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
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.
Appeal (To the Coloured Citizens of the World),” a racial antislavery pamphlet, is published in Boston, Massachusetts,
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.
Lemuel Haynes, Revolutionary War veteran and first African American
to be ordained by the Congregational Church, joins the ancestors at the age of
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.
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
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.
Three Baptist groups, the Foreign Mission Convention of the United
American National Baptist Convention,
Baptist National Education Convention,
merged and established the National Baptist Convention
at an Atlanta
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.
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.
George Alexander McGuire was consecrated the first Bishop of the African
Orthodox Church on this date.
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.”
Charley Taylor is born. He will become a NFL wide receiver/running
back with the Washington Redskins.
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.
Victorious” opens on Broadway.
The play stars Davis, Ruby Dee, Godfrey Cambridge, Alan Alda, and Beah Richards.
Atlanta’s segregated restaurants
and other public facilities
are peacefully integrated, part of a plan adopted by city officials earlier in
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.
date celebrates the National Museum of African Art (NMAA). NMAA is an archive of the Smithsonian Institution in
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
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.
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.
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.
Muhammad Ali retains the heavyweight boxing championship in a
close 15-round decision over Ken Norton at Yankee Stadium.
Penumbra Theatre Company opened with its first production on this date in
1976. The production was entitled “The Hairy Falsetto” followed by “Little
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
Larry Holmes retains the heavyweight boxing championship by
knocking out Ernie Shavers
in 11 rounds.
Joseph Paul Franklin, avowed racist, is sentenced to life in prison for
killing 2 African American joggers in Salt
Lake City, Utah.
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.
Marvin Gaye gets a star on Hollywood’s
Walk of Fame.
Miles Davis, jazz musician, joins the ancestors at the age of 65
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.
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.