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1804

Absalom Jones is ordained a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church.


1846
John Wesley Cromwell is born into slavery in Portsmouth, Virginia. After receiving freedom, he and his family will move to Philadelphia. In 1865, he will return to Portsmouth to open a private school, which will fail due to racial harassment. He will enter Howard University in Washington, DC in 1871. He will receive a law degree and be admitted to the bar in 1874. He will be the first African American to practice law for the Interstate Commerce Commission. He will found the weekly paper, “The People’s Advocate” in 1876. In 1881, he will be elected President of Bethel Library and Historical Association in Washington, DC. He will use this position to generate interest in African American history. He will inspire the foundation of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. He will also be the Secretary of the American Negro Academy. He will join the ancestors on April 14, 1927.


1859
“Our Nig: or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, In a Two Story White House North, Showing that Slavery’s Shadow Falls Even There  by Harriet E. Adams Wilson is published in Boston. She was living alone at the time of the writing, abandoned by her husband. It is the first novel published in the United States by an African American woman and will be lost to readers for years until reprinted with a critical essay by noted African American scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 1983.


1877
African Americans from the Post-Civil-War South, led by Benjamin ‘Pap’ Singleton, settle in Kansas and establish towns like Nicodemus, to take advantage of free land offered by the United States government through the Homestead Act of 1860.


1895
George Washington Murray is elected to Congress from South Carolina.


1899
J. Ross patents the Bailing Press. Patent No. 632,539.


1901
The birth of Clarissa Scott Delaney is celebrated on this date. She was an African-American educator, poet, and social worker.

Born Clarissa M. Scott, she was from Tuskegee, Alabama. Her father, Emmet Jay Scott was secretary to Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute. After her early years in the South she was sent to New England where she was educated at Bradford Academy. She then attended Wellesley College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1923. She was an active college student, a member of Delta Sigma Theta, she played varsity field hockey, a member of the debating team and a member of the Christian Association.

During her Wellesley years, she also attended meetings in Boston of the Literary Guild, where young Blacks gathered weekly to listen to featured speakers, such as Claude McKay. This was began her political and literary projects. This environment helped shape her ideas on art and literature. Also during this time as a woman of color, with her particular writing talents, she began her identification with the Harlem Renaissance. After college, Scott traveled through Europe. When she returned from Europe, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she taught at Dunbar High School. While teaching, she continued to write, and to publish in Opportunity. Like her colleagues among the Harlem writers, she wrote about Pan Africanism, superstition, and the mulatto, among other topics.
She won a prize for one of her poems entitled “Solace,” published in Opportunity, in 1925. That same year she also wrote a play, “Dixie to Broadway,” and the poem, “A Golden Afternoon in Germany.”

One year later Scott married a young lawyer, Hubert T. Delany, in Washington, D.C., and they moved to New York City. In New York, she worked as a social worker, with the National Urban League and Woman’s City Club of New York. One project was to gather statistics for a “Study of Delinquent and Neglected Negro Children.” She died in 1927 of a kidney disease, which was probably a reaction to the streptococcal infection she had had for six months. According to a Wellesley classmate, a “YWCA Camp Clarissa Scott” was established by her family on the Chesapeake Bay in 1931. Because her life was cut tragically short, she only published 4 poems.



1916
This date marks the birth of Frank Yerby. He was an African-American author of popular historical fiction.

Frank Garvin Yerby was born in Augusta, Georgia. He was the son of an itinerant hotel doorman, Rufus Garvin Yerby, and Wilhelmina Smythe Yerby. Young Yerby attended a private school for Black students, the Haines Institute. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Paine College, and a Master of Arts in English from Fisk University in 1938.

As a writer, it would be close to ten years before he would realize acclaim. Yerby’s story “Health Card” won the O. Henry Memorial Award for best first published short story in 1944. AS he turned to adventure novels in the 1940’s and 1950’s, in 1946 his first novel, The Foxes of Harrow, was an immediate success, as was “The Vixens” and many others. His later novels included “Goat Song”, “The Darkness at Ingraham’s Crest-A Tale of the Slaveholding South”, and “Devil Seed”.

His novels are action-packed, usually featuring a strong hero in an earlier period. The stories unfold in colorful language and include characters of all ethnic backgrounds, enmeshed in complex story lines laced with romantic intrigue and violence. His best work may be his novel Of “The Dahomean” (1971, later republished as “The Man from Dahomey).

Yerby wrote popular fiction tinged with a distinctive southern flavor. He was the first African American to write a best-selling novel and to have a book purchased by a Hollywood studio for a film adaptation. During his prolific career, Yerby wrote thirty-three novels and sold more than fifty-five million hardback and paperback books worldwide.

As a Black author, Yerby was widely criticized for not giving more attention to racial problems in his fiction. But though he said that writers should amuse and not preach to their readers, some critics see in his writings a savage critique of historical myths, especially of the United States and the American South. Discrimination in the United States caused Yerby to leave and live in self-imposed exile in Madrid from 1955 until his death Nov. 29th 1991.

Yerby died of congestive heart failure. He was interred there in the Cementerio de la Almudena. hroughout his career Yerby remained a beloved native son of the South, receiving honorary degrees from Fisk University (1976) and Paine College (1977).



1937
On this date, Larry Neal was born. He was an African-American writer and one of the most well known figures of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Neal was born in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania in 1961, receiving an M. A. from there in 1963. Soon after, he set the tone for African-American writers who emerged during the Civil Rights Movement, championing the search and discovery of a distinctive African-American aesthetic. His early articles, including The Negro in the Theater (1964) and Cultural Front (1965) asserted the need for separate cultural forms as needed to develop Black artists in a racist society.

In 1968, Neal’s two writings, Black Fire and The Black Arts Movement further developed this perspective. Neal argued that the purpose of Black arts was to effect a “radical reordering of the Western cultural aesthetic” in part through a purging of the external European and white American cultural influence from black artistic expression. Neal was an instructor at the City College of New York from 1968 to 1969, and taught at Wesleyan University until 1970, and Yale University (1970-1975). Near the end of the seventies, Neal was reconsidering his view of black culture.

His stance seemed to give credence to a widening sphere of Black artistic choice, one of more inclusiveness with a white environment which Black art may exist. Other late works by Neal include a play In an Upstate Motel, which premiered in New York in 1981, the year of his death from a heart attack.



1960
Cassius Clay of Louisville, Kentucky, wins the gold medal in light heavyweight boxing at the Olympic Games in Rome, Italy. Clay will later change his name to Muhammad Ali and become one of the great boxing champions in the world. In 1996, at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, Muhammad Ali will have the honor of lighting the Olympic flame.


1960
Leopold Sedar Senghor, poet, politician, is elected President of Senegal.


1965
On this date we celebrate the Watts Writers’ Workshop. This was a creative writing group based in Los Angeles, CA.

Screenwriter
Budd Schulberg started the Watts Writers’ Workshop in response to the damage from the Watts Riots of South Los Angeles neighborhood a month earlier. Early contributors included poets Quincy Troupe and John Eric Priestley. Another of the first participants was Johnie Scott who became the director of the Pan-African Studies Writing program at California State University, Northridge.

In their beginning, on the recommendation of National Council on the Arts member John Steinbeck, the Watts Writers’ Workshop applied for a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA awarded the Workshop $25,000, which enabled the group to establish Douglass House. The Workshop’s home served as a meeting space for its writing programs as well as housing for some of the Workshop’s members, many of whom were homeless.

A year later the Arts Endowment awarded the organization a second grant in support of expanding the Workshop’s programs. The Watts Writers’ Workshop attracted national and international media attention; in 1966 it was the subject of an NBC TV documentary. Writing from the Workshop was also collected in the 1967 anthology From the Ashes: Voices of Watts. The Watts Writers’ Workshop allowed a voice to what urban, black America was thinking, feeling, and seeing and to get that out to he rest of the country.

Though the Watts Writers’ Workshop lasted less than a decade, its legacy endures. In 1971, Schulberg and Fred Hudson, a former Paramount Pictures screenwriter, founded the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in Harlem, New York. The center’s programs include writing classes in several genres as well as an after school program in creative writing and computer literacy for elementary and middle school students. The Center also produces the annual Black Roots Festival of Poetry, Prose, Drama, and Music, which has showcased leading African American writers and artists such as Lucille Clifton, Gordon Parks, Toni Morrison, and Ishmael Reed.



1972
Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway win a gold record—for their duet, “Where is the Love”. The song gets to number five on the pop music charts and is one of two songs for the duo to earn gold. The other will be “The Closer I Get To You” (1978).


1977
A white teenager wearing Nazi clothing shot into a crowded church picnic of over 200 Blacks in Charlotte, NC. One person was killed and two were injured. Another victim died two days later.


1995
O.J. Simpson jurors hear testimony that police detective Mark Fuhrman had uttered a racist slur, and advocated the killing of Blacks.


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