16 -31 May in Black History
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1881 - Blanche Kelso Bruce is appointed Register of the Treasury
by President Garfield.
1925 - Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X and El Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, is born in Omaha, Nebraska. In prison, he is introduced to the Nation of Islam and begins studies that will lead him to become one of the most militant and electrifying black leaders of the 1950s and 1960s. On many occasions, he would indicate that he was not for civil rights, but human rights. When asked about the Nation of Islam undermining the efforts of integrationists by preaching racial separation, Malcolm's response was "It is not integration in America that Negroes want, it is human dignity." Malcolm X regularly criticized civil rights leaders for advocating the integration of African Americans into white society. He believed that African Americans should be building Black institutions and businesses and defending themselves against racist violence based opposition from both conservative and liberals. Until he joined the ancestors, Malcolm X was a staunch believer in Black Nationalism, Black Self-determination and Black Self-organization. He will begin to lobby with the newly independent African nations to protest in the United Nations about the American abuse of their Black citizens human rights, when he was assassinated in 1965. His story will be immortalized in the book "Autobiography of Malcolm X," ghostwritten by Alex Haley.
1930 - Lorraine Hansberry is born in Chicago, Illinois. She will become a noted playwright and will be best known for her play, "A Raisin in the Sun." On March 11, 1959, when it opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, it will become the first Broadway play written by an African American woman. Her other works will include "The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window," "To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words," "Les Blancs," and "The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality." She will join the ancestors on January 12, 1965.
1952 - Grace Mendoza is born in Spanishtown, Jamaica. She will move with her family to Syracuse, New York at the age of 12. She will become a performance artist known as Grace Jones and a transatlantic model for the Ford and Wilhemina agencies. She will later write music and perform as a singer. Her releases will extend from 1977 through 1998. She also will succeed as a movie star appearing in the movies "A View to a Kill," "Conan the Destroyer," and "Deadly Vengeance."
1965 - Patricia Harris is named U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. She is the first African American woman to become an ambassador for the U.S.
1968 - Piano stylist and vocalist, Bobby Short, gains national attention as he presents a concert with Mabel Mercer at New York's Town Hall. He has been the featured artist at the intimate Hotel Carlisle for years.
1969 - Coleman Randolph Hawkins joins the ancestors in New York City at the age of 65. He was responsible for the coming of age of the tenor saxophone in jazz ensembles and called the "father of the tenor saxophone."
1973 - Stevie Wonder moves to the number one position on the "Billboard" pop music chart with "You Are the Sunshine of My Life". It is the third number one song for Wonder, following earlier successes with "Fingertips, Part 2" in 1963 and "Superstition" in 1973. He will have seven more number one hits between 1973 and 1987: "You Haven't Done Nothin'", "I Wish", "Sir Duke", "Ebony & Ivory" (with Paul McCartney), "I Just Called to Say I Love You", "Part-Time Lover" and "That's What Friends are for".
1991 - Willy T. Ribbs becomes the first African American driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. During the race, which occurs the following week, Ribbs will be forced to drop out due to engine failure.
1746 - Francois-Dominique Toussaint L'Ouverture is born into
slavery in Haiti. He will lead the revolution in his country against French and
English forces to free the slaves. Although he will nominally rule in the name
of France, he will in actuality become political and military dictator of the
country. His success in freeing the slaves in Haiti caused his name to become
the biggest influence in the slave cabins of the Americas. His name will be
whispered in Brazil, in the Caribbean, and the United States.
1868 - The Republican National Convention, meeting in Chicago, nominates U.S. Grant for the presidency. The convention marks the national debut of African American politicians. P.B.S. Pinchback of Louisiana and James J. Harris were delegates to the convention. Harris will be named to the committee which informed Grant of his nomination. African Americans also serve for the first time as presidential electors. Robert Meacham will be a presidential elector in Florida. The South Carolina electoral ticket will include three African American Republican leaders, B.F. Randolph, Stephen A. Swails, and Alonzo J. Ransier.
1951 - The New York branch of the NAACP honors Josephine Baker for her work to combat racism. Baker, the American chanteuse who was acclaimed in Europe, had led a personal crusade to force integration of clubs where she appeared in Miami and Las Vegas. She also campaigned against segregated railroad facilities in Chicago and buses in Oakland.
1961 - A mob attacks freedom riders in Montgomery, Alabama. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy dispatches four hundred U.S. marshals to Montgomery to keep order in the freedom rider controversy.
1964 - Buster Mathis defeats Joe Frazier to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team.
1971 - A Pentagon report states that African Americans constituted 11 per cent of U.S. soldiers in Southeast Asia. The report also states that 12.5 per cent of all soldiers killed in Vietnam since 1961 were African American.
1985 - Larry Holmes retains the heavyweight boxing title of the International Boxing Federation in Reno, Nevada by defeating Carl Wilson in 15 rounds. The fight marks the first heavyweight title fight in Reno since Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries fought there in 1910.
1833 - Oberlin College is founded in Ohio "to train teachers and
other Christian leaders for the boundless most desolate fields in the West."
After almost going bankrupt in 1835, Oberlin will become the first college in
the United States to admit African Americans. Arthur and Lewis Tappan, wealthy
New York merchants and abolitionists, will insist that Oberlin admit students
regardless of their color, as a condition of their financial support. As a
result of this decision, by 1900, nearly half of all the African American
college graduates in the United States -- 128 to be exact -- will be graduated
1862 - Mary Jane Patterson becomes the first African American woman to earn an B.A degree from the four-year gentleman's course at Oberlin College in Ohio.
1904 - Thomas "Fats" Waller, is born in New York City. He will become a celebrated jazz pianist, organist, and composer. Early in the 1920s, Waller will become the protege of the famous pianist James P. Johnson and later will accompany such important vocalists as Florence Mills and Bessie Smith. His hundreds of recordings, including some early piano rolls, encompass ragtime, boogie woogie, dixieland, and swing, although in his hands these styles are deftly recomposed into a unique Waller sound that will influence most of the jazz pianists of the following generation. His appearances on radio and in several motion pictures (notably "Stormy Weather," 1943) will bring Waller's talents to a wide audience. A major jazz creator, he will write complete scores for such all-African-American shows as "Keep Shufflin'" (1928) and "Hot Chocolates" (1929) as well as many single pieces, especially the now-classic "Honeysuckle Rose," "Ain't Misbehavin'," and "Black and Blue." He will join the ancestors in 1943.
1921 - Christopher Perry, who founded the Philadelphia Tribune in 1884, joins the ancestors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the age of 65.
1941 - Ronald Isley is born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He will become a singer and with his brothers O'Kelly, Rudolph and Vernon Isley will form the group, The Isley Brothers. They will leave Cincinnati in 1956 and go to New York City to pursue their musical career. Ronald 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 others.
1955 - After being introduced to Leonard Chess, by bluesman Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry goes into a recording session for Chess Records, performing a restyled version of his song "Ida Red". What comes out of that hot session will be Ida Red's new name and Chuck Berry's first hit, "Maybellene". "Maybellene" will top the Rhythm & Blues charts at #1, and the pop charts at #5.
1961 - Freedom Riders are attacked in Montgomery, Alabama. The third city in which the CORE-sponsored group is attacked, the incident prompts Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to send U.S. marshals to keep the peace while Governor Patterson of Alabama declares martial law and dispatches the National Guard to the troubled area.
1964 - Elder Garnet Hawkins is elected by the 176th General Assembly and becomes the first African American moderator of the United Presbyterian Church. Born in New York City on June 13, 1908, he received his bachelor's degree in 1935 at Bloomfield College in Bloomfield, New Jersey and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1938. He built his church from nine African American members to an integrated congregation of more than 1,000. He also became the first moderator of the Presbyterian Church to visit the Roman Catholic Pope. He will join the ancestors in 1977.
1969 - Police and National Guardsmen fire on demonstrators at North Carolina A&T College. One student is killed and five policemen are injured.
1970 - The National Guard is mobilized to stop widespread demonstrations and violence at Ohio State University. The interracial student demonstrators demand an end to ROTC programs and greater admissions for African-American students.
1971 - Riots in Chattanooga, Tennessee, result in one death and 400 arrests as National Guard troops are called to put down the racially motivated disturbances.
1973 - The sensual, "Pillow Talk", by Sylvia (Sylvia Vanderpool), earns a gold record. The artist first recorded with Hot Lips Page for Columbia Records back in 1950 and was known as Little Sylvia. She was also half of the singing duo Mickey & Sylvia, who recorded "Love Is Strange" in 1957. "Pillow Talk" is her only solo major hit and will make it to number three on the pop music charts.
1975 - Lowell W. Perry is confirmed as chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
1985 - Marvin Gaye's last album is released. "Dream of a Lifetime" features songs that critics consider too offensive such as the controversial, pop version of "The Lord's Prayer". Three of the songs from the album are completed after Gaye's joins the ancestors. Marvin Gaye will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
1844 - Charles Edmund Nash is born in Opelousas, Louisiana. He
will become the first African American representative to the U.S. House of
Representatives from the State of Louisiana.
1878 - Attorney John Henry Smyth is named minister to Liberia. He will serve from 1878 to 1881 and again as minister from 1882 to 1885.
1900 - Civil War hero, Sergeant William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, becomes the first African American Congressional Medal of Honor winner. He will be cited almost 37 years after the Battle of Fort Wagner, where he carried the colors and led the charge after the original standard-bearer was shot.
1910 - Benjamin Sherman "Scatman" Crothers is born in Terre Haute, Indiana. He will become an entertainer and will appear in, or use his voice in over 52 films. A noted character actor, he will best known for his role in the TV series, "Chico and The Man." Some of his best remembered films will be "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "The Shining," "Lady Sings the Blues," and "Roots." He will also make numerous guest appearances on a variety of television programs. He will join the ancestors in 1986.
1920 - The Methodist Episcopal Church conference, meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, elects two African American bishops, Matthew W. Clair of Washington, DC, and Robert E. Jones of New Orleans, Louisiana.
1921 - "Shuffle Along," the first of a popular series of musicals featuring all African American casts, opens at the 63rd Street Music Hall in New York City. The musical is written by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake and features Florence Mills and a young Josephine Baker in the chorus. William Grant Still and Hall Johnson play in the orchestra.
1941 - Joe Louis defends his heavyweight boxing title for the 17th successful time, as Buddy Baer is disqualified at the beginning of the seventh round. Baer's manager refused to leave the ring when the round was ready to begin.
1954 - "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler is born in Newark, New Jersey. He will become the World Middleweight Champion in 1980. Hagler will make 12 successful title defenses. Among his victims will be Vito Antuofermo, Mustafa Hamsho, Roberto Duran, Juan Roldan, John "The Beast" Mugabi, and Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns. His thrilling three-round shootout with Hearns will be regarded as one of the best fights of all-time. His last fight will be in 1987 when Sugar Ray Leonard comes out of retirement and wins an exciting, but controversial 12-round split decision for the WBC middleweight title. Hagler will retire after Leonard does not give him a rematch. He will end his career with 62 wins, 3 losses, and 2 draws. He will be elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.
1961 - Twenty-seven Freedom Riders are arrested in Jackson, Mississippi.
1975 - Loretta Mary Aiken, better known by her stage name of Jackie "Moms" Mabley, joins the ancestors in White Plains, New York at the age of 81. Best known as a comedienne, she began her career as a singer at the age of 14 and traveled the vaudeville circuit, appearing in theaters and nightclubs. Making her comedy recording debut in 1960, Mabley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show as well as in movie roles.
1854 - Anthony Burns, celebrated fugitive slave, is arrested by
United States Deputy Marshals in Boston, Massachusetts.
1861 - Major General Benjamin F. Butler declare slaves "contraband of war."
1864 - Two regiments, the First and Tenth U.S. Colored Troops, repulse an attack by rebel General Fitzhugh Lee. Also participating in battle at Wilson's Wharf Landing, on the bank of the James River, were a small detachment of white Union troops and a battery of light artillery.
1881 - Paul Quinn College is chartered in the State of Texas. The college, founded in 1872, had moved from its original site in Austin to Waco in 1877.
1905 - Martin Dihigo is born in Havana, Cuba. He will become a baseball player in the Negro Leagues and will be considered by some to be the greatest all-around player of all-time of African descent. He will be elected to the Cuban and Mexican Halls of Fame during his lifetime, and will be posthumously elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.
1937 - Archie Shepp is born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He will become a renowned avant-garde jazz saxophonist and play with a variety of jazz greats including John Coltrane, Bobby Hutcherson, and Donald Cherry. He also will be a composer of jazz instrumental compositions and the play "Lady Day: A Musical Tragedy." He will use free jazz as a vehicle for political expression and will be an important factor in the growing acceptance of African American identity. He will become an Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts but will continue his concert career at the same time, working mostly in Europe. He will be a seminal figure in the development of the New Music and influence many saxophonists of the avant-garde.
1944 - Patricia Louise Holt is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She will be better known as Patti LaBelle, organizer and lead singer of Patti LaBelle and the Bluebells in 1960. In the 1970's, she will reconfigure the group and later reteam with Nona Hendryx and Sara Dash as LaBelle. In 1976, LaBelle will pursue a solo career, gain even more critical and popular acclaim, and win a 1992 Grammy.
1951 - Racial segregation in Washington, DC, restaurants is ruled illegal by the Municipal Court of Appeals.
1954 - Peter Marshall Murray is installed as president of the New York County Medical Society. He is the first African American physician to head an AMA affiliate.
1961 - Twenty-seven Freedom Riders are arrested in Jackson, Mississippi.
1963 - The Organization of African Unity is founded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
1974 - Edward "Duke" Ellington joins the ancestors in New York City at the age of 75. For nearly half a century, Duke Ellington led the premier American big-band, and is considered by many sources to be the greatest composer in the history of jazz.
1983 - Jesse L. Jackson becomes the first African American to address a joint session of a state legislature in the 20th century, when he talks to the Alabama legislature.
1984 - Ralph Sampson of the Houston Rockets becomes the first unanimous choice for NBA Rookie of the Year since Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabar) of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1970.
1991 - Hal McRae is named manager of the Kansas City Royals. He will become one of two African American managers serving in major league baseball.
1993 - The African nation of Eritrea gains independence from Ethiopia.
2000 - Isiah Thomas and Bob McAdoo are elected to be enshrined in the 2000 class of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
1878 - Tapdancing legend Bill "Bojangles" (Luther) Robinson is
born in Richmond, Virginia. He will star in vaudeville and in many movies such
as "The Littliest Rebel," "In Old Kentucky," "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," and
"The Little Colonel".
1905 - Dorothy Burnett (later Wesley) is born in Warrenton, Virginia. She will become a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the first African American woman to receive a Masters of Library Science degree from Columbia University, and will author several African American historical works. She will be a long-time librarian at the Howard University Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and will be responsible for developing it into one of the world's largest collections of material authored by and about people of African descent.
1919 - Millionaire Madame C.J. Walker joins the ancestors at the age of 52 at Irvington-on-the-Hudson, New York. She was the founder of the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, the largest African American haircare company of its time. After her death, a substantial portion of her business's proceeds will be donated to African American organizations and scholarships.
1932 - K.C. Jones is born in San Francisco, California. He will become a member of the Olympic basketball team and help win the 1956 Olympic Gold Medal. He will then become a professional basketball player with the Boston Celtics, where he will help win eight NBA titles. He will then win two championships as the coach of the Celtics. He will also be the head coach of the Washington Bullets and the Seattle Supersonics. He will have 522 wins as a NBA coach and in 1997 will become the coach of American Basketball League women's team, the New England Blizzard. After the league disbands, he will join the coaching staff of the women's basketball team at the University of Rhode Island, at the age of 67.
1935 - This is "the greatest day in the history of track," according to "The New York Times." Jesse Owens of Ohio State University breaks two world sprint records, ties a third, and breaks a long jump world record in a meet at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, all in one hour.
1936 - David Levering Lewis is born in Little Rock, Arkansas. He will become a historian and biographer. Professor Lewis will receive his Ph.D. in modern European history from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1962. His research and publications will focus on African American history, conceptions of race and racism, and the dynamics of European colonialism, especially in Africa. He will author a biography of Du Bois entitled "W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race," which will win a Pulitzer prize in 1994. His other works include "King: A Biography" (1970), "Prisoners of Honor: The Dreyfus Affair" (1975), "When
Harlem Was in Vogue" (1982), "The Race to Fashoda: European colonialism and the African Resistance to the Scramble for Africa" (1987), and "W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader" (1995).
1943 - Leslie Uggams is born in Washington Heights, New York. She will make her acting debut on television's "Beulah" and be a regular on The Mitch Miller Show before achieving acclaim in Broadway's "Hallelujah Baby" and TV's "Roots."
1943 - A riot, started by white workers, occurs in a Mobile, Alabama shipyard over the job upgrading of twelve African American workers.
1959 - The U.S. Supreme Court declares a Louisiana law enforcing a ban on bouts between African American and white boxers to be unconstitutional.
1963 - The first observance of African Liberation Day occurs. It begins at the founding conference of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
1964 - The closing of schools to avoid desegregation is ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Prince Edward County, Virginia will have to reopen and desegregate its schools.
1965 - A very short heavyweight title fight occurs in Lewiston, Maine. Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) knocks out challenger, Sonny Liston, in one minute and 56 seconds of the first round. Liston never sees the punch coming. Neither did an unbelieving crowd at ringside, nor those in theatres all over the world watching the fight on closed-circuit TV.
1971 - A young African American woman, Jo Etha Collier, joins the ancestors after being killed in Drew, Mississippi by a bullet fired from a passing car. Three whites are arrested on May 26 and charged with the unprovoked attack.
1994 - The United Nations Security Council lifts a 10-year-old ban on weapons exports from South Africa, ending the last of its apartheid-era embargos.
1870 - The
first civil rights Enforcement Act, which protects the voting and civil rights of African
Americans, is passed by Congress. It provides stiff penalties for public officials
and private citizens who deprive citizens of the suffrage and civil rights. The
measure authorizes the use of the U.S. Army to protect these rights.
1909 - The first NAACP conference is held at the United Charities Building in New York City with 300 African Americans and whites in attendance. Ida B. Wells-Barnett, while speaking at the conference, condemns lynching as a "blight upon our nation, mocking our laws and disgracing our Christianity."
1917 - One of the first jazz records, "The Darktown Strutter's Ball," is released. It was written by songwriter and musician, Shelton Brooks. It will become Brooks' most famous song.
1933 - Shirley Verrett is born in New Orleans, Louisiana. She will become an operatic mezzo-soprano known worldwide for her compelling performance in Carmen. She will be a star at the world s great opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, the Bolshoi Opera, the Paris Opera, the San Francisco Opera, the Vienna Staatsoper, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She will appear at the Metropolitan opera for more than two decades. She will be the recipient of many honors and awards, among them the Marian Anderson Award, Naumburg Award, and the Sullivan Award; and fellowships from numerous foundations including Ford, John Hay Whitney, and Martha Baird Rockefeller. She will receive honorary doctorates from Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Northeastern University in Boston. She will join the faculty at the University of Michigan in 1996, becoming the James Earl Jones Distinguished University Professor of Music.
1955 - The U.S. Supreme Court passes a second desegregation ruling, demanding "all deliberate speed" be used in the desegregation of public schools.
1961 - Judge Irving Kaufman orders the Board of Education of New Rochelle, New York to integrate their schools.
1961 - Chuck Berry's amusement park, Berryland, opens near St. Louis, Missouri.
1979 - Zimbabwe proclaims its independence.
1987 - John Dotson is named publisher of the Boulder, Colorado, "Daily Camera." It is one of many distinctions for the noted journalist, including being the first African American reporter for Newsweek magazine and founding, in the mid-1970's, the Institute for Journalism Education, dedicated to training minority journalists.
1989 - Cito Gaston is named manager of the Toronto Blue Jays of baseball's American League.
Updated by K. Ferguson Kelly: May 26, 2003