Aaron's chase. While preparing the massive coverage of the home run record, he quietly had an obituary written, scared that Aaron might be murdered.

In his first at-bat in 1974, Hammerin Hank Aaron homered off Cincinnati's Jack Billingham, tying Ruth. His eyes got teary as he rounded third base. That night he called his mother. "I'm going to save the next one for you, Mom," he said.

On April 8, 1974, the largest crowd in Braves history (53,775) came out to witness history. Aaron didn't disappoint. In the fourth inning, he ripped an Al Downing pitch into the Braves bullpen, where it was caught by reliever Tom House. As Aaron rounded second base, two college students appeared and ran alongside him before security stepped in. The new home run king was mobbed at home by his teammates.

A quarter of a century later, Aaron still has the record, and the hate mail. "I read the letters," he said, "because they remind me not to be surprised or hurt. They remind me what people are really like."

After retiring as a player, Aaron became one of the first blacks in Major League Baseball upper-level management as Atlanta's vice president of player development. Since Dec. 1989, he has served as senior vice president and assistant to the president, but he is more active for Turner Broadcasting as a corporate vice president of community relations and a member of TBS' board of directors. He also is vice president of business development for The Airport Network.

Kamala Harris – the first elected black woman in the White House


Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for President of the United States on 21 January 2019 at Howard University. As her alma mater, the pre-eminent black university she graduated from, Harris said Howard gave her some of the most formative experiences of her life.

Harris had already earned herself a reputation for toughness when she worked as a District Attorney and Attorney General in California, and the start of her candidacy was strong, with impressive performances in debates. The fierceness she had become known for dealing with cases of gang violence, drug trafficking and sexual abuse, was on display as she served on the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Judiciary Committee. Harris was first elected to the US Senate as a Democrat in 2016, becoming the first Indian American and the second African American woman to serve.

As Harris revealed in her 2020 memoir, “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey”, she was being what her mother expected of both her daughters, a “confident, proud, black woman”. Harris’ father is Jamaican-American, an economist and professor emeritus who taught at Stanford University, while her mother, who passed away in 2009, was the daughter of Indian parents who went on to become a prominent American biomedical scientist and cancer researcher.

Harris has often said that she is comfortable with her identity, and that her identity makes her uniquely suited to represent those on the margins, but that above all she simply wants to be seen as an American.

Kamala Devi Harris is a woman who dares! She is an overtly ambitious woman who is phased by very little. She has never shrunk away from hard decisions or from taking tough measures. She wasn’t phased when after announcing her presidential plans in January 2019, she had to let her dreams die later that year, citing a lack of funds and officially withdrawing her candidacy on 3 December.

On 11 August 2020, Joe Biden chose Harris as his running mate and the world watched as Harris took contentious debates in her stride too – performing well in her Vice-Presidential debates against Mike Pence. Biden himself had to answer to Harris during the first Democratic debates earlier in the summer, when the two Democrats clashed on the issue of school busing – a policy to make schools more diverse in terms of race.

Harris has long been a rising star and 2020 has been her time to shine. Over the year, she’s spoken out on issues such as immigration, criminal justice reforms, increasing the minimum wage, women’s reproductive rights, gay marriage, police reforms, drug policy reforms, wrongful convictions, and the death penalty.

Harris’ oratory is one of her strong points and is often commented on. She uses bold questioning to get to the bottom of things, adding to her reputation as a fierce, formidable woman. Her law enforcement credentials are another strength that may well prove beneficial in her new role, giving her the ability to walk the tightrope between different opinions in her own party, and the country as a whole. Back in 2009, Harris co-authored a book with Joan O’C Hamilton called ‘Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer’ – sharing her vision for a more reform-minded criminal justice system.

The momentum is mounting and is hopefully about to propel an elected black woman into the White House. Harris is reimagining the world, reimagining public safety, and she has a story to tell. We’ve heard it on the campaign trail but there will be lots more to come after the final results of the Presidential Election 2020 are announced. Fingers crossed, the next chapter of Harris’ story will be set in the White House.

Cicily Tyson


Cicely Tyson is one of America’s most respected dramatic actresses. A successful stage actress, Tyson is also known for appearances in the film Sounder and the television specials The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and Roots. Tyson was honored by the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Council of Negro Women. In 1977 she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

Cicily Tyson was born in 1933 and raised in Harlem, New York, the daughter of Theodosia, a domestic, and William Tyson, a pushcart operator. Her parents were immigrants from the island of Nevis of the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the West Indies; her father arrived in New York City at the age of 21 and was processed at Ellis Island on August 4, 1919.

After working as a secretary Cicely Tyson launched her career as a model. Tyson owes her career to a good haircut. In a beauty salon, her hairdresser asked Tyson to model at a hairstyle show. At the hair show, she was spotted by a photographer from Ebony magazine, and began her successful career as a model. Cicely Tyson appeared on the covers of many Black American publications and some mainstream magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Within a few years, she was among the most successful black models in America. However, she wasn’t completely happy with her modeling career. When asked by a Time magazine reporter about it, Tyson stated, “I felt like a machine.”

Cicely Tyson decided to pursue an acting career after she was asked to participate in a movie named The Spectrum that was never released. She enjoyed acting and decided to enroll in acting school. While learning her craft, she also began performing in Off-Broadway stage productions.

Tyson got her first real break in 1963, playing a secretary to George C. Scott on the TV series East Side/West Side, and in 1966 signed on with the daytime soap The Guiding Light. That same year, she made her credited screen debut starring opposite Sammy Davis Jr. in the drama A Man Called Adam.

Her success led to more television roles. She became a frequent guest star on numerous 1960s and 1970s television programs such as I Spy, Naked City, The Nurses and The Bill Cosby Show.

Because she was committed to presenting only positive images of black women, Tyson did not have steady work in film and television. Her next notable role was as Rebecca Morgan in the popular and critically acclaimed film Sounder (1972), for which she received an Academy Award nomination for best actress. In 1974 she appeared in perhaps her best-known role, that of the title character in the television drama The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Her performance as the 110-year-old former slave whose life is depicted up through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s won Tyson two Emmy Awards. She became the first African-American actress to win the Best Actress Emmy Award.

Other acclaimed television roles included Roots, King, in which she portrayed Coretta Scott King, The Marva Collins Story, When No One Would Listen, and Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All for which she received her third Emmy Award.

In 1983, Tyson appeared on Broadway in a production of The Corn Is Green which was poorly reviewed and closed after only two weeks. She was fired when she took a night off to attend a tribute to her then-husband, jazz musician Miles Davis. Tyson sued the producers, maintaining that she was entitled to payment in full as stipulated in her contract, about $750,000. The case and appeals took 15 years, but Tyson won.

In her 1994-1995 television series Sweet Justice, Cicily Tyson portrayed a feisty, unorthodox Southern attorney named Carrie Grace Battle, a character she shaped by consulting with and shadowing the legendary Washington, D.C. civil rights and criminal defense lawyer Dovey Johnson Roundtree. In 2005, Tyson co-starred in the movies Because of Winn-Dixie and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The same year she was honored by Oprah Winfrey at her Legends Ball.

In 1997, Tyson again donned old woman's makeup to offer a delightfully crotchety version of Charles Dickens' Scrooge in the 1997 USA Network original production Ms. Scrooge. Two years later, she had another television success, and another Emmy nomination, with A Lesson Before Dying, a drama set in the 1940s about a black man sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit

Tyson was honored by the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Council of Negro Women. In 1977 she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.

Miles Davis


Miles Davis gave birth to the cool and to a whole new sound. The impact of Miles Davis on postwar jazz is unsurpassed. For three decades Davis was not only an outstanding figure in nearly every major jazz change, he also had a hand in directing those changes. Throughout a professional career lasting 50 years, Miles Davis played the trumpet in a lyrical, introspective, and melodic style, often employing a stemless harmon mute to make his sound more personal and intimate.

Miles Davis was born in Alton, Illinois on May 26, 1926. His father, Dr. Miles Henry Davis, was a dentist. In 1927 the family moved to East St. Louis, Illinois. They also owned a substantial ranch in northern Arkansas, where Davis learned to ride horses as a boy. Davis' mother, Cleota Mae Davis, wanted her son to learn the piano; she was a capable blues pianist but kept this fact hidden from her son.

Miles Davis' musical studies began at 13, when his father gave him a trumpet and arranged lessons with local musician Elwood Buchanan. Davis later suggested that his father's instrument choice was made largely to irk his wife, who disliked the trumpet's sound. Against the fashion of the time, Buchanan stressed the importance of playing without vibrato; he was reported to have slapped Davis' knuckles every time he started using heavy vibrato.

Davis would carry his clear signature tone throughout his career. He once remarked on its importance to him, saying, "I prefer a round sound with no attitude in it, like a round voice with not too much tremolo and not too much bass. Just right in the middle. If I can’t get that sound I can’t play anything."

Davis quickly became enamored of jazz, particularly the new sounds being created by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Davis' father sent him to Juliard to study music, but Miles didn't spend much time there, dropping out to play with Parker's quintet from 1946 to 1948. That proved to be a humbling experience at first, since Miles didn't yet have the chops to keep up with Parker's breakneck tempos and chord substitutions. He learned quickly, though, and grew immensely as a musician during his tenure with Bird.

Davis's early playing was sometimes tentative and not always fully in tune, but his unique, intimate tone and his fertile musical imagination outweighed his technical shortcomings. By the early 1950s Davis had turned his limitations into considerable assets. Rather than emulate the busy, wailing style of such bebop pioneers as Gillespie, Davis explored the trumpet's middle register, experimenting with harmonies and rhythms and varying the phrasing of his improvisations. With the occasional exception of multi-note flurries, his melodic style was direct and unornamented, based on quarter notes and rich with inflections. The deliberation, pacing, and lyricism in his improvisations are striking.

The early 50s were an erratic time for Davis, mostly due to his heroin addiction, and he was a disappointing performer during this time. By the middle of the decade, however, he had cleaned up and formed his first quintet, comprised of Davis, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. This group became very popular and recorded several essential albums for the Prestige label: Cookin', Steamin', Workin', and Relaxin'. When the quintet broke up, Davis spent time collaborating again with arranger Gil Evans, resulting in great albums like Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain. He finished the decade out by recording one of the best known jazz albums of all time, Kind of Blue, with a sextet that included Coltrane, Julian "Cannonball" Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.

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