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On this date, Maryland passed the first Anti Amalgamation Law. This law was intended to prevent marriages between Black men and English women.

The Governor of the state at the time was Sir William Berkeley. Interracial marriage was a fairly common practice during the colonial era among white indentured servants and black slaves as well as in more aristocratic circles. Subsequently, similar laws were passed in Virginia 1691, Massachusetts 1705, North Carolina 1715, South Carolina 1717, Delaware 1721 and Pennsylvania in 1725. Intermarriage bans were lifted during Reconstruction in the early 1870’s, but by the end of the decade mixed marriages were declared void. It wasn’t until the 1950’s and 1960’s that all of these laws were lifted again.

However in October, 1958, a Virginia grand jury indicted Mildred Loving and her white husband for violating the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. Each pleaded guilty and received a one-year sentence. Their sentences were suspended providing they leave Virginia and not return for twenty-five years. The Loving’s appealed that decision to the U. S. Supreme court in Loving v. Virginia 1967. and won. The Supreme Court struck down the Virginia law and similar laws in fifteen other states at the time.

Statistics show that in 1991, there were 231,000 blacks married to whites, about 0.4 per cent of the total number of married couples in America. Still according to the 1994 National Health and Social Life Survey, 97% of black women are likely to choose a partner of the same race. Many black women-the culture bearers-oppose the idea of interracial marriage, opting instead for racial strength and unity through the stabilization of the Black family.

On this date, the first national meeting of Blacks, the first National Negro Convention of Free Men, assembled in Philadelphia at the Bethel AME church. The meeting was called by Bishop Richard Allen, founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, to which he was president. This group gathered for the express purpose of abolishing slavery and improving the status of African Americans.

It started with a question. A question asked by a sixteen-year-old free Black named
Hezekiel Grice. Grice, troubled by “the hopelessness of contending against oppression in the United States,” wondered if Blacks should be encouraged to emigrate, en mass, to Canada. Such a question, he thought, should be carefully considered, so he proposed that a convention be held where the matter could be discussed. He wrote to several Black leaders, who approved of the proposal, and on this date, the ten-day National Negro Convention of Free Men began.

Thirty-eight delegates (Jet Magazine and
The Munirah Chronicle)/Forty Blacks (The African American Registry®) from seven (Jet Magazine)/eight states (University of Pennsylvania - African Studies Center and Black Facts Online)/nine states (The African American Registry®) attended the meeting, including Bishop Allen. From the meeting emerged a new organization, the American Society of Free People of Color for improving their condition in the United States; for purchasing lands; and for the establishment of a settlement in the Province of Canada,” of which Allen was named president. As can be taken from the society’s descriptive title, the answer to Grice’s original question was not clear cut. Yes, moving to Canada was encouraged, especially for blacks with children, but the society also acknowledged the need to improve the lives of those who remained in the U. S. One of the measures taken was an agreement to boycott slave-produced goods.

This first meeting of the f
irst National Negro Convention of Free Men would initiate a trend that would continue for the next three decades. The formation of another organization had been recommended one which would be called the “American Society of Free Persons of Labor.” This group would branch out to several states and hold their own conventions. These, in turn, would lead to the formation of other organizations. The number of conventions, held at local, state, and national levels, blossomed to such a level that, in 1859, one paper would report that “colored conventions are almost as frequent as church meetings.”

William A. Leidesdorf was elected to the San Francisco Town Council receiving the third highest vote. Leidesdorf, who was one of the first Black elected officials, became the town treasurer in 1848.

Slave trade is abolished in Washington, DC, but slavery will be allowed to continue until 1862.

The founding of the Fisk Jubilee Singers is celebrated on this date. These singers were emancipated slaves who toured to raise money for Fisk University.

They also formed to introduce to the world the beauty of the songs of a people, Black people. Their songs told of an unvoiced longing for a truer world, where people were free from rejection, disappointment, and sorrow. George L. White led the Fisk Jubilee singers. Originally they consisted of four Black men and five Black women. The five original women were Ella Sheppard, Maggie L. Porter (seated left and center), Minnie Tate, Jennie Jackson (standing right) and Eliza Walker.

In 1871, the Jubilee Singers began a successful singing tour to save Fisk School from imminent closing for financial reasons. They toured America, England, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, and Switzerland, bringing back 50,000 dollars to save Fisk School and found Fisk University.

Today is the birthday of renown pianist, composer, and self-styled originator of jazz, Ferdinand Joseph “Jelly Roll” Menthe (Morton), born in Gulf Port (New Orleans), LA. Among his recordings, which now are collector’s items are: The Pearles, Jelly-Roll Stomp, and now Wolverine Blues. Morton, whose fabulous series of 1938 recordings for the Library of Congress are a gold mine of information about early jazz, was a complex man. Vain, ambitious, and given to exaggeration, he was a pool shark, hustler and gambler, as well as a brilliant pianist and composer.  His greatest talent, perhaps, was for organizing and arranging. The series of records he made with his “Red Hot Peppers” between 1926 and 1928 stands, alongside King Oliver’s as the crowning glory of the New Orleans tradition and one of the great achievements in Jazz.

Hughie Lee Smith was born on this date. He was an African-American artist.

From Eustis Florida, his parents were Luther and Alice Williams Smith. Later he changed his last name to Lee-Smith after he and his art school classmates decided Smith was too ordinary a name for a distinguished painter. Lee-Smith began drawing at a very early age. Shaped by the Great Depression and the WPA artists of the late 1930s, Lee-Smith’s earliest work was fired by social concerns and longing for a better, more democratic ideal for the future of America.

In 1938 he attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and the John Huntington Polytechnic Institute, Cleveland, OH Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts (Center for Creative Studies, College of Art & Design), MI. In 1953, he received his BA from Wayne State University, Detroit, MI. Lee-Smith, whose work has brought him many honors and awards, in works such as “Man with Balloons”, “Man Standing on His Head” and “Big Brother”, expresses surreal and haunting landscapes with  senses of loneliness and alienation of the American scene. Mysteriously, they convey the feeling that something good is missing-and yet somehow about to happen.

His vast skies, desolate scenes, and distanced people, his blowing ribbons and colorful balloons, mix realism and fantasy in surrealistic juxtapositions that reflect the contradiction and paradoxes of American life. Lee-Smith’s career, in its own way, constitutes one such paradox. Lee-Smith’s work is found in many public art collections including the Metropolitan Museum, The Detroit Institute of Art and the National Museum of American Art. He died on March 22, 1999 in Albuquerque, NM.

Sani Abacha is born in Kano, Nigeria.  After being educated in his home state, will become a soldier and go to England for advanced military education. He will achieve many promotions as a soldier and by the mid-1980s, will enter Nigeria’s military elite. In 1983 he will be among those who will overthrow Shehu Shagari, leader of the Second Republic, in a coup which led to the military rule of Muhammadu Buhari. In 1985, Abacha will participate in a second coup, which will replace Buhari with General Ibrahim Babangida. As head of state, Babangida will announce that free elections will be held in the early 1990s. In 1993, however, after Babangida nullifies the results of these belated free elections, Abacha will stage a third coup and oust his former ally. His regime will be characterized by a concern with security that verges on paranoia. Abacha will schedule elections for August, 1998, but months beforehand, all five legal parties nominate him as their “consensus candidate.” In June, 1998, Abacha will join the ancestors when he dies unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Martin Luther King Jr. was nearly fatally stabbed to death in the chest in Blumsteins Department store in Harlem department by a deranged Black woman while he was autographing copies of his first book “Stride Toward Freedom.” The woman, Izola Ware Curry, was apprehended and placed under mental observation.

Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett personally denied James H. Meredith admission to the University of Mississippi as its first African American student.

The Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) is banned in an order issued by Sir Edgar Whitehead, the prime minister of Southern Rhodesia.

Willie Mays announces his retirement from major league baseball at the end of the 1973 baseball season.

A bloodless coup overthrows Jean-Bedel Bokassa, self-styled head of the Central African Empire, in a French-supported coup while he is visiting Libya.

The Cosby Show premiered on NBC. Bill Cosby played Dr. Heathcliff (Cliff) Huxtable. His lovely wife, Clair, is played by Phylicia Rashad. The Huxtable kids were Sondra, age 20 (Sabrina Le Beauf), Denise, age 16 (Lisa Bonet), Theodore, age 14 (Malcom-Jamal Warner), Vanessa, age 8 (Tempestt Bledsoe) and Rudy, age 5 (Keshia Knight Pulliam). The premiere is the most watched show of the week and the

show goes on to become an Emmy Award-winner and one of the most popular on television in America for eight years. The series, which had been rejected by other network television executives, will become one of the most popular in television history.

Leontine Turpeau Kelly was consecrated the first Black woman Bishop of the United Methodist Church on this date.

On this date, an African American won the 25th Annual Armed Forces Chess Championship Tournament.

Chess player and Air Force Sergeant Emory A. Tate, Jr., stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland accepted the first annual Haskell Small Award for taking individual honors. Tate won the tournament, which was held in Washington, D.C. that week in September 1984.

He won with a score of 8½-3½. It was the second year that Tate has taken top honors in this tournament. The trophy is name for the late Colonel Haskell Small, who was instrumental in organizing and promoting the military chess championship. Colonel Small’s widow (shown) is presenting the trophy to Sergeant Tate.

Alfre Woodard won an Emmy for outstanding guest performance in the dramatic series “L.A. Law”.  It was her second Emmy award, her first having been for a supporting role in sereies “Hill Street Blues” in 1984.

Walter Payton scores the NFL record 107th rushing touchdown.

The Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously voted General Colin L. Powell the Chairman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff on this date.

Lawrence Russell Brewer becomes the second white supremacist to be convicted in the dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas. He will be later sentenced to death.

On this date, a protest and march, largely promoted by radio talk show host Michael Baisden of the nationally syndicated Michael Baisden Show, occurred in Jena, LA to support the Jena Six. The Jena Six was a group six teenagers charged with assaulting and injuring a white teenager after a series of racially charged incidents at Jena High School, the town’s high school. This protest and march consisted on an estimated 60,000 people, largely black, from all parts of the country, to a small town of approximately 2, 971 (2000 Census). Notable attendees to the protest and march were Civil Rights activists Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, and rapper/actor Mos Def. The protest and march was considered noteworthy, not only for what happened and the time in American history and culture in which it happened, but that it was not wide covered by the “main stream” national and international news media, with the exception by CNN (by their own admission). This story was largely carried by black radio such as the Michael Baisden Show and the Tom Joyner Morning Show.  

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