Myron Holley, an abolitionist
and a founder of the Liberty Party, was born.
The French captured Tobago from the
Spanish, transforming it into a sugar-producing colony.
Poet, lawyer, educator, and
abolitionist George B. Vashon was born on this
date. Vashon helped found Howard
University and was instrumental in establishing its law school. He
also wrote the narrative
poem “Victor Oge.”
B. Allen and Robert Morris
Jr., were the first Blacks to practice law, open practice. They opened their practice on May 3rd of that year in
Massachusetts. Allen had previously practiced without a license in Maine.
Ashmun lnstitute, later Lincoln University, was founded in Oxford,
Pennsylvania. It was “the first institution founded anywhere in the world to
provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for youth of African
descent.” (This applies to the modern era).
The birth of J. Edward Perry is celebrated on this date. He was
an African-American Physician.
From Clarksville, Texas, Perry was born to former slaves who encouraged him to
receive a good education. Perry graduated from Meharry Medical College in
Nashville, Tennessee, in 1895. In 1903, Dr. Perry moved to Kansas City and
opened an office. He and other local African-American physicians joined in
their struggle to create professional hospitals for minority patients. At that
time Kansas City was rigidly segregated and powerful people in the white
medical community opposed Dr. Perry and his associates’ plans.
In 1910, Dr. Perry opened a private hospital, the Perry Sanitarium and Training
School for Nurses. There he developed strong medical and pediatric units to
serve the minority community. The sanitarium became Wheatley-Provident
Hospital, a public institution, in 1916. The hospital served the community for
the last 50 years of Dr. Perry’s life. Perry knew that hospitals were needed to
train Black physicians and nurses and to provide quality health care to the
Kansas City African-American community.
Because of his dedication, many African American doctors and nurses received
quality training, and many patients’ lives were saved. He died in 1962.
Empress Zewditu I of Ethiopia was born
on this date as Askala Maryam in the city of
Harrar in Enjersa Goro Province, Ethiopia. Her mother was Abechi, a Shewan
noble woman and her father was Menelik II, at that point the king of Shewa and
the future emperor of Ethiopia. She became the first woman head of an
internationally recognized state in Africa in modern times. She ruled from 1916
– 1930. Empress Zewditu died on April 2, 1930.
Julian Francis Abele was born on this date. He was an
From South Philadelphia, he was the son of Charles R. and Mary A. Abele. He was
educated at the Institute for Colored Youth before entering the University of
Pennsylvania in 1898. He was the first African-American to graduate from the
Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts and Architecture in 1902. That year he was
asked by Horace Trumbauer to join his firm, which had been exclusively white up
to that point. Trumbauer sent Abele to Paris to study at L’Ecole des Beaux
By 1908, Abele was the chief designer in the firm of Horace Trumbauer &
Associates and owns a list of buildings that is impressive. In addition to
Widener Library, he designed Philadelphia’s Free Library and Museum of Art, the
chapel and many other buildings of Trinity College in Durham, N.C. (which was
later renamed Duke University) and the James B. Duke mansion on Fifth Avenue
and 78th Street in New York City (now NYU’s Graduate Institute of Fine Arts). Abele’s
role in the firm of Horace Trumbauer was neither a well-kept secret nor
a well-publicized fact.
His talent was such that it made him chief designer at age 27, and paid him a salary of $12,000 per year in 1912 (which is over $250,000 in current dollars). Abele did not join the American Institute of Architects, however, until 1942; four years after the death of Trumbauer, at which time Abele became head of the firm. Abele never personally visited Duke University during any phase of construction or afterwards due to segregation. Yet, the archivist of Duke University in a letter to the editor of the Raleigh, NC News and Observer states it was well known by university personnel that the chief designer of the firm was African-American.
The histories of Widener Library to
date only mention the firm of Horace Trumbauer and never make mention of Abele
himself. It was Mrs. Widener’s choice of this Philadelphia firm to design the
library that would bear the name of her son, and it is unclear whether she knew
Abele or just Trumbauer. In any case, his work stands and society and
scholarship are catching up in order to give him the proper credit he deserves.
He also designed Philadelphia’s Museum of Art and the Free Library. Julian
Abele died on April 23, 1950, after designing the Allen Administration Building
at Duke University. He is considered the first major African-American architect
in the United States.
On this date, Edward “Duke” Kennedy
Ellington was born. He was an African-American jazz composer, band leader, and
Born in Washington, D.C., into a
middle-class family, he acquired the nickname “Duke” as a child by a boyhood friend for his manners,
clothing, and personality and who admired his
hair. He had no initial interest in music. But while vacationing
with his mother in Asbury Park, NJ, he heard of a hot pianist named Harvey
Brooks. He sought out Brooks, who helped him improve as a pianist. Duke, later
tutored by Oliver “Doc” Perry and Louis Brown, refined his overall
piano-playing skills. Now inflamed with a passion for music, he began playing for friends and at parties and, in 1917, formed his first group, the Duke’s
Serenaders. In 1923 Ellington moved to New York City, 4 years later Ellington began
performing at The Cotton Club, the most prominent nightclub in the Harlem area
of New York City at the time. His five-year tenure at the famed Cotton Club garnered him wide
Scoring both his first musical and making his recording debut in 1924,
Ellington became known as the first conventional jazz composer, although he
also became renowned for his Sacred Concerts in the mid-1960’s.
In the late 1920s Ellington composed for and recorded with his 12-member
orchestra such pieces as Black and Tan
Fantasy, The Mooche, and Mood Indigo. Through recordings such as
these and through radio broadcasts from The Cotton Club, Ellington gained a
national and international reputation. In 1931 he took his band on its first
tour of the United States. With his piece It
Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing), Ellington anticipated the
era when swing music and dancing became a national obsession in the United
After 1932 Ellington enlarged his orchestra to 14 members, and in 1939 he hired
a gifted young American arranger, Billy Strayhorn, wrote one of the Ellington
orchestra’s signature tunes, Take the ‘A’
Train. By 1940 Ellington’s band included some of the best American jazz
instrumentalists. During this period his orchestra also recorded so-called tone
poems, which anticipated the bebop style of 1940s jazz. In the late 1940s
Ellington’s band, which generally maintained a remarkably stable membership,
experienced a higher rate of turnover among musicians and went into creative
and commercial decline.
In 1953 Ellington recorded the album Piano
Reflections, on which some of his most enduring work as a pianist can be
found. A religious man, Ellington began composing liturgical works (which he
called sacred concerts) in the 1960s. Over the course of his career, Ellington
wrote a number of pieces that became standards in the jazz repertory. During
his lifetime, Ellington received hundreds of distinctions, including 11 Grammy
Awards and 19 honorary doctorate degrees. He was awarded the Presidential Medal
of Freedom by the United States and the Legion of Honor by France, the highest
civilian honors in each country, respectively.
In 1988 the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., acquired his entire
archive—200,000 pages of unpublished music and other documents—and made it
available to researchers, musicians, and the general public. He is considered
the greatest composer in the history of jazz music and one of the greatest
musicians of the 20th century. Unlike other great band leaders,
Ellington personally created most of the music played by his orchestra.
Ellington composed about 2001 works, including musical comedies, music for
ballet and motion pictures, an opera, and numerous short songs and
He composed exclusively for his jazz big band, seeking out players with
distinct musical styles. Beginning in the 1930s and throughout the remainder of
his career, Ellington toured incessantly with his group, logging an estimated
16 million km (10 million mi) of travel and playing an estimated 20,000
performances throughout the United States and in 65 other nations around the
Spending over 50 years in show business, he went on to compose some of his other great works,
including Rockin’ in Rhythm, New Orleans, Happy-Go-Lucky Local, Sophisticated
Ladies, I Got It Bad and That Ain’t
Good, and Crescendo in Blue.
Duke and his bands performed worldwide and collaborated with such greats as
Miles Davis, Cab Calloway, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and
Louis Armstrong. He died May 24, 1974.
Donald Mills was born in Piqua, Ohio. With his brothers, Herbert, Harry and John,
the Mills Brothers began performing in 1922 in their hometown and over time
will sell an estimated 50 million records. The group broke racial barriers in
the era of Jim Crow and sang before royalty in London. From the early 1930s
onward, the Mills Brothers were a nationwide hit on radio and in record sales.
In 1931, the song “Tiger Rag” sold 1 million copies. Some of their other hit
songs include “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” “Glow Worm,” “Yellow Bird,”
and “Paper Doll.” The brothers also appeared in several movies, including “The
Big Broadcast” in 1932, and “Twenty Million Sweethearts” in 1934. Donald was the
last surviving member of the group and toured in his later years with his
youngest son, John, after his brothers retired in 1982. He accepted a Grammy
Award for Life Achievement for the Mills Brothers in 1998. He died in 1999.
Parren James Mitchell, a
former Maryland Democratic congressman, who represented the 7th congressional
district of Maryland, and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus,
was born to Clarence M. Mitchell, Sr., a waiter, and Elise Davis Mitchell, a
homemaker, on this date in Baltimore, MD.
attended Baltimore public schools, graduating from Frederick Douglass Senior
High School in 1940. From 1942-1945, he served in the United States Army, 92nd
Infantry Division, during World War II and was a commissioned officer and
company commander. During that time, he received a Purple Heart award. After
the service, he went on to Morgan State College, graduating from there with an
Associated Bachelor’s degree in 1950. After suing the, then segregated,
University of Maryland for admission to their graduate school in 1950, he
earned a Master’s Degree in 1952, making the first African American to do so.
He was an instructor of sociology at
Morgan State during 1953-1954 and supervisor of probation work for the Supreme
Bench of Baltimore City from 1954 to 1957. From 1963 to 1965 he was executive
secretary of the Maryland Human Relations Commission overseeing implementation
of the state’s public accommodations law. Mitchell was director of the
Baltimore Community Action Agency, an anti-poverty program, from 1965 to 1968,
when he returned to Morgan State as a professor of sociology and assistant
director of its Urban Affairs Institute.
In 1969 he became President of the Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. Mitchell
unsuccessfully challenged Seventh District Representative Samuel N. Friedel in
the September 1968 Democratic primary, but defeated Friedel in their 1970
rematch and won the general election over Republican Peter Parker. He was sworn
in as a member of the Ninety-second Congress on January 3, 1971, making him the
first African American elected to Congress from the state of Maryland. He served as a delegate to the Maryland State Democratic convention in
1972; and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1972. He was
re-elected through 1987.
16 year congressional career, he fought for affirmative action legislation. A member of
the Committee on the Budget and the Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs
Committee, Mitchell became chairman of the Committee on Small Business at the
beginning of the Ninety-seventh Congress in 1981. Throughout his congressional
career he directed many of his legislative efforts toward promoting
He sought passage of legislation requiring a fixed percentage of the contracts
for federal projects to be set aside for minority firms. In order to provide
small business with more opportunity to procure contracts awarded by the
Defense Department, he successfully fought to remove department limits on the
number of companies permitted to bid for spare parts contracts.
Mitchell was a strong supporter of the Small Business Administration and
opposed efforts to increase the interest rates for loans to small businesses
and to reduce S.B.A. disaster loans. He opposed the establishment of a
sub-minimum wage for people aged eighteen and younger, and called for strong
sanctions banning all new investment by United States firms in South Africa. As Chairman of the
Small Business Committee, Mitchell attached an amendment to a $4 billion public
works bill that compelled state and local governments, seeking federal grants,
to set aside 10% of the funds to retain minority firms as contractors and
subcontractors. He initiated a congressional investigation into Wedtech where bribes
were alleged to have been offered in return for no bid military contracts. His
nephews State Senators Clarence Mitchell III and Michael Mitchell ended up
serving time in Federal prison for their parts in the scandal.
In 1980 he founded The Minority
Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (MBEFDEF) and
presently services as Chairman of the Board.
In 1986 he
retired from Congress and ran unsuccessfully for Lt. Governor of Maryland. He died on Memorial
Day, May 28, 2007, at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, MD, reportedly
from pneumonia. He was 85.
Retired judge Harry Justin Elam was the first African American appointed to the Boston Municipal Court
of Massachusetts. Subsequently, he became the Chief Justice of this court and
later was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior
Court. Prior to his judgeship years, between 1971 and 1988, he was a prominent
lawyer in the city of Boston from 1952 to 1971.
Judge Elam was born on this date in Boston, Massachusetts, the second child of
five born to Robert H. and Blanche Lee Elam. A graduate of Boston Latin School,
he attended Virginia State College between 1940 and 1942. He served in the U.S.
Army during World War II from 1942 to 1946 and earned an A.B. degree from
Boston University in 1948 and his J.D. degree from Boston University’s Law
School in 1951. In his early years of general law practice, Elam partnered with
Edward W. Brooke, who went on to become a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, the
first since Reconstruction.
As a judge in both the municipal and state courts, Harry Elam maintained a deep
and sensitive connection to Boston’s neighborhoods. He saw the reduction of
adult and juvenile crime as a responsibility of those leading the court system
and so he linked himself and fellow jurists with social, cultural, and
political issues in his community. He was the founder and first president of
the Massachusetts Black Judges Conference. He was the founder and first president
of the Roxbury Multi-Service Center, serving twelve years as the Center’s
president. He also chaired the board of directors of the Elma Lewis School of
Fine Arts for ten years.
Judge Elam’s signature community project was Project Commitment. He served as
its creator and chair for twelve years. This project brought Black judges and
lawyers into public school classrooms to mentor youth. His most coveted
recognition is one received in 1983, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for
Justice Award presented jointly by two of Boston’s venerable Black Episcopal
Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore, a founder and co-founder of the many major business
institutions of insurance, banking, and health in the Hayti community of
Durham, NC, died on this date.
On this date, Big Jay McNeeley was born Cecil James McNeely in Watts, Los Angeles, California. He is an American rhythm and
blues saxophonist, known as the King of the Honking Tenor Sax.
Inspired by Illinois Jacquet and
Lester Young, he teamed with his older brother Robert McNeely, who played
baritone saxophone, and made his first recordings with drummer Johnny Otis, who
ran the Barrelhouse Club that stood only a few blocks from McNeely’s home.
Shortly after he performed on Otis’s “Barrel House Stomp,” Ralph Bass, A&R
man for Savoy Records, promptly signed him to a recording contract. Bass’s
boss, Herman Lubinsky, suggested the stage name Big Jay McNeely because Cecil
McNeely did not sound commercial. McNeely’s first hit was “The Deacon’s Hop,”
which topped the Billboard R&B chart in early 1949.
Thanks to his flamboyant playing, called “honking,” McNeely remained popular
through the 1950s and into the early 1960s, recording for the Exclusive,
Aladdin, Imperial, Federal, Vee-Jay, and Swingin’ labels. But despite a hit
R&B ballad, “There Is Something on Your Mind,” (1959) featuring Little
Sonny Warner on vocals, and a 1963 album for Warner Bros. Records, McNeely’s
music career began to cool off. He quit the music industry in 1971 to become a
postman. However, thanks to an R&B revival in the early 1980s, McNeely left
the post office and returned to touring and recording full time, usually
overseas. His original tenor sax is enshrined in the Experience Music Project
in Seattle, and he was inducted into The Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
The honkers were known for their
raucous stage antics and expressive, exhibitionist style of playing. They
overblew their saxophones and often hit on the same note over and over, much
like a black Southern preacher, until their audiences were mesmerized. The
style began with Illinois Jacquet’s lively solo on Lionel Hampton’s smash 1942
hit “Flying Home.” Jacquet refined the honking technique in 1944 on the first
Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in Los Angeles. Among the other saxophonists
who started having honking hits in the late 1940s were Hal Singer (with the
number one R&B hit “Cornbread”, Lynn Hope, Joe Houston, Wild Bill Moore,
Freddie Mitchell, and many more.
McNeely was credited with being the most flamboyant performer. He wore bright
banana- and lime-colored suits, played under black lights that made his horn
glow in the dark, used strobe lights as early as 1952 to create an “old-time-movie”
effect, and sometimes walked off the stage and out the door, usually with the
club patrons following along behind. At one point, in San Diego, police
arrested him on the sidewalk and hauled him off to jail, while his band kept
playing on the bandstand, waiting for him to return. The honking style was
fading somewhat by the early 1950s, but the honkers themselves suddenly found
themselves providing rousing solos for doo wop groups; an example was Sam “The
Man” Taylor’s eight-bar romp on The Chords’ 1954 “Sh-Boom.” Bill Haley also
used honking sax men Joey D’Ambrosio and Rudy Pompilli on his rock and roll
records, including “Rock Around the Clock.” However, the rise of the electric
guitar essentially ended the dominance of the tenor sax in rock and roll by
Carl Edward Gardner was born in
Tyler, Texas. He became the first original Coaster in late September or early
October 1955 and stayed with the group and became the Coasters’ spokesman for
over fifty years. He led such Coasters classics as “Down In Mexico”, “One Kiss
Led To Another”, “Young Blood”, “Idol With The Golden Head”, “Dance!”, “Three
Cool Cats”, “Sexy”, “That Is Rock & Roll”, “Bad Blood”, “Love Potion Number
Nine” and “Cool Jerk” among others. His happy clear tenor also played the most
important role in the Coasters´ famous unison sung hits “Yakety Yak”, “Charlie
Brown”, “Along Came Jones”, “Poison Ivy”, “I´m A Hog For You”, and “What About
Us”. He moved with the Coasters to New York in 1958. He finally settled in Port
St. Lucie, Florida in 1990.
Otis Rush was born in
Philadelphia, Mississippi. He became a blues musician and helped to shape
Chicago’s West Side blues sound.
“G.I. Jive” by Louis Jordan charted, reaching #1 R&B for six weeks
as well as #1 pop for two. Jordan’s recording’s hold the R&B record for most
weeks at #1, an astounding 113 weeks.
Tammi Terrell was born on this date. She was an
African-American Rhythm & Blues singer.
She was born Thomasina Montgomery in Philadelphia,
PA. After winning a number of local talent contest, by the age of 13 she was
regularly opening club dates for Gary “U.S.” Bonds, and Patti LaBelle and the
BlueBelles. In 1961 at the age of 15 she was discovered by producer Luther
Dixon and signed to Specter/Wand Records. Credited as Tammy Montgomery, she
made her debut with the song “If You See Bill”.
In 1963, after James Brown caught her live show, she was signed to his Try Me
label, issuing “I Cried.” One year later while touring with Brown’s live revue “If
I Would Marry You” appeared on Checker during which time she also studied
Pre-Med at the University of Pennsylvania. While performing with Jerry Butler
in Detroit in 1965, Terrel was spotted by Harvey Fuqua and was introduced to
Motowns’s Berry Gordy Jr. making her label debut with “I can’t Believe You Love
Me” and other songs followed with “This Old Heart of Mine” and “Come on and See
In 1967, Terrell was paired with Marvin Gaye who previously recorded with Mary
Wells and Kim Weston. His chemistry with Terrell was immediate, and that year
they entered the pop charts with the magnificent songs “Ain’t No Mountain High
Enough”, and “Your Precious Love. Later in 1967, Terrell began to have severe
migraine headaches and she collapsed in Gaye’s arms while in concert at
Virginia’s Hampton-Sydney University, she was rushed to the hospital and was
diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Although the tumor forced Terrell to retire from performing live, she continued
to record with Gaye and Her own album “Irresistible” in 1968. In 1969, Terrell’s
health was beginning to decline and she could not finish her and Gaye’s third
duet recording, Valerie Simpson sang on most of the recordings on the “Easy”
album. The way that they sang together created an aura of romance and eroticism
that led to persistent rumors that they were lovers. In All, Terrell endured
eight operations, ultimately resulting in loss of memory and partial paralysis;
she died on March 16, 1970.
Her burial service attracted thousands of mourners including many of her Motown
Colleagues. Tammi Terrell was a contemporary vocal legend. Terrell and Gaye
created some of the greatest love songs ever to emerge from Motown hit factory.
Johnny Otis & His Orchestra jumped on the R&B charts with “Cry Baby,” reaching #6. The vocals were done by Mel Walker & the Bluenotes
(not Harold Melvin’s group).
To capitalize on Elvis Presley’s revival hit of “Money, Honey,” Atlantic Records reissued Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters’ three-year-old original in both the pop and R&B markets.
“The Negro disk jockey, once considered a rarity on the
nation’s airwaves, has become almost commonplace in this day and age,” Ellis Waters stated today in the New Negro men’s magazine, Duke. The writer continued: “There are now more than 500 Negro
platter spinners on the air across the nation.” He described disc jockeying as
the “newest Negro industry,” a $250 million annual business.
Congress enacted the first Civil Rights Act since Reconstruction, establishing a Civil Rights Commission to investigation violations of
voting rights based on race, national origin, or religion.
Sam Cooke began a week’s engagement at New York’s Apollo Theater.
Cindy Birdsong (Patti LaBelle & the Blue
Belles) made her stage debut as a replacement for Florence Ballard in the
Supremes at the Hollywood Bowl in a benefit concert for the UCLA School of
Music. Also performing was the Fifth Dimension.
Mrs. Robert W. Clayton was elected
president of the YWCA, the first African American president of the
On this date, Aretha Franklin releases “Respect.”
April 29–30, 1968
The Poor People’s
Campaign began in Washington, D.C. with Ralph D. Abernathy, SCLC
President, leading delegate of the leaders representing poor Whites, Blacks,
Indians, and Spanish-Americans to Capitol Hill for conferences with cabinet
members and congressional leaders. Dr. Abernathy declared that “the poor are no
longer divided. We are not going to let the white man put us down anymore. It’s
not white power, and I’ll give you some news, it’s not black power, either. It’s
poor power and we’re going to use it.”
On this date, though little
information is available on the exact circumstances, reportedly at the behest
of President Michel Micombero of Burundi, King Ntare V Ndizeye, the former king of Burundi, was executed at the Ibwami royal palace
in Gitega. Prior to that, in November, 1966, Micombero had deposed Ntare in a
military coup, to which Ntare fled to West Germany only to return to Burundi in
April 1972. It may be poetic justice as Ntare, on July, 1966, had deposed his
father Mwambutsa IV.
P. Haley won the Pulitzer Prize for “Roots” on this
Harold Washington, lawyer, politician, was
sworn in as Chicago’s 42nd and first Black mayor. The election of
Washington was a major political change for the city of Chicago, once called
the most segregated city in America. Washington won the Democratic primary and
the general election as a largely anti-organization independent. His candidacy
encouraged Blacks throughout the country to register to vote. A Chicago native,
Washington had served 16 years in the Illinois legislature and 2 years in the
U.S. Congress. As mayor, he overcame the ensuing City Council battles and took
the reins of Chicago’s $52 billion city budget. During his tenure, he left a
record of appointing Blacks to top city government positions historically held
by Whites and increasing minority business opportunities. He died on November
25, 1987, at age 65 following a heart attack seven months after re-election to
his second term in office.
April 29–May 6, 1985
Gregory, the first Black astronaut, piloted the space shuttle
Challenger (STS-51B). A veteran of three Shuttle missions he has logged over
455 hours in space. Subsequent Space Shuttle missions were as the spacecraft
commander on STS-33 (November 22-27, 1989) and STS-44 (November 24 to December
1, 1991). In the 1989 mission, Gregory became the first African-American
Shuttle commander aboard STS-33. His crew deployed a Department of Defense
On this date The Los Angeles
(Rodney King) Riot (or LA Rebellion, as some sources have called it) began. One of the
first major urban insurrections in the United States after the 1960s, this riot
shocked many Americans who had come to believe that the days of explosive
racial tensions were behind them.
Like Los Angeles’ Watts Riot of 1965, the 1992 rioting was sparked by an act of
anti-Black police brutality. On March 3, 1991, four white police officers in Los Angeles,
California, stopped a car driven by a 34-year-old African-American named Rodney King, who, they said, was speeding. According to the officers, King emerged
from his automobile in an aggressive manner that suggested he might have been
high on drugs. Before handcuffing King, the police delivered some 56 blows and
kicks and a number of shocks from a stun gun to the fallen body of the suspect.
A bystander captured the beating on videotape and within two days the footage
was being broadcast on national television. King brought charges of brutality
against four of the policemen. The officers, who claimed they acted in
self-defense, were tried before a predominantly white jury in a white
middle-class suburb of Los Angeles. On this date, all four men were acquitted.
Within two and a half hours of the verdict, a crowd of furious protesters
gathered at the corner of Florence and Normandie Streets in South Central Los
Angeles and through the next day and night rioting exploded across 50 square
miles. At the same time, smaller disturbances were erupting in cities such as
San Francisco, California; Seattle, Washington; Atlanta, Georgia; and
President George H.W. Bush called in 4,500 National Guard and United States
Army troops to quell the rioting, which ended on Friday, May 1. In three days
of turbulence, 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries,
more than 7,000 fires, damages to 3,100 businesses, about 17,000 arrested , and nearly $1 billion in
financial losses. Unlike race riots
of the 1960s, the 1992 uprising resulted in considerable Black-on-Black
violence as well as the looting of many Black-owned shops. Korean shopkeepers
were also prime targets of the rioters’ rage, as one minority community
attacked another. Writing about the riot in a 1992 essay “Learning to Talk of
Race,” philosopher Cornel West suggested, “what we witnessed in Los Angeles was
the consequence of a lethal linkage of economic decline, cultural decay, and
political lethargy in American life. Race was the visible catalyst, not the
On May 1, 1992, the third day of the
L.A. riots, King appeared in public before television news cameras to appeal
for calm, asking:
just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop
making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?...It’s just
not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll,
we’ll get our justice....Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I
mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to
beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.”
In a 1992 interview with the journal Covert Action Information Bulletin, labor
historian Mike Davis offered a similar opinion, calling the riot “a hybrid
social revolt with three major dimensions. It was a revolutionary democratic
protest characteristic of African-American history when the major institutions
have thwarted demands for equal rights. It was also a major postmodern bread
riot—an uprising of not just poor people but particularly of those strata of
poor in southern California who’ve been most savagely affected by the recession
[of the early 1990s]. Thirdly it was an inter-ethnic conflict—particularly the
systematic destroying and uprooting of Korean stores in the Black community.”
The 1992 riot represented a rude awakening for many Americans, who had assumed
that after two relatively quiet decades, the days of large-scale urban race
riots were a thing of the past. Note that two of the cops were later convicted
on federal civil rights charges.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing from the terror of ethnic massacres in Rwanda began
pouring into Tanzania.
Arthur Walker, who captured the sun’s corona on camera, died. In 1987 he
produced the first detailed shots of the sun’s outer atmosphere, explosions of
heat and light hitherto invisible to scientists.
On this date, Presidential
Candidate Barack Hussein Obama renounced the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor, for comments made in an
Internet viral video in which it was taken from context that Rev. Wright
blasted “God damn America.” This statement by Rev. Wright was obviously made in
reference to American storied and tragic past of racial discrimination, hatred,
and bigotry. Also in Obama’s race for the presidency in a very similar vein,
Michele Obama, the future African American First Lady, was round criticized by
people of the political right for saying, of her husband’s very successful
campaign, that “for the first time [she} was proud of her country.” These
comments were unduly taken by those of the political right to denote and infer
that these and the ideals of African Americans in general, most of whom have or
had been victims, in one way or another, of racial discrimination, hatred, and
bigotry during their lifetimes.