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The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was dedicated in New York City.

Paul Cuffee, noted shipbuilder and ship owner, died at Westport, MA, where he owned a farm and a wharf where he had built his own ships. Cuffee was one of the first persons in America to advocate the colonization of Blacks in Africa. In 1815, he spent $4,000 to send 38 Blacks to Sierra Leone, but his plan for additional expeditions were cut short by his death.

John Merrick was born on this date. He was an African-American businessman and entrepreneur.

He was from the town of Clinton in Sampson County North Carolina. He did not know his father and was raised by his mother who cared for him and his brother until they could labor. At twelve years old, Merrick worked at a brickyard in Chapel Hill helping to support his mother. When he was 18, the family moved to Raleigh, N.C. where he continued working on buildings at Shaw University.

It during this time that Merrick learned barbering got married and became t he father of a baby girl named Geneva. Later in his life he had a son (John Jr.) and another daughter (Martha). In 1880, he became part owner of the Merrick and Wright Barber Shop.

Merrick founded North Carolina Mutual and Provident Insurance Company in Durham, NC in 1898. This company had a deep impact on Black America in the twentieth century for social as well as financial reasons. The growth of its premium income was from $840.00 in 1899 to $1,224,541.00 in 1919. The twenty-first Annual Report of the Company shows that the total amount of insurance in force, the amount of insurance which has been written with the Company was twenty-six and a half millions! The list of employees of the company in January, 1920, was over 1200, with more than 700 agents and 250 medical examiners.

By 1948, it was the largest African American owned business in the country. Another company he created was the Merrick-Moore-Spaulding Real Estate Company, incorporated December 8, 1910. This Company is also still operating. John Merrick was spiritual and was devoted to his church. He was not a demonstrative religious enthusiast; he was a simple server of his faith. The controlling element in his life was love and it never occurred to him that lip-profession could take the place of heart-service.

He was a close friend of Booker T. Washington with a distinctly different viewpoint, particularly with regard to politics. John Merrick died in 1919.

Jacob Lawrence was born in this date. He is an African-American artist and educator.

Born on this date in 1917, he became interested in painting at the age of 13. Later, he studied at the Harlem Art Workshop in New York City from 1934 to 1936, when he won a scholarship to the American Artists School in the same City. He taught painting at New York’s Pratt Institute for seven years and in 1970 he taught at the University of Washington in Seattle, becoming professor emeritus in 1983. Lawrence is widely know for his “series” style” of painting—dozens of paintings on a single historical figure or topic—generally portray people or periods important to black history, such as abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglass. He is famous for his narrative series of paintings on African American historical figures and topics.

Jacob Lawrence’s simplified graphic forms draw from a variety of artistic traditions, including expressionism and cubism. Among his more famous works are The Harriet Tubman Series (30 panels) and The Migration Series (60 panels), which describes the mass migration of African Americans to urban centers in the North. Lawrence’s work has been exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, all in New York City, as well as in other major museums around the country.

Lawrence also illustrated a collection of Aesop’s fables, produced posters for the 1972 Olympic Games, and wrote and illustrated Harriet and the Promised Land, a children’s book of verse about Harriet Tubman.

Louise Bennett was born on this date. She is a Jamaican poet and activist.

From Kingston, Jamaica Louise Bennett remains a household name on the island, a “Living Legend” and a cultural icon. She received her education from Ebenezer and Calabar Elementary Schools, St. Simon’s College, Excelsior College, Friends College (Highgate). Although she has lived in Toronto, Canada for the last decade she still receives the homage of the expatriate West Indian community in the north as well as a large Canadian following.

She has been described as Jamaica’s leading comedienne, as the “only poet who has really hit the truth about her society through its own language”, and as an important contributor to her country of “valid social documents reflecting the way Jamaicans think and feel and live” Through her poems in Jamaican patois, she raised the dialect of the Jamaican folk to an art level which is acceptable to and appreciated by all in Jamaica.

In her poems she has been able to capture all the spontaneity of the expression of Jamaicans’ joys and sorrows, their ready, poignant and even wicked wit, their religion and their philosophy of life. Her first dialect poem was written when she was fourteen years old. A British Council Scholarship took her to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she studied in the late 1940’s Bennett not only had a scholarship to attend the academy but she auditioned and won a scholarship. After graduation she worked with repertory companies in Coventry, Huddersfield and Amersham as well as in intimate revues all over England.

On her return to Jamaica she taught drama to youth and adult groups both in social welfare agencies and for the University of the West Indies Extra Mural Department. She has lectured extensively in the United States and the United Kingdom on Jamaican folklore and music and has represented Jamaica all over the world. She has been married to Eric Winston Coverley since 1954 and has one son and several adopted children. She enjoys Theatre, Movies, Auction sales and continues to reside in Kingston.

Her contribution to Jamaican cultural life has been such that she was honored with the M.B.E., the Norman Manley Award for Excellence (in the field of Arts), the Order of Jamaica (1974) the Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture, and in 1983 the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies. In September 1988 her composition “You’re going home now”, won a nomination from the Academy of Canadian Cinema ad Television, for the best original song in the movie “Milk and Honey”.

In 1998 she received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from York University, Toronto, Canada. The Jamaica Government also appointed her Cultural Ambassador at Large for Jamaica. On Jamaica’s independence day 2001, Bennett-Coverly was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit for her distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture.

On this date, Sonny Rollins was born. He is an African-American jazz musician.

From New York City, Rollins has been one of the true jazz giants as one of the all time great tenor saxophonists for over 50 years. He started on piano, took up the alto and then permanently switched to tenor in 1946. After his start with Babs Gonzales in 1949, Rollins made a major impact with J.J. Johnson, Fats Navarro and Bud Powell. Rollins’ skills were obvious to the jazz from the first note. He started recording with Miles Davis in 1951 then with Thelonious Monk two years later. After a interlude out of music, Rollins joined the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet from 1955 until 1957.

As a leader, his series of recordings placed him in peak form until John Coltrane came. Rollins’ decision to drop out of music from 1959-61 stunned the jazz world. When he came back with a quartet he soon became a much freer player. Rollins was a major force until in 1968 he again decided to retire. Returning again in 1971, he was more open to the sway of R&B rhythms and pop music but Rollins remains a very fundamental soloist. Rollins’ career has continued with annual international concert tours and numerous albums.

His ability to turn doubtful material into jazz, his solo’s and his rhythmic freedom and tonal distortions have kept Sonny Rollins one of the masters of jazz into the twenty first century.

The birth of Dr. William F. Gibson is celebrated on this date. He was a dentist and civil rights leader.

Born in Greenville, South Carolina in 1933, Gibson was the son of a brick mason and a schoolteacher. He became a dentist at Harlem Hospital in New York, returning to his hometown in 1959. While attending a voter registration meeting at Springfield Baptist Church in 1961, he decided to devote his life to civil rights. He organized the Black Council for Progress who helped further Blacks into local and state political offices during the 1970s.

Gibson’s commitment to voters’ rights continued through his 1985 election as NAACP national board chairman. Gibson took the NAACP in a new direction during his tenure as chairman in the ‘80s and ‘90s. His agenda was centered on the principle that it becomes more actively involved in the nation’s economy. Yet Gibson’s term as chairman of the NAACP was marred by allegations of contributing to the group’s $3-million-plus deficit by abusing his expense account.

Gibson’s role there ended in 1995, when he was forced out by one vote and replaced by Myrlie Evers-Williams. Although Gibson said he could account for nearly all the $111,930 in question as NAACP business, his 10-year tenure was also hampered by complaints about a decline in corporate donations and membership. William Gibson died May 2, 2002 in Greenville, S.C.

Juanita Millender-McDonald was born on this date. She was an African-American teacher and politician.

From Birmingham, Alabama; in 1981, Millender-McDonald earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration from the University of Redlands and in 1988 her Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from California State University Los Angeles. She also received her teaching and Administration credentials from the California State University system.

She was a teacher, a member of the Carson, California City Council and a member of the California State Assembly before entering the United States House of Representatives in 1996, representing California’s 37th congressional district. On December 19, 2006, Millender-McDonald was named Chairwoman of the House Committee on House Administration for the 110th Congress. She was the first African-American woman to chair the committee. She was also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

She was married to James McDonald, Jr., and they are the proud parents and grandparents of five adult children and five grandchildren. On April 22, 2007, Millender-McDonald died of cancer, at the age of 68 at her home in Carson, California.

Integration began in Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD public schools.

Ghana becomes a free self-governing nation. This country will be the first of the British Commonwealth of Nations to be self-governing.

Brianna Scurry was born on this date. She is an African-American Olympic athlete.

From Dayton, Minnesota, Briana Collette Scurry graduated from and was an All-American soccer player (goalkeeper) at Anoka Senior High School. In 1989 her school won the state soccer championship and she was voted the top female athlete in Minnesota. Scurry graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1995 with a degree in political science.

While at U-Mass, as the consensus top college goalkeeper she won two national goalkeeper of the year awards after her senior season. She was a 1993 NSCAA Second-Te am All-American, All-Northeast Region and All-New England First-Team selection. Scurry helped lead U-Mass to a 17-3-3 record and to the semifinals of the NCAA Final Four in 1993. She also led the Minutewomen to titles of the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season and tournament. She completed her four-year collegiate career with 37 shutouts in 65 starts and had a career record of 48-13-4 and a 0.56 goals-against-average (GAA). In her senior season, she started all 23 games and recorded 15 shutouts and a 0.48 GAA, the third best in the nation.

She promised to “run naked through the streets of Athens, Georgia” if the USA won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics, and did. Scurry has a tattoo of a black panther on her shoulder. She is currently goalkeeper for the 2004 USA Olympic team in Athens Greece who are the gold medal winners in the games. Scurry is active in volunteer work for Aids awareness and research. She has also volunteered her time with the Make A Wish Foundation.

The South African Anglican Church named 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner and leading antiapartheid activist Bishop Desmond Tutu its first Black archbishop of Cape Town on this day. As archbishop, Tutu’s 3-million-member congregation included the peoples of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, South-West Africa and Mozambique. Tutu, who until recently was chairman of the South African Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, continues to campaign for the rights of South Africans.

Appointed by President Bill Clinton, Jocylyn Minnie Elders became the first Black U.S. Surgeon General. Elders was also the second female to hold the position. She was a strong backer of the Clinton health care plan. As Surgeon General, Elders quickly established a reputation for controversy. Like many of the Surgeons General before her, she was an outspoken advocate of a variety of health-related causes. She argued for an exploration of the possibility of drug legalization and backed the distribution of contraceptives in schools. President Clinton stood by Elders, saying that she was misunderstood.

In 1994, she was invited to speak at a United Nations conference on AIDS. She was asked whether it would be appropriate to promote masturbation, as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity and she replied, “I think that its is part of human sexuality and, perhaps, it should be taught.” This remark caused great controversy, especially among conservative Christian groups and right wing interests in the United States. President Clinton, who had been recently traumatized by the Republican takeover of Congress, asked for her resignation.

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