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On this date, Prince Hall, a Revolutionary War veteran, organized the Negro Masonic Order in the United States-African Lodge No. 459, in Boston.

This became the first Black self-help fraternal institution in the United States. His petition for the lodge was presented to the Grand Lodge of England in March 1784, but its implementation was delayed. These fraternal organizations were important to Blacks at the time; along with churches and schools, they constituted an important part of the self-help movement. Hall would go on to become the father of Black Masons in America and a major Black leader in the northeast.

Now, more than 150 years later, the Negro Masonic Order has 40 grand lodges, 5,500 lodges, and more than 500,000 members.

Haiti, under Toussaint L’Ouverture, revolts against France.

Martin Robinson Delany, a pioneering Black nationalist, the son of a slave father and a free mother, was born free in Charleston or Charles Town*, VA (now West Virginia).

As a child, he moved to Chambersburg, PA, where a prosperous mentor paid for his education. Martin Delany had a varied career. In 1843, he began practicing medicine and he attended Harvard Medical School. He wrote several books, including a novel, Blake. Later, he worked in real estate. But his true importance was as an advocate for African-Americans. During the 1840s, he published The Mystery, the first Black-owned newspaper west of the Alleghenies, and he was co-editor with Frederick Douglass of the Rochester North Star, an antislavery paper. During the 1840s, Delany also wrote antislavery pamphlets and helped escaping slaves on their way to freedom.

In the 1850s, Delany concentrated his prodigious energies on emigration and colonization ventures. He played a leading role in African-American emigration conferences for West Africa. In 1859, Delany signed a treaty with Nigeria to allow African-American settlement and the development of cotton production using free West African workers. The coming of the Civil War disrupted those plans.

He fought in the Civil War to end slavery and became a Major, the first African American field officer to serve in the U.S. military. Abraham Lincoln once described him as one of the most brilliant men he had ever met.

Following the war, he worked for the Freedmen’s Bureau in South Carolina, which led to political office during the Reconstruction era. In the 1870s his support for the Democratic candidate for governor cost him his political career.

Over the years he became frustrated with American racism and began to advocate a return of Blacks to Africa. In his final years, Martin Delany published books and was active in the ill-fated Liberian Exodus Joint-Stock Steamship Company. Martin Robinson Delany died in 1885.

He, along with Frederick Douglass, published the North Star, an antislavery paper.

(*Note that some sources indicate Charleston and some indicate Charles Town or Charlestown. For the record, both cities were founded in the late Eighteenth Century which was Virginia. The current day Charles Town or Charlestown was founded and incorporated by Charles Washington, the youngest full brother of George Washington, in 1786 and is located in Jefferson County, which is the eastern most county in West Virginia, while Charleston, originally named Charles Town and later shortened to avoid confusion with the other settlement, is the capital of West Virginia and located in Kanawha County in central southwestern West Virginia. Charleston was first settled by the Bullitt family in 1774 and incorporated by the Virginia General Assembly in 1794. [Sources: Wikipedia, Charleston, West Virginia,,_West_Virginia and Charles Town, West Virginia,,_West_Virginia, and The City of Charles Town, WV, © 2003 – 2008, City of Charles Town, WV,])

Leon Jordan was born on this date. He was an African-American teacher, police detective and politician.

Born in Kansas City, MO., Jordan graduated from Wilberforce University, in Wilberforce, Ohio, and later worked as a social caseworker and teacher. In 1938, he joined the Kansas City Police Department, aftrer 16 years becoming the first African-American to achieve the rank of lieutenant. He was granted an extended leave of absence in 1947, and lived for eight years in the West African country of Liberia, where he reorganized a 450-man police force.

He left police work soon after his return from Liberia and launched both a business and political career. Jordan was first elected to public office in 1958. He founded Freedom, Inc. in 1962, with Bruce Watkins, his longtime friend and ally in inner-city political affairs. The club was established to give Black voters more influence and to develop Black candidates for political office. In 1963, under Jordan’s leadership and with a public accommodations ordinance on the ballot, Freedom, Inc. conducted one of the most massive voter registration drives ever seen in Kansas City.

Jordan was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives in 1964. In 1970, Leon Jordan was perhaps the most powerful African-American in the state of Missouri. He also owned and operated the Green Duck tavern. Jordan was assassinated (shot at close range in a gangland-style killing) in the early morning hours of July 15, 1970, as he was closing his tavern. Although charges were brought against two individuals, no one was ever convicted and Jordan’s murder remains unsolved.

The Leon M. Jordan Memorial Park at 31st Street and Benton Boulevard, which features a statue of the slain leader, was dedicated in 1975.

Noted actor Charles Sidney Gilpin joins the ancestors. The founder and manager of the Lafayette Theatre Company, one of the earliest African American stock companies in New York, Gilpin achieved fame for his performance as Brutus Jones in Eugene O’Neill’s play “The Emperor Jones.” In 1921, he won the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in recognition of his theatrical career.

Willie Howard Mays was born on this date. He was an African-American Baseball player.

From Westfield, Alabama, both of his parents were athletes. His father played baseball on the all-Black teams of the segregated south, and his mother was a champion sprinter in her school. In his youth, his father also worked in a steel mill, and played on a semi- professional team sponsored by the mill. Young Mays was taught to catch a ball before he could walk, and at age 14, he joined his father on the mill team. His high school had no baseball team, so he played basketball and football.

Mays began his professional career at age 16, playing with the Birmingham Black Barons in the segregated Negro Southern League. While his father avidly supported Willie’s ambition to be a professional ball player, he also insisted his son finish high school. In his first year with the Barons, Willie was restricted to playing home games so he wouldn’t miss school. The day he graduated from high school, the New York Giants signed him. Mays began playing in Trenton, New Jersey quickly advancing to their AAA farm club, the Minneapolis Millers.

In 1951, at the age of 20 he joined the Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York City. Nicknamed the “Say Hey Kid”; with NY-San Francisco Giants, Mays led NL in Home Runs and stolen bases 4 times each. He was a 2-time MVP (1954 and 1965) with NY-San Francisco Giants.
He had 7,095 putouts that was the all-time record for an outfielder. His career batting average was .302 with a 3,283 career hits, as he became the National League batting champion four times. For eight consecutive years, he drove in more than 100 runs a year. Outstandingly, Mays played in 24 All-Star Games, earning MVP honors twice (1963 and 1968). He was also voted Most Valuable Player in the National League in both 1954 and 1965. Additionally, he was a 12-time Gold Glove winner. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame 1979.

In 1986, Mays returned to the San Francisco Giants organization, where he serves as special assistant to the president of the club. In 1993 the Giants made this a lifetime appointment. His position in the history of his sport has Willie Mays as one of the immortals.

On this date, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created.

This organization helped provide economic relief to the citizens of the United States who were suffering through the Great Depression. Established by the Roosevelt administration, by the time it ended in February 1943, it had allocated 11 billion dollars and employed more than 8 million people. Jobs formed by the WPA included a variety of construction, clerical, professional, and arts endeavors. The WPA came at a time of critical need for African-Americans. The depression, while imposing hardships of people of all races and ethnic backgrounds, struck blacks particularly hard.

The WPA not only hired African-Americans, its projects contributed to their well-being. WPA construction crews built and renovated hospitals, housing projects, schools, parks, playgrounds, and swimming pools in Black communities. Impoverished Black children and adults received free medical and dental care at clinics staffed by Black and White doctors and doctors employed by the WPA. Over 5,000 African-American instructors and supervisors worked on the WPA’s educational programs. They taught a quarter of a million Black adults to read and write, cutting the illiteracy rate by 5 percent.

An editorial in Opportunity Magazine in 1939 credited the WPA in northern cities with giving qualified Blacks their first chance at employment in white-collar positions. Alain Locke, an early chronicler of the Harlem Renaissance, attributed its survival during the 1930’s to the WPA. The WPA also funded Black acting troupes. The Negro Theatre Project staged Walk Together Chillun by Frank Wilson at the Lafayette Theatre through the WPA. The Federal Art Project was one of the divisions of the WPA created under Federal Project One. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had attempted before the Federal Arts Project (FAP) to provide employment for artists on relief.

These attempts included the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), which operated from 1933 to 1934, and the Treasury Department Section of Painting and Sculpture, which were created in 1934 after the demise of the PWAP. It was the FAP, however, that provided the widest reach, creating over 5,000 jobs for artists and producing over 225,000 works of art for the American people. Despite its substantial contributions to the welfare of African-Americans, the WPA never fully met the needs of the unemployed, White or Black.

Despite orders from President Roosevelt and WPA directors Harry Hopkins and Aubrey Williams against discrimination “on any grounds whatsoever, such as race, religion, or political affiliation,” unfair practices did occur. The WPA adjusted its wage scales to the prevailing rates of pay in the region. Thus a worker in the South where about 75% of the black population lived, received far lower compensation than WPA personnel in the North. Also African-Americans, even in the North, clustered in the least-skilled and poorest-paid positions.

In the New York City WPA in 1937, only 0.5% of its Black employees were supervisors, while 75% were classified as unskilled laborers. Even with many attempts to educate and retain its workers, the WPA never put enough resources into such efforts to upgrade the skills of its common laborers.

On this date, President Dwight David Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1960.

This was the first civil rights bill to be approved by Congress since Reconstruction and acknowledged the federal government’s responsibility in matters involving civil rights and reversed its customary “hands-off” policy. Though Eisenhower is not routinely linked to the civil rights issue, his contribution, including the 1957 Act, was important as it pushed the whole civil rights issue into the White House. At the time, politicians from the South were angry over what they saw as federal interference in state affairs. The bill became an act in 1960 as both parties were fighting for the “Black Vote.”

The 1960 Civil Rights Act introduced penalties to be charged against anybody who obstructed someone’s attempt to register to vote or someone’s attempt to actually vote. A Civil Rights Commission was created. Yet the act barely touched on anything new and Eisenhower, at the end of his presidency, was accused of passing the thorny problem of voters’ constitutional rights over to his successor. Though the act did little to impress civil rights leaders, they were ready to acknowledge that it was again federal government recognition that a constitutional problem existed.

The Eisenhower civil rights acts added only an extra 3% Black voters to the electoral roll for the 1960 election.

Four hundred students seize the administration building at Cheyney State College.

Howard Lee was elected mayor of Chapel Hill, NC on this date. Lee became the first Black elected mayor of a predominately white North Carolina city in modern times.

Gladys Merritt Ross, co-founder of Phi Delta Kappa sorority for African American teachers, dies in Stockton, California.

The Smithsonian Institution approves creation of the National African American Museum.

Ron Kirk, attorney, politician, was elected the first Black mayor of Dallas on this date. He served two terms. In a city with a population of 1.1 million, 52 percent Black and Hispanic, Kirk received a resounding 62 percent of the votes to defeat challenger Darnell Jordan, who 24 percent. In his campaign, Kirk, a former Texas Secretary of State, promised to attract new business, retain jobs, and strengthen the police force–a message that appealed to voters. Kirk won the mayoral position by building a sweeping coalition that ranged from wealthy corporate White to poor inner-city Black and Hispanic residents. An Austin, TX native, he attended local schools and graduated from Austin College with a B.A. in 1976, he earned his J.D. in 1979 from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to practice law that same year. Kirk returned to private practice as a partner in Vinson & Elkins LLP and currently is on the board of directors for PetsMart, Brinker International, and Dean Foods.

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