date notes the birth of Saint Peter
Claver. (Note that most sources state 1581 as his year of birth with
no specific date and with only the African American Registry listing this specific
date. Althought 1581 is most likely his correct year of birth, his birth date most
likely could not have been February 29, 1581 since it would not have been a
leap year. If the 1580 year is accepted, depending on what calendar is used to
make this determination, the Georgian calendar [the calendar of Pope Gregory
XIII], in particular, did not introduce leap year as every four years until
1582.) He was a Black patron saint.
From Verdu, Catalonia, Spain he was also known as Slave of the Blacks and Slave
of the Slaves. Claver was a farmer’s son. He studied at the University of
Barcelona and was a Jesuit Priest at age 20. Influenced by Saint Alphonsus
Rodriguez, Claver became a missionary in America. He ministered to slaves
physically and spiritually when they arrived in Cartegena, converting an
estimated 300,000. He worked for humane treatment on American plantations for
over 40 years.
Claver organized charitable societies among the Spanish in America similar
to those organized in Europe by Saint Vincent de Paul. Claver said of the
slaves, “We must speak to them with our hands by giving, before we try
to speak to them with our lips.” Peter Claver died on September 8, 1654
at Cartegena, Colombia of natural causes.
George Augustus Polgreen Bridgewater, composer and violinist, died in London at the age of
81. He was a violin prodigy, known throughout Europe as the “Abyssinian
Prince.” At age 10, he made his first appearance in Paris. Bridgewater studied
under the watchful eye of Hayden, as well as being a close friend of Beethoven,
who performed with him in a Bridgewater concert. A number of manuscripts are
found in the British Museum bearing his signature.
Augusta Savage, was born Augusta
Christine Fells in Green Cove Springs, Fl on this
date. She was an American sculptor and educator who battled
racism to secure a place for blacks in the art world.
Augusta Fells began modeling figures from the red-clay
soil of her native Florida at an early age. Savage’s family moved
to West Palm Beach about 1907, where she thrived academically, conducting art
classes for a dollar a day while she was still a student herself. She married John T. Moore in 1907 and had her only child, Irene,
in 1908. After failing to make a living by executing commissioned
busts of Jacksonville’s well-to-do blacks, she moved to New York City to study art.
In 1921 she enrolled at Cooper Union in the four-year sculpture course, but her
instructors quickly waived her first two years in light of her talent.
In 1923 Savage became the focus of a racial scandal involving the French
government and the American arts community. She was among some 100 young
American women selected to attend a summer program at Fontainebleau, outside
Paris, but her application was subsequently refused on the basis of her race.
Sculptor Hermon A. MacNeil was the only member of the committee to denounce the
decision, and he invited Savage to study with him in an attempt to make amends.
Following this period, Savage worked in steam laundries to earn money to care
for her family and to save for studies in Europe. Her plans were derailed,
however, when her family suffered a series of tragedies. In the 1920s she
received a commission to sculpt a portrait bust of W.E.B. Du Bois and then
another of Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey; both pieces were hailed for their
power and dynamism. Though Savage was finally able, with the assistance of
W.E.B. Du Bois, to study at a Paris art academy in 1929-31, the Great
Depression brought art sales to a virtual standstill. She turned to teaching
art, founding her own school of arts and crafts in New York City’s Harlem in
the early 1930s.
In the mid-1930s she founded and became the first director of the Harlem
Community Art Center, which played a crucial role in the development of many
young African-American artists. During this period, too, she became the first
black elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.
Savage also fought successfully for the inclusion of Black artists in Works
Progress Administration projects. In the late 1930s Savage opened a gallery
specializing in art by blacks, but it did not long survive.
She apparently abandoned her art in the 1940s, isolating herself on a farm in
Saugerties, N.Y. Many of Savage’s sculptures were never cast in permanent
materials and have been lost. Among the few extant pieces is the poignant Gamin
1929, a portrait bust of a street-wise boy. Augusta Savage died March 26, 1962
in New York City.
Robert Sengstacke Abbott, newspaper
editor and publisher of the Chicago Defender, died Chicago, Illinois. His
newspaper became a bold voice for African Americans in the North, advocating
during the wave of lynchings after World War I the slogan, “if you must die,
take at least one with you,” later simplified to “an eye for an eye.” Abbott
passed away as his nephew, John Sengstacke, was establishing the National
Newspaper Publishers Association in Washington, DC.
Hollywood, Hattie McDaniel received an
Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role as Mammy in “Gone with the Wind.” She was the
first African American to win an Oscar. Often criticized for her portrayal of
maids, she noted that, “It’s much better to play a maid than to be one. The
only choice permitted me is either to be a servant for $7 a week or portray one
for $700 a week.” Not only was she
the first African American to receive this award, but she was the only African
American woman to have received it until Whoopi Goldberg received the same
award for her role in the movie “Ghost.”
Smith was born on this date in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was one of the most successful
African-American fashion designers in history.
He was also the brother of actress and model Toukie Smith. After studying
commercial art at Mastbaum Technical High School in Philadelphia, Willi Donnell
Smith enrolled at the Philadelphia College of Art to study fashion illustration
in 1962. It was during this time Smith decided he wanted to be a fashion
designer. He earned two scholarships to the Parsons School of Design in New
York in 1965. There he began doing freelance work for the designer Arnold
Scaasi and the Bobbie Brooks sportswear company.
In 1967 he left school to pursue his career full-time. He took his first job with Arnold Scaasi in New York City.bel, Willi
Wear Ltd., in 1976. By 1969 his name was on the label of clothing made by
Digits, a sportswear company; Smith eventually in 1976 created his
own company and line of clothes, Williwear, Ltd. At its peak, his company
Williwear, Ltd. sold $25 million worth of clothing a year. He also designed the
wedding dress worn by Mary Jane Watson when she married Peter Parker in the
Spider-Man comic book and comic strip in 1987 and the suits for Edwin
Schlossberg and his groomsmen when he married Caroline Kennedy in 1986.
Smith also designed the uniforms for the workers on Christo’s 1985 wrapping of
the Pont Neuf Bridge in Paris and clothes for Spike Lee’s 1987 film School Daze
(1987). He became a Coty Award winner in 1983.
in the Gay community, Smith died at the relatively young age of 39 on April 17,
1987, after contracting pneumonia as a result of AIDS, still leading his
Juanita Lucy, the first Black student at the University of Alabama, was
expelled on this date following a riot that occurred three weeks earlier at the
school. Whites were upset by her admittance.
The National Advisory Commission on Civil
Disorders, convened by President Lyndon
B. Johnson after riots occur in major cities throughout the United States,
issued its report on this date. The commission was called the “Kerner Commission” after its
chairman, Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois.
civil right struggle of the 1960’ was making inroads, integration of southern
school districts was progressing; by 1967, 22% of the black students in the 17
southern and Border States were in integrated schools. After racial rioting in Newark and Detroit in 1967, the president set up
the commission “to investigate the origins of the recent disorders in our
cities.” The report analyzed the
causes of the riots and concluded that white racism was one of the
fundamental causes of riots in the United States. It also cited what was needed
to avert future violence—jobs, open housing laws and the elimination of defacto
school segregation. It also concluded, because of the continuing separation of
blacks and whites in most areas, the United States was “headed toward two
societies, one Black and one White—separate and unequal.” A 30-year update of
the Kerner Commission reported “the divide between rich and poor has become
greater in the United States and the challenges from within more formidable.”
African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other
religious leaders were arrested while kneeling near Parliament with a petition
against government bans on anti-apartheid groups.
Daniel Green was
convicted in Lumberton, North Carolina, of murdering James R. Jordan, the father of basketball star Michael Jordan, during a 1993 roadside
holdup. (Green was sentenced to life in prison; an accomplice who had testified
against him, Larry Demery, also received
a life sentence.)
On this date, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled Haiti.
He was bowing to pressure from a rebellion at home and governments out of the
country. Hundreds of angry Aristide militants armed with old rifles and pistols
converged on the Haitien National Palace in Port-au-Prince. It was not
immediately clear who was in charge, but Aristide’s Prime Minister Yvan Neptune
called a news conference.
In Cap-Haitien, the northern port that has become a base for the rebels,
crowds danced and sang in the street ready to disarm once a new government
was in place. “Aristide’s gone! Aristide’s out!” rebel fighters in Cap-Haitian
yelled with excitement, hugging each other.
The administration of U.S president
George W. Bush said it welcomed Aristide’s departure and that it was in the
best interests of Haiti.
Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically
elected president in 200 years of independence left the capital. The rebels
were less than 25 miles away and had threatened to attack unless he resigned.
He flew to the Dominican Republic and sought asylum in Morocco, Taiwan or Panama.