16 -31 March in Black History
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- 1827 - With the assistance of James Varick, Richard
Allen, Alexander Crummel, and others, Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm publish
"Freedom's Journal" in New York City. Operating from space in Varick's
Zion Church, "Freedom's Journal" is the first African American newspaper.
Russwurm says of the establishment of the newspaper, "We wish to plead our own cause.
Too long have others spoken for us."
1870 - Senator Hiram R. Revels argues against Georgia's re-admission to the Union without
safeguards for African American citizens. It is the first official speech by an African
American before Congress.
1956 - Ozzie Newsome is born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. He will become a stand-out
football player for the University of Alabama, and the first African American star athlete
for a major school in the south. Newsome will be drafted by the Cleveland Browns and
start 176 out of 182 games in 13 years. He will be the all-time leading receiver in
Cleveland history and the all-time receiver among tight ends in the NFL. Newsome
will be fourth among receivers in NFL history with a record of 662 catches. He will
earn three trips to the Pro Bowl and will be named to the All-NFL Teams of the '80's.
Newsome will remain with the Cleveland Browns in an administrative position after
his retirement. In 1994 he will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame
and in 1999 to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
1956 - Former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, makes his debut as a pro wrestler. He knocks
out 320-pound cowboy Rocky Lee. Jersey Joe Walcott, the referee, is another former
1960 - San Antonio, Texas becomes the first major southern city to integrate lunch
1966 - Rodney Peete is born in Mesa, Arizona. He will become a NFL quarterback
playing for the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles and later, the Washington Redskins.
1970 - Tammi Terrell (Tammy Montgomery), best known for her duets with Marvin Gaye, joins
the ancestors at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia after undergoing six brain tumor
operations in 18 months. Doctors first discovered Terrell's brain tumor after she
collapsed in Gaye's arms onstage in 1967.
1975 - Aaron Thibeaux "T-Bone" Walker, jazz and blues singer, blues guitarist,
composer and pianist, joins the ancestors at the age of 64. He was best known for his hits
"Stormy Monday" and "T-Bone Shuffle."
1988 - President Ronald Reagan vetoes a civil rights bill that would restore protections
invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1984 ruling in Grove City College v. Bell.
Reagan's veto will be overridden by Congress less than a week later.
1989 - The U.S. Senate agrees to try U.S. District Court Judge Alcee Hastings on fraud,
corruption, and perjury charges stemming from a 1981 bribery conspiracy case.
Hastings, appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first African American judge to serve
on the federal bench in Florida, will be convicted of eight of the original articles and
impeached in October.
1991 - Soon Ja Du, a Korean American grocery store owner, shoots to death Latasha Harlins,
a fifteen-year old African American girl, after Ms. Du accused the girl of trying to steal
a $1.79 bottle of orange juice. A security camera in the store captures the shooting
on videotape. The shooting exacerbates racial and ethnic tensions in Los Angeles in
the wake of the Rodney King beating.
1995 - Mississippi ratifies the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, some 130 years after
the rest of the country got around to it.
1996 - Mike Tyson regains a piece of the heavyweight championship by defeating WBC
champion Frank Bruno by TKO in the third round to reclaim the heavyweight boxing title in
- 1806 - Norbert Rillieux is born a free man in New
Orleans, Louisiana. Rillieux will become best known for his revolutionary
improvements in sugar refining methods. Awarded his second patent for an
evaporator, the invention will be widely used throughout Louisiana and the West Indies,
dramatically increasing and modernizing sugar production.
1865 - Aaron Anderson wins the Navy's Medal of Honor for his heroic actions aboard the USS
Wyandank during the Civil War.
1886 - A massacre occurs in Carrollton, Mississippi. Twenty African Americans are killed
by white supremacists.
1891 - West Virginia State College is founded in Institute, West Virginia.
1896 - C.B. Scott receives a patent for the street sweeper.
1898 - Blanche Kelso Bruce joins the ancestors in Washington, DC at the age of 57.
1912 - Bayard Rustin is born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He will become a civil
rights leader and peace activist. He will join Martin Luther King Jr. in organizing
the bus boycott that will establish King as a national figure. For the next 10
years, he will move back and forth between the world of the civil rights movement and the
world of peace activism. He will be instrumental in helping A. Philip Randolph plan
the 1963 March on Washington. But due to his youthful ties to the Communist Party, a
wartime imprisonment, and an arrest in California on public morals charges, Rustin will be
obligated to limit his public exposure to avoid problems for King and others whom Southern
white leaders (and the FBI) were attempting to destroy.
1919 - Nathaniel Adams Coles is born in Montgomery, Alabama. Better known as Nat
"King" Cole, he will start his musical career in a band with his brother Eddie
and in a production of "Shuffle Along." Leader of the King Cole Trio, he
will achieve international acclaim as a jazz pianist before becoming an even more popular
balladeer known for such songs as "Mona Lisa," "The Christmas Song"
and "Unforgettable." Cole will also have the distinction of being the
first African American to host a network television variety show (1956-1957), a pioneer in
breaking down racial barriers in Las Vegas, and a founding member of the National Academy
of Recording Arts and Sciences, which will honor him with a posthumous Lifetime
Achievement Grammy in 1989.
1933 - Myrlie Beasley is born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She will become the wife of
civil rights activist Medgar Evers in 1951 and will work with him in order to combat
discrimination and segregation in Mississippi. Together, they will open and manage
the first NAACP Mississippi State Office. Her husband will be assassinated in 1963,
by white supremacist, Byron de la Beckwith. She will later move to California where
she will graduate from Pomona College. She will work in the corporate world as
Director for Consumer Affairs at the Atlantic Richfield Company and in government as a
Commissioner of the Los Angeles, California, Board of Public Works. She will be the first
African American woman to serve on that board. She will be the author of the book,
"For Us, the Living," and the recipient of numerous honorary degrees. She
will later become Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams and be elected vice-chairperson of the NAACP
in 1994, and in 1995 will become the first woman chairperson. In 1998, she will be
succeeded by Julian Bond as Chair of the NAACP.
1970 - The United States casts its first veto in the U.N. Security Council. The U.S.
kills a resolution that would have condemned Britain for failure to use force to overthrow
the white-ruled government of Rhodesia.
2000 - More than 300 members of a religious sect burn to death in a makeshift church in
- 200 African Americans leave Savannah, Georgia for Liberia.
1901 - William Henry Johnson is born. The Florence, South Carolina native will leave his
home for New York and Europe, where he will develop a deliberate and controversial
primitive painting style. Among his more famous works will be "Chain
Gang," "Calvary," and "Descent from the Cross."
1939 - Charley Pride is born in Sledge, Mississippi. Intent on a career in baseball, he
will begin his country music career in 1960, singing between innings at a
company-sponsored baseball game where he is a player. A recording contract will
follow in 1964 and a debut with the "Grand Ole Opry" in 1967. Pride will
become the first African American to become a successful country music star. His
awards will include a 1972 Grammy.
1941 - Wilson Pickett is born in Prattville, Alabama. He will become Rhythm &
Blues singer and will begin his career as the lead tenor with The Falcons ("I Found a
Love" - 1962). He will become a solo artist and release the hits, "Funky
Broadway," "In the Midnight Hour," "Land of 1000 Dances,"
"Mustang Sally," "It's Too Late," and "Don't Knock My Love."
He will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
1943 - William Hastie wins the NAACP's Spingarn Medal. A former federal judge and
law school dean, Hastie, a civilian aide to Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, had
resigned his position earlier in the year over the armed forces' discriminatory practices.
1959 - Irene Cara is born in New York City. She will become an actress,
singer, and songwriter. She will receive an Academy Award, two Grammy Awards, a
Golden Globe Award, plus numerous other awards emanating from every aspect of the
industry. Her performance in the ground breaking 1980's picture Fame (1980) will catapult
her into world wide stardom and motivate a generation of young people to become involved
in the performing arts.
1963 - Vanessa L. Williams is born in Millwood, New York (Westchester County). She
will become the first African American Miss America. She will later become a popular
singer, major recording star, and movie actress. She will star in the Tony
Award-winning musical "Kiss of the Spider Woman," the mini-series
"Odyssey," and the movies "Eraser," "Hoodlum," "Soul
Food," and "Shut Up and Dance."
1972 - The USS Jesse L. Brown, the first U.S. naval ship to be named after an African
American naval officer, is launched at Westwego, Louisiana. Brown was the first
African American pilot in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was the first African American pilot
killed in the Korean War (1950).
Editor's Note: This was not the first naval vessel named after an
African American. The USS Harmon was named after an enlisted man, Leonard Roy
Harmon, during World War II (1944).
1982 - Singer Teddy Pendergrass is paralyzed as a result of an automobile accident.
1991 - The Philadelphia '76ers retire Wilt Chamberlain's #13 jersey.
1991 - Reggie Miller, of the Indiana Pacers ends his NBA free throw streak of 52 games.
1992 - Donna Summers gets a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
- 1867 - Congressman Thaddeus Stevens calls up resolution
providing for the enforcement of the Second Confiscation Act of July, 1962. The
measure, which provides for the distribution of public and confiscated land to the
freedmen, is defeated.
1870 - "O Guarani," the most celebrated opera by Afro-Brazilian composer Antonio
Carlos Gomes, premiers at the Scala Theater in Milan. His enormous musical talent
opened the doors of the Milan Conservatory where he studied under the guidance of the
greatest opera directors of the time. Among other operas, Gomes produces
"Fosca," "Condor," and "O Escravo" (The Slave).
1872 - T.J. Boyd, inventor, awarded patent for apparatus for detaching horses from
1930 - Ornette Coleman is born in Fort Worth, Texas. He will become a noted
avant-garde jazz saxophonist and composer and cited as Downbeat Magazine's "Musician
of the Year in 1966".
Note: Some sources such as Microsoft Africana incorrectly cite his birthdate as
1937 - The Count Basie Orchestra, with vocalists Billie Holiday and Jimmy Rushing, opens
at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
1939 - The New Negro Theater is founded in Los Angeles, California, by Langston
Hughes. The company stages as its first performance Hughes's play, "Don't You
Want to be Free?"
1952 - Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton is posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of
Honor for bravery during the Korean War. He joined the ancestors after being killed in
action on June 2, 1951.
1967 - French Somaliland (Djibouti) votes to continue association with France.
1968 - Students take over the Administration Building at Howard University demanding
resignation of university officials and a stronger orientation to black culture in the
curriculum. It is the first of many college protests over black studies programs on
African American and white college campuses across the nation.
1995 - Twenty one months after retiring from basketball, Michael Jordan returns to
professional basketball with his former team, the Chicago Bulls.
- 1852 - Uncle Tom's Cabin, by white abolitionist Harriet
Beecher Stowe, is published. The controversial novel will be credited by many, including
Abraham Lincoln, with sparking the Civil War. Mr. Lincoln will later tell Mrs.
Stowe, that she was "the little woman who wrote the book that started this great
1852 - Martin R. Delany publishes "The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny
of the Colored People of the United States," the the first major statement of the
African American nationalist position. Delany says, "The claims of no people,
according to established policy and usage, are respected by any nation, until they are
presented in a national capacity." He adds: "We are a nation within a
nation; as the Poles in Russia, the Hungarians in Austria, the Welsh, Irish, and Scotch in
the British dominions."
1883 - Jan Matzeliger receives patent #274,207 for his shoe lasting machine. His
invention will revolutionize the shoe industry, allowing for the first mass production of
1890 - The Blair Bill, which provides federal support for education and allocates funds to
reduce illiteracy among the freedmen is defeated in the U.S. Senate, 37-31.
1950 - Dr. Ralph Bunche receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a mediator in the
Palestine crisis. He is the first African American to be so honored.
1957 - Shelton "Spike" Lee is born in Atlanta, Georgia. He will grow up in
the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, New York, the son of an accomplished jazz bassist and
art teacher, Bill Lee. He will become a motion picture director, producing many of
his own films. His films, among them "She's Gotta Have It," "Do the
Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever" explore the social, political, and
interpersonal relationships between African Americans and whites similar to the early work
of director Oscar Micheaux.
1970 - Students strike at the University of Michigan and demand increased African American
enrollment. The strike ends on April 2, after the administration agrees to meet
1973 - Roberto Clemente is elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame, 11 weeks after he joins the
ancestors. He becomes the first person of African descent to be elected to the Hall
of Fame in a special election (before the five-year waiting period). He also is the
first Hispanic to enter the Hall of Fame.
1987 - "Hollywood Shuffle" premieres. The film is directed by, produced
by, and stars Robert Townsend. Townsend also used his own money to bring his comedic
vision to the screen.
1990 - Namibia becomes an independent nation, marking the end of 75 years of South African
2000 - Former Black Panther Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, once known as H. Rap Brown, is
captured in Alabama. He was wanted in the fatal shooting of a sheriff's deputy in Atlanta,
Georgia. Al-Amin will maintain his innocence
- 1934 - Al Freeman, Jr. is born in Texas. He will
become an actor and will be known for his roles in "One Life to Live," "My
Sweet Charlie," "Once Upon A Time When We Were Colored," "The
Autobiography of Malcolm X," and "Down in The Delta."
1946 - The Los Angeles Rams sign Kenny Washington, the first African American player to
join a National Football League team since 1933.
1949 - The Rens, originally from New York, but now representing Dayton, Ohio, play their
last game against the Denver Nuggets. Their lifetime record, amassed over 26 years,
is 2,318 wins and 381 losses. Their opponents, the Nuggets, will become the first
NBA team to be owned by African Americans, when Bertram Lee and Peter Bynoe lead a group
of investors that buys the club in 1989.
1955 - NAACP chairman, author, and civil rights pioneer, Walter White joins the ancestors
in New York City.
1960 - Police in Sharpeville, near Johannesburg, fire on black South Africans protesting
racial pass laws. A protest strategy devised by the Pan-African Congress to flood
South African jails with pass violators, the protesters will suffer 72 deaths and over 200
injuries in the two days of violence that will become known as the "Sharpeville
Massacre." The ANC is outlawed.
1965 - Thousands of marchers complete the first leg of a five-day freedom march from Selma
to Montgomery, Alabama, dramatizing the denial of voting rights for African
Americans. Led by Martin Luther King, Jr., thousands of marchers are protected by
U.S. Army troops and federalized Alabama National Guardsmen because of violence
encountered earlier, including the fatal beating of a white minister, Reverend James J.
1981 - Michael Donald, an African American teen-ager in Mobile, Alabama, is abducted,
tortured and killed in what prosecutors charge is a Ku Klux Klan plot. A lawsuit
brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of Donald's mother, Beulah Mae
Donald, will later result in a landmark $ 7 million judgment that bankrupts The United
Klans of America.
1990 - Namibia celebrates independence from South Africa.
1990 - United States Secretary of State James Baker meets black nationalist leader Nelson
Mandela, in Namibia, on the occasion of Namibia's independence.
1991 - Test results released in Los Angeles show that Rodney King, the motorist whose
beating by police was videotaped by a bystander, had marijuana and alcohol in his system
following his arrest. President Bush denounces King's beating as
"sickening" and "outrageous."
- 1492 - Alonzo Pierto, explorer of African descent, sets
sail from Spain with Christopher Columbus.
1873 - Slavery is abolished in Puerto Rico.
1882 - African American Shakespearean actor Morgan Smith joins the ancestors in Sheffield,
England. Smith had emigrated to England in 1866, where he performed in Shakespeare's
Richard III, Macbeth, Hamlet, and The Merchant of Venice, as well as Othello.
1931 - Richard Berry Harrison receives the NAACP's Spingarn Medal for his role as "De
Lawd" in "The Green Pastures" and for his "long years ...as a dramatic
reader and entertainer, interpreting to the mass of colored people in church and school,
the finest specimens of English drama from Shakespeare down."
1943 - George Benson is born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He will begin playing the
guitar at age 8, will sing in nightclubs as a child and form a rock group at age 17. He
will move to New York City in 1963 and join Jack McDuff's band but will leave in 1965 to
form his own group with Lonnie Smith, Ronnie Cuber, and Phil Turner. He will become a
session guitarist in the late 1960s, working with such artists as Miles Davis, Ron Carter,
and Herbie Hancock and developing a reputation as one of the best jazz guitarists. The
release of his triple Grammy Award-winning "Breezin'" in 1976, with its hit
single, "This Masquerade," will mark Benson's return as a vocal artist. His
follow-up album, "In Flight" (1977), and his double live set "Weekend in
L.A." (1978) will confirm his wide popularity. After "Livin' Inside Your
Love" (1979), he will release the equally popular "Give Me the Night"
(1980), his first collaboration with Quincy Jones, which will garner an impressive sweep
of five Grammy Awards. Later albums will include "While the City Sleeps"
(1986), "Twice the Love" (1988), "Tenderly" (1989), and "Love
1957 - Stephanie Mills is born in Brooklyn, New York. She will become a singer and
actress and be best known for her role as Dorothy in the stage show of "The
Wiz." She will win a talent show at the Apollo Theater six weeks in a row at
age nine. She will appear in the Broadway play "Maggie Flynn," tour with the
Isley Brothers, and release her debut album in 1973. She will land the part of Dorothy in
1975, recording an album for Motown during the show's four-year run. In 1980, she will
have a worldwide hit with "Never Knew Love Like This Before," which rises to the
Top Ten in the U.S. She will be married for a short while to Shalamar's Jeffrey
Daniels and work with Teddy Pendergrass in 1981. In 1983, she will land a daytime
television show on NBC. She will also later play Dorothy in a revival of "The
1968 - Pennsylvania State troopers are mobilized to put down a student rebellion on the
campus of Cheyney State College.
1986 - Debi Thomas becomes the first African American woman to win the world figure
- 1784 - Tom Molineaux, who will become America's most
celebrated early boxing success, is born into slavery in Georgetown, Washington, DC.
Emigrating to London after winning money to purchase his freedom in a fight, Molineaux
challenges champion Tom Cribb in a fight attended by 10,000 spectators in 1810, which he
will apparently win but is ruled against by a partisan referee. After a subsequent loss to
Cribb in 1811, Molineaux will sink into alcoholism and will join the ancestors penniless
in Ireland at the age of 34.
1938 - Maynard Jackson is born in Dallas, Texas. He will be elected the first African
American mayor of Atlanta, Georgia for two terms, 1974 to 1982, and be re-elected in 1989
for an unprecedented third term.
1953 - Yvette Marie Stevens is born in Great Lakes, Illinois. She will become better known
as Chaka Khan, lead singer of the rock group Rufus (winner of a 1974 Grammy) and a
three-time Grammy-winning soloist.
1955 - Moses Malone is born in Petersburg, Virginia. He will begin his career in
professional basketball in 1974 when he becomes the first player in ABA basketball history
to make the move directly from high school ball to playing in a professional league.
He will join the now-defunct American Basketball Association's Utah Stars. His
career will peak during his seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers. Matched with Julius
Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones and Andrew Toney in the 1982-83 season, the 76ers will
lead the league with a 65-17 regular-season record and win the championship. Malone
will win both NBA MVP and NBA Finals MVP that year. Malone's other achievements will
include NBA MVP (1979, '82), All-NBA first team (1979, '82, '85), All-NBA second team
(1980, '81, '84, '87), NBA All-Defensive first team (1983) and NBA All-Defensive second
team (1979). Malone will also hold career records for the most consecutive games
without a disqualification (1,212), most free throws made (8,531), most offensive rebounds
(6,731) and most turnovers (3,804). He will achieve the milestone of playing his
45,000th minute, on Dec. 14, 1994, against the Boston Celtics. Malone is recognized not
only for greatness as an all-around player, but also for his longevity, as he will play
for two ABA teams and eight NBA teams over 22 years.
1968 - Rev. Walter Fauntroy, a former aide of Martin Luther King Jr., becomes the first
non-voting congressional delegate from the District of Columbia since the Reconstruction
1985 - Patricia Roberts Harris, Cabinet Member, ambassador and first African American
woman to head a law school, joins the ancestors in Washington, DC.
1985 - "We Are The World", by USA for Africa, a group of 46 pop stars, enters
the music charts for the first time at number 21.
1998 - President Bill Clinton hails "the new face of Africa" as he opens a
historic six-nation tour in Ghana.
- 1912 - Dorothy Irene Height is born in Richmond,
Virginia. In 1965, she will inaugurate the Center for Racial Justice, which is still a
major initiative of the National YWCA. She will serve as the 10th National
President of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. from 1946 to 1957, before becoming
president of the National Council of Negro Women in 1958. Working closely with Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph and others, Dr.
Height will participate in virtually all major civil and human rights event in the 1950's
and 1960's. For her tireless efforts on behalf of the less fortunate, President Ronald
Reagan will present her the Citizens Medal Award for distinguished service to the country
in 1989. She will receive the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP in July, 1993.
She will be inducted into the "National Womens Hall of Fame" in October, 1993
and President Bill Clinton will present her the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award in
1941 - "Native Son," a play adapted from Richard Wright's novel of the same
name, opens at the St. James Theatre in New York City.
1944 - Patricia Louise Holt is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She will become a
singer best known as Patti Labelle. As a teenager, she and Cindy Birdsong (later a
member of the Supremes) will sing with the Ordettes. When two girls leave the group,
Nona Hendrix and Sarah Dash will sign on and Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells will be born
in 1961. By the next year, they will have their first multimillion seller, "I
Sold My Heart to the Junkman." With other hits, including "All Or Nothing"
and "You'll Never Walk Alone," the group will develop a strong following
worldwide. After years of success and being "Rocked and Rolled out," as Patti
describes it, the group will disband on good terms in 1977. She will continue to
perform as a solo artist and will release top-selling albums. She will receive
numerous awards including Philadelphia's Key to the City, a medal from the Congressional
Black Caucus, a citation from Congress on her 20th anniversary in the music business,
another citation from President Reagan, a cable ACE, the B'nai B'rith Creative Achievement
Award, two NAACP Entertainer of the Year Awards, the NAACP Image Award for three
consecutive years, the Ebony Achievement Award, the Martin Luther King Lifetime
Achievement Award, three Emmy nominations, eight Grammy nominations and a 1992 Grammy
Award for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance for her album "Burnin."
1958 - Bill Russell, center for the Boston Celtics, becomes the NBA's MVP. He is
again named as MVP in 1961, 1962, 1963 and 1965.
1962 - Benny 'Kid' Paret is knocked out in the twelfth round by Emile Griffith, in a
welterweight title bout in New York City. Paret will join the ancestors 10 days
1969 - Joseph Kasavubu, President of the Congo, joins the ancestors. In 1960, he and
Mobutu Sese Seko overthrew the government of Patrice Lumumba.
1972 - Z. Alexander Looby, the first African American to serve on the Nashville City
Council, joins the ancestors in Nashville, Tennessee. He had also been a successful
Nashville attorney, in the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, for many years.
In 1960, he survived the April 19th bombing of his home.
1975 - Muhammad Ali beats Chuck Wepner in a 15-round bout to retain his world heavyweight
- 1807 - The British Parliament abolishes the African slave
trade. Although slavery was abolished within England in 1772, it was still allowed in the
British colonies, as was the slave trade. The continued slave trade was not only
accepted, but considered essential to the power and prosperity of the British Empire.
English slave-merchants made fortunes carrying slaves from Africa to the British
colonies in North America and the Caribbean, and many of England's industries, notably
textiles and sugar refining, depended on raw materials produced by slave labor on colonial
plantations. Still, there were opponents, and in 1787, they launched a nationwide
campaign to seek the abolition of the slave trade.
1843 - African American explorer Dodson sets out in search of the Northwest Passage.
1910 - The Liberian Commission recommends financial aid to Liberia and the establishment
of a U.S. Navy coaling station in the African country.
1931 - Ida B. Wells-Barnett, journalist, militant African American rights and
anti-lynching advocate, and a founder of the NAACP, joins the ancestors in Chicago at the
age of 78.
1931 - Nine African American youths are arrested in Scottsboro, Alabama, for allegedly
raping two white women. Although they will be quickly convicted, in a trial that outraged
African Americans and much of the nation, the case will be appealed and the
"Scottsboro Boys" will be retried several times.
1939 - Toni Cade Bambara is born in New York City. She will become a noted writer of
such fiction as "Gorilla, My Love," and "The Salt Eaters."
1942 - Aretha Louise Franklin is born in Memphis, Tennessee. She will be abandoned
by her mother when she was 6, and raised by her father, the Reverend C. L. Franklin, who
is one of the most famous black ministers in the North, and her aunt, the legendary gospel
singer Clara Ward. She will grow up singing in her father's New Bethel Baptist Church in
Detroit, Michigan. Family friends Mahalia Jackson and Sam Cooke will encourage her
recording career, and when Columbia Records producer John Hammond first hears the
18-year-old, he calls her "an untutored genius, the best natural singer since Billie
Holiday." It will not be until her move from Columbia's pop/jazz orchestrations
to Atlantic Records' soulful, Rhythm and Blues style, in 1966, that her career skyrockets.
Under the auspices of Jerry Wexler, she will sing fierce, frantic hits like "I Never
Loved a Man," "Respect," "Natural Woman," and "Chain of
Fools." In 1968, she will make the cover of Time magazine. From her first singing
experiences in her father's church through a singing career and 21 gold records, she will
earn the title, "Queen of Soul." She will be inducted into the Rock &
Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
1965 - The Selma-to-Montgomery march ended with rally of some fifty thousand at Alabama
capitol. One of the marchers, a white civil rights worker named Viola Liuzzo, is
shot to death on U.S. Highway 80 after the rally by white terrorists. Three Klansmen
are convicted of violating her civil rights and sentenced to ten years in prison.
1967 - Debi Thomas is born. After being raised in San Jose, California by her
mother(who shuttled her back and forth between home, school and practice at the rate of
3,000 miles per month), she will become the first African American to win the world figure
skating championship (1986). She will later become the first African American to win
a medal in the Winter Olympics (Bronze Medal in Figure Skating - February 27, 1988).
1975 - Salem Poor, who fought alongside other colonists during the Battle of Bunker Hill,
is honored as one of four "Contributors to the Cause," a commemorative issue of
the U.S. Postal Service.
1991 - Whoopi Goldberg wins the Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role for
"Ghost." Also winning an Oscar is Russell Williams II, for best sound editing
for the movie "Dances with Wolves." It is Williams's second Oscar in a row
(the first was for "Glory"), a record for an African American.
1994 - American troops complete their withdrawal from Somalia.
2000 - Character actress Helen Martin, who played the little old lady next door in the
mid-1980s television series "227" and Halle Berry's matriarch in the political
comedy "Bulworth," joins the ancestors at the age of 90. An original
member of Harlem's American Negro Theater, Martin was one of the first African American
actresses to appear on Broadway when Orson Welles cast her in his production of
"Native Son." She worked primarily as a stage actress early in her career, but
was perhaps best known for appearing as grandmotherly characters in television series
about African American families.
- Richard Allen joins the ancestors at the age of 71. He had been nominated by
author Vernon Loggins for the title, "Father of the Negro."
1872 - Thomas J. Martin is awarded a patent for the fire extinguisher.
1910 - William H. Lewis is appointed assistant attorney general of the United States.
1937 - William Hastie is appointed to a federal judgeship in the Virgin Islands. With the
appointment, Hastie becomes the first African American to serve on the federal bench in
the U.S. or its territories. Judge Hastie will serve on the bench for two years then
become dean and professor of law at Howard University in Washington DC.
1944 - Diana Ross is born in Detroit, Michigan. Ross, with Mary Wilson and Florence
Ballard, will form the Supremes in 1961 and have 15 consecutive smash-hit singles with the
group. Ross will also pursue an acting career in such movies as "Lady Sings
the Blues" and receive a Tony Award for her Broadway show, "An Evening with
Diana Ross." Both with the Supremes and as a solo artist, she will have more
number-one records than any other artist in the history of the charts.
1950 - Theodore Pendergrass is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He will become a lead
singer for Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes in 1970 and will pursue an active solo career
in 1976. His solo career will later be temporarily interrupted by an auto accident that
will leave him paralyzed from the chest down. His debut album, "Teddy Pendergrass
(1977)," struck Platinum, as did the next four albums - "Life Is A Song Worth
Singing," "Teddy," "Teddy Live" and "T.P." Other
releases include "Love Language," "Working It Back" and
"Joy." He will be nominated for a Grammy more than three times and be the holder
of a 1980 "Best Rhythm & Blues Artist" award from Billboard Magazine. The
Philadelphia Music Foundation will honor him with a Philadelphia Music Award for
"Best Urban Album" in 1989.
1984 - Ahmed Sekou Toure' joins the ancestors in a hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. He
was the country of Guinea's first president and a well-known political figure throughout
1991 - The Reverend Emanuel Cleaver becomes the first African American mayor of Kansas
City, Missouri. At this time, Kansas City is seventy percent white, but he will win
the election with 53 percent of the vote, while his opponent receives forty-seven percent.
1992 - A judge in Indianapolis sentences former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson to
six years in prison for raping a Miss Black America contestant.
1995 - Former diplomat-turned-radio talk show host Alan Keyes enters the race for the
Republican presidential nomination.
1998 - President Clinton stands with President Nelson Mandela in a racially integrated
South African parliament to salute a country that was "truly free and democratic at
- 1501 - Black seamen, soldiers and explorers brought to America
- 1870 - Jonathan S. Wright becomes the first African
American State Supreme Court Justice in South Carolina.
1925 - Sculptor Ed Wilson is born in Baltimore, Maryland. He will study at the
University of Iowa, receive sculpture awards from the Carnegie Foundation, Howard
University and the State University of New York, and have his work shown at Two Centuries
of Black American Art, and other exhibitions. Among his major works will be
1939 - The Renaissance (Big 5) becomes the first African American team on record to win a
professional world championship (basketball).
1958 - William Christopher (W.C.) Handy joins the ancestors in New York City at the age of
85. In the same year, the movie of his life, "St. Louis Blues" is
released, starring Nat King Cole as Handy.
1966 - Bill Russell is named head coach of the Boston Celtics and becomes the first
African American to coach an NBA team.
1984 - Educator and civil rights activist Benjamin Mays joins the ancestors in Atlanta,
Georgia. Mays had served as dean of the School of Religion at Howard University and
president of Morehouse College, where he served as the mentor to the young Martin Luther
1990 - Michael Jordan scores 69 points in a NBA game. This the 4th time he scores 60
points or more in a game.
1990 - President Bush posthumously awards the Congressional Gold Medal to Jesse Owens and
presents it to his widow.
- 1918 - Pearl Mae Bailey is born in Newport News,
Virginia. She will achieve tremendous success as a stage and film actress, recording
artist, nightclub headliner, and television performer. Among her most notable movies will
be "Porgy and Bess" and "Carmen Jones" and she will receive a Tony
Award for her starring role in an all-African-American version of "Hello Dolly."
Bailey will be widely honored, including being named special advisor to the U.S. Mission
to the United Nations and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
1940 - Joe Louis knocks out Johnny Paycheck to retain his heavyweight boxing title.
1945 - Walt Frazier is born in Atlanta, Georgia. He will become a basketball player
and, as a guard for the New York Knicks, lead his team to NBA championships in 1970 and
1973. He will also earn the nickname "Clyde" (from the movie Bonnie and
Clyde) for his stylish wardrobe and flamboyant lifestyle off the court. Frazier will
score 15,581 points (18.9 ppg) during his career, lead the Knicks in scoring five times,
dish out 5,040 assists (6.1 apg), and lead the Knicks in assists 10 straight years. He
will be elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987.
1955 - Earl Christian Campbell is born in Tyler, Texas. He will become a star
football player at the University of Texas and will amass 4,444 rushing yards in his
college career. He will win the 1977 Heisman Trophy and will go on to become a
first player taken in the 1978 NFL draft. As a star running back for the Houston
Oilers, he will become NFL rushing champion, Player of Year, All-Pro, Pro Bowl choice in
1978, 1979, and 1980. His career-high will be 1,934 yards rushing, including four 200-yard
rushing games in 1980. His career statistics will be: 9,407 yards, 74 TDs rushing, 121
receptions for 806 yards and five Pro Bowls. He will retire after nine seasons and
will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991.
1959 - Barthelemy Boganda, president and founder of the Central African Republic, joins
the ancestors in a plane crash.
1968 - Students seize building on the campus of Bowie State College in Bowie, Maryland.
1990 - Houston's Hakeem Olajuwan scores the 3rd NBA quadruple double consisting of 18
points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists & 11 blocked shots vs the Milwaukee Bucks.
- 1869 - The 15th Amendment to the Constitution is
ratified, which guarantees men, the right to vote regardless of "race, color or
previous condition of servitude." Despite ratification of the amendment, it
will be almost 100 years before African Americans become universally enfranchised.
1923 - Zeta Phi Beta sorority is incorporated. It was founded on January 16, 1920 at
Howard University in Washington, DC.
1941 - The National Urban League presents a one-hour program over a national radio network
and urges equal participation for blacks in the national defense program.
1946 - "St. Louis Woman" opens on Broadway. Based on a book by Arna
Bontemps and Countee Cullen from Bontemps's novel "God Sends Sunday," the play
brought wide attention to supporting actress Pearl Bailey, who stopped the show nightly
with her renditions of "Legalize My Name" and "A Woman's Prerogative."
1948 - Naomi Sims is born in Oxford, Mississippi. She will become a trailblazing fashion
model and founder of a beauty company that will bear her name.
1960 - Eighteen students are suspended by Southern University for participating in civil
rights demonstrations. Southern University students will rebel on March 31,
boycotting classes and requesting withdrawal slips. The rebellion will collapse
after the death of a professor from a heart attack.
1963 - Air Force Capt. Edward J. Dwight, Jr. is named to the fourth class of aerospace
research pilots at Edwards Air Force Base, becoming the first African American candidate
for astronaut training. He will be dropped from the program in 1965.
1963 - Stanley Kirk Burrell is born in Oakland, California. He will become a rapper
known as "M.C. Hammer" and will come out in 1988 with the album, "Let's Get
It Started. He will be best known for his hit, "U Can't Touch This."
1995 - Tens of thousands of Rwandan refugees, fleeing violence in Burundi, begin a two-day
trek to sanctuary in Tanzania.
1850 - The Massachusetts Supreme Court rejects the
argument of Charles Sumner in the Boston school integration suit and established the
"separate but equal" precedent.
1853 - At concert singer Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield's New York debut in Metropolitan
Hall, African Americans are not allowed to attend. Angered and embarrassed at the
exclusion of her race, Greenfield will perform in a separate concert at the Broadway
Tabernacle for five African American congregations.
1871 - Jack Johnson is born in Galveston, Texas. He will become a professional boxer
and will become the first African American to be crowned world heavyweight boxing
champion. His championship reign will last from 1908 to 1915.
1930 - President Hoover nominates Judge John J. Parker of North Carolina for a seat on the
U.S. Supreme Court. The NAACP launches a national campaign against the appointment.
Parker is not confirmed by the Senate.
1948 - A. Phillip Randolph tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that unless
segregation and discrimination were banned in draft programs he would urge African
American youths to resist induction by civil disobedience.
1949 - William Grant Still's opera, "Troubled Island" receives its world
premiere at the New York City Opera. In addition to marking Robert McFerrin's debut
as the first African American male to sing with the company, the opera is the first ever
written by an African American to be produced by a major opera company.
1967 - Jimi Hendrix begins the tradition of burning his guitar in London, England.
1968 - The provisional government of the Republic of New Africa is founded in Detroit,
1973 - Ken Norton defeats Muhammad Ali in a 12 round split decision in San Diego,
California. Norton will break Ali's jaw during the bout.
1980 - Jesse Owens joins the ancestors in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 66, and President
Jimmy Carter adds his voice to the tributes that pour in from around the world.
Jesse won four gold medals in track at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
1980 - Larry Holmes wins the vacant world heavyweight title by knocking out Leroy Jones in
the eighth round.
1988 - Toni Morrison wins the Pulitzer Prize for "Beloved," a powerful novel of
a runaway slave who murders her daughter rather than see her raised in slavery.
1995 - President Bill Clinton briefly visits Haiti, where he declares the U.S. mission to
restore democracy there a "remarkable success."
1999 - Four New York City police officers are charged with murder for killing Amadou
Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, in a hail of bullets. They shot at him 41
times, hitting him with 19 shots. The officers will later be acquitted of all
charges, even involuntary manslaughter.
Updated by K. Ferguson
Kelly: March 16, 2002