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1785
This date remembers the birth of David Walker. He was a Black Abolitionist and publisher.

Born in Wilmington, NC, of a slave father and a free mother, Walker grew up free, obtained an education, and traveled throughout the country. Settling in Boston, he became involved in the Abolitionist movement and was a frequent contributor to Freedom’s Journal, an anti-slavery weekly. Sometime in the 1820s he opened a secondhand clothing store on the Boston waterfront. Through this business he could purchase clothes taken from sailors in barter for drink, and then resell them to seamen about to embark.

In the copious pockets of these garments, he concealed copies of his Appeal, which he reasoned would reach Southern ports and pass through the hands of other used-clothes dealers who would know what to do with them. He also used sympathetic Black seamen to distribute pamphlets directly. When the smuggled pamphlets began to appear in the South, the states reacted with legislation prohibiting circulation of Abolitionist literature and forbidding slaves to learn to read and write. Warned that his life was in danger, Walker refused to flee to Canada. His body was found soon afterward near his shop, and many believed he had been poisoned.

His Appeal for a slave revolt, widely reprinted after his death, was accepted by a small minority of Abolitionists, but most antislavery leaders and free blacks rejected his call for violence at the time. His only son, Edwin G. Walker, was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1866. His pamphlet, Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World 1829 (shown), urging slaves to fight for their freedom, was one of the most radical documents of the antislavery movement. David Walker died on June 28th 1830 in Boston, Mass.



1829
Walker’s Appeal (To the Coloured Citizens of the World),” a racial antislavery pamphlet, is published in Boston, Massachusetts, by David Walker. It denounced slavery and called for slave revolt. Its eloquence and uncompromising defiance was a source of great inspiration to African people, free and slave, as well as cause for alarm for Southern slave owners and many Northern abolitionists who favored more gradual change.


1833
Lemuel Haynes, Revolutionary War veteran and first African American to be ordained by the Congregational Church, joins the ancestors at the age of 80.


1864
Richard Barry Harrison was born on this date. He was an African-American actor, Teacher, Dramatic Reader, Lecturer, and Elocutionist.

From London, Ontario, Canada, his parents had escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad. His mother named him Richard after seeing a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Her interest in theatre placed Harrison on the way to becoming an actor. In his youth, he worked selling newspapers, and managed to work near the local theatre where he would try to get to know the actors. Also whenever he saved enough money he would attend the plays. His talents were recognized early in recitations that he would give at school and in church.

After moving to Detroit, he began his dramatic studies at the Detroit Training School of Dramatic Art, and privately with British drama coach Edward Weitzel, drama editor for the Detroit Free Press. From 1892 to 1896, Harrison traveled, performing as a dramatic reader. He married Gertrude Janet Washington in 1895; she was the first Black person to graduate from the Chicago Conservatory of Music. They had two children, Lawrence Gilbert and Marian Ysobel. Harrison’s repertoire included works from Shakespeare, and poetry from his friend Paul Lawrence Dunbar, including promotional tours for Dunbar’s book Oak and Ivy.

He became well known nationally for his recitations in both Black and White communities. In his tours, he became aware of a great desire for dramatic training among the people for whom he performed. After convincing the president of North Carolina A&T, James B. Dudley, of the need for a dramatic program of study, he began to offer summer courses there in 1922. At the same time, he moved his family to New York, and began reading and teaching in churches, and performing on stage. Harrison’s stage credits include, Pa Williams’ Gal at the Lafayette Theatre, and The Green Pastures which opened February 26, 1930, at the Mansfield Theatre on Broadway. This show ran for 16 months, went on national tour appearing in 203 towns in 40 states and won the Pulitzer Prize. Harrison’s portrayal of “De Lawd” was pivotal to its success, and won him incredible acclamation.

Harrison also received the NAACP’s 1930 Spingarn Medal for Distinguished Achievement and honorary degrees from a number of colleges and universities. On his seventieth birthday in 1934, he received numerous congratulatory telegrams, including fourteen from college and university presidents, and seven from state governors.

On March 14th 1935, Harrison died of heart failure, having collapsed just before a performance. Fifteen thousand people of all backgrounds came to pay their respects at Harrison’s home, the night before funeral services. He was buried at Lincoln Cemetery in Chicago.

 

1868

On this date, the Opelousas Massacre occurred. That city in St. Landry Parish in Louisiana was the site of a massacre of local blacks by violent whites (many of them Confederate veterans and prominent citizens).

The slaughter started when three local whites beat up an eighteen year old man named Emerson Bentley, a white editor (and non-Louisianan) of the local Republican newspaper and a teacher with the Freedmen’s Bureau. Reacting to Bentley’s beating, local blacks came to his rescue. Twelve were arrested by the sheriff, taken from jail and hung that night.

In the next few days bands of armed whites scoured the countryside and killed blacks in what was described as a “Negro hunt” similar to one which had occurred outside of Shreveport, Louisiana, a short time before. It is estimated that two to three hundred blacks were killed in the fields and swamps surrounding Opelousas Louisiana.



1895
Three Baptist groups, the Foreign Mission Convention of the United States, the American National Baptist Convention, and the Baptist National Education Convention, merged and established the National Baptist Convention at an Atlanta meeting.


1912
W.C. Handys ground-breaking Memphis Blues” was published in Memphis, Tennessee. The composition was originally entitled “Mr. Crump” and was written for the 1909 political campaign of Edward H. “Boss” Crump. “Memphis Blues” changed the course of American popular song. Handy had introduced an African-American folk tradition, the blues, into mainstream music. By the 1960s, the blues sound had significantly influenced the development of jazz and rock and roll, quintessential American musical forms.


1918
This date celebrates the birth of Bruce M. Wright. He was an African-American Judge, lawyer, and poet.

He was born in Princeton, New Jersey and raised in Harlem, New York. Bruce McMarion Wright’s father was Black and his mother was white. He was awarded a scholarship to attend Princeton in 1939, but denied admission when the university learned that he was Black, Wright was denied admission to Notre Dame on the same grounds.

He had no trouble entering a U.S. Army’s Infantry Division. But after World War II he went AWOL, making his way to Paris, where he was befriended by Senegalese poet Leopold Senghor, who later became his country’s first president. “I was introduced to him as an American poet. All I ever wanted to be in life was a poet,” said Wright, a friend of Langston Hughes. Wright’s first book of poetry, From the Shaken Tower, was edited by Langston Hughes and published in 1944. He then graduated from Lincoln University, attended Fordham Law School and obtained his law degree from New York Law School.

After receiving his law degree he worked for the law firm, Proskauer Rose, where he represented such jazz legends as Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Max Roach. Wright worked as a criminal and civil lawyer. Appointed as the General Counsel for the Human Resources Administration in NYC, Wright served as a judge in New York’s civil and criminal courts and was elected to NY State Supreme Court in 1982, and retired on Dec. 31, 1994. Mayor John V. Lindsay named him to the bench in 1970. Judge Wright was critical of the judicial system and felt that race and class all too frequently determined the outcome of a trial.

Wright was the author of a 1987 book, “Black Robes, White Justice,” about the role of race in the judicial system. Justice Wright spent 25 years on the bench in both criminal and civil cases, gaining a reputation as a scholarly and provocative jurist who sprinkled his opinions with literary quotations. Wright suffered a heart attack in March 2000 and was made an honorary member of Princeton’s 2001 65 years after being denied a scholarship because of his race. Judge

Bruce M. Wright, who denounced what he called racism in the criminal justice system and created a furor in the 1970’s by setting low bail for many poor and minority suspects, died in his sleep on March 24, 2005 at his home in Harlem, New York. He was 86. His wife, Elizabeth Davidson-Wright, announced his death.



1921
George Alexander McGuire was consecrated the first Bishop of the African Orthodox Church on this date.


1938
Ben E. King is born in North Carolina. He will become a rhythm and blues singer and will be best known for his song, “Stand By Me.”


1941
Charley Taylor is born. He will become a NFL wide receiver/running back with the Washington Redskins.


1945
Todd Duncan debuts with the New York City Opera as Tonio in Il Pagliacci.  He is the first African American to sing a leading role with a major American company, almost ten years before Marian Anderson sings with the Metropolitan Opera.


1961
Ossie Davis’s, farce, “Purlie Victorious” opens on Broadway. The play stars Davis, Ruby Dee, Godfrey Cambridge, Alan Alda, and Beah Richards.


1961
Atlanta’s segregated restaurants and other public facilities are peacefully integrated, part of a plan adopted by city officials earlier in the year.


1962
Governor Ross Robert Barnett of Mississippi, a staunch segregationist, was found guilty of civil contempt of the federal court for actively opposing James Meredith’s attempt to integrate his alma mater, the University of Mississippi. United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ordered Barnett to purge himself of contempt or face arrest and a fine of $10,000 a day. He never paid the fine or went to jail for this because the charges were terminated and dismissed due to “substantial compliance with orders of the court” and “in view of changed circumstances and conditions.” Barnett gave his racist, “I Love Mississippi” speech at a 1962 University of Mississippi football game in Jackson. This occurred the night before the riots at Ole Miss’ Oxford campus over the admission of Meredith to the University.


1964
This date celebrates the National Museum of African Art (NMAA). NMAA is an archive of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, which celebrates the visual arts and cultures of Africa.

Founded by diplomat
Warren M. Robbins, the museum was originally housed in the Washington residence of African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. It was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1979 and opened in a new building on the National Mallon this date in 1989.

The National Museum collects and exhibits art from throughout Africa. The collection, which dates from antiquity to the present, includes traditional masks and figures, textiles, costumes and jewelry, furniture and household objects, and architectural elements, as well as modern sculpture, paintings, prints, and ceramics. Notable aspects of the collection include objects from the Republic of Benin that illustrate life in that region of western Africa between the 14th century and the beginning of French rule at the end of the 19th century.

The museum’s collection of utilitarian objects—stools, headrests, baskets, vessels, and other items—reflects the blend of form and function in African art. The richness of African art and culture is also represented by remarkable examples of pottery from central Africa and textiles from sub-Saharan Africa. The exhibition program highlights the permanent collection and also features traveling exhibitions from other institutions.

A variety of public programs introduce the public to the richness of traditional African arts and cultures. For a visual record of life and art in Africa, researchers can consult the museum’s Photographic Archives, which has more than 300,000 photographic images as well as extensive film and video footage.



1967
Walter E. Washington, lawyer, became the first Black mayor of a major American city, Washington, DC, when he was sworn into office on this day. He remained mayor until 1979. Born on April 15, 1915, in Dawson, GA, Washington attended local public schools before he moved to Washington, D.C., to become a student at Howard University. In 1938 he graduated with a bachelor's degree in public administration and sociology. Washington later obtained his L.L.B. degree from the university in 1948 and was admitted to the bar that same year. In 1961, before he became mayor of Washington, D.C., he was the first Black executive director of the National Capital Housing Authority (NCHA). Washington died on October 27, 2003.


1972
The Secretary of the Army repeals the dishonorable discharges of 167 soldiers involved in the Brownsville (Texas) Raid. The soldiers, members of the 25th Infantry who were involved in a riot with the city’s police and merchants, were dishonorably discharged by President Theodore Roosevelt without a trial.


1976
Muhammad Ali retains the heavyweight boxing championship in a close 15-round decision over Ken Norton at Yankee Stadium.


1976
Penumbra Theatre Company opened with its first production on this date in 1976. The production was entitled “The Hairy Falsetto” followed by “Little Nell”.

They are an African-American Theatre Production Company in St. Paul, MN. Founded by Artistic Director,
Lou Bellamy, Penumbra has added an important dimension of cultural and artistic experience for many years. For over 30 years, the company has developed programs and productions, which are proactive, engaging and culturally based. These productions have allowed them to use art to criticize, problem solve, and teach. Penumbra has become a forum for artistic exploration, as well as a cultural depository for the community.

Penumbra’s mission is to create professional productions that are artistically excellent and presented from an African American perspective. Penumbra offers practical training for the professional actor, director, choreographer and designer taught from an African American perspective. Every summer, Penumbra professionals work with about twenty-five high school students in a six-week interdisciplinary workshop: “Toward an African American Aesthetic.”

They sponsor Cornerstone, a national playwright’s competition for writers, who address the African American experience and workshop and produce the winning play as part of their main stage season. The role that Penumbra plays in providing the nation with talented and experienced African American playwrights, directors and actors is extensive. Members of the company are sought throughout the country. Penumbra has provided a consistently clear message that the African American experience is rich, dynamic and critical to the American theater canon.

They are one of few surviving theatres that began during the Black Arts Movement. Penumbra is nationally and internationally recognized. Founder and Artistic Director Bellamy recently said, “It is with both pride and humility that we stand facing our thirtieth anniversary, with so few of our comrades by our side.”



1979
Larry Holmes retains the heavyweight boxing championship by knocking out Ernie Shavers in 11 rounds.


1981
Joseph Paul Franklin, avowed racist, is sentenced to life in prison for killing 2 African American joggers in Salt Lake City, Utah.


1987
The National Museum of African Art, now a part of the Smithsonian Institution, opens on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Founded by Warren M. Robbins in 1964 as a private educational institution, it is the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to the collection, study, and exhibition of the art of sub-Saharan Africa.


1990
Marvin Gaye gets a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.


1991
Miles Davis, jazz musician, joins the ancestors at the age of 65 from pneumonia.


2000
Venus and Serena Williams won the Olympic Gold Medal in women’s doubles tennis in Sidney, Australia on this date. With this win, Venus became the only women to win gold in singles and doubles since 1924.


2003
Althea Gibson, pioneering tennis player, joins the ancestors at the age of 76 after succumbing to respiratory failure. She was the first African American woman to win the Wimbledon championship and was also a professional golfer.


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