01 -15 May in Black History
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1885 - Joseph Oliver is born in Donaldsville, Louisiana. He will
become a professional musician after learning his craft playing with local
street musicians in New Orleans. After playing in the band of Edward "Kid" Ory,
he will be dubbed "King" Oliver. After being recruited to Chicago, Illinois to
play in the band of Bill Johnson, King Oliver will assume leadership of the
Creole Jazz Band. He will recruit some of best available jazz talent of the time
including Louis Armstrong. The Creole Jazz Band will disband after the exit of
Louis Armstrong. King Oliver will lead various other bands until 1937 when he
retires from music. Due to severe gum problems, he stopped playing the cornet in
1931. He will join the ancestors in 1938. King Oliver was one of the pioneering
musicians in New Orleans and Chicago style jazz.
1895 - William Grant Still is born in Woodville, Mississippi. Considered one of the nation's greatest composers, he will begin his career by writing arrangements for W.C. Handy and as musical director for Harry Pace's Phonograph Corporation. One of his most famous compositions, "Afro-American Symphony," will be the first symphonic work by an African American to be performed by a major symphony orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic Symphony, in 1931. He will also be the first African American to conduct a major U.S. symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in 1936. He will create over 150 musical works including a series of five symphonies, four ballets, and nine operas. Two of his best known compositions will be "Afro-American Symphony" (1930) and "A Bayou Legend" (1941). He will join the ancestors in 1978.
1899 - Clifton Reginald Wharton is born in Baltimore, Maryland. He will become an attorney and will be the first African American to enter the Foreign Service and the first African American to become the U.S. ambassador to an European country. He will begin his career in the Foreign Service in 1925 and will serve in a variety of diplomatic positions in Liberia, Spain, Madagascar, Portugal, and France before becoming the Ambassador to Norway in 1961. He will retire from the State Department in 1964 and will join the ancestors in 1990.
1930 - Lawson Edward Brathwaite is born in Bridgetown, Barbados. He will become a poet, critic, historian and editor better known as Edward Kamau Brathwaite. He will be considered by most literary critics in the English speaking Caribbean to be the most important West Indian Poet. He will be best known for his works "Rights of Passage," "Masks," and "Islands" which will later be combined in a trilogy "The Arrivants." His other works will be "Other Exiles," "Mother Poem, Sun Poem," "X/Self," "Middles Passages," and "Roots." He will be the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, the Casa de las Americas prize, and the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. After teaching at the University of the West Indies for twenty years, he will join the faculty of New York University.
1933 - Louis Eugene Walcott is born in Roxbury, Massachusetts. In 1955 he will convert to Islam and join The Nation of Islam after attending the Saviour's Day Convention in Chicago, Illinois. He will be known as Louis X and will later adopt the name Louis Farrakhan. Within three months of joining the Nation, he will have to choose between his life in show business or life in the Nation of Islam. He chooses to leave his life as an entertainer and dedicates his life to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. After moving to Boston at the request of Malcolm X, he will rise to the rank of Minister and will head the Boston Temple from 1956 until 1965 when he was asked by Elijah Muhammad to take over Temple # 7 in New York City. After the death of Elijah Muhammad and three years of subsequent changes in the Nation from his teachings, Minister Farrakhan decided to return to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and since then, has continued programs to uplift and reform Blacks. In 1995, he will exhibit his influence as a Black leader when he successfully organizes and speaks at the Million Man March in Washington, DC.
1963 - One day after Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth announces agreement on a limited integration plan in Birmingham, Alabama, his home is bombed and a riot ensues.
1965 - African Americans hold a mass meeting in Norfolk, Virginia and demand equal rights and ballots.
1968 - Nine Caravans of poor people arrive in Washington, DC for first phase of Poor People's Campaign. Caravans started from different sections of the country on May 2 and picked up demonstrators along the way. In Washington, demonstrators erect a camp called Resurrection City on a sixteen-acre site near the Lincoln Monument.
1970 - Johnny Hodges joins the ancestors in New York City at the age of 63. He had been a well known saxophone player and played with the band of Duke Ellington for almost forty years. He was Duke Ellington's favorite soloist. Over his career, he will be chosen as the best reed player by DownBeat Magazine ten times.
1972 - The San Francisco Giants announce that they are trading Willie Mays to the New York Mets.
1981 - Hoyt J. Fuller joins the ancestors in Atlanta at the age of 57. He was a literary critic and editor of "First World" and "Black World" (formerly Negro Digest) magazines.
1981 - Robert Nesta 'Bob' Marley, Jamaican-born singer who popularized reggae with his group The Wailers, joins the ancestors after succumbing to cancer in a Miami hospital at the age of 36. He will enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
1981 - Ken Norton, former heavyweight boxing champion, is left on the ropes and unconscious after 54 seconds of the first round at Madison Square Garden in New York City, by Gerry Cooney.
1986 - Frederick Douglass 'Fritz' Pollard joins the ancestors in Silver Spring, Maryland at the age of 92. Pollard had been the first African American to play in the Rose Bowl and the second African American to be named All-American in college football. After college he played professional football and later became the coach of his team. When the league in which he coached became the NFL in 1922, he became the first African American coach in NFL history. No other African American will coach in the NFL until the 1990s.
1896 - Juan Morel Campos joins the ancestors in Ponce, Puerto
Rico. He was a musician and composer who was one of the first to integrate
Afro-Caribbean styles and folk rhythms into the classical European musical
model. He was considered the father of the "danza."
1898 - Louisiana adopts a new constitution with a "grandfather clause" designed to eliminate African American voters.
1902 - Joe Gans (born Joseph Gaines) becomes the first native-born African American to win a world boxing championship, when he defeats Frank Erne in one round for the World Lightweight Crown. He will be elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954.
1910 - The Second NAACP conference opens in New York City. The three day conference will create a permanent national structure for the organization.
1916 - Albert L. Murray is born in Nokomis, Alabama. He will become an author of several works of nonfiction, among them the influential collection of essays, "The Omni Americans: New Perspectives on Black Experience and American Culture." His other works will include "South to a Very Old Place," "The Hero and The Blues," "Train Whistle Guitar," "The Spyglass Tree," "Stomping The Blues," "Good Morning Blues," and "The Blue Devils of Nada."
1926 - Paulette Poujol-Oriol is born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She will become a well-known literary personality in Haiti. She will be best known for her innovative creative expression. Her works will include "Prayers for Two Vanished Angels" and "The Crucible."
1926 - Mervyn Dymally is born in Cedros, Trinidad. He will become the first African American elected as lieutenant governor of California and will be elected to Congress in 1980, where he will serve for 12 years.
1929 - Samuel Nujoma is born in Etunda, South West Africa (now Namibia). He will become a nationalist politician and the first president of Namibia. He will remain in exile for thirty years from 1959 to 1989 when he will return to Namibia and win a seat in the National Assembly. He will vacate this seat in 1990 when he is elected president.
1933 - Henry Hugh Proctor joins the ancestors in Brooklyn, New York at the age of 64. He had been the pastor of Nazarene Congregational Church for thirteen years. Prior to coming to New York, he had been pastor of the First Congregational Church in Atlanta, Georgia for twenty four years, where he had been instrumental in working with local whites in order to reduce racial conflicts in the city.
1934 - Elechi Amadi is born in Aluu, Nigeria. He will become a novelist whose works will illustrate the tradition and inner feelings of traditional tribal life of his people. He will be known for his works "The Concubine," "Sunset in Biafra: A Civil War Diary," "The Great Ponds," "The Slave," "Estrangement," "Isiburu," "Peppersoup," "The Road to Ibadan," "Dancer of Johannesburg," and "Ethics in Nigerian Culture." His writings reflect his upbringing as a member of the Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria.
1951 - Former U.S. Congressman Oscar Stanton DePriest joins the ancestors at the age of 80 in Chicago, Illinois. He had been the first African American elected to the U.S. Congress since Reconstruction and the first-ever African American congressman from the North.
1955 - Samuel ("Toothpick Sam") Jones, of the Chicago Cubs, becomes the first African American to pitch a major league no-hitter, against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
1958 - At a summit meeting of national African American leaders, President Dwight D. Eisenhower is sharply criticized for a speech which, in effect, urges them to "be patient" in their demands for full civil and voting rights.
1967 - H. Rap Brown replaces Stokely Carmichael as chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.
1969 - Kim Fields (later Freeman) is born in Los Angeles, California. She will become an actress as a child, starring in the sit-com, "The Facts of Life" (1979-1988). She will continue her television career on the "Living Single" show, which will premier in 1993.
1970 - Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs hits his 500th home run.
1970 - A racially motivated civil disturbance occurs in Augusta, Georgia.Six African Americans are killed. Authorities say five of the victims were shot by police.
1976 - Wynona Carr joins the ancestors. She had been a gospel singer who was best known for her rendition of "The Ball Game." Her other recordings were "Each Day," "Lord Jesus," "Dragnet for Jesus," "Fifteen Rounds for Jesus," "Operator, Operator," "Should I Ever Love Again," and "Our Father."
1991 - Hampton University students stage a silent protest against President George Bush's commencement address to highlight their opposition to his civil rights policies.
1865 - Two white regiments and an African American regiment, the
Sixty-Second U.S. Colored Troops, fight in the last action of the civil war at
White's Ranch, Texas.
1871 - Alcorn A&M College (now Alcorn A&M University) opens in Lorman, Mississippi.
1888 - Princess Isabel of Brazil signs the "Lei Aurea" (Golden Law) which abolishes slavery. Slavery is ended in part to appease the efforts of abolitionists, but mostly because it is less expensive for employers to hire wageworkers than to keep slaves. Plantation owners oppose the law because they are not compensated for releasing their slaves. The passage of the law hastens the fall of the Brazilian monarchy.
1891 - Isaac Murphy becomes the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys as he wins the fabled race astride Kingman. Kingman was trained by Dud Allen, an African American trainer.
1914 - Joseph Louis Barrow is born in Lexington, Alabama. He will be better known as Joe Louis. "The Brown Bomber" will hold the heavyweight crown from his 1937 title match with James J. Braddock until his first retirement in 1949. In his 71 professional fights, he will amass a record of 68 victories, 54 by knockouts.
1933 - John Junior "Johnny" Roseboro is born in Ashland, Ohio. He will become a professional baseball player in 1957 and will play as a catcher for the Dodgers from 1957-1967, Minnesota Twins from 1968 to 1969, and the Washington Senators in 1970.
1938 - Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra record the New Orleans' jazz standard, "When The Saints Go Marching In", on Decca Records making it extremely popular.
1943 - Mary Wells is born in Detroit, Michigan. She will become a singer for the Motown label and record the hits, "My Guy," "Two Lovers," "You Beat Me to the Punch," and "The One Who Really Loves You."
1949 - Franklin Ajaye is born in Brooklyn, New York. He will become a comedy writer, comedian and actor. He will appear in the movies "The Jazz Singer," "Car Wash," "Hysterical," "The Wrong Guys," and "Jock Jokes."
1950 - Steveland Judkins Morris is born in Saginaw, Michigan. As 12-year-old Little Stevie Wonder, he will become a singing and musical sensation notable for "Fingertips, Part 2." Wonder will continue to record through-out adulthood, with the albums "Talking Book," "Songs in the Key of Life," "The Woman in Red," and the soundtrack to the movie "Jungle Fever." Among other awards he will win more than 16 Grammys and a 1984 best song Oscar for "I Just Called to Say I Love You." He will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989.
1961 - Dennis Rodman is born in Texas. He will become a professional basketball player and will help two different teams win multiple NBA championships.
1966 - Federal education funding is denied to 12 school districts in the South because of violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
1971 - (James) Charles Evers becomes the first African American mayor of Fayette, Mississippi.
1971 - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, receives a gold record for her version of "Bridge Over Troubled Water", originally a Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel tune.
1978 - Henry Rono of Kenya sets the record for the 3,000 meter steeplechase (8:05.4). The record will stand for eleven years.
1979 - Max Robinson becomes the first African American network news anchor when he anchors ABC's World News Tonight.
1983 - Reggie Jackson becomes the first major leaguer to strike out 2,000 times.
1985 - Philadelphia Police bomb a house held by the group "Move", killing eleven persons. Ramona Africa and a 13-year-old boy are the only people to escape the inferno that the blast caused inside 6221 Osage Street. The heat from the blast also ignites a fire that destroys 60 other homes and leaves 250 people homeless, angry and heartbroken in a working-class section of West Philadelphia.
1990 - George Stallings is ordained as the first bishop of the newly established African American Catholic Church. Stallings broke from the Roman Catholic Church in 1989, citing the church's failure to meet the needs of African American Catholics.
1995 - Army Captain Lawrence Rockwood is convicted at his court-martial in Fort Drum, New York, of conducting an unauthorized investigation of reported human rights abuses at a Haitian prison (the next day, Rockwood is dismissed from the military, but receives no prison time).
Updated by K. Ferguson Kelly: May 20, 2003