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1806
The birth of Sarah Mapps Douglass is celebrated on this date. She was an African-American educator and abolitionist.

Born in Philadelphia Douglass was the daughter of Robert Douglass and Grace Bustill Douglass. Her grandfather, Cyrus Bustill, a Quaker, who owned a bakery, operated a school and was one of the early members of the Free African Society, the first Afro-American charity organization. Her mother operated a millinery store next to the family bakery. Young Douglass entered the “colored” school that her mother and the wealthy Negro shipbuilder James Forten established in 1819.

Around 1827 she established a school for black children. While the school was to be self-supporting, by 1838 the level of funding was insufficient and the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society took over. Douglass was a member and attended a number of conventions. By 1840 she had served the group as member of the board of directors, of the committee on annual fairs, of the education committee, librarian, and corresponding secretary. Patterns of racial segregation in Philadelphia were deep-seated and even involved the Quakers. In Quaker meeting-houses were special “Negro seats,” or Negro pews, placed under the stairs or in a corner and guarded to keep the interracial membership from mixing.

During the 1830s, some of the Quakers challenged the city’s segregation practices, and Douglass’ efforts in this cause were significant. When William Bassett of Lynn, Massachusetts, undertook a plan to bring his fellow New England Quakers into the antislavery movement, Douglass provided him with important information on the Arch Street Meeting’s segregated seating practices. She also supplied White abolitionist Sarah Grimke with information that Grimke used in writing her 1837 statement “The subject of prejudice against color amongst the Society of Friends in the United States,” written in response to her censure by the Quakers for insisting on sitting beside Douglass and her mother at services. When Angelina Grimke and Theodore Weld, a prominent abolitionist, were married in May 1838, Douglass and her mother were among the Negro guests at the wedding. The Philadelphia press called the incident an intolerable act of abolitionists’ “amalgamated” practices.

Two days later, a mob burned down Pennsylvania Hall; the state antislavery society’s newly built headquarters, and set fire to the Shelter for Colored Orphans. Meanwhile, Douglass continued her teaching career. In 1853, she was appointed head of the girls’ primary department of the Institute of Colored Youth. The institute was the forerunner of Cheney (Pennsylvania) State College. Douglass remained there until her retirement in 1877. In 1855, she married William Douglass, rector of St. Thomas Protestant Episcopal Church, a widower with several children. After her husband’s death in 1861, Douglass devoted her time to antislavery activities and continued her teaching.

When the Civil War ended, Douglass became vice-chairman of the Woman’s Pennsylvania Branch of the American Freedmen’s Aid Commission. She died in Philadelphia on September 8, 1882.



1847
William A. Leidesdorff, born in the Danish West Indies to a Danish father and a Black native mother, opens the first commercial steamship service on San Francisco Bay.


1863
Joseph Blackburn Bass was born on this date. He was a black teacher, businessman and newspaper editor.

From Jefferson City, Missouri,
Joseph Bass taught school for seven years but in 1894, William Pope, editor of the Topeka Call offered him the job of newspaperman. In 1896, Pope died, and Joseph Bass became owner, publisher, and editor. In 1898, Nick Chiles purchased the newspaper and changed the name to The Topeka Plaindealer. J.B. Bass worked as Chile’s associate until 1905 when he moved to Helena, Montana to establish The Montana Plaindealer.

In 1911, he went to San Francisco for one year, then on to Los Angeles for a brief visit around October 1912. J.B. Bass decided to stay and in late 1912 he paid a visit to the California Eagle, which was on 1328 Central in L.A. In 1913, Charlotta Spear hired J.B. Bass to do a limited amount of newspaper work, including running the newspaper for two weeks while she traveled north. At the end of 1913, she offered Bass the position of editor of the Eagle, they married in August 1914. Joseph Bass held that position until his death in 1934.

An excerpt from Charlotta Bass’s column, “On the Sidewalk,” dated April 2, 1937, reads:


“My last visit Sunday was to the grave of the late editor of this paper, J.B. Bass. I did not lay a large bouquet upon the grave of him who sleeps beneath, but gardenias three in number, with their fragrance mild but sweet, conveying a message I cannot here repeat.”

”Together we started,
”Together we parted,
”He sleeps, and I go on with the task, he would have me complete.
”Fellow traveler, I do not ask for a lift--
”I can carry my load.
”I only ask that you do not block my path.”



1905
This date celebrates its founding of Miles College. It is one of over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in America.

Located in Birmingham, Alabama it is a private liberal arts institution with a proud history of producing teachers, preachers, community leaders and politicians. Miles College is a Christian Methodist Episcopal Church-related, four-year institution that points to an emphasis on the personal development of all individuals, regardless of race. Former students possess an understanding of their own mission in a global society.

Miles College is a fully accredited member of the Commission on Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges, and is a member of the United Negro College Fund. Miles offers Bachelor Degree programs with majors in: Accounting, Asian Studies, Biology, Biology Education, Business Administration, Chemistry, Chemistry Education, Communications, Elementary Education, English, Environmental Science, Language Arts Education, Mathematics, Mathematics Education, Political Science, Social Science Education, and Social Work.



1920
Marcus Garvey presents his “Back To Africa” program in New York City.


1924
James Arthur Baldwin was born on this date. He was an African-American novelist and essayist.

From Harlem NY, he was the first of nine children of a clergyman and a factory worker, David and mother, Berdis (Jones) Baldwin. After high school, young Baldwin worked at various jobs until he won a fellowship that enabled him to live in Paris. His first novel, written in Paris, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), established him as a leading black commentator on the condition of his people in the United States. This was followed by Giovanni’s Room (1956), a story of homosexual love, Notes of a Native Son (1955) and Nobody Knows My Name (1961) a collection of essays and reminiscences based on his youth.

These and other works, such as The Fire Next Time (1963) and No Name in the Street (1972), reflect Baldwin’s belief that the American black person as an object of suffering and abuse symbolizes universal conflicts and problems. Baldwin states this position in a powerful and frank style. The novels Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968) and Just Above My Head (1979) are concerned with black identity. His plays include The Amen Corner (1950) and Blues for Mister Charlie (1964). Some of his other works of fiction were Another Country, Blues for Mr. Charlie, and Amen Corner among his essay collections.

A collection of Baldwin’s nonfiction, The Price of the Ticket, was published in 1985. James Baldwin was personally involved and active in the Gay community all of his life. He died on November 30, 1987.



1931
On this date, Philippa Duke Schuyler was born. She was an African-American concert pianist.

From Texas, her father, George S. Schuyler was a well-known Black American writer. Her mother, Josephine Cogdell, came from a wealthy white Texas ranching and finance family. Schuyler was raised in an environment of importance on intelligence and artistic expression. In her early years, newspaper and other articles wrote about her prodigal development as she crawled at four weeks, walked at eight months, learned the alphabet at nineteen months, read at two years, and played the piano at age three. At age four, Schuyler could spell four-letter words and could play ten piano compositions, including her own compositions, which she did on radio.

She had a measured IQ of 180 at age seven, graduated from elementary school at age ten, had written over 100 compositions by thirteen, and for that birthday, completed Manhattan Nocturne, her first orchestra work-scored for 100 instruments. The New York Philharmonic performed this piece during the last performance of the Young People’s Concert season (1944-45). After high school graduation at age fifteen, Schuyler wrote The Rhapsody of Youth in honor of the inauguration of Haitian president Paul Magloire. She was knighted for this and gave command performances for Ethiopia’s Halie Selassie and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium.

She was a devoted Catholic, fluent in several languages, and wrote several books. She began a career in journalism as a news correspondent just before her death. Philippa Schuyler died on May 9, 1967, in a helicopter crash in Da Hang during the Vietnam War. She was trying to help remove Catholic schoolchildren from the fighting.



1945
Jewell Jackson (later McCabe) is born in Washington, DC. She will become president of the Coalition of 100 Black Women, whose mission is to develop a forum for African American women leaders.


1951
On this date, private first class William Henry Thompson became the first Black to earn the Medal of Honor in the Korean conflict. While manning his machine gun during a surprise attack on his platoon, Thompson of Company M, Twenty-fourth Infantry Regiment, was killed in action. This occurred at a critical juncture in the 8th Army’s attempt to stop the North Korean Army’s southward movement. Pfc. Thompson’s effort near Hainan, Korea, resulted in his becoming the first Black man to receive the Medal of Honor since 1898.


1963
The founding of A Better Chance (ABC) is celebrated on this date. They are a national non-profit talent search organization.

A Better Chance began as a pioneering experiment in educational opportunity. The Charles E. Merrill Foundation gave a grant that allowed twenty-three independent schools to respond to President John F. Kennedy’s call for equal access to the nation’s top schools for minority students. The schools’ response: the Independent School Talent Search Program (ISTSP). ISTSP held its first session for academically talented youth in the summer of 1964 at Dartmouth College.

Fifty young men had been accepted by college preparatory schools so long as they completed the summer program. That summer, the name of the program changed to Project ABC: A Better Chance. Their mission is to substantially increase the number of well-educated minority youth capable of assuming positions of responsibility and leadership in American society. A Better Chance works with students of color in sixth grade through college to help them gain access to broader educational and career opportunities.

They honor their original promise to offer deserving students of color access to a quality education. Over 11,000 A Better Chance Scholars have graduated from Member Schools, which now extend to 27 states. ABC alumni have gone on to graduate from competitive colleges, graduate programs, or professional schools. A Better Chance alumnus includes leaders in business, law, medicine, government, education, and the arts.



1964
A racially motivated disturbance begins in Jersey City, New Jersey.


1966
The Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School, later Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, is chartered in Los Angeles, California. It is the only African American-focused medical school west of the Mississippi.


1967
“In the Heat of the Night,” starring Sidney Portier and Rod Steiger, premieres.


1967
Claude A. Barnett, who founded the Associated Negro Press, joins the ancestors at the age of 78.


1980
Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns, boxer, won the WBA welterweight crown on this day with a second-round technical knockout (TKO) of champion Jose (Pipino) Cuevas of Mexico, making him the first Black to win boxing titles in five different weight classes. Known as one of the hardest punchers in boxing, Hearns staggered Cuevas in the 1st round with a left hook, then later a straight right, which nearly ended the bout. In the second round, Hearns landed a right that sent Cuevas to the canvas; as Cuevas got up, the referee saw that he was having difficulty standing, so the ref ended the fight. Born October 18, 1958, in Grand Junction, TN, Hearns began his professional career in 1977. He has won 6 championships in five different weight classes including Super Welterweight, WBA World Welterweight, WBC Super Welterweight, WBC Middleweight and IBF Lightweight. Hearns retired from boxing in 2000 with an impressive 59-4-1 (46 KOs) record and currently works as a boxing promoter.


1982
Jackie Robinson, the first African American to break the color barrier in major league baseball, is honored by a commemorative stamp issued by the Postal Service, the fifth in its Black Heritage USA series.


1986
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (United States) sets record for the heptathlon (7161 pts).


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