On this date, Henri
Christophe was born. He was a West African slave and
became the first black King in the Western Hemisphere (Haiti).
Christophe was born on the island
of Grenada, a British
colonial acquisition. His parents were slaves brought to Grenada with thousands
of other West Africans to work in the sugar industry. The Africans that the
English used as slaves in the sugar industry were known for their fierce and
determined nature to resist the institution of slavery. The revolutionary
nature of Henri Christophe has its roots deeply embedded in his African
ancestry. Christophe’s obstinate, argumentative, and obdurate nature led his
father to sell his services to a French ship’s Captain as a cabin boy, before
had reached the age of ten.
The ship’s captain sold Henri to a French sugar planter in the French province
on the island of Saint Dominique called Haiti, which was a Carob Indian name
meaning “the land of the mountains.” The brutality of the French planters led
to much discontent among the slaves in Haiti. These acts of brutality were
witnessed by Christophe and set the stage for his role in the Haitian
revolution. He participated in the American Revolutionary War in the French
contingent. As a sergeant, he was among the five hundred forty-five Haitian free
Negroes known as the Fontages Legion. Fighting to make men in another country
free from oppression created a thirst for freedom within Christophe.
In June 1794, the Spaniards and the English who wanted to share the wealth
created by the sugar industry threatened Haiti. The Spaniards constituted
the greatest threat and a battle for control of Haiti ensued. The three principal
figures in the Haitian revolution were Toussaint L’Overture, Jean Jacques
Dessalines, and Christophe. Toussaint joined the French forces against the
Spaniards, became a general of the slaves, and marched to several villages,
liberating his brothers who immediately joined his forces. After having
distinguished himself in battle, Christophe was made a sergeant by Toussaint and
later made a General by Dessalines.
The French forces were defeated and Haiti was declared an independent
republic on November 27, 1803. The republic
of Haiti was divided into two states,
Christophe was elected president of the Northern State
in February of 1807, and Alexandre Petion was elected President of the Southern
Republic of Haiti in March. The division between the republics was to last for
a decade. President Christophe set out to improve all aspects of life in the Northern Province. One
of his major concerns and preoccupations was the defense of his country form
internal and external aggression. He had a huge fortress built on a mountain
peak overlooking the Le Cap harbor, three thousand feet above the sea. The
citadel was named “la Ferriere,” which means the blacksmith’s pouch.
The huge stronghold, which still exists today, was built in the shape of a
ship, covering sixteen acres, with some of the walls soaring 140 feet high. The
education of the Haitians was Henri Christophe’s second priority. He solicited
teachers from the United States
to build schools. This ultimately raised the former slaves to a literacy level
unequaled in the Western Hemisphere. To
continue the improvement of Haitian life, Christophe decided to create the
first black kingdom in the Western Hemisphere.
At a council of state on March 28, 1811, he declared Haiti a kingdom, with himself as
King Henri I. Christophe offered the ruler of the south, Alexandre Petion, the
opportunity to be absorbed. Petion refused and the relationship between the two
men and their respective countries remained strained until Petion’s death in
1818. In August 1820, Christophe suffered a stroke that left him partially
When the news spread of his infirmities, the seeds of rebellion began to grow.
On October 2, 1820, the military garrison at St. Marc led a mutiny that sparked
a revolt. The mutiny coincided with a conspiracy of Christophe’s own generals.
Some of his trusted aides took him to the Citadel to await the inevitable
confrontation with the rebels. Christophe ordered his attendants to bathe him,
dress him in his formal military uniform, place him in his favorite chair in
his den, and leave him alone.
Shortly after the attendants left his side; Christophe committed suicide by shooting
himself in the heart with a silver bullet on October 8, 1820.
National Black Convention met in Troy, NY, with more than sixty delegates from nine
states. Nathan Johnson of Massachusetts
was elected president. At the outset, the members of the convention resolved
that the situation of the black man had to be improved. It further concluded
that this “being admitted... it is clear our own efforts must mainly produce
such advancement,” that is, they could not simply wait for white sympathy and
hope to be successful. The convention members divided into a number of
committees including the Committee on a National Press, Commerce, Agriculture,
and Abolition. Evoking the power of persuasion, the Committee on a National
Press essentially expressed the view that a black press was essential to the
progress of any other black improvement plan. “We must command something
manlier than sympathies,” they declared. The first step in this process was to
establish a black press, which would disseminate information and allow leaders
more easily to organize action. Eleven of the delegates were chosen to
establish a permanent Committee on the National Press for the Free Colored
People of the United States.
The Convention chose James McCune Smith of New York as Chairman, and Amos Beman of
Connecticut as Secretary. Though Frederick Douglass was not on the Press
committee, he likely influenced (and was influenced by) its formal declaration
of the importance of a black press. He produced the first edition of the North
Star, in Rochester, NY, on December 3, 1847, less than two months later. The next committee to
give its report, the Agricultural committee, thanked Smith for his donation
of land. They further affirmed the value of farming as an occupation to
the development of a people. Frederick Douglass was a leader of the final
committee to present a report to the convention, the Abolitionist committee.
The final report denounced violence as a desired path for abolitionism
to take. It reflected Douglass’s commitment to moral persuasion and nonresistance.
Calling on black leaders to “invoke the Press,” the report declared “Let
us give the slaveholders what he most dislikes. Let’s expose his crimes
and his foul abominations” to the nation.
Black State Convention at Macon, Georgia,
protested expulsion of Black politicians from Georgia legislature.
The original Fisk
Jubilee Singers began their world-famous singing tours
around America and Europe to earn money to support the university on this
day. George L. White, minister and then treasurer of the school as well as
professor of music, had long thought of taking his group of students with
outstanding singing abilities on a concert tour of the North to raise money.
The concerts paid barely enough to take the singers from one town to another.
The singers were the first to publicly perform slave songs, and would often
move their audiences to tears. As they toured, the fortunes of the singers took
a turn for the better. They began to send sorely needed money back to their
school. Funds raised by the singers were used to build Fisk’s first permanent
building, Jubilee Hall. The U.S. Department of the Interior has since
designated the hall a National Historic Landmark.
W.D. Davis patented an
improved riding saddle.
On this date, Sammy
Price was born. He was an African-American jazz
From Honey Grove, Texas,
Samuel Blythe Price grew up in Waco,
where he learned to play alto saxophone. Portia Pittman, the daughter of Booker
T. Washington was his piano teacher in Dallas.
His career began in 1925 when he joined the Alphone Trent Orchestra as a Charleston dancer. Soon
after he was leading his own big band in Dallas,
in the twenties, he performed with Benny Long, Lem Johnson, Leonard Chadwick,
and in 1927, he toured with the Let’s Go Show.
Price lived in Kansas City, Chicago,
and Detroit before settling in New York where he began a long relationship
with Decca Records. As a recording supervisor and arranger he worked with many
top artists of the time including Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Peetie Wheatstraw, and
Blue Lu Baker. Price also led his own group the Texas Blusicians. In the
1940’s, Price recorded for Mezz Mezzrow’s King Label as both a solo and
boogie-woogie pianist; he also sided with Sidney Bechet and organized the first
black-run jazz festival in Philadelphia.
Until 1957, Price’s charm and playing brought him to Europe more than once and
he acquired two nightclubs in the Dallas
area. He then moved back to New York
and recorded several albums, including Blues and Boogie (1955) and The Price is
Right (1956). During the 1960’s, he left the music business briefly to work in
community affairs and run his Down Home Meat Products Company. Upon returning
to the stage and studio, Price played with a group called Two-Tenor Boogie,
recording Midnight Boogie (1969), Fire (1975), Black Beauty (1979), and Play it
Again Sam (1983).
His best major appearance was at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall as
part of the 1991 JVC Jazz Festival. Sammy Price died in April 1992.
Fannie Lou Hamer was born on this date. She was an African-American civil rights
Born Fannie Lou Townsend in Montgomery
she was the last of 20 children in a family of sharecroppers. She began
chopping and picking cotton as a child on a plantation in the Mississippi
Delta. She lived and worked there until 1962 when she was fired because she
attempted to register to vote. She and her family were also forced to move from
the plantation. In 1963 Hamer did register to vote and committed herself to
civil rights activism.
She began working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC),
organizing voter registration campaigns in the Mississippi Delta. In 1964,
white members of the Democratic Party in Mississippi
continued the tradition of refusing to accept Blacks in their delegation to the
national party convention. Hamer and others formed the Mississippi Freedom
Democratic Party (MFDP). The MFDP sent 68 delegates to the national convention,
to challenge the white Democrats right to represent Mississippi.
Hamer recounted for the convention the harassment that she and other Blacks
experienced when trying to register to vote in Mississippi in a nationally televised
interview about her experiences with police brutality. Democratic Party
officials offered the black Mississippians two convention seats. Hamer and the
MFDP, however, rejected the compromise offer and went home. The MFDP challenge
resulted in a pledge from the Democratic Party not to seat delegates to the
1968 national convention who had been chosen through racially discriminatory
means. It also made Hamer a national celebrity.
After 1964, Hamer continued to work for Black voting rights and black
candidates for public office in Mississippi.
She also founded social service organizations and initiated economic
development efforts, including the Freedom Farms Corporation, established in
1969 to help poor families raise food and livestock. Hamer became a national
figure in 1964 with a speech to the Democratic National Convention in which she
recounted the voter discrimination and violence against Blacks in her home
state of Mississippi.
She became a national symbol of the participation of poor Southern Blacks in
the civil rights movement. Fannie Lou Hamer died on March 14, 1977.
Joseph E. Lowery, activist and President of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference (SCLC) was born in Hunstville,
Reverend Joseph Echols Lowery was born on this date. He is a Civil Rights activist, and minister.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama
Lowery began his education in his hometown, spending his middle school years in
Chicago before returning to Huntsville to complete high school. From
there, he attended Knoxville College, Payne
College and Theological
Seminary, and the Chicago Ecumenical Institute; where he earned his doctorate
Lowery began his work with civil rights in the early 1950s in Mobile, Alabama,
where he headed the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, an organization devoted
to the desegregation of buses and public places. During this time, the state of
Lowery, along with several other prominent ministers, on charges of libel,
seizing his property. The Supreme Court sided with the ministers, and the
seized property was returned.
In 1957, he helped the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. organize the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference. He was their vice president from 1957-1967,
chairman of the board from 1967-1977 and president and chief executive officer
from 1977 to 1998. In 1965, at the time that George Wallace was governor of Alabama; Lowery led the Selma
“Bloody Sunday” march. He is a co-founder and former president of the Black
Leadership Forum, a consortium that began protesting apartheid in South Africa in
the mid-1970s until the election of Nelson Mandela.
As a minister, after serving his community for more than forty-five years,
Lowery retired from the pulpit in 1997. He also retired in 1998 from the SCLC
as president and CEO. Despite his retirement, Lowery works to encourage African
Americans to vote, and recently recorded with Rap artist NATE the Great to help
spread this message.
Lowery has received numerous awards, including an NAACP Lifetime Achievement
Award and the Martin Luther King Center Peace Award. Essence magazine has twice
named him as one of the Fifteen Greatest Black Preachers. Lowery is married to
activist Evelyn Gibson Lowery.
Lonnie G. Johnson was born on this date. He is an African-American inventor,
businessman, and mathematician. From Mobile,
Alabama, at the age of 18, he was
awarded first place in a national competition for his invention of “Linex,” a
remote controlled robot made from junkyard scraps. He studied at Tuskegee University on a Mathematics scholarship,
and was elected to the Pi Tau Sigma National Engineering Honor Society. Johnson
graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1972,
and completed a Master of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering two years
After joining the Air Force as a Captain, Johnson was awarded the Air Force
Achievement Medal once, and the Air Force Commendation Medal, twice. Through
the military, he became an Advanced Space Systems Requirements Officer at the
headquarters of the Strategic Air Command. After directing projects and earning
a Nomination for Astronaut Training, Johnson moved on to NASA’s Jet Propulsion
There he helped develop thermodynamic and controls systems for space projects,
including award-winning work for the Galileo Jupiter probe and the Mars
Observer project; his crowning achievement at JPL was the Johnson Tube, a
CFC-free refrigeration system with a hydraulic heat pump, which later earned
Johnson his seventh patent at the time (#4,724,683; 1988).
In 1985, he founded his own company, Johnson Research and Development. During
this time he had first conceived his most famous invention in 1982. When a
homemade nozzle at his bathroom sink shot a spray of water across the room, he
resolved to invent the world’s first high-performance, pressurized water gun.
Johnson with partner Bruce D’Andrade finally created a workable prototype of the
now famous SuperSoaker® in 1989. They filed for a joint patent (granted 1991).
Over 40 million SuperSoakers have generated over $200 million in sales; today,
dozens of websites are devoted to them.
Overall, Johnson has earned over 40 patents, and continues to invent in the
areas of thermo-and fluid dynamics as well as toys. In addition to ongoing
controls work for NASA, Johnson and his company are developing an improved home
radon detector, a rechargeable battery, a heat pump that uses water instead of
Freon, and other projects. Lonnie Johnson has won numerous honors for his
success in inventing and entrepreneurship, and his constant encouragement of
young people to invent.
Tony Dungy was born on this date. He was an African-American football player and
is a coach.
From Jackson, Michigan he grew up in a family that valued intellectual
accomplishments as much as athletics. His father, Wilbur, is a retired
physiology professor. His mother, Cleomae, was a high school English teacher.
Dungy’s siblings include a sister who is an obstetrician, another who is a
nurse, and a brother who is a dentist. Dungy was drawn to football at an early
age. As a graduate student at Michigan State University, his father would watch
Detroit Lions football games with the six-year-old Tony. While the elder Dungy
concentrated on his studies, his son would keep him aware of the score and
player statistics too.
Young Dungy starred in basketball and football at Jackson’s Parkside High
School. He attended the University of Minnesota where by the end of his
freshman year, had made the starting lineup. It quickly became clear that
Dungy’s approach to the game was a cerebral one. Dungy spent his spare time
watching game films and analyzing his opponents. As quarterback for the Golden
Gophers from 1973 to 1976, Dungy finished his college career ranked fourth in
total offense among all players in the history of the Big Ten conference.
He signed as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was converted
into a defensive back. Dungy made the team on the strength of his astute
understanding of the defense the Steelers were running, and his ability to
anticipate the moves of opposing receivers based on long hours of study. In one
1977 game, he performed a rare feat by both making and throwing interceptions
in the same game. In 1978, his second season with the Steelers, Dungy led the
team with six interceptions and helped lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl
championship. The Steelers traded Dungy to the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, and
after a year there he was shipped to the New York Giants. The Giants cut Dungy
toward the end of the 1980 pre-season. Seeing that he had no future as an
active player, Dungy retired, with a career total of nine interceptions over
At 25, Dungy became the NFL’s youngest assistant coach when hired by the
Pittsburgh Steelers in 1981. Coach Dungy and his wife Lauren have five children.
In 1982, he was promoted from defensive assistant to defensive backs coach,
before becoming the league’s youngest defensive coordinator in 1984 at age 28.
He served as defensive backs coach at Kansas City (1989-1991) and as defensive
coordinator at Minnesota (1992-95). Dungy held a 54-42 record as head coach
with Tampa Bay from 1996-2001, qualifying for the playoffs four times in six
seasons. Dungy produced some of the NFL’s stingiest defenses during his years
at Tampa Bay. His units ranked no lower than 11th in his six seasons. Still at
the end of the 2001 season, composed perseverance was not enough to save
Dungy’s job. The season closed with a 31-9 playoff loss to Philadelphia, and
two days later, he was fired.
Dungy began exploring his options, seriously considering a new career in prison
ministry. But when Indianapolis Colts offered him a coaching position, he
accepted. He has directed seven of his nine Colts and Buccaneers teams to the
playoffs, twice being a conference finalist. Dungy has six career double-digit
victory seasons and stands as the only NFL head coach to defeat all 32 NFL
2005 marked Dungy’s 10th as an NFL head coach. He is the NFL’s most
successful head coach from 1999-2004 with a mark of 64-32 (30-18 with Tampa
Bay, 34-14 with Colts). In December 2005 while leading Indianapolis to the best
record in NFL, tragedy struck him and his family. His oldest son James died of
an apparent suicide in Tamp Bay, FL.
Roberts Harris takes the post as U.S.
Ambassador to Belgium, becoming the first African American U.S. ambassador.
John A. Wilkinson’s marriage to Lorraine
Mary Turner was the first legalized interracial
marriage in North Carolina. Wilkinson was black and Turner was white. North
Carolina was one of over 15 states in 1967 whose laws were eventually changed
to accept interracial marriage legally.
Wilma Rudolph, the first American woman to win three Olympic Gold Medals in track
and field in one year, was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame.
Sadat, president of Egypt, is assassinated
by extremists while reviewing a military parade.
Hill joins the ancestors in New York City.
He was the founder of the city’s American Negro Theatre in 1940, where the
careers of Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, and Sidney Poitier were launched. Hill’s
adaptation of the play “Anna Lucasta” premiered on Broadway in 1944 and ran
successfully for 900 performances.
Joplin House opened as a Missouri State Historic site on
this date. Joplin was an African-American composer of Ragtime jazz in the early
This National Historic Landmark was home to him and his bride Belle Haden.
Joplin was listed in the St. Louis directory at this address (2658A Delmar
Blvd). Eight of his compositions, including “The Entertainer,” were published
that year. The restored structure houses exhibits of material on Joplin’s life
and work, and a music room with a player piano and piano rolls. Joplin’s
apartment has been restored to its turn-of-the century appearance. Joplin’s Morgan
Street home had been designated a National Historic landmark in 1976.
The home’s turn-of-the-century appearance has been restored including a room
for musical performances, with displays centering on Joplin’s life and music,
and a gallery of displays related to African-American history and culture.
Guided tours are available for a small fee; children under six are admitted
free, Monday — Saturday 10-4 PM Sunday 12-5 PM.
Williams College’s exhibit of African American photography “Black Photographers Bear Witness: 100 Years of
Social Protest” opens. The exhibit
includes photography by C.M. Battey, James Van Der
and Morgan Smith, Moneta Sleet, Carrie Mae Weems,
Hill, a former personal assistant to
Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence
Thomas, accuses Thomas of sexual harassment
(from 1981-83) during his confirmation hearings.
Dr. Mae Carol
Jemison, the first Black woman to travel in space,
was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
African President, Nelson Mandela, addresses a joint session of Congress. He will warn
against the lure of isolationism, saying the U.S. post-Cold War focus should be
on eliminating “tyranny, instability and poverty” across the globe.