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1825
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper was born on this date. She was a Black poet, writer and lecturer. Harper also was an anti-slavery, women’s rights, and temperance activist.

Harper was from Baltimore, Md., attended Baltimore’s Academy for Negro Youth school, where she studied Greek, Latin, and the Bible. Writing poetry as a teenager She started her career as a writer in 1845 by publishing the poetry collection Forest Leaves.

Her second career, as an activist, began almost a decade later. Harper taught school for several years at Union Seminary in Ohio, and later in Pennsylvania. But in 1853, when Maryland began prohibiting free blacks from entering its borders, Frances Ellen Harper was moved to action. The next year moving to Philadelphia she became active in the anti-slavery movement; soon, Harper became one of the few African American women to go on the anti-slavery lecture circuit. She proved to be such a popular speaker that over the next six years the Maine and Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Societies sent her throughout New England, Ohio, and New York, and as far away as Detroit and Canada.

Harper often quoted original poetry in her lectures, and consequently her reputation as a poet spread as far as her speaking tours. Her second volume of poetry, Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects, sold 10,000 copies and was then enlarged and reprinted. Harper published several more volumes of poetry and reprinted new editions of her poems many times. In the process, she became the most famous black poet of her time.

During the next few decades, she began to focus on racial uplift, moral reform, temperance, and women’s rights. Many of Harper’s lectures were to women’s clubs and associations, and some of her most popular speeches were on the rights and roles of women in general, and black women in particular. Harper was also active in the temperance movement. She lectured widely on the evils of alcohol, directed the Northern United States Temperance Union, and became the first black woman to be recognized on the Red Letter Calendar of the World Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which honored prominent temperance activists.

Here again, Harper tailored her activism to reach the African American community. She directed the colored branches of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and in 1883 became national superintendent of temperance work among African Americans.
Throughout all of her political activism, Frances Harper continued to write, and in the twentieth century she is best remembered as one of the earliest black women writers.

Harper’s best-known work is the 1892 novel Iola Leroy. Many reviewers called Iola Leroy the crowning effort of Harper’s life. She continued writing until a few years before her death in 1911. Harper provided a model for the best of what any nineteenth-century woman could be as a black woman, who made a point of writing about and speaking to other black women, she set the standard for a generation of African American women’s activism.



1878
On this date, W.R. Davis Jr. patented the Library table. This African-American patent number is, 208378.


1883
The National Black convention meets in Louisville, Kentucky.


1886
The founding of Ebenezer Baptist Church is celebrated on this date. This house of worship is a unique landmark of Black Civil Rights in the Africa-American community. Originally it was located in a small structure on Airline Street.

John A. Parker, a former slave served as Ebenezer’s first pastor until 1894, when Alfred Daniel Williams took the position. Membership increased during Williams’ first year, and a larger sanctuary was erected on McGruder Street. The congregation relocated twice more before settling at 407 Auburn Avenue in 1914. Parishioners occupied the basement of this facility until its completion in 1922.

Located in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn district, Ebenezer Baptist Church was the home church of Martin Luther King Jr. Ebenezer remains socially and politically active while serving the community through various ministries.



1891
John Adams Hyman, North Carolina’s first Black Congressman, died in Washington, DC on this date.


1894
On this date, Edward Franklin Frazier was born. He was an African-American sociologist.

From Baltimore, MD, Edward Franklin Frazier received his A.B. from Howard University (1916) and his A.M. in sociology from Clark University (1920). After being awarded a fellowship to the New York School of Social Work (1920-21), he accepted an American-Scandinavian Foundation grant to study folk high schools and the Cooperative Movement in Denmark (1921-22).

He taught sociology at Morehouse College, Atlanta, where he organized the Atlanta University School of Social Work (for blacks), later becoming its director. With the controversy surrounding the publication (1927) of “The Pathology of Race Prejudice” in Forum, Frazier was forced to leave Morehouse. He received a fellowship from the University of Chicago (1927), where he took his Ph.D. (1931). Publication of his thesis, The Negro Family in Chicago (1932), sustained the university’s interest in his work on the black family. He taught at Fisk University (1929-34) and then at Howard University (from 1934). He served as director of the Division of Applied Social Sciences UNESCO (1951-53), where he worked on the Tension and Social Change Project, assessing the interactions between people of different races and cultures and the effect of these interactions on each community.

His writings include The Negro Family in the United States (1939), among the first sociological works on blacks researched and written by a Black. He also wrote Negro Youth at the Crossways (1940) and Race and Culture Contacts in the Modern World (1957), which dealt with African studies. Later that year he wrote Black Bourgeoisie, which focused on the African-American middle class. He whose work on Black social structure provided insights into and solutions to many of the problems affecting the Black community. E. Franklin Frazier died May 17, 1962 in Washington, D.C.



1923
On this date, Fats Navarro was born. He was an African-American jazz trumpet virtuoso, one of the founders of bebop.

Theodore Navarro was from Key West, Fla., he first performed as a tenor saxophonist in Miami, Fla., and went on to play trumpet in big bands, most notably Andy Kirk’s (1943-44) and the avant-garde Billy Eckstine band of 1945-46. He then worked and recorded with other well-known leaders, including Illinois Jacquet and Coleman Hawkins, before making the most important association of his career with composer-band leader Tadd Dameron in 1948-49.

By then, however, Navarro’s heroin addiction had made him undependable; in his last year, as he grew progressively more ill from tuberculosis, he performed less often. To a large extent Navarro’s improvising was influenced by Dizzy Gillespie, though Navarro was the more fluent player, capable of subtle dynamic shadings.

The fullness and beauty of Navarro’s tone extended through all ranges of his trumpet, and he executed complex phrases with rare grace. The variety of his phrasing added to the exuberant quality of his music, yet his solos were also notable for their organization. Apart from his works with Dameron, such as “Symphonette” and “Our Delight,” his most notable recordings included “Ice Freezes Red” and “Fat Girl”; the 1949 Bud Powell quintet session that produced “Dance of the Infidels” and “Bouncing with Bud”; and broadcast recordings with Charlie Parker, among which were “Ornithology” and “The Street Beat.”

His material was distinguished by the beauty and fertility of his melodic creations. Fats Navarro died on July 7, 1950 in New York City.



1924
Theresa Merritt was born on this date. She was an African-American actress.

From Emporia, Virginia, she is probably best recognized from her role as “Mama Eloise” on the TV sitcom “That’s My Mama.” Merritt’s talents found success on TV, film, and the stage. In 1985, she received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Broadway. Her films included The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, All That Jazz, and she played “Aunt Em” in the musical The Wiz.

She had four children including a pair of twins. Theresa Merritt died of skin cancer on June 12, 1998.



1931
Cardiss Robertson (later Collins) is born in St. Louis, Missouri. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1973 after the death of her husband, George, she will serve in a leadership capacity often in her Congressional career, most notably as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Competitiveness.


1935
World Heavyweight Champion, Joe Louis, becomes the first African American boxer to draw a million dollar gate.


1941
John Mackey is born in New York City. He will become a football player in the National Football League in 1963 and will play all but one of his pro years with the Baltimore Colts. His career record will include 331 catches, 5,236 yards, and 38 touchdowns. He will be enshrined in the Football Hall of Fame in 1992 (the second tight end to be so honored).


1946
“Mean” Joe (Charles) Greene is born in Temple, Texas. He will become a star football player for North Texas State and will be a number one draft pick in the National Football League in 1969 and will play his entire career (1969-1981) with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He will become the “cornerstone of franchise” that dominated the NFL in the 1970s. He will be an exceptional team leader, possessing size, speed, quickness, strength, and determination. He will be NFL Defensive Player of The Year twice (1972 and 1974). He will be All-Pro or All-AFC nine years and will play in four Super Bowls (won all four), six AFC title games, and 10 Pro Bowls.  He will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. He will become a defensive line coach with Pittsburgh after his retirement as an active player.


1953
“Take a Giant Step”, a drama by playwright Louis Peterson, opens on Broadway.


1954
Patrick Kelly is born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. A fashion design student, Kelly will move to Paris, where his innovative and outrageous women’s fashion designs, featuring multiple buttons, bows and African American baby dolls, will win him wide acclaim and make him the first and only American designer admitted to an exclusive organization of French fashion designers.


1957
President Eisenhower makes an address on nationwide TV and radio to explain why troops are being sent to Little Rock, Arkansas. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, earlier in the day sends 1,000 U.S. government paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to aid in the desegregation of the public schools. The troops will escort nine school children to Central High School in the first federally supported effort to integrate the nation’s public schools. The nine Black students who had entered Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas were forced to withdraw because of a white mob outside.


1962
United States Circuit Court of Appeals orders the Mississippi Board of Higher Education to admit James Meredith to the University of Mississippi or be held in contempt of court.


1965
Executive Order 11246 enforces affirmative action for the first time issued by President Johnson, the executive order requires government contractors to “take affirmative action” toward prospective minority employees in all aspects of hiring and employment. Contractors must take specific measures to ensure equality in hiring and must document these efforts.


1973
Leaders of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) declare the independence of Guinea-Bissau from Portugal. Portugal will recognize this independence the following year. The PAIGC was formed by Amilcar Cabral and Raphael Barbosa in 1956. Luis Cabral, Amilcar’s half-brother, will become Guinea-Bissau’s first president.


1977
Rev. John T. Walker, clergyman, was installed as the first Black bishop of the Episcopal diocese of Washington, D.C., on this day. Born on July 27, 1925, in Barnesville, GA, he graduated from Wayne State University with a bachelor’s degree in history. He also was the first Black to graduate from Virginia Theological Seminary with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. Walker pledged to use his position to tackle social ills and became a staunch crusader against racial and gender discrimination. He used church doctrines to forge greater integration in the community and supporting ordination for women as members of clergy. Walker died of heart failure at Georgetown University Hospital on September 30, 1989.


1977
Robert E. Chambliss, white supremacist, was charged with first-degree murder in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL on this date. Addie Mae Collins, Carol Robertson, Denise McNair, and Cynthia Wesley were killed.


1986
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone said the United States “intelligence levels are lower than those in Japan because of African Americans, Hispanics and Puerto Ricans.” Nakasone later apologized saying his remarks were misinterpreted.


1988
Barbara C. Harris, an ordained Priest serving in the Philadelphia Church of the Advocate, became the first woman Bishop on this date. Harris was elected a Suffragan in the Episcopal Church.


1988
Jackie Joyner-Kersee of the United States sets the heptathlon woman’s record (7,291).


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