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This date celebrates the birth of Paul Cuffe. He was a Black philanthropist, merchant, sea captain and abolitionist.

The son of a former African slave father and American Indian mother, Cuffe was born on the island of Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts, near the commercial port of New Bedford. Later persuaded “that commerce furnished to industry more ample rewards than agriculture,” he prepared himself for that field by becoming proficient in mathematics and navigation. Keenly opposed to discrimination against his people, Cuffe championed their cause with an intensity that might be expected of a less successful man. But his wealth was no shield against racism, and his problems reveal as much about its long arm as about the difficulties encountered by a black person in America.

A nationalist and Quaker, he was shaped by the major currents of his era. The concerns of his people did not alone define his interest, but they were at the center of his life and accounted for much of his influence. It was through his efforts that Blacks were granted the right to vote in Massachusetts in 1783. Most of Cuffe’s life was spent in Westport, a Quaker enclave in southwestern Massachusetts where in 1797 he bought a farm for $3500. He had earned his fortune from whaling and trade in the Americas and Europe. He owned shares, over a period of time, in up to ten ships, and the financial support of the Friends and their doctrine figured in his success as a businessman. They captained some of his ships and like him, believed that the virtues of the counting house, such as industry and frugality, were pleasing in the sight of God.

Cuffe’s faith was a factor in his using a substantial portion of his wealth to help others, building a school when the community failed to do so and contributing to the raising of a new Friends meetinghouse in Westport. Cuffe’s interest in Africa stemmed in part, from his father having been born there. Cuffe promoted colonization in Sierra Leone, and took a group of thirty-eight black settlers there in 1811. The success he achieved, as a Black captain with Black crews was evidence of the black expertise thought essential to the redemption of Africa. His voyage there in his own ship in 1815 with emigrants from America and his financial success anticipated ideals later associated with black nationalists from Henry Highland Garnet to Marcus Garvey. This complex man, like Bishop Henry M. Turner later in the century, was certain enough of his own vision to risk association with the American Colonization Society, whose motives regarding the return of blacks to Africa were highly suspect in black leadership circles.

Cuffe, though working to uplift of his people, accepted support from white allies, and though struggling for Black rights in America assisted in the regeneration of Africa. He made an impact on his time sufficient to begin a tradition, and that, perhaps, is his greatest legacy.

In September 1818 large numbers of people were present at his funeral in Westport. Paul Cuffe was buried in the Friends cemetery there.

Absalom Jones is ordained as a deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church.


Peter Salem, Battle of Bunker Hill hero, joins the ancestors in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Congress passes The First Confiscation Act, authorizing the appropriation of the property, including slaves of rebel slaveholders.

White conservatives suppressed Black vote and captured Tennessee legislative in election marred by assassinations and widespread violence. Campaign effectively ended Radical Reconstruction in North Carolina. The conservative legislature impeached Governor Holden on December 14.

Miriam Matthews was born on this date. She was an African-American historian, activist and lecturer.

From Pensacola, Florida, she was one of three children born to Ruben and Fannie (Elijah) Matthews. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was a baby. Matthews received her A.B. from the University of California in 1926 and her Certificate of Librarianship one year later. She was the first African-American librarian in the Los Angeles Public Library system where she worked from 1927 to 1960, both as a branch librarian and as a supervisor of 12 branch libraries.

Despite conflicts to acknowledgment of her skills and expertise, Matthews rose to be a head librarian, and in the 1940s, was appointed regional librarian in the South Central area. She assembled an extensive collection of materials on Blacks in California history and, in 1929, helped organize an observance of Negro History Week. In addition to organizing book clubs and lectures for library visitors, she became well known for encouraging local Black artists. In 1950, she co-founded the Associated Artists Gallery.

Throughout her career she strove to educate the public about Los Angeles’s diversity from its beginnings, and as a result of her efforts, the plaza monument in El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park lists the correct race, sex and age of each founder. A book of photographs from her collection, “Angelinos of Ebony Hue: Glimpses of African American Participation in the Founding and Development of Los Angeles and Beyond,” traces the influence of Black pioneers in Los Angeles from the 18th and early 19th centuries.

On this date, Bennett McVey Stewart was born. He was an African-American high school principal, professor and a former U. S. Representative.

Born in Huntsville, Alabama, he received his undergraduate degree from Miles College in 1936. He returned there to teach for two years until 1940. Stewart was the State of Illinois Director of Insurance for eighteen years. He retired and become inspector for the Chicago Building Department. This position lead to involvement in politics, after Ralph Metcalfe died in 1978, Stewart was chosen to fill the vacancy. A year later he was elected to the Ninety-sixth Congress, serving on the Committee on Appropriations.

He sought federal funds for the then financially troubled Chrysler Corporation and heating assistance for low-income citizens. He was defeated in 1980 by Harold Washington. He resided in Chicago until his death in April of 1988.

John Merrick, co-organizer of North Carolina Mutual and Provident Life Insurance Company, died in Durham, NC on this date.

African American lawyers organize the National Bar Association and name George H. Woodson of Des Moines, Iowa, as President, and Wendell Gree of Chicago, Illinois, as Secretary.

Anna Marie Wooldridge is born in Chicago, Illinois. She will become a jazz singer, songwriter, and actress known as Abbey Lincoln. She will be widely respected for her writing skills. She will be one of many singers influenced by Billie Holiday. She will have a very long and productive career. With Ivan Dixon, she will co-star in “Nothing But a Man” (1964), an independent film written and directed by Michael Roemer. She also will co-star with Sidney Poitier and Beau Bridges in 1968’s “For Love of Ivy.” She will also appear in the 1956 film “The Girl Can’t Help It.” She will continues to perform and can often be found at the Blue Note in New York City.

United States troops leave Haiti, which it had occupied since 1915.

On this date, the Wake Robin Golf Club of Washington, D.C., was formed. This was one of the first all-Black Women Golf Clubs in America.

Thirteen women held their first meeting at the home of Helen Webb Harris at 79 R Street NW that evening. She was an educator and the wife of a prominent Washington physician. Each founding member was married to an associate of Washington’s all-Black, all-male Royal Golf Club, and they were tired of staying home on weekends while their husbands played.

They weren’t trying to get into country clubs; they just wanted to get on the golf course. At the time, all but one of the District’s public courses, the Lincoln Memorial, a nine-hole, sand-green design in what is now West Potomac Park were off limits to any Black players. Country clubs across America were off limits to almost all people of color, unless they were carrying golf bags, shining shoes, or serving food. Named after the purplish wake-robin wild flower plentiful in the Mid-Atlantic region, the club blossomed almost from the start though not without a few problems. There was some resistance from the men of the Royal Club. Yet Wake Robin members played regularly at the Lincoln Memorial course, still enduring the taunts of men. They made frequent excursions to courses in Baltimore and Philadelphia that were more accommodating to Blacks.

In 1938, the Wake Robin Club pushed the process of desegregating the public courses of the District of Columbia by drafting and sending a petition to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. To mollify the petitioners, Ickes approved the construction of a nine-hole course on the site of an abandoned trash dump. In 1939, Langston Golf Course was built near Spingarn High School in Northeast Washington. It wasn’t pretty, especially when players tried to retrieve balls from under the old tires or rusty tin cans strewn about the property. But finally, Black golfers had a place to call their own. Today, Langston is an 18-hole public facility that still attracts a predominately Black clientele. Both Wake Robin and the Royal Club continued to press Ickes to open up the city’s other public facilities, and in 1941, he issued an order that did. When the doors opened at the city’s other courses, some members (at the East Potomac Course) were actually stoned.

White men around there harassed Blacks, and when they’d hit the ball, the children who lived around there would come out and pick it up and run with it. Still Wake Robin didn’t curb its political action to the D.C. area. Along with many other minority clubs, Wake Robin was part of the movement to force the PGA to drop its “White-only” rule for eligibility, which it did in 1961. The club also helped organize and support the United Golfers Association, which put on tournaments throughout the country for the best Black professionals. Wake Robin carried on and prospered while it battled to end the exclusionary heritage of golf. Currently, members, now numbering more than 50, play every week throughout the Washington area. There are regular weekend matches, monthly tournaments, and a club championship.

Most of the current members are aware of their gracious history. The current membership inherited all of the clubs memorabilia collected through the years, including Helen Harris’s original postcard inviting her 12 friends to the first meeting in 1936. This can be found in a wing of the Howard University library in Washington, D.C.

An African American private and a white military policeman are shot to death on a bus in North Carolina during a fight between African American and white soldiers. This is the first of a series of serious racial incidents (between African American and white soldiers and African American soldiers and white civilians) which will continue throughout the war.

Pfc. William Thompson of New York City was killed in Korea when he refused to withdraw. Though seriously wounded, he fought while his buddies retreated to safety. Thomson was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously, the first Black to receive the nation’s highest military decoration since the Spanish-American War.

Satchel Paige, at age 46, becomes the oldest pitcher to complete a major-league baseball game. Paige, pitching for the Cleveland Indians, shuts out the Detroit Tigers 1-0 in a 12-inning game.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ordered the New Orleans public schools to remove all racial bars from the first three grades the following September. The decision was to allow a pupil of the first three grades to transfer in September to the formerly all-White or all-Black school nearest his home.

Jamaica becomes independent after 300 years of British rule.

On this date, the American Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed into law when it was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in the same room that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and a host of others witnessed the signing. It was a most sweeping of reforms.

Pushed for change through the civil rights movement in the 1950s and ‘60s were century old practices aimed at preventing Blacks from exercising their legal right to vote. This law provided for automatic suspension of literacy tests and other voter qualification devices because they were applied, most particularly in the South, in a discriminatory way; gave federal voting examiners the authority to register voters in areas not meeting certain voter participation requirements; authorized the U.S. attorney general to investigate the validity of state poll taxes; required federal review to prevent racial discrimination by new state voting laws; and made interference with voting rights conferred by the law a criminal offense.

Addition to this law was the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1964, prohibiting poll taxes as a qualification for voting in federal elections. In 1970 the Voting Rights Act was extended and the voting age was lowered to 18. The Supreme Court later upheld the vote for 18-year-olds in federal elections, but ruled that Congress had acted unconstitutionally in lowering the voting age to 18 in state and local elections. This problem was solved by the 26th Amendment, ratified in 1971, providing that citizens 18 years of age or older could not be denied the franchise “on account of age.”

The Voting Rights Act has been amended twice, in 1975 and 1982. Among the most important provisions of the later amendments were the addition of bilingual requirements in some counties; a permanent nationwide ban on the use of literacy tests as a voting requirement; and a law allowing voters nationwide who are illiterate, blind, or disabled to be assisted in the voting booth by a person of their own choice. These amendments also made it easier for minorities to use the courts to attack discriminatory election methods.

Other laws have been passed that protect the franchise of certain groups; for example, U.S. citizens residing abroad were granted the right to vote in federal elections by absentee ballot in 1975, and voting accessibility for the elderly was guaranteed in 1984.

David Maurice Robinson is born in Key West, Florida. He will become a NBA center (San Antonio Spurs), NBA Rookie of Year (1990), and will lead the NBA in scoring in 1994.  He will help lead the Spurs to the NBA Championship in 1999.

The Learning Tree, directed by Gordon Alexander Buchanan Parks, Jr., premieres. The film is the first directed by an African American in modern times.

Stevie Wonder is nearly killed in an automobile accident near Durham, North Carolina, where he was to perform in a benefit concert. Wonder suffers severe brain contusions and a broken skull and will be in a coma for ten days as a result of his injuries.

Joyce London Alexander was sworn in as the first African-American woman U.S. magistrate judge in Boston on this day. Alexander took the oath of office when she was 30 years old, making her one of the youngest people to serve in this capacity. Alexander made history again in January of 1996 when she was sworn in as Chief United States Magistrate Judge. She was the first African-American woman to serve in this office also. Alexander graduated from Howard University in 1969 and New England Law School in 1972.

Carl Lewis wins his 2nd (long jump) of 4 gold medals in the Summer Olympics.

Once accused by African American artists of racism, MTV, the 24-hour cable music channel, premieres “Yo! MTV Raps.” It will become one of the station’s most popular programs.

In Wedowee, Alabama, an apparent arson fire destroys Randolph County High School, which had been the focus of tensions over the principal’s stand against interracial dating.

U.S. Officials announce that the Air Force had punished 16 officers in connection with the crash that killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and 34 others the previous April.

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