Absalom Jones is ordained a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church.
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.
“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.
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.
George Washington Murray is elected to Congress from South Carolina.
J. Ross patents the Bailing Press. Patent No. 632,539.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Leopold Sedar Senghor, poet, politician, is elected
President of Senegal.
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.
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).
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.
O.J. Simpson jurors hear testimony that police
detective Mark Fuhrman had uttered a racist slur, and
advocated the killing of Blacks.