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
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
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.
T. Freeman was the first Black to graduate from Harvard Dental
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.
Anita Bush was born on
this date. She was an African-American dancer, actress and theatrical
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
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.
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.
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,
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
Guy is born in Trinidad. She will
become the author of “The Friends,” “Ruby,” and “Edith Jackson.”
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
But in 1926, Phoenix
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
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
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
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
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
Webster Lewis died of diabetic complications on November 20, 2002 in Barryville, New
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.”
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.
Hugh S. Scott of Washington, DC, becomes the first African American superintendent of
schools in a major US
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
Foreman knocks out Jose Roman
in the first round to retain his heavyweight title.
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.
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.”
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