The birth of Allen Light is celebrated on this date. He was a black sea mariner.
Born in Philadelphia he arrived in Santa Barbara, CA
about 1830. Light hunted sea otters, gained Mexican citizenship and guarded the
coastline against American and Native American poachers. In part because of
heavily depleted otter populations, the Mexican government instituted
conservation laws in 1830 and prohibited foreigners from both hunting otters
and participating in all coastal trade in Alta California.
George Nidever (a sea otter hunter) and Light got around these laws by hunting
under the license of Captain William Goodwin Dana, a Bostonian who had migrated
to Santa Barbara
and acquired Mexican citizenship. In exchange for the use of his license and
provisions, the otter hunters gave Captain Dana 40 percent of their catch.
Hunting parties usually set out in groups of three canoes, each containing a
gunman and two rowers. Once an otter was spotted, the hunter would stand at the
head of the boat and shoot, aiming for the head to keep the precious pelt intact.
Allen Light’s excellent marksmanship soon made him famous along the southern California coast.
Later in 1836, Light signed on as mercenary soldiers in Juan Bautista
Alvarado’s revolutionary army. Unwilling to accept the Mexican government’s new
centralist constitution, Alvarado marched into Los Angeles, and subdued the city without
bloodshed. Alvarado appointed himself governor of California and paid Allen Light between $30
and $40 for his services. By 1839, Light had become a naturalized Mexican
citizen. In January that year, Governor Alvarado ordered an investigation into
reports of an unidentified ship seen hunting illegally near Santa Barbara. Light testified that he had
seen the same ship, identified as the Llama, tracking otters, two years
earlier. The same John Bancroft who had ordered the attack on Allen Light’s
hunting party off Santa Rosa Island captained
That same year the Governor appointed Light “principal arbiter of the National
Armada, assigned to the branch of Otter Fishing.” Light continued hunting sea
otters for the next two years sometimes traveling to San Juan Capistrano. In 1842, he decided to
settle in San Diego.
Records indicate that Richard Freeman, also an African-American, bought a
four-room, single story adobe house from Henry Fitch for $96 on February 10,
1847 and lived there with Allen Light. The Freeman-Light House stood on the
west side of the plaza beside the Casa de Machado, and was said to have been a
grog house or saloon. Light left San
Diego in 1851.
In 1948, workers installing a heater in the Machado Chapel of Old Town
discovered two documents buried behind two half-sized blocks of the adobe
walls. Both of the papers revealed the life of Allen Light. The older of the
two documents was issued by a notary public in New York on November 27, 1827
and described Light as “a Colored man aged about twenty-two years old, born in
Philadelphia.” Commonly known as sailor protection papers, such a certificate
could substitute for the “free papers” that states required Blacks to carry.
The Freeman-Light House became a part of Old Town State Park in 1967. Today, after over a
century of being stashed in various hideaways, the Allen Light papers may be
viewed at the San Diego Historical Society’s Research Archives.
Arthur (also Arturo) Alfonso Schomburg was born on this
date in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was an African-American historian, writer and
Schomburg attended San Juan’s Institute of Instruction to become a teacher and
also studied in the Danish West Indies, doing a great deal of research on Negro
literature. Schomburg came to America in 1891 and ten years later moved to New
York City and settled in the Harlem section of the city, working at a law firm
as a researcher. During this time, he actively supported Cuban and Puerto Rican
Independence, and served as secretary of Las dos Antillas, an organization
working for this cause.
In 1924, while in Europe, he searched for and acquired valuable information on
Negro history. In Seville, Spain he dug into the original, loosely collected
records of the Indies and was able to shed new light on Negro history. In 1929
Schomburg retired from the Bankers Trust Company and took a position at Fisk
University as curator of his vast collection of papers, which now bears his
name. The collected works consist of more than 5000 volumes and thousands of
pamphlets, old manuscripts, artworks, prints, rare books, slave narratives and
other remnants of Black history, and bound sections of newspaper and magazine
clippings, is the largest and finest of its kind in existence.
He ranks as the foremost historian and collector of books on Blacks. Arthur Schomburg
died in 1938. In 1940, the New York Public Library renamed its Schomburg Center
a division of Black history, literature, and prints after him. His
investigative efforts led to him being dubbed the “Sherlock Holmes of Black
One of the foremost advocates of Black nationalism and separatism in
American history, Martin Robison Delany, died on this day
on tuberculosis in Wilberforce, Ohio. Delaney was an extraordinary man. He fought
in the Civil War to end slavery, served as a physician, and was the first
commissioned African American officer in the Union Army during the war. He also
was a leader in the fight to end racial job discrimination and an anti-slavery activist.
Also, in 1847, he, along with Frederick Douglass, published
the first issue of the North Star, an antislavery paper. As a physician, he
studied (and to a limited degree) practiced medicine. However, in 1850, white
students at Harvard University (where he had been accepted) forced his removal
from the medical school because they did not want to study alongside Delaney
and two other Black students. Delaney eventually became frustrated with
American racism and became deeply involved in a “back-to-Africa” movement
designed to establish a “Black Israel” on the west coast of Africa. He also encouraged
African Americans to seek their own identity and was considered by some
historians to be the father of American Black nationalism. He is the author of “Search
for a Place: Black Separatism and Africa,” and “The Condition, Elevation,
Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People in the United States.” Delany was
On this date, John Frederick Thomas was born. He was an African-American
diplomat and administrator.
Thomas was from Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father was a Black man from New
Bedford, Massachusetts, and his mother was Swedish. They met in Mankato,
Minnesota and as parents had a great influence on his life. According to
Thomas, his father was very much a “race man,” one who touted independence for
the “colored” person, yet he felt that his son would need a white “benefactor”
to succeed. Minnesota was a state that was less than one-percent
African-American when Thomas was a young boy. Consequently, he found himself in
a world of Jewish, Italian, and Scandinavian immigrants.
After finishing at Minneapolis North High School, Thomas graduated from the
University of Minnesota in 1929. The Great Depression compounded the racial
backlash of employment opportunities for him. Additionally, Whites and Blacks
both viewed him as “different”. Considered a minority in White circles and
accused of trying to “pass” by Blacks, Thomas experienced a restlessness that
would guide him as a servant of the global human family. In the early thirties
he taught college in North Carolina and other southern areas.
He worked as a waiter, played semi-pro basketball, and completed his master’s
degree. It was during these years that Thomas met and befriended Gordon Parks,
Oscar Pettiford, Hilda Simms, and others. In 1935, he accepted a position in
the Boys athletic program at the Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House in
Minneapolis. Though well educated, the settlement house atmosphere gave Thomas
a forum to better understand the meaning of social welfare. Thomas became very
active in helping the needy. He also met many notable Blacks who stayed at
Phyllis Wheatley due to racism in Minneapolis’s rooming houses, including
Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, and Marian Anderson. It was also here that
Thomas began a lifelong relationship with Hubert Humphrey.
Though commissioned and ready for active duty in Europe with the Army in 1944,
he was sent to Camp Lee, Virginia. After the war, Thomas learned of the relief
effort in Europe. One year later he left for England and Germany and did not
return to America for twenty years. In October 1945, he began working for the
United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency. Starting in their welfare
office, his team brought thousands of Polish refugees back to Poland after the
fall of Nazi Germany. When the Iron Curtain fell in 1948, many Jews wishing to
immigrate to Israel were detained by England. Here Thomas and was instrumental
in developing and underground railroad for them (literally by truck) through
France and on to Alyah, Israel.
Throughout the Russian invasion of Eastern Europe (1956), he and his UN team
were at the Austrian border working twenty-hour days insuring that over 200,000
refugees crossed into safety as the Russian tanks rolled through Hungary. As
director of the Cuban Refugee Program under President Kennedy, Thomas was
responsible for the safe passage of over 13,000 Cuban children; avoiding intended
trips to communist countries from Castro’s Cuba in 1963. During the Vietnam War
between the Tet offensive (1968) and 1972, he organized settlements and living
facilities for millions of Vietnamese people.
It is estimated that in his forty-year career, John Thomas saved over five
million lives. Retired as of 1978, Thomas was the first African-American to
head an international organization. He was a global emissary of the people who
focused on the needs of individuals in times of crisis worldwide. John Thomas
died on September 20, 2002 at 95 years of age. He was the father of two
daughters Judith Ann and Susan.
Jack & Jill of America was founded on this date. It is a
nonprofit philanthropic organization headquartered in Philadelphia,
Its founding occurred from a meeting of 20 mothers by the leadership of Marion
Stubbs Thomas with the idea of bringing together children in a social and
cultural environment. They primarily serve Black children from the ages of two
to nineteen. It grew out of volunteer work during the Great Depression and in
1939 expanded to New York.
During the 1940s and 1950s Jack & Jill raised funds for a variety of
charities. In 1964, as more groups became active, bylaws were drawn up and
incorporated under the laws of Delaware. The organization was a nonprofit
family organization by mothers of children between the ages of 2 and 19 holding
membership. Jack & Jill celebrated its 50th Golden Anniversary
in January 1988. The organization continues on, dedicating its resources to
improving the quality of life, particularly African-American children. The
goals, found primarily in the objectives of Jack & Jill of America, Inc.
serve as constant guides.
They currently have national incentives such as the “Million Point Health Plan”
and through a collaborative with organizations like the Links and Children’s
Defense Foundation. Jack & Jill chapters across the nation work to make a
difference in the lives of the families and those in the communities they
Aaron Neville is born in New Orleans Louisiana. He
will become a rhythm and blues singer and will enjoy his first hit in 1967, “Tell
It Like It Is.” He will win a Grammy for his 1990 single, a duet with Linda
Ronstadt, “Don’t Know Much.” He will become equally well known for performing
vocals and keyboards with the group The Neville Brothers, together with his
three musically accomplished siblings. Their
albums, reflecting rock, R&B, soul, and jazz influences, will be compiled
in “Treacherous: A History of the Neville Brothers, 1955-85” (1986).
Jackie Robinson, the first African-American allowed
to play Major League Baseball, is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
J. Mason Brewer, arguably the
greatest author of Black folklore, died in Commerce, TX on this date.
Howard T. Ward becomes Georgia’s first African
American Superior Court Judge.
Tatyana Ali, the actress best known for her role as Ashley in “The Fresh Prince of
Bel-Air” was born to Panamanian and Trinidadian heritage in Long Island, NY.
Thomas Bradley, public servant, humanist, and
government servant, received the 69th NAACP Spingarn Award on this
date for becoming a four-term mayor of Los Angeles, CA, for overseeing the most
successful Olympics in history, and “demonstrating...that the American dream
not only can be pursued but realized.”
protest of some 20,000 marchers held in Forsyth County, GA, on this date.
The group protested the attack of marchers celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday one week
Forty-eight African American writers and literary critics sign a
controversial statement that appears in “The New York Times Book Review”
supporting author Toni Morrison and protesting
her failure to win the “keystone honors of the National Book Award or the
Reverend Barbara Harris’ election as suffragan bishop is
ratified by the Diocese of Massachusetts. Her election and consecration occur
amid widespread controversy regarding the role of women bishops in the
Episcopal Church. She will be the first
female bishop in the church’s 450-year history.
House” Gains, Winston Salem State University’s basketball couch, won his 800th
game on this date. Gains has won eight CIAA conference championships and a 1967
Division II championship.
Thurgood Marshall, the first Black man to serve as a
justice on the United States Supreme Court, died on this day in 1993 in
Washington, DC. Prior to becoming a justice, Marshall gained fame arguing civil
rights cases before the Supreme Court including the historic school
desegregation case—Brown v. Board of Education. While on the Supreme Court, he
was widely viewed as a constitutional scholar who supported liberal and
progressive causes. Marshall was born in Baltimore, MD in 1908. He was
appointed to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He was one of
the most well-known figures in the history of civil rights in America and
served on the Supreme Court for 24 years. Thurgood Marshall was buried in Arlington
this date at 6:08 PM EST in Lucus Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, ID, the Indianapolis
Colt, coming from an 11 point deficit, defeated the New York Jets 30-17. With
this victory, Jim Caldwell became the fourth African-American
coach of an NFL team to coach a team to the Super Bowl. He is preceeded
respectively by Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears and Tony Dungy, his
predecessor with the Colts, who qualified their teams on January 21, 2007 and
Mike Tomlin, coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers on January 18, 2009. He also
became the third African American coach to win the Lamar Hunt Trophy for the
American Football Conference (AFC) Championship and the fifth rookie head coach
to coach a team to the Super Bowl. He also holds the record, as a rookie coach,
of having a team to go 14-0 to start a season. Of note, the Colts lost their
last two games of the 2009 season to go 14-2. Caldwell would take his team to
Super Bowl XLVI in Dolphin’s Stadium in Miami, FL on February 7, 2010 to face
the New Orleans Saints, who later in the day defeated the Minnesota Vikings in
the New Orleans Superdome by score of 31-28.