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1778*
On this date, poetess Phyllis or (Phillis) Wheatley was freed by her master, John Wheatley. A child of seven or eight, she was sold to John and Susanna Wheatley of Boston on July 11, 1761. Her first name was apparently derived from the ship that carried her to America, The Phillis.

Black America’s first renowned poet, Phyllis Wheatley, was freed and her first book of poetry was published. The book—”Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral”—was widely acclaimed in both America and Europe. Wheatley was born in West Africa but brought to America as a slave at the age of seven. Unfortunately, she would die in poverty in December 1784.

*This date is in dispute by many sources. According to About.com, this date would be incorrect. About.com states, “When her master died in March of 1778, she was effectively, if not legally, freed from the bonds of slavery by her master’s will.


1813
John Fremont was born on this date. He was a European-American soldier, politician and abolitionist.

From Savannah, Georgia, educated at Charleston College, he taught mathematics before joining the Army Topographical Engineers Corps in 1838. Among other field services, in 1842 Fremont mapped most of the Oregon Trail and climbed the second highest peak in the Wind River Mountains, afterwards known as Fremont Peak. Fremont made many expeditions; in 1845 he explored the Great Basin and the Pacific coast.

When the Mexican War started, Fremont was given the rank of major in the United States Army and helped annex California. Commodore Robert Stockton appointed Fremont as governor of California. In 1850 Fremont was elected as senator for California. A strong opponent of slavery, Fremont helped found the Republican Party and in 1856 was chosen as its first presidential candidate. With the outbreak of the American Civil War he was appointed as a Major General in the Union Army and put in command of the newly created Western Department based in St. Louis.

On August 30, 1861, Freemont proclaimed that all slaves owned by Confederates in Missouri were free. Lincoln was furious and asked him to modify his order; Fremont refused claiming that “it would imply that I myself thought it wrong and that I had acted without reflection which the gravity of the point demanded.” Lincoln was urged to dismiss him. He was replaced Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, wrote an open letter to Lincoln defending Fremont and criticizing the president for failing to make slavery the dominant issue of the war and compromising moral principles for political motives.

Lincoln famously replied: “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it.” Fremont spent the rest of the war in New York. In May 1864 a convention of Radical Republications selected Fremont as their candidate for president. The idea of a radical candidate standing in the election worried Lincoln and negotiations began to persuade him to change his mind.

His price was the removal of his old enemy, Montgomery Blair, from the Cabinet. On September 22, 1864, Fremont withdrew from the contest. The following day, Lincoln sacked Blair and replaced him with the radical, William Dennison. After the Civil War Fremont became involved in and failed at railroad financing and building. He (then) became governor of Arizona Territory from 1873 to 1883. Fremont wrote several books including several about his expeditions and his autobiography, Memories of My Life 1887. John Fremont died in New York City on July 13, 1890.


1824
Osai Tutu Kwamina defeated the British at Assamaka, Ashanti.


1827   
Freedom Journal, the first Black paper, is published.


1830
The African American population in Portsmouth, Ohio was forcibly deported by order of city officials.


1841
The Portland (Maine) Anti-Slavery Society was founded.
-Digital History: Using New Technologies to Enhance Teaching and Research, History Day by Day, http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/daybyday/daybyday_menu.cfm


1891
P.D. Smith, inventor, patented the potato digger on this date. This instrument helped with efficiency and increased the harvest of potatoes.


1906
On this date, Willa Brown-Chappell was born. She was an African-American aviator, activist, and educator and the first Black officer in the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).

From Glasgow, Kentucky, Willa Mae Brown received her Bachelor of Science degree in business from Indiana State Teachers College in 1927. After graduating, she taught public school in Gary, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois, where she developed an interest in aviation.

In 1935, Brown received a master mechanics certificate from the Aeronautical University in Chicago, and three years later received a private pilot’s license with a near flawless score of 96 percent. She then earned a masters’ in business administration (MBA) from Northwestern University and a Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) ground school instructor’s rating. When Brown married Cornelius Coffey, the two formed the Coffey School of Aeronautics to train African-American pilots.

Willa Brown retired in 1971 as a schoolteacher, and she died of a stroke in 1992.


1913
Fanny M. Jackson Coppin, principal of the Institute for Colored Youth, died in Philadelphia. This pioneering great author, educator, activist, spiritual leader, missionary, and lecturer was born a slave in Washington, DC in 1835. She attended Oberlin College of Ohio, where she graduated in 1865, becoming the first African American woman to graduate from an American college. Mrs. Coppin was active in a strong Black women’s rights movement that was designed to improve their overall welfare and broaden their opportunities. In this capacity, she taught, organized, and lectured as a prominent and zealous advocate of racial and sexual equality. Coppin State College (now University) in Baltimore, Maryland was named after her.


1913
Nina M. McKinney was born on this date. She was an African-American actress and entertainer; she was the first Black actress to make her name in American cinema.

From Lancaster, South Carolina, her grandmother raised Nina Mae McKinney near the estate of Col. LeRoy Sanders, where her family had worked for several generations. When she was twelve, her parents (living in New York) sent for her. Her career as an entertainer began at the age of sixteen when she performed in the chorus line of Lew Leslies Blackbirds. Her performance raised eyebrows and she was cast for a role in Hallelujah, 1929, directed by King Vidor.

It was in this role that McKinney originated the stereotype “Black Temptress” that has haunted Black actresses to this very day. Critics described her characterization of Chick as “half woman, half child.” She was only seventeen years old at the time, young, beautiful, and on the strength of this performance McKinney was given a five-year contract with Metro-Golden-Mayer (MGM). It was here that she fell into the exploitation and oppression common to African-American women in Hollywood. McKinney was a leading lady in an industry that had no leading roles for a Black woman.

MGM did not know what to do with her and as a result she was cast in only two films, Safe in Hell, 1931 and Reckless, 1935; both of which were small parts and when her contract expired so did her career in Hollywood. She toured Europe in 1929 with pianist Garland Wilson. They performed in Paris and London. Billed as the “Black Garbo’” she was well received by audiences across the abroad. McKinney twice starred with Paul Robeson in Congo Road and the English film Sander of the River, 1935. She appeared in many independent films in America including Pie Pie Blackbird with Eubie Blake.

In 1940 she toured the United States with her own jazz band after marrying musician Jimmy Monroe, her last film was Pinky 1949. Nina McKinney died in New York on May 3, 1967.


1920
Errol Walton Barrow, PC, QC was born on this date. He was a Barbadian politician.

From Barbados at Nesfield, St. Lucy he was the son of Rev. Reginald Grant Barrow and Ruth nee O’Neal. Young Barrow was also the nephew of legendary Dr. Charles Duncan O’Neal, founder of the Democratic League. In 1939, he won a scholarship in Classics to Codrington College but joined the Royal Air Force and served in World War II. He was personal navigation officer to the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army at the Rhine between 1940 and 1942. After the RAF, Barrow studied law and passed the Bar in 1949.

He returned home in 1950 as a practicing barrister-at-law and became a member of the Barbados Labor Party (BLP) in 1951. A founder member of the Democratic Labor Party, Barrow swept to power in 1961 and held that position for five years. He then took the island into independence from Britain and became Barbados’ first Prime Minister in 1966 until 1976. During his term in office Barrow sought a new social democratic state and was able to expand free education to all levels; he introduced a National Insurance, improved health services, accelerated industrial development and the expansion of the tourist industry.

Barrow received many awards among them were an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law from Mc Gill University in Canada in 1966 and the Lions International “Head of State Award” for ‘outstanding service to the country’ in 1967. He was made a Privy Councilor in 1968 and in 1969 wrote Canada’s Role in the West Indies.’ In 1986, he again let his party to power by the largest margin in Barbados’ history. On June 1, 1987 after only one year in office, Errol Barrow died.

In his honor Barbadians observe his birthday as a National holiday and have a constant reminder of his life and service in his likeness which is widely circulated on the island’s fifty dollar bill, popularly known as ‘an Errol’.


1921
Toni Stone was born on this date. She was an African-American professional baseball player.

Born
Marcenia Lyle Alberga in St. Paul, Minnesota, as a teenager she played with the local boys’ teams in her hometown. During World War II she moved to San Francisco, playing first with an AAGPBL American Legion team, then moving to the San Francisco Sea Lions, a Black, semi-pro barnstorming team; she drove in two runs in her first at-bat.

The AAGPBL was segregated throughout its 12 year existence even though their male counterparts integrated in 1947, their fifth year of play. She didn’t feel that the owner was paying her what they’d originally agreed on, so when the team played in New Orleans, she switched and joined the Black Pelicans. From there she went to the New Orleans Creoles, part of the Negro League minors, where she made $300 a month in 1949. The local Black Press reported that she made several unassisted double plays, and batted .265.

In 1953, the Indianapolis Clowns, signed Stone to play second base, a position that had been recently vacated when the Boston Braves signed Hank Aaron. This contract made Stone the first woman to play in the Negro Leagues. The Clowns had begun as a gimmick team, much like the Harlem Globetrotters, known as much for their showmanship as their playing. But by the ‘50s they had toned down their antics and were playing straight baseball. Having a woman on the team didn’t hurt revenues, which had been declining steadily since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the majors, and many young Black players left the Negro Leagues.

In 1954, her contract was sold to the Kansas City Monarchs, one of the stronger teams in the Negro Leagues. But a lack of playing time led Stone to retire that season. Toni Stone died in 1996.


1933
The All Black American Bridge Association was founded.


1937
On this date, “Big Band” leader
Count Basie and his Orchestra recorded their famous “One O’clock Jump” for Decca Records. On this same date in 1942, he re-recorded it for Okeh Records in New York City.


1938
Jack and Jill of America, Inc. was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by Marion Turner Stubbs Thomas. Dedicated to providing educational, cultural, civic, and social programs for African American youth, Jack and Jill grew to have 180 chapters nationwide.


1941
Richard “Richie” P. Havens was born on this date. He is an African-American singer and song writer.

Born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, the eldest of nine children, Havens moved to Greenwich Village in 1961. During this time he began performing with the folk boom taking place in the 1960’s. It was as a live performer, that he first earned widespread notice. Influenced in his early days by Nina Simone, Havens had a distinctive style as a folksinger, appearing in such clubs as the Cafe Wha? He would strum his guitar while barring chords with his thumb, using it basically as percussion while singing rhythmically in a gruff voice for an interesting style. Havens signed with Douglas Records in 1965 and recorded two albums.

In 1967, the Verve division of MGM Records formed a folk section (Verve Forecast) and signed Havens and other folk-based performers. The result was his third album, Mixed Bag. It wasn’t until 1968 that Havens began to hit the charts with the Something Else Again album. In 1969 came the memorable double album Richard P. Havens 1983. His career benefited enormously from his appearance at the Woodstock festival in 1969, his role in the movie and the album made from the concert in 1970. His first album after that exposure, Alarm Clock made the Top 30 and produced a Top 20 single in “Here Comes the Sun.” These recordings were Havens’ commercial high-water mark, and by this time he had become an international touring success.

Richie played the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival, the January, 1968 Woody Guthrie Memorial Concert at Carnegie Hall, the December, 1968 Miami Pop Festival, the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, and of course, the 1969 Woodstock festival in upstate New York. By the end of the ‘70s, he had abandoned recording and turned entirely to live work.

Havens came back to records in 1987: a new album, Simple Things; an album of Bob Dylan and Beatles covers; and a compilation. In 1991, Havens signed his first major-label deal in 15 years when he moved to Sony Music and released his recording Now. He is an author writing “They Can’t Hide Us Anymore.” Between book signings, Havens is plays several concerts and headed back to Woodstock for the 30th anniversary. In 2002, he recorded his album Wishing Well and Havens still performs concerts year round.


1942
Edwin Starr was born on this date. He was an African-American musician and entertainer.

Born Charles Hatcher in Nashville, Tennessee, his cousin was deep soul singer and songwriter Roger Hatcher. He moved from Nashville as a child to Cleveland where as a teen stated his own vocal group the Future Tones. In 1960, he went into the Armed forces where he entertained troops around Europe. In 1962, after completing military service he moved to Detroit, Michigan.

By the middle of the decade he was recording on the RicTic label under Ed Wingate. He was recruited into the Bill Doggett combo where Doggett’s manager, Don Briggs said that one day he was going to be a star. That’s when Edwin recruited the name Starr to be his last name, and taking his middle name Edwin for his first name. Starr first made his music reputation with “Agent Double-O-Soul,” which hit the R&B Top Ten later in 1965, and just missed the pop Top 20. Starr capitalized on the song’s novelty appeal by appearing on-stage in a spy costume complete with toy gun, but proved he was no one-trick pony by returning to the Top Ten a year later with “Stop Her on Sight (S.O.S.).”

Then his contract was transferred to Motown, he instantly became one of the roughest, toughest vocalists on the crossover-friendly label, with his debt to James Brown and the Stax soul shouters. Contract negotiations took time, but Starr rebounded with his biggest hit yet in 1969’s “25 Miles,” which reached the Top Ten on both the pop and R&B charts. The follow-up, “I’m Still a Struggling Man,” wasn’t as successful, and Starr was something of a forgotten man for several months. He returned to the studio with producer Norman Whitfield, who’d been reinventing the Temptations as a psychedelic soul group.

Whitfield had co-written a raucous anti-war protest song, “War,” for the Temps’ Psychedelic Shack LP. Whitfield re-did “War” with Starr, resulting in perhaps the most provocative song Motown ever released. It zoomed to the top of the pop charts in 1970, and its chorus driven by Starr’s throaty delivery remains a catch phrase even today. The follow-up single, “Stop the War Now,” was obviously copied, but made the R&B Top Five anyway, and Starr went on to land another significant hit with “Funky Music Sho’ Nuff Turns Me On.” In 1974, he did the soundtrack to the Blaxploitation film Hell Up in Harlem, a sequel to the James Brown-scored Black Caesar (Brown had originally been scheduled to do the follow-up). He charted again in 1975 with “Pain,” and left the label with “Who’s Right or Wrong.” He found a new home on 20th Century in 1978.

Here he briefly reinvented himself as a disco singer, achieving with 1979’s “Contact” and “H.A.P.P.Y. Radio.” Starr moved to the U.K. during the ‘80s, recording a Marvin Gaye tribute album and a handful of singles until 1986. His participation in the Ferry Aid charity project led to a deal with the production team of Stock, Aitken & Waterman, but he didn’t take to their high-tech dance-pop style and instead moved to Ian Levine’s Motown revival label Motorcity until 1991. He worked on dance remakes of his past hits by Utah Saints (“Funky Music”) and Three Amigos (“25 Miles”).

Edwin Starr died at his home near the central city of Nottingham, England on April 2, 2003.


1942
“Big Band” leader
Count Basie and his Orchestra recorded their famous “One O’clock Jump” for Okeh Records in New York City. Prior to this, in 1937 on this date, he recorded it for Decca Records.


1950
Leslie Sebastien Charles was born in Fyzabad, Trinidad. He immigrated to England at the age of eight and later became a popular singer known as “Billy Ocean.” He released hits such as “Suddenly,” “Caribbean Queen,” “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” “When The Going Gets
Tough, The Tough Get Going” (which was featured in the movie, The Jewel Of The Nile), and “To Make You Cry.”


1951
On this date, Eric Holder was born in New York City of immigrant parents from Barbados. Attended Stuyvesant High School—one of New York City’s top public high schools—and Columbia University. In 1993, nominated by President Clinton and confirmed as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, the nation’s largest U.S. Attorney office. Four years later, became Deputy Attorney General. He was the first black person to serve in both positions. In 2009, after the historic election of President Barack Obama, the first African American to be elected president of the United State, Holder became first African American.


1961
On this date,
Ahmed Sékou Touré was elected to a seven-year term as president of the Republic of Guinea. As leader of the PDG he was the only candidate. He was reelected unopposed in 1968, 1974 and 1982. Every five years, a single list of PDG candidates was returned to the National Assembly.

He remains an icon of liberation in the wider African community. Touré served for some time as a representative of African groups in France, where he worked to negotiate for the independence of France’s African colonies.

In 1958 Touré’s RDA section of the Democratic Party of Guinea-African Democratic Rally (Parti Démocratique de Guinée-Rassemblement Démocratique Africain) (PDG-RDA), a political party in Guinea, pushed for a “No” in the French Union referendum sponsored by the French government, and was the only one of France's African colonies to vote for immediate independence rather than continued association with France. Guinea became the only French colony to refuse to become part of the new French Community. In the event the rest of Francophone Africa gained its independence only two years later in 1960, but the French were extremely vindictive against Guinea: withdrawing abruptly, taking files, destroying infrastructure, and breaking political and economic ties.

In this year, he declared his PDG to be the only legal party. For the next 24 years, Touré effectively held all governing power in the nation.

During his presidency Touré led a strong policy based on Marxism, with the nationalization of foreign companies and strong planned economics. He won the Lenin Peace Prize as a result in 1961. Most of the opposition to his socialist regime was arrested and jailed or exiled. His early actions to reject the French and then to appropriate wealth and farmland from traditional landlords angered many powerful forces, but the increasing failure of his government to provide either economic opportunities or democratic rights angered more. While still revered in much of Africa and in the Pan-African movement, many Guineans, and activists of the Left and Right in Europe, have become critical of Touré's failure to institute meaningful democracy or free media.

Opposition to single party rule grew slowly, and by the late 1960s those who opposed his government faced fear of detention camps and secret police. His detractors often had two choices—say nothing or go abroad. From 1965 to 1975 he ended all his relations with France, the former colonial power. Touré argued that Africa had lost much during colonization, and that Africa ought to retaliate by cutting off ties to former colonial nations. Only in 1978, as Guinea's ties with the Soviet Union soured, President of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing first visited Guinea as a sign of reconciliation.

Throughout his dispute with France, Guinea maintained good relations with several socialist countries. However, Touré’s attitude toward France was not generally well received, and some African countries ended diplomatic relations with Guinea over the incident. Despite this, Touré's move won the support of many anti-colonialist and Pan-African groups and leaders.

Touré’s primary allies in the region were Presidents Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Modibo Keita of Mali. After Nkrumah was overthrown in a 1966 coup, Touré offered him a refuge in Guinea and made him co-president. As a leader of the Pan-Africanist movement, he consistently spoke out against colonial powers, and befriended leaders from the African diaspora such as Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, to whom he offered asylum (and who took the two leaders names, as Kwame Ture).[8] He, with Nkrumah, helped in the formation of the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, and aided the PAIGC guerrillas in their fight against Portuguese colonialism in neighboring Portuguese Guinea. The Portuguese launched an attack upon Conakry in 1970 in order to rescue Portuguese Prisioners of War (POW), overthrow Touré's regime and destroy PAIGC bases. They succeeded in everything but the overthrow.

Relations with the United States fluctuated during the course of Touré’s reign. While Touré was unimpressed with the Eisenhower administration's approach to Africa, he came to consider President John F. Kennedy a friend and an ally. He even came to state that Kennedy was his “only true friend in the outside world.” He was impressed by Kennedy’s interest in African development and commitment to civil rights in the United States. Touré blamed Guinean labor unrest in 1962 on Soviet interference and turned to the United States.

Relations with Washington soured, however, after Kennedy’s death. When a Guinean delegation was imprisoned in Ghana, after the overthrow of Nkrumah, Touré blamed Washington. He feared that the Central Intelligence Agency was plotting against his own regime. Over time, Touré's increasing paranoia led him to arrest large numbers of suspected political opponents and imprison them in camps, such as the notorious Camp Boiro National Guard Barracks. Some 50,000 people are believed to have been killed under the regime of Touré in concentration camps like Camp Boiro. Tens of thousands of Guinean dissidents sought refuge in exile. Once Guinea’s rapprochement with France began in the late 1970s, another section of his support, Marxists, began to oppose his government's increasing move to capitalist liberalisation. In 1978 he formally renounced Marxism and reestablished trade with the West.

Single-list elections for an expanded National Assembly were held in 1980. Touré was elected unopposed to a fourth seven-year term as president on May 9, 1982. A new constitution was adopted that month, and during the summer Touré visited the United States as part of an economic policy reversal that found Guinea seeking Western investment to develop its huge mineral reserves. Measures announced in 1983 brought further economic liberalization, including the relegation of produce marketing to private traders.

Touré died on March 26, 1984 while undergoing cardiac treatment at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.


1963
Akeem Abdul Olajuwon was born in Lagos, Nigeria on this date. He became one of five boys born to his parents with one sister. He came to the United States and played collegiate basketball for the University of Houston. He was selected by the Houston Rockets in the first round (first pick overall) of the 1984 NBA Draft. After twelve years of play in the NBA, he was selected in 1996 as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. Olajuwon will added an “H” to his first name on March 9, 1991 and became an United States citizen on April 2, 1993. The University of Houston retired his jersey, #34, on February 12, 1997.


1964
Carl T. Rowan, journalist, ambassador, and author, was named director of the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), a position that made him the highest-ranking Black in the federal government, on this day. By virtue of his position, he also becomes the first African American to sit on the National Security Council.

Born August 11, 1925, in McMinnville, TN, Rowan received his B.A. from Oberlin College in Ohio and earned his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. His career began in 1950 as a staff writer for the Minneapolis Tribune. In 1961 he joined the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., as deputy assistant for public affairs. Later, he became the U.S. ambassador to Finland before he joined the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) as director. The USIA, which has merged with the State Department, functions overseas and describes America’s actions and principle to the rest of the world through TV, newspapers, information centers, and “The Voice of America” radio network. Rowan wrote several books, including Wait Till Next Year, Between Us Blacks, and Breaking Barriers, and went on to become a nationally syndicated columnist. He died of natural causes on September 23, 2000.


1965
Jam Master Jay was born on this date. He was an African-American disc jockey, and musician specializing in Rap and Hip-Hop.

Jason William Mizell, (his birth name) was from the Hollis section of Queens, New York and was a founding member of the pioneering rap trio Run DMC. Mizell was the platinum-selling group’s disc jockey, providing background for singers Joseph Simmons, better known as Run, and Darryl McDaniels, better known as DMC. The group is widely credited with helping bring hip-hop into music’s mainstream, including the group’s smash collaboration with Aerosmith on the 1980s standard “Walk This Way” and hits like “Peter Piper” and “It’s Tricky.” Uniquely, Run DMC and their songs were never about violence.

In 1986, the trio said they were outraged by the rise of fatal gang violence in the Los Angeles area. They called for a day of peace between warring street gangs. “This is the first town where you feel the gangs from the minute you step into town to the time you leave,” Mizell said at the time. The group promoted education and unity. In “It’s Tricky,” they sang: “We are not thugs (we don’t use drugs) but you assume (on your own); they offer coke (and lots of dope) but we just leave it alone.”

Mizell said in a 2001 interview with MTV, “We always knew rap was for everyone, anyone could rap over all kinds of music.” Jason Mizell was shot and killed on October 30, 2002 at his recording studio near the New York neighborhood where he grew up. Mizell was married and had three children. Doctor Dre, a New York radio station DJ who had been friends with Mizell since the mid-1980s, said, “This is not a person who went out looking for trouble. He’s known as a person that builds, that creates and is trying to make the right things happen.”

Mizell often let local musicians record for free at the studio, and had remained in Queens to give back to the community.


1971
Twelve members of the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the State of the Union address of President Richard M. Nixon. The African-American representatives had accused Nixon of a “consistent refusal” to respond to the needs of Black Americans. Nixon would later be forced from office as a result of the Watergate scandal.


1982
Blues guitar singer
B.B. King donated his entire record collection to the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. The collection included about 7,000 rare blues records he played when he worked as a disc jockey in Memphis. Born Riley B. King, he called himself the “Beale Street Blues Boy,” later shortened to “B.B.” B.B. King is considered one of the most influential blues musicians in history.


1990
Quincy Jones was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his contribution to music as a trumpeter, composer, arranger, and record producer. In 2001, he was given the rank of commander, becoming the first American-born musician to be given the rank of commander after he was made a chevalier of the Legion in 1990.


2001
Dr. Rod Paige was confirmed as the Secretary of Education by the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African-American to serve in that capacity.


2007
At approximately 6:00 PM EST in Chicago’s Soldier Field,
Lovie Smith became the first African-American to coach an NFL team to win the George S. Halas Trophy for winning the National Football Conference (NFC) that qualified for the Super Bowl when the Chicago Bears defeated the New Orleans Saints 39–14 and, at approximately 10:00 PM EST, Tony Dungy became the second African-American head coach of an NFL team to qualify for the Super Bowl when the Indianapolis Colts defeated the New England Patriots 38–34 in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Dungy, thus became the first African American NFL head coach to win the Lamar Hunt Trophy for the Colts becoming the American Football Conference (AFC) Champions.

After taking 41 years, it wasn’t all that long ago that the NFL’s best jobs were off-limits to blacks. Never mind that three-quarters of the league’s rosters were filled with black players. There were qualified black assistants; yet when the time came to hire a new coach, they were passed over, time and again. Meanwhile, white coaches who had done little to distinguish themselves in their previous two or three jobs got additional chances. It was the old boy’s network based on race.

There’s been some progress over the last two decades and it took an active hand by former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to move it along. Art Shell, Dennis Green, Tony Dungy, and Herman Edwards, earlier coaches at the time, all paved the way for Smith. Unfortunately for Smith, he and the Bears would go on to lose the Super Bowl to Dungy who would become the first African American NFL coach to win a Super Bowl.


2008
On this date, about
50 white separatists protested the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in Jena, LA.

Police separated participants in the “pro-majority” rally organized by the Learned, MS based Nationalist Movement from a racially mixed group of about 100 counter-demonstrators outside the LaSalle Parish Courthouse. There was no violence and one arrest, a counter-demonstrator. Chants of “No KKK” from the mostly college-age counter-demonstrators were met with a chant from the separatists that contained a racial nickname.

At one point, dozens of state police forced back about 10 people, dressed in New Black Panther uniforms, who had gathered around a podium where the separatist group’s leader Richard Barrett was to speak. Race relations in Jena (population about 2,800) have been in the news ever since six black teenagers were arrested in the beating of a white classmate at Jena High School in December 2006.


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