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.
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.
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.
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.
Spain abolishes slavery
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.
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
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.
H.H. Reynolds patents the safety gate for bridge.
Patent No. 437,937.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
Edith Sampson, the first Black
delegate to the United Nations, died on this date.
names Vice President Hosni Mubarak to succeed the
assassinated Anwar Sadat.
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
Lynette Woodward is chosen as the
first woman to play with the Harlem Globetrotters.
Jazz and ballad singer Billy Daniels dies in Los
Ricky Henderson steals a record 8 bases in a playoff (5 games).
Writer, Toni Morrison, was the first Black woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in literature.
Coach Eddie Robinson of Grambling State University wins
his 400th game and sets a NCAA record that clearly establishes him
as a legend.
MCA Records offers, for sale,
fifteen previously unreleased tracks of legendary guitarist, Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix joined the ancestors in 1970.