01 -15 April in Black History
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- 1867 - African Americans vote in a municipal election in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
Military officials set aside the election pending clarification on electoral procedures.
1868 - Hampton Institute is founded in Hampton, Virginia, by General Samuel Chapman
1895 - Alberta Hunter is born in Memphis, Tennessee. She will run away from home at
the age of twelve and go to Chicago, Illinois to become a Blues singer. She will
work in a variety of clubs until the violence in the Chicago club scene prompts her to
move to New York City. There she will record for a variety of blues labels. She will
write a lot of her own songs and songs for other performers. Her song "Down
Hearted Blues," will become Bessie Smith's first record in 1923. She will
perform in Europe and America until 1956, when she will retire from performing. She
will work for more than twenty years as a nurse in a New York hospital and in 1977, at the
age of 82, surprisingly return to the stage. She will perform until she joins the
ancestors in 1984.
1905 - The British East African Protectorate becomes the colony of Kenya.
1917 - Scott Joplin dies in New York City. One of the early developers of ragtime
and the author of "Maple Leaf Rag," Joplin also created several rag-time and
grand operas, the most noteworthy of which, "Treemonisha," consumed his later
years in an attempt to have it published and performed.
1924 - The British Crown takes over Northern Rhodesia from the British South Africa
1929 - Morehouse College, Spelman College and Atlanta University are merged, creating a
'new' Atlanta University. Dr. John Hope of Morehouse College, is named president.
1930 - Zawditu, the first reigning female monarch of Ethiopia, joins the ancestors.
She was the second daughter of Emperor Menelik II. She had been Empress of Ethiopia
1939 - Rudolph Bernard Isley is born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He will become a singer at
the age of six with his brothers O'Kelly, Ronald and Vernon Isley and form the group, The
Isley Brothers. They will leave Cincinnati in 1956 and go to New York City to pursue
their musical career. Rudolph and his brothers will obtain fame and success
nationally and internationally earning numerous platinum and gold albums which contain
such classic hits as "Shout," "Twist and Shout," "It's Your
Thing," "Who's That Lady," "Fight the Power," "For the Love
of You," "Harvest For The World," "Live It Up," "Footsteps
in the Dark," "Work to Do," "Don't Say Good Night" and many
1950 - Charles R. Drew, surgeon and developer of the blood bank concept, joins the
ancestors after an automobile accident near Burlington, North Carolina at the age of 45.
1951 - Oscar Micheaux joins the ancestors in Charlotte, North Carolina. Micheaux
formed his own film production company, Oscar Micheaux Corporation, to produce his novel
"The Homesteader" and over 30 other movies, notably "Birthright,"
which was adapted from a novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author T.S. Stribling, and
"Body and Soul," which marked the film debut of Paul Robeson.
1966 - The first World Festival of Negro Arts opens in Dakar, Senegal, with the U.S.
African American delegation having one of the largest number of representatives.
First prizes are won by poet Robert Hayden, engraver William Majors, actors Ivan Dixon and
Abbey Lincoln, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, and
sociologist Kenneth Clark.
1984 - Marvin Gaye joins the ancestors after being shot to death by his father, Marvin
Gaye, Sr. in Los Angeles, California, one day before his forty-fifth birthday. The
elder Gaye will plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, and receive probation.
Marvin Gaye was one of the most talented soul singers of all time. Unlike most soul
greats, Gaye's artistic inclinations evolved over the course of three decades, moving from
hard-driving soul-pop to funk and dance grooves.
- John Mercer Langston is elected clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio, township. He will be
considered the first African American elected to public office.
1918 - Charles White is born in Chicago, Illinois. An artist who will work with
traditional materials (pen, ink, oil on canvas and lithography), White will transform the
image of African Americans and earn praise from critics and artists alike. White will
receive dozens of awards and his work will be collected by museums on three continents and
1932 - Bill Pickett, a well-known cowboy who was acclaimed by President Theodore Roosevelt
as "one of the best trained ropers and riders the West has produced," joins the
ancestors. Pickett performed as a bulldogger in Europe, Mexico, and the United
States, where he was often assisted by two relatively unknown white cowboys, Tom Mix and
1939 - Marvin Gaye, Jr. is born in Washington, DC. He will sign with Motown in 1962
and begin a 22-year career that includes hits "Pride and Joy," duets with Mary
Wells and Tammi Terrell, as well as best-selling albums exploring his social consciousness
("What's Going On") and sexuality ("Let's Get It On," "Midnight
Love, and "Sexual Healing").
1969 - The Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association signs Lew Alcindor for a
reported $1,400,000 five-year contract. Alcindor will later change his name to
Kareem Abdul-Jabar and his team to the Los Angeles Lakers.
1984 - Coach John Thompson of Georgetown University becomes the first African American
coach to win the NCAA Division I basketball championship. The team, led by Patrick
Ewing, wins over the University of Houston 84-75.
- The Fifth Massachusetts Colored Cavalry and units of the Twenty-fifth Corps are in the
vanguard of Union troops entering Richmond. The Second Division of the Twenty-Fifth
Corps help to chase Robert E. Lee's army from Petersburg to Appomattox Court House, April
3-10. The African American division and white Union soldiers are advancing on
General Lee's trapped army with fixed bayonets when the Confederate troops surrender.
1889 - The Savings Bank of the Order of True Reformers opens in Richmond, Virginia.
1934 - Richard Mayhew is born in Amityville, New York. A student at the Art Students
League, Brooklyn Museum Art School, and Columbia University, as well as the Academia in
Florence, Italy, Mayhew will be one of the most respected and revolutionary landscape
artists of the 20th century. He will also form "Spiral," a forum for
artistic innovation and exploration of African American artists' relationships to the
civil rights movement, with fellow artists Romare Bearden, Charles Alston Hale Woodruff,
1936 - James Harrell McGriff is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He will be
surrounded by music as a child, with both parents playing piano and cousins Benny Golson
and Harold Melvin, who were pursuing their own musical talents. He will be
influenced to play the organ by neighbor Richard "Groove" Holmes, with whom he
will study privately. He will also study organ at Philadelphia's Combe College of Music
and at Julliard. In addition, he will study with Milt Buckner and with classical organist
Sonny Gatewood. His first hit will be with his arrangement of "I Got A
Woman", on the Sue label, which made it to the top five on both Billboard's Rhythm
and Blues and Pop charts. There will be close to 100 albums with Jimmy McGriff's name at
the top as leader. He will record for Sue, Solid State, United Artists, Blue Note, Groove
Merchant, Milestone, Headfirst and Telarc. Over his prolific career, he will record with
George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Frank Foster, J.J. Johnson and a two-organ jam affair with
the late "Groove" Holmes.
1944 - The U.S. Supreme Court (Smith v. Allwright) said that "white primaries"
that exclude African Americans are unconstitutional.
1950 - Carter G. Woodson, "the father of black history," joins the ancestors in
Washington, DC at the age of 74.
1961 - Eddie Murphy is born in Brooklyn, New York. A stand-up comedian and star of
"Saturday Night Live" before pursuing a movie career, Murphy will become one of
the largest African American box office draws. Among his most successful movies will
be "48 Hours," "Trading Places," "Beverly Hills Cop,"
"Coming to America," and "Harlem Nights."
1963 - Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., the Birmingham anti-segregation campaign
begins. Before it is over, more than 2,000 demonstrators, including King, will be
arrested. The Birmingham Manifesto, issued by Fred Shuttlesworth of the Alabama Christian
Movement for Human Rights the morning of the campaign, summarizes the frustration and
hopes of the protesters: "The patience of an oppressed people cannot endure
forever.... This is Birmingham's moment of truth in which every citizen can play his part
in her larger destiny."
1964 - Malcolm X speaks at a CORE-sponsored meeting on "The Negro Revolt - What Comes
Next?" In his speech "The Ballot or Bullet," Malcolm warns of a
growing black nationalism that will no longer tolerate patronizing white political action.
1968 - Less than 24 hours before he is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, civil rights
leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his famous "mountaintop" speech to a
rally of striking sanitation workers.
1990 - Jazz singer Sarah Vaughan joins the ancestors in suburban Los Angeles, California,
at the age of 66.
1996 - An Air Force jetliner carrying Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and American business
executives crashes in Croatia, killing all 35 people aboard.
- McKinley Morganfield is born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. He will be discovered in 1941
by two music archivists from the Library of Congress, traveling the back roads of
Mississippi looking for the legendary Robert Johnson. They recorded two of
Morganfield's songs and lit a fire in the ambitious young man. He will leave
Mississippi for Chicago two years later to become a blues singer better known as
"Muddy Waters." He will join the ancestors on April 30, 1983 in Chicago,
1928 - Maya Angelou is born in St. Louis, Missouri. She will become the first
African American streetcar conductor in San Francisco, a dancer, nightclub singer, editor,
and teacher of music and drama in Ghana and professor of American Studies at Wake
Forest University. She will also become noted as the author of a multi-volume
autobiographical series, as well as several volumes of poetry.
1938 - Vera Mae Smart Grosvenor, who will become the author of the popular and influential
cookbook "Vibration Cooking"(1970), is born in Fairfax, South Carolina.
1939 - Hugh Masekela is born in South Africa. He will become a musician and band
leader. He will be a major force in South African Jazz, and will become known
throughout the world.
1942 - Richard Parsons is born in New York City. In 1990, he will be named chief
executive officer of Dime Savings Bank, the first African American CEO of a large,
non-minority U.S. savings institution.
1959 - The Federation of Mali is formed, consisting of Senegal & the territory of Mali
in the French Sudan. It will dissolve in 1960.
1960 - Senegal and Mali gain separate independence.
1968 - Acknowledged leader of the U.S. civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr.
joins the ancestors after being assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. His death will
result in a national day of mourning and the postponement of the beginning of the baseball
season. Over 30,000 people will form a funeral procession behind his coffin, pulled
by two Georgia mules. King's death will also set off racially motivated civil
disturbances in 160 cities leaving 82 people dead and causing $ 69 million in property
damage. President Lyndon B. Johnson declares Sunday, April 6, a national day of
mourning and orders all U.S. flags on government buildings in all U.S. territories and
possessions to fly at half-mast.
1972 - Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., former congressman and civil rights leader, joins the
ancestors in Miami, Florida at the age of 63.
1974 - Hank Aaron ties the baseball career home run record set by Babe Ruth, when he hits
his 714th home run in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- 1839 - Robert Smalls is born into slavery in Beaufort, South Carolina. He will
become a Civil War hero by sailing an armed Confederate steamer out of Charleston Harbor
and presenting it to the Union Navy. He will later become a three-term congressman
from his state.
1856 - Booker Taliaferro Washington is born a slave near Hale's Ford, Virginia. He
will become a world reknown educator, founder of Tuskegee Institute. He will become
one of the most famous African American educators and leaders of the 19th century.
His message of acquiring practical skills and emphasizing self-help over political rights
will be popular among whites and segments of the African American community. His
1901 autobiography, "Up From Slavery", which details his rise to success despite
numerous obstacles, will become a best-seller and further enhances his public image as a
self-made man. As popular as he will be in some circles, Washington will be
aggressively opposed by critics such as W.E.B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter. He will
join the ancestors on November 14, 1915. He will become the first African American
to be honored on a U.S. postage stamp.
1879 - Charles W. Follis is born in Cloverdale, Virginia. He is the first African
American to play professional football. He will play halfback for the Blues of
Shelby, Ohio in 1904. The Blues were part of the American Professional Football
League, a forerunner of the National Football League.
1915 - Jess Willard defeats Jack Johnson for the heavyweight boxing crown in twenty three
1934 - Stanley Turrentine is born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He will become a jazz
saxophonist and in 1953, will replace the famed John Coltrane in the popular big band of
Earl Bostic. After a three-year army stint, which affords him his only formal
musical training, Turrentine comes to prominence on the New York Jazz scene as a member of
Max Roach's group in 1959. Over the years, Turrentine's recordings will combine
musical energies with friends such as Ron Carter, Roland Hanna, Ray Charles, Freddie
Hubbard, Jon Hendricks, George Benson, Cedar Walton, Herbie Hancock, Kenny Burrell, Milt
Jackson, Joe Sample, Shirley Scott, Jimmy Smith, Grady Tate, and many others. He
will be nominated for the Grammy Award four times.
1937 - Colin Powell is born in New York City. He will become a highly decorated Army
officer, receiving the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during the Vietnam War, and will be
later promoted to four-star general in 1988. He will become the first African
American to serve as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the U.S. rmed Forces.
1956 - Booker T. Washington becomes the only African American honored twice on a U.S.
postage stamp. To commemorate the centennial of his birth, the U.S. Postal Service issues
a stamp depicting the cabin where he was born.
1967 - Philadelphia '76er Wilt Chamberlain sets a NBA record of 41 rebounds in a single
1976 - FBI documents, released in response to a freedom of information suit, reveal that
the government mounted an intensive campaign against civil rights organizations in the
sixties. In a letter dated August 25, 1967, the FBI said the government operation,
called COINTELPRO, was designed "to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or
otherwise neutralize the activities of Black nationalists, hate-type groups, their
leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters, and to counter their propensity for
violence and civil disorders." A later telegram specifically named the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as
organizations having "radical and violence prone leaders, members and
1977 - Gertrude Downing receives a patent for the corner cleaner attachment.
1984 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar breaks Wilt Chamberlain's all-time career scoring record of
31,419 points (31,421).
1990 - Seven African American journalists are inducted into the newly created Hall of Fame
of the National Association of Black Journalists in Washington, DC. Dubbed
"pioneers of mainstream journalism," the inductees include Dorothy Butler
Gilliam of the Washington Post, Malvin R. Goode of ABC News, Mal H. Johnson of Cox
Broadcasting, Gordon Parks of Life Magazine, Ted Poston of the New York Post, Norma
Quarles of Cable News Network, and Carl T. Rowan of King Features Syndicate. Twelve
Pulitzer Prize winners are also honored at the awards ceremonies.
2000 - Ending a two-year investigation, an independent counsel clears Labor Secretary
Alexis Herman of allegations that she had solicited $ 250,000 in illegal campaign
- 1798 - James P. Beckwourth is born in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He will become a
noted scout in the western United States and will discover a pass in the Sierra Nevada
mountains between the Feather and Truckee rivers that will bear his name.
1830 - James Augustine Healy is born to an Irish planter and a slave on a plantation near
Macon, Georgia. He will become the first African American Roman Catholic bishop in
1865 - Writing in the "Philadelphia Press" under the pen name
"Rollin," Thomas Morris Chester describes the Union Army's triumphant entry into
the city of Richmond, Virginia, during the closing days of the Civil War. Rollin is
the only African American newspaperman writing for a mainstream daily. There will
be no others for almost 70 years.
1869 - Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, the principal of the Institute for Colored Youth in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is named Minister to Haiti and becomes the first major African
American diplomat and the first African American to receive a major appointment from the
United States government.
1909 - Matthew Henson, accompanying Commander Robert Peary's expedition, is the first, in
the party of six, to discover the North Pole. The claim, disputed by scientific skeptics,
was upheld in 1989 by the Navigation Foundation. Although in later years Henson will be
called Peary's servant or merely "one Negro" on the expedition, Henson is a
valuable colleague and co-discoverer of the pole. Peary says, "I couldn't get
along without him."
1917 - America enters World War I. President Wilson, who has just inaugurated a policy of
segregation in government agencies, tells Congress that "the world must be made safe
1931 - The first trial of the Scottsboro Boys begins in Scottsboro, Alabama. This
trial of nine African American youths accused of raping two white women on a freight train
become a cause celebre.
1931 - Ivan Dixon is born in New York City. He will become an actor and director and
will be best known for his comedic role on the TV series "Hogan's Heroes."
One of his first acting credits will be for the celebrated television anthology show
"The Dupont Show of the Month" in the 1960 production of "Arrowsmith."
He will go on to act in the film version of the theatrical drama "A Raisin in the
Sun" with Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier in 1961, in which he plays Asagai, the African
boyfriend of Beneatha. He will also portray Jim in the 1959 film version of "Porgy
and Bess." His other pre-"Hogan's Heroes" film work includes:
"Something of Value" (1957), "The Murder Men" (1961), and "The
Battle at Bloody Beach" (1961). After leaving Hogan's heroes he will appear in
more films including "A Patch of Blue" and "Car Wash." Ivan will
begin directing films in the early 1970s, such as the 1972 gang warfare flick
"Trouble Man" and the 1973 action movie "The Spook Who Sat by the
Door" (which he will also produce). For television, he will direct "Love Is Not
Enough" (1978), the series "Palmerstown, U.S.A." (1980), the detective
series "Hawaiian Heat" (1984), and the telemovie "Percy & Thunder"
1937 - William December is born in the village of Harlem in New York City. He will
become one of the most romantic leading men of film and television, better known as 'Billy
Dee Williams.' Among his best known roles will be football great Gale Sayers in the
TV movie "Brian's Song" as well as leading parts in the movies "Lady Sings
the Blues," "Mahogany" and two "Star Wars" films.
1971 - "Contemporary Black Artists in America" opens at the Whitney Museum of
American Art in New York City. The exhibit includes the work of 58 master painters
and sculptors such as Jacob Lawrence, Charles White, Alma Thomas, Betye Saar, David
Driskell, Richard Hunt, and others.
1994 - The presidents of Rwanda and Burundi are killed in a mysterious plane crash near
Rwanda's capital. Widespread violence erupts in Rwanda over claims the plane had
been shot down.
- 1712 - A slave uprising in New York City results in the death of nine whites. This
is one of the first major revolt of African slaves in the American colonies. After
the militia arrives, the uprising will be suppressed. As a result of the action,
twenty one slaves will be executed and six others will commit suicide.
1867 - Johnson C. Smith University is founded in Charlotte, North Carolina.
1872 - William Monroe Trotter is born in Chillicothe, Ohio. Editor of the Boston
"Guardian," he will also be a militant civil rights activist and adversary of
Booker T. Washington and his moderate politics.
1915 - Eleanor Fagan is born in East Baltimore, Maryland. She will become a jazz
singer who will influence the course of American popular singing, better known as Billie
Holiday or "Lady Day." She will be best known for her songs, "Strange
Fruit," "Lover Man," and "God Bless the Child." Although she will
enjoy limited popular appeal during her lifetime, her impact on other singers will be
profound. Troubled in life by addiction, Holiday will join the ancestors as a result of
drug and alcohol abuse in 1959.
1934 - William Monroe Trotter joins the ancestors in Boston, Massachusetts at the age of
1938 - Trumpeter Frederick Dewayne Hubbard is born in Indianapolis, Indiana. From a
musical family, Hubbard will play four instruments in his youth and will later play with
"Slide" Hampton, Quincy Jones, and Art Blakey. A leader of his own band
since the 1960's, he will record the noteworthy albums "Red Clay," "First
Light," and the Grammy Award-winning "Straight Life."
1940 - The first U.S. stamp ever to honor an African American is issued bearing the
likeness of Booker T. Washington. His likeness is on a 10-cent stamp.
1954 - Tony Dorsett is born in Rochester, Pennsylvania. He will become a star
football player at the University of Pittsburgh, where he will win the Heisman Trophy in
1976. He will then become the number one pick in the 1977 NFL draft by the Dallas
Cowboys. He will play in two Super Bowls, five NFC championship games, four Pro
Bowls, will be All-NFL in 1981, and NFC rushing champion in 1982. His career totals
include 12,739 yards rushing, 398 receptions for 3,544 yards, 16,326 combined net yards,
90 touchdowns, and a record 99 yard run for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings in
1983. He will end his career with the 1988 Denver Broncos. He will be
enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1994.
1994 - Civil war erupts in Rwanda, a day after a mysterious plane crash claims the lives
of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. In the months that follow, hundreds of thousands
of minority Tutsi and Hutu intellectuals will be slaughtered.
- Carmen McRae is born in the village of Harlem in New York City. She will study
classical piano in her youth, even though singing was her first love. She will win an
amateur contest at the Apollo Theater and begin her singing career. She will be
influenced by Billie Holiday, who will become a lifelong friend and mentor. She will
devote her albums and the majority of her nightclub acts to Lady Day's memory. Her
association with jazz accordionist Matt Mathews will lead to her first solo recordings in
1953-1954. In her later years, McRae's original style will influence singers Betty Carter
and Carol Sloane. Her best known recordings will be "Skyliner" (1956) and
"Take Five" with Dave Brubeck (1961). She will also work in films and will
appear in "Hotel" (1967) and "Jo Jo Dancer Your Life is Calling"
(1986). She will receive six Grammy award nominations and the National Endowment
for the Arts' National Jazz Masters Fellowship Award in 1994. She will join the ancestors
1938 - Cornetist and bandleader Joe "King" Oliver joins the ancestors in
Savannah, Georgia. He was considered one of the leading musicians of New
Orleans-style jazz and served as a mentor to Louis Armstrong, who played with him in 1922
1974 - Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th home run against a pitch thrown by
Los Angeles Dodger Al Downing at a home game in Fulton County Stadium. Aaron's home run
breaks the long-standing home run record of Babe Ruth.
1975 - Frank Robinson, major league baseball's first African American manager, gets off to
a winning start as his team, the Cleveland Indians, defeat the New York Yankees, 5-3.
1980 - State troopers are mobilized to stop racially motivated civil disturbances in
Wrightsville, Georgia. Racial incidents are also reported in Chattanooga,
Tennessee, Oceanside, California, Kokomo, Indiana, Wichita, Kansas, and Johnston County,
1987 - Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis is fired for alleged racially
biased comments about the managerial potential of African Americans.
1990 - Percy Julian, who helped create drugs to combat glaucoma and methods to mass
produce cortisone, and agricultural scientist George Washington Carver are the first
African American inventors admitted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in the hall's
1992 - Tennis great Arthur Ashe announces at a New York news conference that he had
AIDS. He contracted the virus from a transfusion needed for an earlier heart
surgery. Ashe will join the ancestors in February 1993 of AIDS-related pneumonia at
- 1816 - The African Methodist Episcopal Church is
organized at a general convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1865 - Nine African American regiments of Gen. John Hawkins's division help to smash the
Confederate defenses at Fort Blakely, Alabama. Capture of the fort will lead to the
fall of Mobile. The 68th U.S. Colored Troops will have the highest number of casualties in
1865 - Robert E. Lee surrenders Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at Appomattox Court
House, Virginia, ending the Civil War.
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE CONFEDERACY: The Confederacy is the first to
recognize that African Americans are major factors in the war. The South impresses slaves
to work in mines, repair railroads and build fortifications, thereby releasing a
disproportionately large percentage of able-bodied whites for direct war
service. A handful of African Americans enlisted in the rebel army, but few, if any,
fired guns in anger. A regiment of fourteen hundred free African Americans received
official recognition in New Orleans, but was not called into service. It later became, by
a strange mutation of history, the first African American regiment officially recognized
by the Union army.
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE UNION NAVY: One out of every four
Union sailors was an African American. Of the 118,044 sailors in the Union Navy, 29,511
were African Americans. At least four African American sailors won Congressional
Medals of Honor.
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE UNION ARMY: The 185,000 Black
soldiers in the Union army were organized into 166 all Black regiments (145 infantry, 7
cavalry, 12 heavy artillery, 1 light artillery, 1 engineer). The largest number of African
American soldiers came from Louisiana (24,052), followed by Kentucky (23,703) and
Tennessee (20,133). Pennsylvania contributed more African American soldiers than any
other Northern state (8,612). African American soldiers participated in 449 battles, 39 of
them major engagements. Sixteen Black soldiers received Congressional Medals of
Honor for gallantry in action. Some 37,638 African American soldiers lost their
lives during the war. African American soldiers generally received poor equipment and were
forced to do a large amount of fatigue duty. Until 1864, African American soldiers
(from private to chaplain) received seven dollars a month whereas white soldiers received
from thirteen to one hundred dollars a month. In 1863 African American units, with four
exceptions (Fifth Massachusetts Cavalry, Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts
Volunteers and Twenty-ninth Connecticut Volunteers), were officially designated United
States Colored Troops (USCT). Since the War Department discouraged applications from
African Americans, there were few commissioned officers. The highest ranking of the
seventy-five to one hundred African American officers was Lt. Col. Alexander T. Augustana,
a surgeon. Some 200,000 African American civilians were employed by the Union army
as laborers, cooks, teamster and servants.
1866 - The Civil Rights Bill of 1866 is passed over the president's veto. The bill will
confer citizenship on African Americans and give them "the same right, in every State
and Territory... as is enjoyed by white citizens."
1870 - The American Anti-Slavery Society is dissolved.
1898 - Paul Leroy Robeson is born in Princeton, New Jersey. The son of an ex-slave turned
Methodist minister, Robeson will attend Rutgers University on a full scholarship, where he
will excel in four sports, be a member of the debate team, and earn a Phi Beta Kappa
key. An attorney, he will later become one of America's foremost actors and
singers. He will make 14 films including "The Emperor Jones," "King
Solomon's Mines," and "Showboat." An advocate of African American
equality, his public support of Communism will cause the cancellation of concert dates and
the revocation of his passport.
1929 - Valenza Pauline Burke is born in Brooklyn, New York to parents who had immigrated
to the United States from Barbados. She will become a novelist known as Paule
Marshall. She will author "Browngirl, Brownstones," "Praisesong for
the Widow," "The Chosen Place, The Timeless People," "Soul Clap Hands
and Sing," and Daughters." She will also write a collection of short stories,
"Reena and Other Stories."
1939 - When she is refused admission to the Daughters of the American Revolution's
Constitution Hall to give a planned concert, Marian Anderson performs for 75,000 on the
steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Two months later, she will be honored with the
NAACP's Spingarn Medal for her talents as "one of the greatest singers of our
time" and for "her magnificent dignity as a human being."
1950 - Juanita Hall becomes the first African American to win a Tony award for her role as
Bloody Mary in the musical "South Pacific."
1968 - Martin Luther King Jr. is buried, after funeral services at Ebenezer Baptist Church
and memorial services at Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia. More than 300,000
persons march behind the coffin of the slain leader which is carried through the streets
of Atlanta on a farm wagon pulled by two Georgia mules. Scores of national dignitaries,
including Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, attend the funeral. CORE and the Fellowship of
Reconciliation send twenty-three dignitaries. Ralph David Abernathy is elected to
succeed King as head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
1993 - The Reverend Benjamin Chavis is chosen to head the NAACP, succeeding Benjamin
- 1816 - Richard Allen is elected Bishop of the A.M.E.
Church, one day after the church is organized at its first general convention.
1872 - The first National Black Convention meets in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Frederick Douglass will be elected president.
1877 - Federal troops withdraw from Columbia, South Carolina. This action will allow
the white South Carolina Democrats to take over the state government.
1926 - Johnnie Tillmon (later Blackston) is born in Scott, Arkansas. A welfare rights
champion, Tillmon will become the founding chairperson and director of the National
Welfare Rights Organization.
1932 - The James Weldon Johnson Literary Guild announces the winners of its first annual
nationwide poetry contest for children. The judges - Jessie Fauset and Countee Cullen,
among others - select in the teen category a 16-year-old Liberian youth and Margaret
Walker of New Orleans, who receives an honorable mention for her poem "When Night
1938 - Nana Annor Adjaye, Pan-Africanist, joins the ancestors in W. Nzima, Ghana.
1943 - Arthur Robert Ashe, Jr. is born in Richmond, Virginia. He will become a
professional tennis player and will be one of the first African American male tennis
stars. He will be the first African American to win a spot on the American Davis Cup
tennis team, the first to win the U.S. Open and the men's singles title at Wimbledon, in
1975. Over his 11-year career he will play in 304 tournaments, winning 51, including
the 1970 Australian Open and Wimbledon in 1975. He will be the number one ranked player in
the world in 1975. A life-threatening heart condition will force him to retire in
1980 and he will continue to serve as the non-playing captain of that year's U.S. Davis
Cup team. In 1985 he will become the second African American inducted into the
International Tennis Hall of Fame. The first was Althea Gibson in 1971. After his career
in tennis, he will become an eloquent spokesperson against racial intolerance and a critic
of South Africa's racist system of apartheid. In the United States, he will create
tennis programs to benefit inner-city youth. He will write a three-volume history of the
African American athlete entitled "A Hard Road To Glory" (1988). Suffering
complications from AIDS, contracted from a blood transfusion during a heart bypass
operation, he will join the ancestors in New York on February 6, 1993.
1958 - W.C. Handy, composer and musician, joins the ancestors at the age of 84 in New York
1959 - Kenneth Edmonds is born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He will become a
professional musician and will begin work in the business producing music, with his friend
Antonio Reid, for Carrie Lucas, the Whispers, and Dynasty. Since then, they've produced
hits for many others. During the 1990s, his dominance will extend beyond the
production arena and into the performing circle. His hit "Tender Lover" crossed
him over into pop territory and eventually sold more than two million copies. The singles
"Whip Appeal" and "It's No Crime" were Top Ten R&B and pop hits.
He will hit his peak in 1995, producing hits for artists like Boyz II Men, Madonna and
Whitney Houston and coordinated the "Waiting to Exhale" soundtrack. In the fall
of 1996, he will released "Day," his first solo album since 1993 to strong
reviews. He will successfully produce the film "Soul Food" in 1997.
1968 - U.S. Congress passes a Civil Rights Bill banning racial discrimination in the sale
or rental of approximately 80 per cent of the nation's housing. The bill also made
it a crime to interfere with civil rights workers and to cross state lines to incite a
1975 - Lee Elder becomes the first African American to tee off as an entrant in the
Masters' Tournament in Atlanta, Georgia.
- President Lincoln recommends suffrage for African American veterans and African
Americans who are "very intelligent."
1881 - Spelman College is founded with $100 and eleven former slaves determined to learn
to read and write. It is opened as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary. The two female
founders, Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles are appalled by the lack of educational
opportunities for African American women at the time. They will return to Boston
determined to get support to change that and earned what will prove to be the lifelong
support of John D. Rockefeller, who considers Spelman to be one of his family's finest
investments. The name Spelman is adopted later in honor of Mrs. Rockefeller's
1933 - Tony Brown is born in Charleston, West Virginia. He will become well known as
executive producer, host, and moderator of the Emmy-winning television series "Black
Journal." In 1971 he will establish and become the first dean of Howard University's
School of Communications, a post he will hold until 1974.
1955 - Roy Wilkins is elected the NAACP's executive secretary following the ancestral
ascension of Walter White.
1956 - Singer Nat "King" Cole is attacked on the stage of a Birmingham theater
by white supremacists.
1966 - Emmett Ashford becomes the first African American major league umpire, working in
the American League. He had been the first African American professional umpire in
the minor leagues in 1951.
1967 - Harlem voters defy Congress and re-elect Congressman Adam Clayton Powell Jr. after
he had been expelled by the legislative body.
1968 - President Lyndon B. Johnson signs what will become known as the 1968 Housing Act,
which outlaws discrimination in the sale, rental, or leasing of 80% of the housing in the
United States. Passed by the Senate and submitted by the House to Johnson in the
aftermath of the King assassination, the bill also protects civil rights workers and makes
it a federal crime to cross state lines for the purpose of inciting a riot.
1972 - Benjamin L. Hooks, a Memphis lawyer and Baptist minister, becomes the first African
American to be named to the Federal Communications Commission.
1979 - Idi Amin is deposed as president of Uganda. A combined force of Tanzanian and
Ugandan soldiers overthrew the dictator. Amin, who attained power in 1971 after a
coup against socialist-leaning President Milton Obote, oversaw the killing of at least
100,000 people. It is believed that Idi Amin left Uganda to live in Saudi Arabia.
1988 - Willie D. Burton becomes the first African American to win the Oscar for sound when
he receives the award for the movie "Bird."
1997 - The Museum of African American History opens in Detroit. It will become the largest
of its kind in the world.
"The information for 12 April will be
posted at a later date"
- The governor of Massachusetts issues a proclamation on the "fires which have been
designedly and industriously kindled by some villainous and desperate Negroes or other
dissolute people as appears by the confession of some of them."
1873 - The Colfax Massacre occurs on Easter Sunday morning, in Grant Parish,
Louisiana. More than sixty African Americans are killed.
1891 - Nellie Walker is born in Chicago, Illinois to an African American father and Danish
mother. She will become a writer known as Nella Larsen and one of the most
celebrated novelists of the Harlem Renaissance. She will receive many awards for her
writings, including the Harmon Foundation's bronze medal for literature in 1929, and the
Guggenheim Fellowship in 1930. When she receives the Guggenheim award, she becomes
the first African American woman recipient. She will best known for her novels,
"Quicksand" and "Passing." She will join the ancestors in 1964.
1906 - Riots occur in Brownsville, Texas, when African American soldiers retaliate against
white citizens for racial slurs.
1907 - Harlem Hospital opens in New York with 150 beds. It will become one of the early
leading African American hospitals.
1946 - Al Green is born in Forrest City, Arkansas. He will become one of the most
popular soul and pop singers of the 1970's, known for his recordings "Tired of Being
Alone," "Let's Stay Together," "Here I Am (Come and Take Me)" and
"I'm Still in Love with You." Green will later become a minister and return to
performing as a gospel singer, where he will win numerous Grammy awards.
1963 - Sidney Poitier receives an Oscar for best actor for his performance in "Lilies
of the Field." He is the first African American male to receive the Academy Award.
He will later become a director and make 1980's "Stir Crazy," the
largest-grossing movie by an African American director ever.
1997 - Eldrick "Tiger" Woods wins the 61st Masters Tournament in Augusta,
Georgia at the age of 21 becoming the youngest person and first person of African descent
to ever win this tournament.
- 1775 - The first U.S. abolitionist society, the
Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery, is formed in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, by Quakers. Benjamin Franklin serves as its first president.
1868 - South Carolina voters approve a new constitution, 70,758 to 27,228, and elect state
officers, including the first African American cabinet officer, Francis L. Cardozo,
secretary of state. The new constitution requires integrated education and contains
a strong bill of rights section: "Distinctions on account of race or color, in any
case whatever, shall be prohibited, and all classes of citizens shall enjoy equally all
common, public, legal and political privileges."
1873 - The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Slaughterhouse cases begins process of diluting
the Fourteenth Amendment. The court says the Fourteenth Amendment protects federal civil
rights, not "civil rights heretofore belonging exclusively to the states."
1906 - The Azusa Street Revival -- proto-mission out of which the modern Pentecostal
movement will spread worldwide -- officially begins when the services led by African
American evangelist William J. Seymour, 36, moves into the building at 312 Azusa Street in
Los Angeles, California.
1915 - James Hutton Brew, "Pioneer of West African Journalism," joins the
1943 - Howardena Pindell is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She will become an
accomplished artist. A student at Boston and Yale universities, she will receive several
art fellowships and travel the world to create art that reflects a clear artistic vision
and an intense commitment to issues of racial and social injustice.
1969 - The student Afro-American Society seizes the Columbia College admissions office and
demands a special admissions board and staff.
1991 - A major retrospective of the late Romare Bearden's career and work opens at the
Studio Museum of Harlem. Entitled Memory and Metaphor: The Art of Romare Bearden
1940-1987, the exhibit includes 140 oil and watercolor paintings as well as numerous
collages that chronicle his exploration of abstract expressionism, social realism, and
reinterpretation of classical themes in art and literature.
- 1861 - President Lincoln calls for 75,000 troops to put
down the rebellion. The Lincoln administration rejects African American volunteers. For
almost two years straight African Americans fight for the right, as one humorist puts it,
"to be kilt".
1889 - Asa Philip Randolph is born in Crescent Way, Florida. He will become a labor
leader, the organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, and a tireless
fighter for civil rights. He will join the ancestors in 1979.
1919 - Elizabeth Catlett is born in Washington, DC. She will become an
internationally known printmaker and sculptor who will emigrate to Mexico and embrace both
African and Mexican influences in her art.
1922 - Harold Washington is born in Chicago, Illinois. He will serve in the Illinois
House of Representatives and Senate as well as two terms in Congress before becoming the
first African American mayor of Chicago. He will join the ancestors after suffering
a massive heart attack on November 25, 1987 after being re-elected to a second term as
1928 - Pioneering architect Norma Merrick (later Sklarek) is born in New York City.
Sklarek will be the first licensed woman architect in the United States and the first
African American woman to become a fellow in the American Institute of Architects (1980).
1947 - Baseball player Jackie Robinson plays his first major-league baseball game (he had
played exhibition games previously) for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first African
American in the major leagues Moses Fleetwood Walker had played in 1885. The Brooklyn
Dodgers promoted him to the majors from the Montreal Royals.
1957 - Evelyn Ashford is born in Shreveport, Louisiana. She will grow up in Roseville,
California becoming a track star specializing in sprinting. She will be a four-time
winner of Olympic gold medals and one silver in 1976, 1984, 1988, and 1992. In 1979, she
will set a world record in the 200-meter dash. In 1989 she will receive the Flo Hyman
Award from the Woman's Sports Foundation. In 1992, the U.S. Olympic team will ask
her to carry the flag during the opening ceremonies in the Barcelona Olympics. She will
retire from track and field in 1993 at the age of 36.
1958 - African Freedom Day is declared at the All-African People's Conference in Accra,
1960 - The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is formed on the campus of
Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
1985 - Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns wins the World Middleweight title. This is
one of five weight classes that he will win a boxing title making him the first
African American to win boxing titles in five different weight classes.
Updated by K. Ferguson Kelly:
March 16, 2002