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1810
Robert Purvis, Sr. was born on this date. He was an African-American political leader and abolitionist.

From Charleston, South Carolina, the second of three sons born to a wealthy white cotton merchant and a free mulatto mother, Harriet Judah, young Purvis was to be a determined opponent of slavery. At the age of nine, his father sent the family to Philadelphia where Purvis enrolled in the Pennsylvania Abolition Society’s Clarkson School. He later attended Amherst College in Massachusetts.

His father’s death left the family well off financially and with shrewd business savvy; Purvis put his commerce sense to good use. Light-skinned and wealthy, he rejected suggestions that he relocate and “pass.” In 1831, he married Harriet Forten, the daughter of African-American businessman and abolitionist James Forten. Throwing himself into the antislavery struggle, he tirelessly worked with the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee. They sheltered runaway slaves in Purvis’ “safe house.”

He was an active member with William Lloyd Garrison’s American Anti-slavery Society in 1833 in helping to establish the organization, signing its Declaration of Sentiments, and serving on its first board of managers. In the same year, he helped establish the Library Company of Colored People. In 1838, he drafted “Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens Threatened with Disfranchisement,” which supported the repeal of a new state statute barring African Americans from voting. As a supporter of the Underground Railroad, he served as chairman of the General Vigilance Committee from 1852 until 1857. According to records that he kept, from 1831 until 1861, he estimated that he helped one slave achieve freedom per day. According to these figures, he helped 9,000 slaves achieve freedom.


He traveled to Europe, meeting with British officials, in the name of stopping slavery. For two decades, Purvis lived in an elegant home in Philadelphia where he entertained abolitionists from America and Europe working politically to end slavery. It was here through his efforts with his father-in-law, that the career of his niece Charlotte Forten (educator) was influenced. He welcomed the outbreak of the Civil War, urging President Lincoln to make emancipation his goal. At the end of the war, Purvis was asked to head the Freedmen’s Bureau.

He refused, fearing this was a ploy by President Andrew Johnson, to keep black support while attempting to destroy the bureau. Initially a Republican, Purvis became disheartened as the party retreated from the principles it advocated during reconstruction. In the mid-1870s, he was criticized for his position on the Fifteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1870. A life-long supporter of women’s rights, Purvis argued that African- American men should not be enfranchised unless women received the vote. In the last two decades of his life, he became an elder statesman, tending to his personal possessions at home. Robert Purvis died in April 15, 1898 in Philadelphia.



1862
On this date, the 1st Kansas Volunteer Colored Infantry was formed. This was the first official regiment of Blacks serving in the American Army.

Captain James M. Williams, Co. F, 5th Kansas Cavalry, was appointed for that portion of the state of Kansas. The area where Kansas Volunteer Colored Infantry was organized was north of the Kansas River. Captain Williams enlisted Captain H.C. Seaman, other 2nd Lieutenant recruiting officers and obtained supplies from departments near Leavenworth.

Within sixty days, 500 men were recruited and the battalion was mustered into the U.S. service. This request was not complied with, and the reasons assigned were wholly unsatisfactory, yet accompanied with assurances of such a nature as to warrant the belief that but a short time would elapse ere the request would be complied with. Problems with the civil authorities in the Northern District threatened their beginning. They were: 1. Rebellion. 2. Prejudices against Blacks. 3. Loyalists believing that to enlist Black men would not be approved by the War Department. 4. Many who believed that the Negro were not qualified to make efficient soldiers, and the result would be defeat, disaster and disgrace.

Col. Williams followed his instructions to the letter. On October 28, 1862, a command, consisting of detachments were moved and camped at Wilson’s Creek near Butler. About 225 men, under Capt. Seaman were attacked by a rebel force of about 500, and were defeated. The Union loss was 10 killed and 12 wounded. The next morning they were reinforced by a few recruits and chased though never caught the enemy.

This battle was to be the first in the Civil War where colored troops were used. The work of signing up continued until January 1863, when a battalion of six companies, was mustered into the U.S. In May 1863, the other four companies were organized. The regiment was eventually ordered to Baxter Springs.



1870
White conservatives suppress the African American vote and capture the Tennessee legislature in an election marred by assassinations and widespread violence.  The campaign effectively ends Radical Reconstruction in North Carolina. The conservative legislature will impeach Governor Holden on December 14.


1875
The Convention of Colored Newspapermen is held in Cincinnati, Ohio. The meeting is attended by J. Sella Martin of the “True Republican”, Mifflin W. Gibbs, former publisher of California’s “Mirror of the Times” representing the “Pacific Appeal”, Henry McNeal Turner of Philadelphia’s “Christian Recorder”, the San Francisco “Elevator’s” L. H. Douglass, and Henry Scroggins of the “American Citizen” (Lexington, Kentucky). Chairman P.B.S.  Pinchback states the aim of the national organization: “to make colored people’s newspapers self-sustaining.” At the time of the convention, Martin’s “New Era” and Frederick Douglass’ “North Star” are among eight African American newspaper failures.


1885
W.C. Carter invents the umbrella stand.


1890
Sam T. Jack’s play “Creoles” opens in Haverhill, Massachusetts. It is the first time African American women are featured as performers on the stage.


1891
George Washington Williams joins the ancestors in Blackpool, England at the age of 41. He was the first major African American historian and published his major work, “History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880” in 1883. Williams also served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1880 to 1881, during the 64th session of the General Assembly. He was the first African-American to serve in the Ohio Legislature.


1896
W.S. Grant patents a curtain rod support.


1897
Henry Rucker is appointed collector of Internal Revenue for Georgia.


1901
This date marks the birth in New Orleans, LA of Daniel Louis Armstrong. He was an African-American jazz, cornet, and trumpet player, singer, band leader, and entertainer who became affectionately known as Satchmo to the world. Satchmo was short for satchel mouth.

Armstrong became one of the most innovative and influential musicians of the 20th century, and one of the most beloved entertainers in the world. Born Louis Daniel Armstrong in 1901 he was raised by his mother in the urban slums of New Orleans. As a youth, he was locked up for delinquency at the Colored Waifs’ home in New Orleans, where he was given a cornet to play in the home’s brass band. In 1922 Armstrong joined “Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band” in Chicago and made his first recordings with Oliver the following year.

After 1925 Armstrong began leading his own band and also recorded with some of the most renowned blues singers of the time, including American singer Bessie Smith. From 1925 to 1928, he led a recording group called the “Hot Fives“(later known as the Hot Sevens.) Their recordings are considered some of the most seminal and enduring pieces in the history of jazz. In the 1930s and 1940s Armstrong led a big band, toured Europe on several occasions, and increasingly pursued a career as a popular entertainer in motion pictures. In 1947, Armstrong formed a septet called the All Stars.

This band, which Armstrong led until 1968, became largely a vehicle for his own playing and singing. He became an unofficial musical ambassador from the United States, performing all over the world. In 1964 his recording of “Hello Dolly” became the number-one song on the Billboard magazine popular-record charts, replacing “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” by the British rock-music group The Beatles. That same year Armstrong won a Grammy Award for “Hello Dolly.“

Some of his other hits will be “It’s a Wonderful World,” “Mack the Knife,” and “Blueberry Hill.” He will also be featured in films: “The Five Pennies,” “The Glenn Miller Story,” and “High Society.” He will be referred to as the American ambassador of good will and will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Louis Armstrong died in 1971. In 1996 Queens College announced plans to turn Armstrong’s longtime home in the Queens borough of New York City into a museum in his honor. Armstrong’s archives are preserved at Queens College.


1913
Robert Hayden was born on this date. He was an African-American poet.

Born Asa Bundy Sheffey, Hayden was raised in the poor Paradise Valley neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan. He had an emotionally turbulent youth and was shuttled between the home of his parents and that of a foster family, who lived next door. Childhood events would result in times of depression he would call ‘my dark nights of the soul’. A nearsighted boy, he was often ostracized by his peers and was excluded from many physical Hobbies. Reading on the other hand occupied a great deal of his time.

Hayden finished high school in 1932 and through a scholarship attended Detroit City College. After graduation, he worked for the Federal Writer’s Project, researching Black history and folk culture. In 1941, he enrolled in a graduate English Literature program at the University of Michigan where he studied with W. H. Auden. Auden became an influential mentor and guide in the development of his writing. Hayden also admired the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Elinor Wiley, Carl Sandburg, and Hart Crane, as well as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and Jean Toomer.

He had an interest in African-American history and explored his anxieties about race in his writing. After finishing the degree in 1942, he taught for several years at Michigan before transferring to Fisk University; in 1969, he would return to Michigan to complete his teaching career. Hayden published his first book of poems, Heart-Shape in the Dust, in 1940.

Hayden’s poetry gained international recognition in the 1960s and he was awarded the grand prize for poetry at the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal, in 1966 for his book Ballad of Remembrance. In 1976, he became the first Black American to be appointed as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (later called the Poet Laureate). He died in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1980.



1916
The United States purchases the Danish Virgin Islands for $25 million.


1923
Mayme Clayton was born on this date. She was an African-American Librarian, researcher and historian.

From in Van Buren, Arkansas she graduated from high school at the age of sixteen. The daughter of Southern pioneers she was proud of her father being the only black business owner of a general store, dealing successfully with both black and white communities where she grew up. Her parents instilled in her a love of culture as well as a sense of adventure.

After graduating from Lincoln University in Nebraska in 1945, she moved to New York where she met her husband, married and moved to Los Angeles. She earned a B.A. degree from the University of California-Berkeley, a master’s of library science from Goddard College and a Ph.D. from Sierra University in Los Angeles.

Clayton began her career as a librarian in 1952, working at the Doheny Library at the University of Southern California. In 1957, she left USC to become a law librarian at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she remained for fifteen years. While at UCLA, Clayton also served as a consultant and founding member of the Afro-American Studies Center Library. During the 60s, UCLA asked her to develop a library for the Black Studies Department, and she became keenly aware that the attainment of out-of-print materials was not valued by the administration.

The mission of preserving out-of-print African-American materials fused with her unwavering and passionate interest in preserving black culture. Leaving UCLA, Clayton took a position at Universal Books in Hollywood, and when the store closed, the partners in the store divided the remaining volumes between themselves. Clayton left with more than 4,000 volumes of books that pertained to Black society and culture.

Since then, her collection grew to more than 20,000 pieces including films, books, magazines, music and advertisements. Some of the treasures in this collection are signed first editions of works by Zora Neale Hurston and handwritten correspondence from George Washington Carver, as well as a rare signed copy of Phyllis Wheatley’s “Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral,” considered as the first book published in America by an author of African descent.

Currently, the collection resides in the Western States Black Research and Cultural Center in the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Cultural Center. Clayton served as the president of the center, and her son Avery, serves as the executive director. Clayton was also the founder of the Black American Cinema Society, which awards scholarships and hosts film festivals.

She was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Phoenix Award and the Paul Robeson Award. Mayme A. Clayton died on October 13, 2006 at the age of 83.



1931
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, pioneer heart surgeon, educator, founder of Chicago’s Provident Hospital, joins the ancestors. Without using anesthesia, Williams performed the world’s first successful open heart surgery at Provident Hospital in 1893.


1936
Jesse Owens sets a new Olympic running broad jump record by leaping 26’ 5 5/16”.


1936
On this date, “the most daring move seen in track” happened at the Olympic Summer Games. It was here that African-American “Long” John Woodruff of the University of Pittsburgh won the 800-meters Gold Medal in Berlin.

On the race day, Woodruff ran against Canada, Italy England, and Australia. England got the lead at the start, with Woodruff second, over the first lap, followed closely by two other Brits. As they went to the second lap backstretch, Woodruff took the lead only for an instant, as England’s Edwards (who had run in two previous Olympics) moved around him. A young beginner runner, against the experienced veteran runners led to Woodruff being boxed in.

But, as the field neared the final turn, Woodruff made a move that caused the crowd to gasp, a reposition that the New York Herald-Tribune, called “the most daring move seen on a track.” Woodruff came to a complete stop, let the other runners get around him, and then moved to the outside two lanes. The young Black man shifted out into the third lane and was last in the pack. From the third lane, he got around everybody and took control of the race.

He charged to the finish line with his long, lengthening stride, until with one final burst of speed he took the lead and held it to the tape in 1:52.9, beating out Italy and Canada. Afterwards Woodruff said, “I felt I had to do something drastic, for I couldn’t break between the two leaders because I could have been disqualified on a foul.” At the time it was the first time in 24 years the United States had an 800 Gold Medal.
He, like Jesse Owens (who had won his second medal earlier in the day), was snubbed by Adolph Hitler, who believed that Blacks are incapable of athletic achievement.


1953
The movement of African American families into the Trumbull Park housing project in Chicago, Illinois, triggers virtually continuous riot conditions which will last more than three years and require the assignment of more than one thousand policemen to keep order.


1961
Barack Obama was born on this date. He is an African American lawyer, politician and activist.

From Ohau Hawaii, he is the son of economist Barack Obama, Sr. of Kenya and S. Ann Dunham of Kansas. Both his parents were students at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. At the age of two, his parents divorced and Obama’s mother re-married and moved the family moved to Indonesia for a couple of years. But Obama returned to Hawaii to be raised by his grandmother in downtown Honolulu. He was enrolled in the fifth grade at Punahou School, and got his first job at Baskin-Robbins in town. After graduating from Punahou School with honors, Obama went on to study at Columbia University in New York City majoring in political science.

He then moved to Chicago, Illinois and took up community organizing. He left briefly to study law at Harvard University where he became the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. Obama returned to his adopted hometown of Chicago in 1992 and to organized an aggressive election effort for the Bill Clinton presidential campaign. His talents gained him a seat at a local civil rights law firm and became a lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Chicago. Obama still serves as a professor there. In 1995 he published his memoir, “Dreams from My Father.” One year later Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate from the south side of Chicago. He served as chairman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee.

Obama is married and has two children. Regarded as a staunch liberal during his tenure in the legislature, he helped to author a state earned income tax credit providing benefits to the poor. He also pursued laws that extended health coverage to Illinois residents who could not afford insurance. Speaking up for leading gay and lesbian advocacy groups, he successfully passed bills to increase funding for AIDS prevention and care programs. In the 2004 Senate race, his early opponent was businessman and educator Jack Ryan and Chicago Bears former coach Mike Ditka. both opted not to due to family and business considerations. Obama will deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts.



1962
Nelson Mandela is captured and jailed by South African police.


1963
Keith Ellison was born on this date. He is an African-American lawyer, and politician.

Keith Maurice Ellison is one of five boys, was raised in a Roman Catholic home in Detroit, Michigan. Ellison’s father was a psychiatrist and his mother was a social worker. Growing up Ellison was influenced by the involvement of his family in the civil rights movement, including the work of his grandfather as a member of the NAACP in Louisiana. He converted to Islam at 19 while attending Wayne State University.

In 1987, he married Kim Ellison and moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota Law School from which he graduated in 1990. After graduating from law school, Ellison joined the firm of Lindquist & Vennum where he litigated for three years. He then served as Executive Director of the Legal Rights Center, a nonprofit organization that specialized in the defense of indigent clients.

In 2002, Ellison was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives for House District 58B, a blue collar Minneapolis neighborhood, made up of 76 percent minorities. In 2006 Ellison became the first Muslim to be elected to the US Congress.

He is also the first African American from Minnesota to the House of Representatives. He and his wife Kim have four children.



1964
James E. Chaney and two other civil rights workers’ bodies are found in an earthen dam on a farm in Philadelphia, Mississippi. They had been missing since June 21. The FBI says that they had been murdered on the night of their disappearance by segregationists. Eighteen whites, including several police officers, were charged with conspiracy to deprive the victims of their civil rights.


1965
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the voting rights bill which authorized the suspension of literacy tests and the sending of federal examiners into the South.


1969
Willie Stargell is the first to hit a home run out of Dodger Stadium.


1980
Maury Wills is named manager of the Seattle Mariners. He is the third African American to be named a major league manager.


1985
California Angel Rod Carew gets his 3,000th base hit.


1996
On the final day of the Atlanta Olympics, Josia Thugwane became the first Black South African to win a gold medal as he finished first in the marathon.


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