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1862
The founding of the Penn Normal, Industrial, and Agricultural School is celebrated on this date.

Penn Center School (as it was called) was the first school for Blacks on the Island of St. Helena, South Carolina. Laura Towne and Ellen Murray were its founders. Named for the Quaker activist William Penn it operated for eighty-six years as a Normal, Agricultural and Industrial training school for the Black people. Towne came to S.C. to work as a nurse and in 1882, Murray arrived and the two of them began working on improving the educational situation of the island. They opened their first schoolhouse on the Oaks plantation and later moved to the Brick Church located in the center of St. Helena. In 1901, the school was chartered the Penn Normal, Industrial, and Agricultural School.

In the early part of the 20th Century, the set of courses sought ways to be more useful for people on the island. They decided that Penn needed to offer a variety of training programs for a number of crafts so the students attending would be able to find work. Penn decided that their goals were most similar to the principles of Booker T. Washington and his push toward an Industrial centered curriculum. They incorporated classes in carpentry, wheel writing, basket making, harness making, cobbling, and mechanics. The school also gave instruction in midwifery and teacher training.

The Penn Center played a part assisting the needs of the Low Country community, as well as the Penn Center students. They offered a number of classes open to the community such as quilting, and weaving. They were also dedicated to children’s public service work. They also set up the Farmer’s clubs and the Patron’s Leagues and students training to be nurses taught classes in health across the island. In the 1940s Penn Center experienced a number of setbacks that aided in the final decision to close down its charter. There were a number of storms and natural disasters that destroyed that land in South Carolina. The boll weevil epidemic proved to be too much for many of the farm laborers to overcome. People could no longer be sure that they could grow enough of a crop to provide for their families, let alone make a profit.

Millions of people gave up and went north. During the time of the Great Migration, it was particularly difficult for Penn to keep their enrollment up. It became almost impossible to keep subjects constant, they were loosing funding and it was becoming more and more difficult to stay open. In 1948, the Penn School Board decided that it would not remain open as a private school, but it would serve the community, taking an active role in providing public education to the Sea Island people. The name was changed to Penn Community Services in 1950. Over the years, with continuing philanthropic support, it served as school, health agency, and cooperative society for rural African-Americans of the Sea Islands.



1867
Robert T. Freeman was the first Black to graduate from Harvard Dental School.


1875
On this date, White Democrats attacked Republicans at Yazoo City, Mississippi. The riot happened because of the pressure on White supremacy in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Southern defeat and Reconstruction gave Blacks more freedom and nearly all Whites resented the change. The result of the attack was one white and three Blacks were killed.



1883
Anita Bush was born on this date. She was an African-American dancer, actress and theatrical administrator.

Born in New York, Anita Bush was introduced to the world of theater by her father, a tailor whose clients included many New York actors and performers. At the age of 16 she joined the Williams and Walker Company as a dancer. In 1915, determined that blacks should perform serious dramatic works, she formed the Anita Bush Players of Harlem, which later became th e Lafayette Players. The company survived until January 23, 1932, and was responsible for training over 300 Black performers and introducing serious theater to many cities across the country. The Anita Bush Players, the first professional Black dramatic non musical theater ensemble in the United States.

They opened at the Lincoln Theater in New York City on November 15th 1915, with The Girl at the Fort. Their run was short and successful; on December 27th of that year, they transferred to the larger Lafayette Theater where they became the Lafayette Players. Bush left the group in 1920, and went on to co-star in The Crimson Skull (1921) the first all-black Western movie. She died in February 1974.



1896
Dr. George Washington Carver, scientist and discoverer of over 300 products from the peanut and sweet potato, began is remarkable career as a distinguished Agricultural Chemist at Tuskegee Institute on this date.


1904
On this date, the first Black Olympic medal winner was crowned. George Coleman Poage won a bronze medal in the third Olympic Games in St. Louis, Missouri.

With less than 12 nations there they celebrated the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase and the world’s fair that same year in the midst of an undercurrent of racial uneasiness. Black and white exhibits were mounted separately, and “colored” areas were apart from the others. Many wanted African-American athletes to boycott both the fair and the games, but Poage a Wisconsin runner, elected to participate becoming the first African-American athlete awarded a medal in a modern Olympiad.

With less than 500 athletes participating in the games, Poage was running for the Milwaukee Athletic Club (their first non-white competitor). He won bronze medals for finishing third in both the 200-meter and 400-meter hurdles on that day.



1912
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, English-born composer of Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast and professor of music at Trinity College of Music in London, joins the ancestors in Croyden, England. Coleridge-Taylor was the most important black composer of his day and toured the United States three times, where he played with Will Marion Cook, Clarence Cameron White, and collaborated with Paul Laurence Dunbar in setting several of his poems to music.


1925
Rosa Guy is born in Trinidad. She will become the author of “The Friends,” “Ruby,” and “Edith Jackson.”


1926
The opening of Phoenix Colored H. S. is celebrated on this date. Segregation was made legal in the Arizona Territory in 1909.

Then
Governor Joseph Kibbey opposed the measure, but the legislature overrode his veto. In 1910, the Phoenix School Board enacted a segregation policy. Also statehood in 1912 brought with it-increased segregation to the detriment of African-Americans. Previously, Arizona had provided prosperity to many of them, as well as an escape from the Southern racism and lynching. However, they still faced discrimination, racial harassment and segregation. As more African-American students began to attend school at the Phoenix Union High School, they were segregated to the “colored department” which held its classes in the basement.

But in 1926, Phoenix Colored High School opened its doors for African -American students from all around the valley. It was renamed George Washington Carver H. S. in 1943. Carver school for BLACKS only, closed in 1954 as nearly half a century of school segregation ground to a halt in Arizona. The Phoenix Monarchs Alumni Association (PMAA) planned to turn the (old) school into an African-American cultural center and museum. The Phoenix Union High School District trustees voted in December 1994 to sell the school to the PMAA for $200,000.

African-Americans across the nation are buying formerly segregated schools for cultural purposes. In Tucson, the Dunbar Coalition is buying Dunbar Elementary School.



1937
Ron O’Neal was born on this date. He was an African-American actor.

From Utica, NY he got his big break when he was cast in Charles Gordone’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play No Place to Be Somebody, which began at Off-Broadway’s Public Theater and later went to Broadway in 1969. The producers of “Superfly,” urban crime film were impressed with his work. They cast him as the movie’s lead character, a cool cocaine dealer named Youngblood Priest. “Superfly” became an unexpected hit, one of the defining films of the twentieth century Blaxploitation genre.

Ironically, it was also the best known movie of O’Neal’s career, which included many low-budget productions. O’Neal also won an Obie Award, Clarence Derwent Award and a Theatre World Award for his work. He returned to Broadway in 1975, replacing Cleavon Little in All Over Town, which was directed by Dustin Hoffman.

Ron O’Neal died of cancer in Los Angeles on Jan. 14, 2004. He was 66 and is survived by his wife.



1943
Webster Lewis was born on this date. He was an African-American musician, singer, composer and arranger. From Baltimore, Maryland, his parents were Webster S. Lewis, Sr. and Virgie Gaines Lewis.

Young Lewis graduated from Morgan State College and earned a Master’s degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, where he also was an associate dean from 1972 to 1978. During these years, he recorded with Epic Records performing music that was popular with soul and jazz fans alike. Lewis moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1970s. Prior to his move, Webster recorded ‘Live At Club 7’ on Counterpoint Records. ‘Touch My Love’ followed 2 years later. His career in music consisted of conducting and arranging for many musicians including Michael Jackson, The Jacksons, Barry White, Tom Jones, Lola Falana and Thelma Houston.

He also wrote music for several feature films and television specials. Webster was also a recording artist and producer for many companies including CBS Records. In recent years he moved to television commercial work and movie soundtrack songwriting (including ‘The Hearse’ and ‘The Sky Is Grey’). His last record was with Barry White entitled ‘Welcome Aboard.’ Following these releases, Lewis moved into production work, producing Gwen McCrae and Michael Wycoff.

Webster Lewis died of diabetic complications on November 20, 2002 in Barryville, New York.



1945
Noted R&B singer and songwriter, Donny Hathaway was born in Chicago, Illinois. Before his death, he often teamed up with songstress, Roberta Flack, on songs such as “Where Is the Love.”


1948
William T. Coleman is appointed by Justice Frankfurter as a clerk to the U.S. Supreme Court, the first African American to hold the position. A Harvard Law School graduate and Army Air Corps veteran, Coleman will again enter public service, first as president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and, in 1975, as Secretary of Transportation under President Gerald Ford.


1970
Dr. Hugh S. Scott of Washington, DC, becomes the first African American superintendent of schools in a major US city.


1971
On this date, the first all-Black lineup played in major league baseball. The team was Pittsburgh Pirates who constituted one of the most significant milestones in the racial history of major league baseball. Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager Danny Murtaugh prepared for the Philadelphia Phillies and left-handed pitcher Woodie Fryman.


1973
George Foreman knocks out Jose Roman in the first round to retain his heavyweight title.


1975
Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. was promoted to the rank of four-star general in the Air Force on this day. He was the first Black to be promoted to that rank in any of the U.S. military branches. He also was named commander of the North American Air Defense Command. Gen. James, a fighter pilot, was a native of Pensacola, FL. He studied physical education at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, AL, and later began his military career there as a Tuskegee Airman. He flew over 160 missions in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, including one combat mission where seven Communist MiG-21s were destroyed, the highest total kill of any mission during the Vietnam War. Gen. James received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the air medal with seven clusters, the Distinguished Unit Citations, the Presidential Unit Citation and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. He died in 1978, less than a month after he retired from the Air Force, where he served 34 years.


1977
Ethel Waters, singer and actress, joins the ancestors in Chatsworth, California at the age of 80. She was popular during the “Harlem Renaissance” and sang “Down Home Music” and “Oh Daddy.” She was the first African American entertainer to move from vaudeville to ‘white’ entertainment. She also starred in many movies such as “Something Special” (1971), “Carib Gold” (1955), “The Member of the Wedding” (1952), “Pinky” (1949), for which she won best supporting actress, “Cabin in the Sky” (1943), “Cairo” (1942), “Tales of Manhattan” (1942), “Black Musical Featurettes, V. 1” (1929), Short Subjects V. 1” (1929), and “On With the Show” (1929). She also was in the first network show to feature an African American actress as the star (The Beulah Show-1950). In 1951, she wrote her autobiography, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”


1979
Hazel Johnson became the first Black woman in U.S. military history to attain general officer rank on this day. Born in 1927 in Malvern, PA, Johnson looked toward nursing as a career after she graduated from the Harlem Hospital of Nursing in 1950. She entered the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) in 1955 and went on to earn a B.S. from Villanova University (1959), an M.S. from Columbia University (1963) and her doctorate from Catholic University. Johnson went on to serve as the first Black chief of the ANC where she supervised 7,000 men and women nurses in the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserves. She also oversaw the operations of eight army medical centers, 56 community hospitals and 143 freestanding domestic and international clinics. Under her tenure, the ANC continued to improve standards of education and training. The Army Nurse Corps Standards of Nursing Practice were published as an official Department of the Army Pamphlet (DA PAM 40-5). She received the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, and the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster among her awards and honors. Johnson retired from the military in 1983 and is currently professor emeritus of nursing at George Mason University.


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