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(Circa) 100 AD
It is believed that it was approximately 2,000 years ago today that the East African nation of Ethiopia—possibly the oldest civilization in world history—began celebrating Christmas. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church says Jesus was born on January 7 and the celebration is known as Ganna (or Genna). The Ethiopian royal family can trace its origins to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba in the Christian Bible.


1822
A colony of free African Americans sent to Africa by the American Colonization Society is established on the west coast of Africa. It is the beginning of the African-American colonization of Liberia. This colony will become the independent nation of Liberia in 1847.


1840
Joseph Cinque and slaves, who seized the slave ship Amistad and killed its captain and most of its crew, were tried for murder and mutiny in New Haven, CT beginning on this date. The court found that they had the right to resist slavery.


1868
The Mississippi Constitutional Convention convenes in Jackson. It is attended by seventeen African Americans and eighty-three whites.


1868
The Arkansas Constitutional Convention convenes in Little Rock. It is attended by eight African Americans and forty-three whites.


1890
Black inventor William B. Purvis patents the fountain pen. Prior to Purvis, anyone using a fountain pen had to carry a bottle of ink around with them. In addition to the fountain pen, the Philadelphia resident also invented and patented a bag fastener (April 25, 1882), a hand stamp, an electric railway device and a magnetic car balancing device. His patent number is #419,065. Of the sixteen patents Purvis received most were sold to the Union Paper Bag Company of New York.


1891
Zora Neale Hurston was born on this date in Notasulga, Alabama. (For reasons known only to her, she claimed 1901 as her birth year and the all-Black town of Eatonville, Florida as her birthplace.) She was an African-American writer and folklorist.

Accordingly, Zora’s parents were John Hurston and Lucy Potts Hurston. Her mother died when she was a child. The family moved to Eatonville, in 1917, she moved from Eatonville to Baltimore, Maryland due to some problems at home. She obtained her formal education from Morgan Academy, Howard Prep School, Howard University and Barnard College. While she was at Barnard, her mentor was Frank Boas, a famous anthropologist. She also attended Columbia University, where she studied anthropology.


Hurston returned to Florida after college for an anthropological field study that influenced her later output in fiction and folklore. Hurston also collected folklore in Jamaica, Haiti, Bermuda, and Honduras. As a fiction writer, Hurston is noted for her symbolic language, story-telling abilities, and her interest in and celebration of Southern Black culture in the United States.

As her life moved on to writing became one of the more influential writers of the great period of Black artistic achievement of the 1920s and 1930s, the Harlem Renaissance. She became known for her novels, one of which was Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) and her folklore collections, including Of Mules and Men (1935), remains one of the few writings to chronicle folk tales thoroughly. Some of other works were Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934), Tell My Horse (1938), and Dust Tracks on a Road (1942). Her best-known novel is Their Eyes Were Watching God, in which she tracked a Southern black woman’s search, over 25 years and 3 marriages, for her true identity. Hurston’s writings, in addition to novels, included short stories, plays, journal articles, and an autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. She consistently addressed issues of race and gender, often relating them to the search for freedom.

In addition to her writing, Hurston was an anthropologist. Sadly, later in life, Zora became destitute in her finances as well as her health. She died at the St. Lucie County Welfare home on January 28, 1960 and was buried in an unmarked grave and unrecognized by the literary community. In the 1970s, many of her writings were rediscovered and republished. Alice Walker, an African American novelist, discovered her grave and put a grave marker on the site in 1973.


1892
A mine explosion kills 100 in Krebs, Oklahoma. African Americans, trying to help rescue white survivors, are driven away at gunpoint.


1907
The birth of Mae Barnes is celebrated on this date. She was an African-American dancer and singer whose basic swinging approach fell between jazz and middle-of-the-road pop music.

From New York City,
Edith May Stith (her name at birth) grew up in Manhattan. At age 12 she dropped out of school, moved to Cleveland and got a job as a chorus girl at the Plantation Club in Harlem. She toured the South as a vaudeville performer and in 1924 made her Broadway start in the revue “Runnin’ Wild.” The show introduced the Charleston to Broadway. As a stage performer, Barnes was nicknamed “the bronze Ann Pennington,” after the Broadway star.

Her dancing in the national tour of “Shuffle Along,” led Bill Robinson to call her “the greatest living female tap dancer.” A car accident in 1938 fractured her pelvis and she turned to singing. As her cabaret career developed, she moved from dumps to more upscale New York clubs like Cerutti, the Little Casino and the Blue Angel. In the early 1950s she became the main draw of the Bon Soir, the cellar club in Greenwich Village.

A favorite of high society, she frequently performed at Elsa Maxwell’s parties and counted the Duke and Duchess of Windsor among her friends. In 1950, Barnes also appeared in the “Ziegfeld Follies” that closed in Boston. Her final Broadway appearance was in 1954 in “By the Beautiful Sea,” starring Shirley Booth. She continued to do shows in clubs around the world into the 1960s and recorded for Atlantic and Vanguard Records.

Barnes was famous for her special material, songs like “(I Ain’t Gonna Be No) Topsy,” a statement of Black pride and for her mocking interpolations into familiar lyrics; she loved to poke fun at the songs of the day. Mae Barnes died of cancer in Boston on December 13, 1996.



1908
Henry “Red” Allen Jr. was born on this date. He was an African-American Trumpet player and singer.

He was the only child of Henry and Juretta Allen. The Elder Allen was the leader of the Allen Brass Band of Algiers, Louisiana, found directly across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. As a teenager he played in his father’s band, with George Lewis, the Excelsior Band and with the Sam Morgan Band. In 1926 he left New Orleans to play with Sidney Desvigne’s Southern Syncopaters on the riverboat Island Queen which ran between St. Louis and Cincinnati.

In 1927 he toured with King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators; the work didn’t go well for Oliver, the band broke up in New York though Allen made his first recordings during that time with Clarence Williams. Allen returned to New Orleans and played with Fats Pichon and then joined Fate Marable on the Strekfus riverboat Capitol until 1928. After a contract offer from Victor records and jobs by both Duke Ellington and Luis Russell, he returned to New York. The next year, he made several recordings under his own name for Victor until 1933. He then joined the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra, replacing Rex Stewart as the group’s featured soloist. During this time period Allen made several popular recordings with Coleman Hawkins, where he sang and played trumpet.

Starting in 1934 he joined Mills Blue Rhythm Band until he left them in 1937 to rejoin Luis Russell’s band which was fronted by Louis Armstrong at that time. He stayed with them until 1940 when he began leading small groups in New York nightclubs and played on records by Jelly Roll Morton, and Sidney Bechet. He continued to record his own records, as well as tour with Billie Holiday, and others throughout the 1940s. In the 1950s and 1960s Allen remained active recording with his old friends George Lewis, Coleman Hawkins, and with Kid Ory. Red continued playing up until his death on April 17, 1967 from pancreatic cancer.



1911
Thelma “Butterfly” McQueen is born in Tampa, Florida. She will be educated in Augusta, Georgia and Long Island, New York. After graduation, she will study dance, joining the Venezuela Jones Negro Youth Group.  After performing in the “Butterfly Ballet” (in a 1935 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) McQueen will be dubbed---and forever referred to as---“Butterfly”. She will make her stage debut in George Abbot’s “Brown Sugar”, and soon after, in 1939, she will appear as Lulu in “The Women” and in her most famous role, Prissy in “Gone with the Wind.” She will join the ancestors on December 22, 1995.


1917
Ulysses Kay was born on this date. He was an African-American musician and composer.

From Tucson, Arizona he was the son of Elizabeth Davis Kay and Ulysses S. Kay, and he had one sister. He also was the nephew of the New Orleans jazz legend and cornet player, Joe “King” Oliver, who influenced him in his formative years. Kay’s father was a barber who loved to sing. His mother, Elizabeth, played the piano. His father used to sing ballads, hymns, work songs, and songs he created to his son to keep him entertained. His sister played Chopin, on the piano in their home. His uncle, Joe determined that young Kay should study the piano which he did with William A. Ferguson. He learned to play the violin and the saxophone while he was a student at Dunbar Junior High School.

At Tucson Senior High School, he played in the marching band, sang in the glee club, and played saxophone in jazz orchestras. In 1938 he received his bachelor of music degree with training in public school music from the University of Arizona. There Kay encountered the music of pianist Bela Bartok as part of his piano study with Julia Rebeil, and he was schooled in music theory under John L. Lowell at the university. He later said that those experiences gave him a completely new perspective on the field of music composition. He received a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and earned a master’s degree in 1940, studying composition with Bernard Rogers and then with Howard Hanson until 1941. One year later Kay enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves and served three and a half years as a musician second class in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. He played the flute, saxophone, and piccolo in the Navy band.

A significant work of Kay’s from this period was the orchestral overture, Of New Horizons in 1944. Kay’s Suite for Orchestra in 1945 received a prize from BMI. The following year, A Short Overture earned the George Gershwin Memorial Award. Kay received the first of many awards designed to give him more time to compose in 1946 and composed Suite, for strings, in 1947. The Alice M. Ditson Fellowship supported him during that time and BMI elected him to full membership. That same year he received the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship and a grant traveled to Europe and composed Portrait Suite. From 1946 through 1949, he attended Columbia University and completed a movie score for the motion picture, The Quiet One and his Concerto for Orchestra was completed in 1948. On August 20, 1949, he married Barbara Harrison. They had three children are Melinda Lillian, Virginia, and Hillary.

From that point until 1952 he lived in Italy, while there he wrote Symphony in E, his first major symphonic work. A consulting position with BMI lasted from 1953 until 1968. During that time he completed his composition Three Pieces After Blake, Six Dances for string orchestra and Serenade for full orchestra followed (1954) and a second one-act opera, Juggler of Our Lady, in 1956. In 1958 Kay went to the Soviet Union on a cultural exchange program with the first delegation of American composers. He ended the decade of the 1950s with a large piece for soprano, baritone, chorus, and orchestra, called Phoebus, Arise. Kay’s first major work of the 1960s was Choral Triptych, for chorus and string orchestra in 1962. In 1963 he wrote “tranquil music,” Fantasy Variations, for orchestra, and Inscriptions from Whitman, for chorus and orchestra. Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois, presented him with an honorary doctorate in music in 1963, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1964--65, while he composed Emily Dickinson Set for women’s chorus and piano.

He wrote the film scores for two television documentaries for The Twentieth Century series on CBS, “F.D.R.: Third Term to Pearl Harbor,” and “Submarine!,” and another documentary called New York: City of Magic. In 1965 Kay was a visiting professor at Boston University. One year later, Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, awarded him his second honorary doctorate in music. In 1966--67 he was a visiting professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. He wrote Markings in 1966, an essay for orchestra that took its title from Dag Hammarskjold’s book, published posthumously. Kay received a permanent appointment to the faculty of the Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York in 1968. That year, the Atlanta Symphony commissioned him to write a piece for them. Theater Set premiered on September 26, 1968.

In 1969 the University of Arizona at Tucson, conferred on him an honorary doctorate in music and he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Illinois Wesleyan University. In 1970 he composed a sextet for woodwinds and piano called Facets. In 1972 he was named Distinguished Professor of Music at Lehman College, where he had been teaching since 1968. Commissions for new works continued to pour in. The Juilliard School of Music commissioned Quintet Concerto in 1973 for five brass soloists and orchestra. For the American bicentennial he wrote four works. Western Paradise, for narrator and orchestra (1975), Southern Harmony on February 10, 1976, Epigrams and Hymn, also in 1976, and Jubilee, based on Margaret Walker’s book of the same title on November 20, 1976.

Kay’s last major work was an opera titled Frederick Douglass, which he completed in 1991. “I have nothing especially other than its expressive content.” He often wrote in a neoclassical style with modern harmonies, like Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Kabalevsky who worked in the Soviet Union, but he could just as easily write in an atonal idiom. Kay’s mature style, according to Eileen Southern in the New Grove Dictionary of American Music, “is characterized by taut but warm melodies, complex polyphony, vibrant harmonic and orchestral coloring, and rhythmic diversity.” Kay benefited from the multitude of achievements of William Grant Still. With more formal education, Kay was able to open doors in the academic world that his predecessor could not.

When still died in 1978, he became the bridge between the self-taught African American composer of European styles and an academic community in the United States. Ulysses S. Kay was one of the most outstanding composers of twentieth-century classical idioms. He died on May 20, 1995, at home in Teaneck, New Jersey.



1919
On this date, Dorothy Lavinia Brown was born. She was an African-American doctor, legislator and the first black female surgeon in the South.

From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when she was five-months old, her unmarried mother placed her in the Troy Orphanage, living there until she was thirteen years old. Brown first became interested in medicine at the age of five when she had her tonsils taken out. In 1932, Browns mother took her out of the orphanage, but they did not get along very well. She ran away from home and was then placed as a mother’s helper in Mrs. W.F. Jarrett’s house where she was encouraged to become a doctor.

After high school, she obtained a scholarship to Bennett College, receiving her Bachelor’s of Arts degree in 1941. In 1944 she enrolled at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee graduating in 1948 in the top third of her class. Brown started as an intern at Harlem hospital in New York, with strong opposition to female Surgeons she was denied a surgical residency; she did not let this stop her from becoming a surgeon. She went back to Meharry and got her a residency there and completed it in 1954. Dorothy Brown became the first African-American female surgeon in the South.

Brown served as the educational director of the Riverside-Meharry Clinical Rotation Program and the chief of surgery at Riverside. She then became the attending surgeon at George W. Hubbard Hospital and professor of surgery at the Meharry Medical College. In addition to her first in southern medicine, she also became the first single woman in Tennessee to adopt a child. Brown named her new daughter Lola Brown in honor of her foster mother.

In 1966 she became the first African-American woman to be elected to the Tennessee State Legislature for a two-year term. She tried in 1968 to run for a seat in the Tennessee Senate, but lost. One of the main reasons she lost the election was her support to liberalize the abortion laws in Tennessee. She was a fellow of the American College of Surgery. She was a past member of the board of trustees at Bennett College. She was also a member of the United Methodist Church as well as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Brown spoke often on panels for scientific, religious, medical, and political topics. She wrote many essays and inspirational guides. She belonged to the United Methodist Church. She has also been given honorary degrees in Humanities form Bennett College and Cumberland University. Dorothy Brown, a pioneering black female surgeon and Tennessee legislator, died of congestive heart failure on June 13, 2004 in Nashville.



1925
Patricia Edwards Walton was born on this date. She was an African-American radio producer and administrator of jazz.

She was born in Kansas City, Missouri. She was one of four children with three sisters; Charlene, Pat (Editha), and Beatrice. After high school Walton worked a number of jobs in her hometown including the public library, drug store, and as a hotel switchboard operator. It was during this time that Walton came in contact the many jazz musicians passing through and playing in what was The City for jazz in the Midwest.

Unable to stay downtown (where they played) due to segregation Walton and her sister Pat made home cooked meals and befriended many of the artists. She came to their performances and many of them became lifelong friends. In the 1960s Walton moved to Washington D.C. and became a mother. Walton worked for the Library of Congress while maintaining her connections with jazz musicians with great food, insightful rapport and a genuine love of this American Classical Music of the Black community. Her relationships with jazz combined personal acquaintances with established artist and those who were up and coming as jazz players.

In the early 1970s she relocated to San Francisco working as an administrative assistant, traveling to plan medical education programs in the Bay area. Walton’s ambassadorship with jazz continued with association with the Bright Moments Music Club, and the San Francisco Bay Area Jazz Society. In 1991, Walton relocated to Minneapolis bringing many years of jazz tradition to the upper-Midwest. She was active in the Twin Cities Jazz Society and hosted her own jazz show for radio called “Mostly Jazz.”

In 1995, her son-in-law Bill joined her in producing and co-hosting the well listened to program. Patricia Walton died on March 23rd, 2003 from complications of pulmonary hypertension and high blood pressure.



1927
The first touring Harlem Globetrotter game is played in Hinckley, Illinois before a crowd of 300 people. It will be a success, bringing in $75 in profit.


1941
Colonel Fredrick Drew Gregory, nephew of Dr. Charles Richard Drew and the first Black astronaut commander of the Space Shuttle, was born on this date.


1948
Ralph Bunche, acting United Nations Mediator in Palestine, announced a cease-fire in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict on this date.\


1950
The James Weldon Johnson Collection officially opens at Yale University. Established in 1941 through a gift by Grace Nail Johnson, widow of the famed author, diplomat and NAACP official, the collection will eventually include the papers of Johnson, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Dubois, Richard Wright, Jean Toomer, Zora Neale Hurston, and many other writers of the Harlem Renaissance.


1955
Operatic sensation Marian Anderson appears as Ulrica in Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (Masked Ball) with the New York Metropolitan Opera. In her debut performance at the Met, Anderson becomes the first African American ever to sing with the company.


1964
The Bahamas achieve internal self-government & cabinet level responsibility.


1976
Dr. Mary Frances Berry was named Chancellor of the University of Colorado on this date, becoming the first woman to serve as Chancellor of a large research university.


1979
Andrew Jackson Young received the 63rd NAACP Spingarn Medal on this date for his work with the UN, for his exemplary service as a U.S. Congressman, and for his uncompromising activism in the Civil Rights Movement.


1985
Lewis Carl Hamilton was born on this date in 1985. He is a Black English Formula One Race Car Driver.

From Stevenage, Hertfordshire, England, his grandparents immigrated to the United Kingdom from Grenada in the 1950s, his grandfather worked on the London Underground. His mother Carmen, and father Anthony (who is now an IT Consultant), named Lewis after the American Olympic gold medal winning athlete Carl Lewis. His parents separated when he was two. Hamilton grew up with his father, step-mother and half-brother Nicholas who suffers from cerebral palsy.

At age six, he began his racing career when his father bought him his first go-kart. He held down three jobs to support his son’s career and still found enough time to attend all of his races. When he was 9, Hamilton predicted that he would one day race for McLaren-Mercedes. Two years later he was signed to McLaren’s development program, while still attending The John Henry Newman School.

In his debut (2001) year Hamilton has set four Formula One records. After he finished second at the 2007 Spanish Grand Prix; he became the youngest driver ever to lead the drivers’ championship. Hamilton gained his first victory at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix on June 10, 2007 and became the first black person to win a Formula One race.



1985
In a 6 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the use of Affirmative Action.


1986
White teens in Howard Beach chased Michael Griffith, an African-American youth, onto a freeway where he was hit by a motorist. Griffith died from his injuries setting off a wave of protests and racial tensions in New York.


2002
Shirley Franklin is sworn in as the first African American Mayor of Atlanta and the only African American female mayor of a major American city.


2003
Thurgood Marshall, a famed civil rights lawyer and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, is honored by the United States Postal Service with the 26th stamp issuance in the Black Heritage Commemorative Series.


2005
On this date, an alleged member of the Ku Klux Klan was arrested.

This was in connection with the 1964 shooting deaths James Chaney, a 21-year-old Black Mississippian, and two white Jewish New Yorkers, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24 in Philadelphia, Miss. 79 year old
Edgar Ray Killen is accused of the murder of the three young men in a case that outraged a nation. In 1967, the Justice Department tried Killen and 18 other men many of them also Klan members on federal civil rights violations. Seven were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 10 years. Killen was freed after his trial ended in a hung jury.

He was arraigned in Neshoba County Court on three counts of murder. Sheriff Larry Myers said that the Killen indictment was the only one he had received related to the Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner murders and any information about possible additional indictments in the case would have to come from prosecutors, who would not comment.

African American congressman Rep. John Lewis who knew the three victims more than 40 years ago said the arrest of a suspect was “a tremendous step down a very long road,” and the arrest, along with the similar reopening of other civil-rights-era cases in recent years, would “have a redeeming effect on the very soul of this region of our country.”


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