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1795
This date marks the birth of Alexander Lucius Twilight. He, to all relevant information was the first African-American college graduate.

Alexander Twilight was born in Corinth, Vt., to a free Black family, graduated from Middlebury College in 1823, with his baccalaureate degree making him, thus far, the first African American to receive a degree from an American college. He was licensed to preach by the Presbyterian Church and served several Congregational churches.

Twilight became principal of the Orleans County Grammar School in Brownington, Vermont, and in 1836 built a massive three-story granite building, Athenian Hall, which became Brownington Academy. In 1836, Twilight also served in the Vermont state legislature, the first African American to do so.



1867
Maggie L. Walker, business and civic leader, first Black in US, is born. She dies in 1934.


1893
Freda Kirchwey was born on this date. She was an American civil rights activist and peace advocate.

From Lake Placid, N. Y., her father, George Washington Kirchwey, was a professor at the Columbia University Law School and helped establish the New York Peace Society in 1906, supported women’s suffrage and the development of trade unions. In 1915, Young Kirchwey graduated from Barnard College where she became politically as a member of the Woman’s Peace Party. She became a reporter for the New York Morning Telegraph and married Evans Clark, a research director for the Socialist members of the New York City Board of Aldermen.

Kirchwey also worked for Every Week Magazine, the New York Tribune and The Nation. In her articles she argued against American support for the forces fighting the Bolshevik government in Russia and for the dissemination of birth control information. She and her husband worked closely with Charles Garland, who inherited a considerable fortune in 1922. A socialist, Garland decided to provide financial help to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its campaign against lynching, and other causes.

In September 1955 Kirchwey retired as editor of The Nation. Over the next few years she was active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Freda Kirchwey died at St. Petersburg, Florida on January 3rd 1976.



1894
Bessie Smith, blues singer, was born in Chattanooga, TN. Raised in poverty, she was discovered at the age of 13 by Ma Rainy, the first nationally famous Black blues, singer, who persuaded Ms. Smith to go on tour with her minstrel show. At age 17, she was singing in Selma, AL, where Frank Walker, head of Columbia Records, heard her. Back in New York, Walker sent an associate to fine Ms. Smith and convince her to record for Columbia. In February of 1923, she cut her first disc, “Downhearted Blues,” which sold over 2 million copies during its first year of release and skyrocketed Bessie Smith to fame. She became the highest-paid Black entertainer during her first year with Columbia earning as much as $1,500 a week. She recorded her most famous song “Nobody Know You When You’re Down and Out” in 1929. She bled to death outside a segregated Mississippi hospital that refused to treat injuries she sustained in an automobile accident in 1937.


1899
William Levi Dawson was born on this date. He was an African-American vocalist, composer and conductor.

From Anniston, Alabama at the age of thirteen ran away from home to enter Tuskegee Institute. Supporting himself by manual labor, he completed his education there in 1921. In 1931, he organized the School of Music at Tuskegee, and for twenty-five years conducted the one hundred voice “Tuskegee Choir.” In 1932-33, this choir was a main attraction at the grand opening of the Radio City Music Hall in New York. Under the direction of Dr. Dawson, they performed for Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Dawson made guest appearances throughout the United States and abroad. He was a recognized authority on the religious folk music of the American Negro, and his choral and orchestral arrangements were extensively performed. He composed the “Negro Folk Symphony” which premiered in 1934 by the Philadelphia Orchestra under the direction of Leopold Stokowski. In this work the composer used melodic and rhythmic language borrowed from Negro spirituals, along with original material in the same idiom. The symphony was imaginative, dramatic, and colorfully orchestrated. Dawson was a director and consultant to many festival groups.

In 1956 Tuskegee Institute gave him the honorary degree of doctor of music, that same year he was sent by the U. S. State Department to conduct various choral groups in Spain. In 1952 Dawson visited seven countries in West Africa to study indigenous African music. He later revised the Negro Folk Symphony with a rhythmic foundation inspired by African influences. Dawson was guest conductor with the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra (1966), the Wayne State University (Michigan) Glee Club (1970), and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (1975).

He held degrees in theory and composition from Horner Institute of Fine Arts in Kansas City, MO, and the American Conservatory of Music. He holds honorary doctorates from Tuskegee Institute, Lincoln University and Ithaca College. He was named to the Alabama Arts Hall of Fame in 1975, and received the Alumni Merit Award from Tuskegee Institute in 1983. He died on May 4, 1990.



1907
The People’s Savings Bank is incorporated in Philadelphia by former African American congressman George H. White of North Carolina. The bank will help hundreds of African Americans buy homes and start businesses until the illness of its founder forces its closure in 1918.


1929
Dr. Ida Stephens Owens was born on this day in Newark, NJ. She is an African-American Biochemist. She received a Ph.D. in Biology-Physiology from Duke University in 1967. At the National Institutes of Health (NIH), she conducted studies in the genetics of detoxification enzymes, research that are aimed at shedding light on how the human body defends itself against poison. (Source: Ebony) Dr. Owens is currently with the Section of Genetic Disorders of Drug Metabolism, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, MD.


1929
Meredith C. Gourdine was born on this date. He was an African-American Physicist, and Engineer.

From Newark, New Jersey, he received a B. S. in Engineering Physics from Cornell University in 1953 and a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1960. While at Cornell he ran track and won a silver medal in the long jump at the Olympic Games in 1952. Gourdine pioneered the research of electrogasdynamics. He was responsible for the engineering technique termed Incineraid for aiding in the removal of smoke from buildings. His work on gas dispersion developed techniques for dispersing fog from airport runways.

Gourdine served on the Technical Staff of the Ramo-Woolridge Corporation from 1957 to 1958, followed by Senior Research Scientist at the Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory from until 1960. He became a Lab Director of the Plasmodyne Corporation from 1960-62 and Chief Scientist of the Curtiss-Wright Corporation from 1962 to 1964.

Gourdine established a research laboratory, Gourdine Laboratories, in Livingston, New Jersey, with a staff of over 150 and has been issued several patents on gas dynamic products as a result of his work. Gourdine served as president of Energy Innovation, Inc. of Houston, Texas. He died in November, 1998.



1937
Renowned blues singer Bessie Smith died on this day of injuries sustained in an automobile accident near Clarksdale, Mississippi. She, along with Scott Joplin and Duke Ellington, is credited with bringing jazz and blues to major Northern cities in the 1920’s.


1962
Mississippi barred James Meredith from the University of Mississippi for the third time. Lt. Gov. Paul Johnson and a blockade of state patrolmen turned Meredith and federal marshals back about four hundred yards from the gate of the school.


1962
A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., becomes the first African American member of the Federal Trade Commission. He was also appointed a federal district judge and U.S. Circuit Judge of the Third Circuit.


1968
The Studio Museum of Harlem opened in New York City.


1981
Serena Jameka Williams was born in Saginaw, Michigan on this date. She is an African-American tennis player and entrepreneur. She is also the younger sister of tennis player Venus Williams.

When she and her four sisters were young, their parents, Richard and Oracene lived in Compton CA. About that time she won her first tournament, and eventually entered 49 tournaments before the age of 10, winning 46 of them. At one point, she replaced her sister Venus as the number one ranked tennis player aged 12 or under in California. She never bragged about all her winnings.

Her carrier singles wins are over 300, doubles record is 94-15 and she has amassed almost 40 titles between the two events. She has won eight Grand Slam singles titles and an Olympic gold medal in women’s doubles. In 2005, Tennis magazine ranked her as the 17th-best player of the preceding forty years. She currently resides in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, United States with her sister Venus.

Williams has her own line of designer clothing called Aneres her first name spelled backward that she plans to sell in boutiques in Miami and Los Angeles. Venus also appeared as one of her models, showing her latest designs.



2001
On this date, a white police officer in Cincinnati, OH was acquitted in the killing of an unarmed black man. The killing sparked that city’s worst racial unrest in three decades.

Officer
Stephen Roach had been charged with negligent homicide and obstructing official business after he shot 19-year-old Timothy Thomas in a dark alley early April 7. Hamilton County Municipal Judge Ralph Winkler pronounced sentence after hearing the trial without a jury, at Roach’s request. Roach did not testify. The Judge said: “This shooting was a split-second reaction to a very dangerous situation created by Timothy Thomas, Police officer Roach’s action was reasonable on his part, based on the information he had at the time in that dark Cincinnati alley.” He said Roach’s record was unblemished, while Thomas’ was not.

He noted that Thomas who was wanted on a variety of warrants, but mostly for traffic offenses failed to respond to an order to show his hands. The Rev. Damon Lynch, a black leader and minister in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where Thomas was shot, called the verdict ‘an atrocity’ but said, “We’ll urge people to be peaceful, as we have been doing for 10 weeks.” Roach, 27, a city officer since 1997, still faces departmental administrative proceedings. Roach was believed to be the first Cincinnati officer to go to trial on charges of killing a suspect.

In three nights of rioting that followed the shooting, dozens of people were injured and more than 800 were arrested before a temporary citywide curfew ended the disturbance. The city had not seen such racial unrest since the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968. As a precaution, additional police officers were on duty when the verdict was announced. There were no disturbances. A crowd of about 40 blacks gathered outside the courthouse and one yelled, “How is that justified?” Activist Kabaka Oba said the verdict shows “that the city is not willing to put a police officer in jail for killing a man unjustifiably.”

After the verdict was read, Roach said: “Unfortunately, this is a tragedy for everybody involved… I would give anything to change the outcome of what happened that night.” Thomas’ mother, Angela Leisure, said the verdict was unfair. “Why is it that officers are not responsible for their acts when other citizens are? My son... won’t be the last... Until serious changes are made in our police department, this will happen again.”

Thomas was the 15th black male killed by Cincinnati police since 1995. The police union has noted that 10 of those men had fired or pointed guns at police officers, and two of the victims drove at officers or dragged them from cars.


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