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