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1800
Gabriel Prosser, co-assembler of over 1,000 slaves with plans to march on and seize Richmond, VA, was hanged on this date. Two slaves became frightened and revealed their plans.


1821
William Still is born in Burlington County, New Jersey. He will become an abolitionist and will be involved in the anti-slavery movement working for the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.  After the Civil War, he will chronicle the personal accounts of former runaway slaves, who had traveled on the Underground Railroad.  His publication, “Underground Railroad,” published in 1872, will provide a revealing look into the activities of the flight of fugitive slaves. Still will be a civil rights activist, researcher and writer, until he joins the ancestors in 1902.


1856
Moses Fleetwood Walker is born in Steubenville, Ohio. He will become a baseball player when he and his brother Welday join the first baseball team at Oberlin College.  He will become a professional baseball player after leaving Oberlin when he joins the Toledo Blue Stockings of the Northwestern League in 1883. When he plays his first game for the Blue Stockings in the American Association the next year, he will become the first African American to play in the major leagues. After the 1884 season, no other African Americans will play in the major leagues until Jackie Robinson in 1947.


1873
Henry E. Hayne, secretary of state, is accepted as a student at the University of South Carolina. Scores of African Americans will attend the university in 1874 and 1875.


1886
Spain abolishes slavery in Cuba.


1888
Sargent C. Johnson is born in Boston, Massachusetts. He will be a pioneering artist of the Harlem Renaissance, known for his wood, cast stone, and ceramic sculptures. Among his most famous works will be “Forever Free” and “Mask.


1889
On this date, we mark the birth of Clarence Edouard Muse. He was an African-American lawyer, writer, director, composer, and actor.

From Baltimore, Maryland, after high school he earned a degree in International Law from The Dickinson School of Law of Pennsylvania in 1911. Disgusted with the poor opportunities for Black lawyers he then selected a show business career. Muse appeared as an opera singer, minstrel show performer, vaudeville and Broadway actor; he also wrote songs, plays, and sketches. An active participant in the burgeoning Black theater movement of the 1920s, Muse was a member of the progressive all-Black Lincoln Players.

His Hollywood film assignments generally confined him to stereotypes, though Muse was usually able to rise above the shuffling “yassuh, boss” portrayals required of him. He was given dignified, erudite roles in films designed for all-Black audiences. Broken Strings, 1939 was one and on occasion, he was allowed to portray non-submissive roles in mainstream films. (It must have come as quite an alarm to southern audiences in 1941 when Muse, playing Bela Lugosi’s independent-minded butler in The Invisible Ghost, spoke harshly to a white female servant, addressing her as “you old fool!”)

Muse also composed the songs and co-wrote the story for the 1938 Bobby Breen musical “Way Down South.” He also was the composer of “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” which was Louis Armstrong’s theme song. During World War II, he served as a member of the Hollywood Victory Committee that arranged the appearances of stars overseas, and he made hospital tours to entertain wounded soldiers.

In 1953, Muse married for the second time to a Jamaican, Irene Kellerman. Though he was an outspoken advocate for better and more equitable treatment for Black performers, Muse was a staunch supporter of the controversial TV series Amos ‘N’ Andy. He pointed out that, despite the caricatured leading characters, the series allowed Black actors to play doctors, bankers, judges, professors, and other parts generally denied them in “white” shows. In 1955, Muse was a regular on the weekly TV version of Casablanca, playing Sam the pianist (a role he nearly got in the 1942 film version) and in 1959, he appeared in the film Porgy and Bess. Other film credits include Buck and the Preacher (1972) and Car Wash (1976). Of note, he appeared in the second talking movie ever made and went on to appear in a total of 219 films. His career will span over 60 years.

In 1973, Clarence Muse was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. He then went back to work, remaining active in films until the year of his death in Perri’s, CA on October 13, 1979 at the age of 90, when he was featured in “The Black Stallion.” Muse’s career spanned over 60 years.



1890
H.H. Reynolds patents the safety gate for bridge. Patent No. 437,937.


1891
On this date, Archibald J. Motley, Jr. was born. He was an African-American artist.

From New Orleans, Louisiana, his parents were Archibald Motley, Sr., and Mary Huff. His family moved to Chicago, where his father worked as a Pullman Porter, and settled into a quiet neighborhood on the West Side. In his home he would listen to his father and A. Phillip Randolph discuss the organization of the Pullman Porter’s Union. He also watched his nephew Williard Motley struggle to write. The hard work and ambition that he witnessed as a child would carry him through his artistic career.

In 1924, Motley married his high school sweetheart, Edith Granzo, the daughter of German immigrants who disowned her when she married Motley. He and Edith had one child, Archibald “Archie” J. Motley III. Motley’s only sister, Flossie, had a son, Willard, who became a writer of naturalistic novels during the 1940s and 1950s. Willard spent a lot of time with Motley’s family and wrote at least parts of his novels at the Motley kitchen table. He emerged as a prominent artist when Henry Ossawa Tanner was the only widely recognized African-American artist. As one of the first to establish the social life of African-Americans in inner cities as “memorable subject matter” he portrayed the spirit of urban Black neighborhoods usually in twilight or an evening atmosphere.

He used the life that he knew best as subject matter, African-Americans as a dynamic people. The figures in Motley’s work were always hurrying, gesturing, or going someplace. Throughout his career, Motley showed interest in capturing natural light and producing artificial light, especially in night scenes. Motley was also distinguished from many of his contemporaries and successors, including Jacob Lawrence, by his rendering of his fascination with shades of skin color.

Even in the very populated street scenes, Motley presented a variety of skin tones rather than limiting his palette to a single color for African Americans. Archibald Motley died January 16, 1981, in Chicago.



1897
This date remembers the birth of Elijah Muhammad. He was the leader of the Black separatist religious movement known as the Nation of Islam in America. The Nation of Islam is sometimes known as the Black Muslims.

Elijah Poole (his original name) the son of sharecroppers and former slaves from Sandersville, Georgia, moved to Detroit in 1923. There, around 1930, Elijah Muhammad became assistant minister to the founder of the sect, Wallace D. Fard, at Temple No. 1. When Fard disappeared in 1934 Muhammad succeeded him as head of the movement, with the title “Minister of Islam.” Because of dissension within the Detroit temple, he moved to Chicago where he established Temple No. 2. During World War II he advised followers to avoid the draft, because of which he was charged with violating the Selective Service Act and was jailed (1942-46).

Muhammad slowly built up the membership of the Black Muslims through assiduous recruitment in the postwar decades. His program called for the establishment of a separate nation for Black Americans and the adoption of a religion based on the worship of Allah and on the belief that Blacks are his chosen people. Muhammad became known especially for his flamboyant rhetoric directed at white people, whom he called “blue-eyed devils.” In his later years, however, he moderated his anti-white tone and stressed self-help among Blacks rather than confrontation between the races. Because of Muhammad’s separatist views, his most prominent disciple, Malcolm X, broke with the group.

Before his assassination in 1965, Malcolm X helped to lend an identity to the group (once known as the American Muslim Mission and now part of the worldwide orthodox Muslim community) that split from the Nation of Islam after Muhammad’s death on February 25, 1975 in Chicago. Another group, retaining both the name and the founding principles of Elijah Muhammad’s original Nation of Islam, was established under the leadership of Louis Farrakhan.



1911
Lazer Sidelsky was born on this date. He was a white Jewish South African lawyer and activist who was a mentor to former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Sidelsky was born in Ermelo, in the former Eastern Transvaal province, where his parents farmed. Like the majority of Jewish families in South Africa, they were refugees from the early 20th- century pogroms in Lithuania and other Baltic States. He graduated in law at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg after helping to finance his studies by playing the violin in a jazz band. His life of activism was directed through his business dealings.

“Laz” Sidelsky’s reasons for financing Black homes were not philanthropic or politically motivated. He was a shrewd businessman and at one stage chairman of the former Union Stock Exchange, but he believed strongly in dealing fairly with people of any color and was appalled at the way in which some big law firms in Johannesburg exploited their Black clients. When he engaged Mandela in his first legal job as an articled clerk he advised him and gave him a suit that he’d wear for the next five years.

In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom,” Mandela described Sidelsky as one of the first White people to treat him with respect. Sidelsky lent Mandela money to start his own law firm. Lazer Sidelsky died on May 17, 2002 at 90 years old.

Mandela was shocked to learn of the death of a longtime friend and said, “Sidelsky employed Black people in Johannesburg at a time when the country was in racial turmoil.” Sidelsky was married with two sons and a daughter.



1912
Charleszetta Campbell Waddles was born on this date. She was an African-American administrator and churchwoman.

From St. Louis, MO she was one of seven children of Henry and Ella Brown Campbell; only three of the seven children lived to adulthood. Her father died in 1924 and with her mothers failing health a factor; Campbell left school in the eighth grade to work. Becoming a single parent of several children young Campbell went on AFDC and read to educate herself. Married several times in 1936, she and her husband LeRoy Wash migrated to Detroit, MI.

”One day I had a vision,” she was quoted once, “The Lord told me to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.” Her husband, Payton Waddles, a former Ford Motor Company worker who died in 1980, supported Mother and the children while she rounded up neighbors and fellow churchgoers to start the Mission. With an eighth-grade education in the late 1960’s Reverend Charleszetta (Mother) Waddles founded a comprehensive social services agency; the Perpetual Mission that serves the low-income communities of Detroit.

Privately funded and staffed by volunteers, the Mission now helps approximately 90,000 annually. The list of the Mission’s services includes emergency aid, job training, a graphic arts program and a culinary arts school. Those seeking help from the Mission include unwed mothers, prostitutes, abused children, the handicapped, the elderly and the poor. The volunteer staff ranges from Mother Waddles’ own children to a mostly paralyzed woman who makes telephone calls from her own house to locate wheelchairs and arrange transportation for the indigent.

Funding, according to a 1990 Mission budget report, accounted total income of $114,500 and expenses and contributions of $112,500. In addition to overseeing the Mission, Mother Waddles’ gave speeches and sermons a mix of what she called “downtrodden tales”, optimism and humor. Ms. Charleszetta Campbell Waddles died in 2001.



1931
Desmond Mpilo Tutu is born in Klerksdorp, South Africa. He will become the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1984, and Archbishop of the Anglican Church (First Anglican bishop of African descent) of Johannesburg, South Africa.


1934
Everette LeRoi Jones is born in Newark, New Jersey. He will be better known as Imamu Amiri Baraka, influential playwright, author, and critic of the African American experience.


1954
Marian Anderson, acclaimed opera singer, became the first Black hired by the Metropolitan Opera on this day. She made her debut on January 7, 1955, playing the fortune-teller Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. A native of Philadelphia, her education and performing experience were the products of personal, family, and community determination. On April 9, 1939, she performed a historic concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, before a crowd of 75,000 people. That event, which became a landmark in civil rights history, occurred after the Daughters of the American

Revolution (DAR) refused to rent Constitution Hall to Anderson for a concert performance. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, then a member of the DAR, resigned her membership and arranged for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial. Anderson died April l8, 1993 at the age of 96.


1963
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) launched a mass voter-registration drive on this date. This date, dubbed “Freedom Day,” sparked other “Freedom Day” celebrations and activities over the next five years.


1979
Edith Sampson, the first Black delegate to the United Nations, died on this date.


1981
Egypt’s parliament names Vice President Hosni Mubarak to succeed the assassinated Anwar Sadat.


1984
Walter Payton, super star running back of the Chicago Bears, passed Jim Brown as NFL’s career rushing leader with a career rushing record of 12,312 yards.


1985
Lynette Woodward is chosen as the first woman to play with the Harlem Globetrotters.


1988
Jazz and ballad singer Billy Daniels dies in Los Angeles.


1989
Ricky Henderson steals a record 8 bases in a playoff (5 games).


1993
Writer, Toni Morrison, was the first Black woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.


1995
Coach Eddie Robinson of Grambling State University wins his 400th game and sets a NCAA record that clearly establishes him as a legend.


1997
MCA Records offers, for sale, fifteen previously unreleased tracks of legendary guitarist, Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix joined the ancestors in 1970.


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