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Benjamin Banneker, inventor, surveyor, mathematician, astronomer, and one of the planners of what is now Washington, DC, died on this date in Ellicott’s Mills, MD.

Mary Ann Shadd (later Cary) is born free in Wilmington, Delaware, the eldest of thirteen children. She will become the publisher of Canada’s first anti-slavery newspaper, “The Provincial Freeman”, devoted to displaced African Americans living in Canada. This also makes her the first woman in North America to publish and edit a newspaper. She will then become a teacher, establishing or teaching in schools for African Americans in Wilmington, Delaware, West Chester, Pennsylvania, New York, Morristown, New Jersey, and Canada. She will also be the first woman to speak at a national Negro convention. In 1869, she will embark on her second career, becoming the first woman to enter Howard University’s law school. She will become the first African American woman to obtain a law degree and among the first women in the United States to do so.  She will join the ancestors in 1893.

On this date, Mary Ann Shadd Cary was born in Wilmington, Delaware. She was a Black educator and administrator.

The eldest of 13 children of free Negro parents and born Mary Ann Shadd, she became a role model for women in education and law. After receiving an education from Pennsylvania Quakers, Cary devoted the first part of her life to abolition, working with fugitive slaves, and becoming the first African-American woman in North America to publish and edit a weekly newspaper, the
Provincial Freeman, the first anti-slavery newspaper devoted to displaced Americans living in Canada. She then became a teacher, establishing or teaching in schools for Negroes in Wilmington, DE; West Chester, Pennsylvania; New York; Morristown, New Jersey; and Canada. She was also the first woman to speak at a national Negro convention.

During the Civil War, Cary helped recruit African-American soldiers for the Union Army. She then taught in Washington, D.C., public schools until, in 1869, she embarked on her second career, becoming the first woman to enter Howard University’s law school. She was the first Negro woman to obtain a law degree and among the first women in the United States to do so. She then fought alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton for women’s suffrage, testifying before the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives and becoming the first Negro woman to cast a vote in a national election.

As an educator, abolitionist, editor, attorney, and feminist, she dedicated her life to improving the quality of life for everyone black and white, male and female. She died in 1893.

This date marks the dedication of St. Augustine Church. This is one of the oldest black Catholic Churches in America.

As the story is told, a few months before the people of color began to purchase pews for their families to sit in. Upon hearing of this, white people in the area started a campaign to buy more pews than the colored folks. Thus, The War of the Pews began and was ultimately won by the free people of color who bought three pews to every one purchased by the whites. In an unprecedented social, political and religious move, the colored members also bought all the pews of both side aisles. They gave those pews to the slaves as their exclusive place of worship, a first in the history of slavery in the United States.

The property on which St. Augustine stands was part of a plantation estate, tilery and brickyard headquarters built in 1720. It was part of the province of New Orleans’ supervisor, the Company of the Indies, as an economic stimulus for the province. In 1731 the Company of the Indies left and the plantation was sold to the Moreau family, eventually coming into the possession of Julie Moreau, a manumitted slave, in 1775. Soon after Claude Treme, a Frenchman, married Moreau and took title to the property. The couple subdivided the estate and sold off many lots on a first-come-first-served basis to free people of color and others from the Old Quarter including Haitian immigrants fleeing the 1791 revolution in Haiti. After selling 35 lots, the Treme’s left their plantation home in 1810.

In 1834, Jeanne Marie Aliquot purchased the Treme’s former home and property from the city of New Orleans and brought in the United States’ first Catholic elementary school for free girls of color and a few slaves. This school had been started in 1823 by Martha Fortier, a onetime postulant of the Hospital Nuns. Jeanne Marie Aliquot became a major catalyst in the origins of St. Augustine Church. Under economic pressure, Jeanne Marie sold the house to the Ursuline Sisters in 1836. They sold the property to the Carmelites in 1840, then took over the school for colored girls and merged it with their school for white girls. The Carmelite Sisters used the Treme home for their mother house until 1926 when they moved out to Robert E. Lee Boulevard in the West End section of New Orleans.

In the late 1830s, when free people of color got permission from Bishop Antoine Blanc to build a church, the Ursulines donated the corner property at Bayou Road (now Governor Nicholls St.) and St. Claude which they had bought for $10,000, on the condition that the church be named after their founders, St. Angela Merici. However, circumstances dictated that the church was named St. Augustine.

O.B. Clare patents the rail trestle. Patent #390,753.


Eugene Jacques Bullard was born on this date. He was an African-American aviator and according to many the first Black military pilot.

Born Eugene Jacques Bullard in Columbus, Georgia, he was one of ten children. His father was known as “Big Chief Ox” and his mother was a Creek Indian. Bullard stowed away on a ship bound for Scotland to escape racial discrimination (he later claimed to have had witnessed his father’s narrow escape from lynching as a child). While in the UK he worked as a boxer and in a music hall. Living in Paris he joined the French Foreign Legion upon the outbreak of war in Europe in 1914. Wounded in the 1916 battles around Verdun, and already awarded the Croix de Guerre, Bullard transferred to the Lafayette Flying Corps in the French Aéronautique Militaire.

He was assigned to 93 Spad Squadron on August 17, 1917, were he flew some twenty missions and is thought to have shot down two enemy aircraft. With the entry of the USA into the war the US Army Air Service convened a medical board in August 1917 for the purpose of recruiting Americans serving in the Lafayette Flying Corps. Although he passed the medical examination, Bullard was not accepted into American service because Blacks were barred from flying in US service at that time. Bullard was discharged from the French air force after a fight with an officer while off duty and was transferred back to the French infantry in January 1918, where he served until the Armistice.

Following the end of the war, Bullard remained in Paris working in nightclubs and eventually owned his own. He married the daughter of a French countess but the marriage soon ended in divorce, with Bullard taking custody of their two daughters. His work in nightclubs brought him many famous friends, among them Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, and Langston Hughes. At the beginning of the Second world war in 1939, Bullard (who knew German), agreed to a French request to spy on German agents frequenting his club in Paris. After the German invasion of France in 1940, Bullard took his daughters and fled south, out of Paris. In Orleans he joined a group of soldiers defending the city and was wounded.

He fled to Spain and in July 1940 he returned to America. Bullard spent some time in a hospital in New York for his spinal injury, but he would never fully recover. When seeking work in the United States, he found that the fame in France had become discrimination in New York. He worked as a perfume salesman, a security guard, and as interpreter for Louis Armstrong, but his back injury grew worse. For a time he attempted to regain his nightclub in Paris, but his property had been destroyed during the Nazi occupation, and he settled for a financial settlement from the French government which allowed him to purchase an apartment in Harlem.

In the 1950s, Bullard’s daughters had married, and he lived alone in his Harlem apartment, which was decorated with pictures of the famous people he had known, and with a framed case containing his 15 French war medals. His final job was as an elevator operator at the Rockefeller Center, where his fame as the “Black Swallow of Death” was unknown.

In 1954, the French government invited Bullard to Paris to participate in rekindling the everlasting flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe and in 1959 he was made a chevalier (knight) of the Legion of Honor. Even so, the last years of his life were spent in relative obscurity and poverty in New York City where he died of stomach cancer on October 12, 1961.

He was buried with honors by French War Officers in the French War Veteran’s section of the Flushing Cemetery in New York. In 1972 exploits as a pilot were put in print with the book The Black Swallow of Death. On August 23, 1994, thirty-three years after his death, and seventy-seven years to the day after his rejection for U.S. military service in 1917, Eugene Bullard was posthumously commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.

Leopold Senghor is born in Joal, Senegal, French West Africa (now in Senegal). He will become a poet and president of Senegal from 1960 to 1980. Senghor will attempt to modernize Senegal’s agriculture, instill a sense of enlightened citizenship, combat corruption and inefficiency, forge closer ties with his African neighbors, and continue cooperation with the French. He will advocate an African socialism based on African realities, free of both atheism and excessive materialism. He will seek an open, democratic, humanistic socialism that shunned such slogans as “dictatorship of the proletariat.” A vigorous spokesman for the Third World, he will protest unfair terms of trade that work to the disadvantage of the agricultural nations. In 1984, Senghor will be inducted into the French Academy, becoming the first Black member in that body’s history.

Oscar Brown, Jr. was born on this date. He was an African-American actor, director, playwright, songwriter, lyricist, activist, essayist, and television host.

Born at Chicago’s Provident Hospital he was the first child of school teacher, Helen and Oscar Brown, Sr., a prominent lawyer and real estate owner. Oscar Cicero Brown, Jr. was raised in a two-church household: St. Edmond’s Episcopal Church, and Pilgrim Baptist Church. He attended Willard Elementary and Englewood High Schools. During this time (at age 15), he had honed his elocution skills in Studs Terkel’s children’s radio series. Brown was only sixteen years old when enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 1943. After attending several colleges and universities, including Lincoln University (Pa.) and the University of Michigan, where he excelled in English composition, but failed everything else, he pursued creative writing.

In his twenties, he returned to work in radio, spending five years as the “world’s first Black newscaster,” for a Chicago program called “Negro Newsfront,” where he also managed to include a musical menu, as well as poetic works by Countee Cullen and Langston Hughes. In addition to his media work, he continued to dabble in real estate, advertising, and public relations; but he soon turned to activism. In 1948, Oscar ran for the Illinois legislature on the Progressive Party ticket and for the U.S. Congress as a Republican in 1952. From 1948 to 1950, Brown played a key role in Richard Durham’s “Destination Freedom” Black Radio Days series. He was a member of the Communist Party from the time he was 20, to his resignation in 1956, when he concluded that he was “just too black to be red.”

He served two years in the Army, after which he began composing songs and singing. The turning point in his career came around 1960. The Brown family was neighbors of the award-winning playwright, Lorraine Hansberry’s family. He met Hansberry’s husband, Robert Nemiroff, who worked for a New York based music publishing company. Nemiroff in turn introduced Brown’s music in New York, which led to a recording contract with Columbia records and the recording, “Sin and Soul.” The Los Angeles Times described it as “a mosaic of poetic and musical images [with] lyrics for such popular jazz instrumentals as Nat Adderley’s “Work Song,” Bobby Timmons’ soul jazz tune “Dat Dere” and Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue”; and “Bid ‘Em” recorded by Mahalia Jackson, and Lena Horne.

Brown performed at the Village Vanguard, and with Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley. He also composed the lyrics for Davis’, “All Blues,” and collaborated with Max Roach on “Freedom Now Suite.” His magnum opus came in 1961, with the production of “Kicks & Company,” directed by Hansberry, and co-produced by Nemiroff. Backer s’ auditions and fund raising activity reached a new level when Brown appeared on the NBC’s “Today Show,” and raised over $400,000. After this, his one man show, “Oscar Brown Jr. Entertains,” in London ran for two years. During this time Brown met and soon after married singer/dancer Jean Pace.

They moved back to Chicago, where within a year, they developed three more musicals entitled “Summer in the City,” “Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow,” and “Opportunity Please Knock.” “Opportunity Please Knock” was produced in 1967 in conjunction with the gang the Blackstone Rangers. Their work with the gang resulted in the pair being invited in 1968 by Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary, Indiana. Among their “discoveries” were The Jackson Five, and actor/singer Avery Brooks.

Brown and Pace moved to San Francisco the following year, where he turned the comedy production “Big Time Buck White” into a musical, which ran briefly on Broadway with Muhammad Ali in the title role. Brown and his wife also joined with Brazilian musicians Luiz Henrique and Sivuea in the production of “Joy 69,” which ran over a year in San Francisco, New York, and Chicago. During the 1970’s Brown was artist-in-residence directing his works at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Hunter College in New York and Malcolm X College in Chicago. Brown premiered a musical drama entitled “Slave Song,” written in iambic pentameter and rhymed quatrains.

By 1975, Brown also hosted the 13-week PBS program “From Jump Street: The Story of Black Music,” and was a regular actor on the television series, “Brewster Place.” He acted in episodes of “Roc” and the PBS special “Zora Is My Name.” Brown Jr. has composed over a thousand songs and more than a dozen full-length theater pieces. In 2004, Brown opened “Jazz at Lincoln Center” in New York, and in 2005, he celebrated the premier of Donnie Betts’ “Music is My Life, Politics My Mistress,” He also made several appearances on Def Poetry Jam, and was Regents Professor at the University of California at Riverside.

Oscar Brown, Jr. died on May 29, 2005 in Chicago, Ill. He is survived by his wife, Jean; his son Napoleon; his daughters, Donna, Iantha, Maggie, and Africa Pace; along with 16 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

On this date, Ernest Nathan “Dutch” Morial was born. He was an African-American politician.

He was born the youngest of six children in Louisiana. He was nicknamed Dutch. The Morial family were devout Catholics. His education began at St. Louis Catholic School. He later attended Xavier Prep. Morial graduated from Xavier University, a historically Black Catholic college, in 1951. At the time, he was attending Xavier, (the only historically Black Catholic College in the country at the time); he became president of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., the first Black Greek Fraternity. He was also the first Black law school graduate of Louisiana State University in 1954.

He became the first African American mayor of New Orleans in 1978 and be re-elected in 1982, serving 1978-1986. He was also a lawyer, a Judge in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, and Juvenile Court, Orleans Parish. He was also the first African-American assistant U. S. attorney and the first elected to the Louisiana legislature since Reconstruction. Ernest Morial died on December, 24, 1989.

The White House releases a statement which says that government “policy is not to intermingle colored and white enlisted personnel in the same regimental organizations.”

The founding of the Caravans Black Gospel singing group is celebrated on this date.

Started by
Albertina Walker, the Caravans were a home and spawning ground for producing brilliant spiritual vocal talent. Based in Chicago, the Caravans produced more gospel vocal stars than any organization at the time. James Cleveland, Bessie Griffin, Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood, Inez Andrews, Casietta George, and Loleatta Holloway all passed through their ensemble’s ranks during the 1950’s and 60’s. All of them became important solo gospel artists, except Loleatta Holloway, who became well-known in dance music.

Walker, a Chicago native, founded The Caravans with other former members of the Robert Anderson Singers. Until 1956, The Caravans with Griffin, Norwood, and Cleveland as members recorded for the States label. In 1958, The Caravans switched to the Gospel label of Savoy Records, with a line-up that included Caesar and Andrews. They took the gospel world by storm, and set up themselves up as the (then) most popular female group in gospel. Hard work, talent and a special bond and teamwork were the difference in their success. Caesar was one of the most intense performers of all time. George, from Memphis, had a down-home, yet elegant style.

In 1966, Caesar left The Caravans to pursue evangelism and a solo recording career. After the loss of their main soloist, all the other members of The Caravans left the group within a matter of months. Walker organized another edition of the group that featured Loleatta Holloway, but this arrangement lasted only a few years.

Mike Singletary is born in Houston, Texas. He will become a second-round draft pick for the Chicago Bears in 1981. He will be the first or second leading tackler for each of his eleven seasons. Over his career he will amass 1488 tackles (885 solo), 51 passes defended, 13 fumble recoveries, and 7 interceptions. He will be an All-NFC selection nine straight years from 1983-1991, be selected to ten consecutive Pro Bowls, and be Defensive Player of the Year in 1985 and 1988. He will be enshrined in the Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

Tanganyika becomes independent within the British Commonwealth.

On this date, Uganda achieved its independence from Great Britain. After much experimenting, a federal constitution was promulgated in April.

The Uganda People’s Congress won the elections, and Milton Obote became Prime Minister. Independence was granted that October. Dissension continued, however, and in May 1966 Obote sent the army into Buganda and drove the kabaka into exile. He then proclaimed a new republican constitution, which formally abolished the kingships, and became Uganda’s first president of a unitary government. Bugandan recalcitrance, a falloff in the economy, and charges of corruption led to an army coup in January 1971. Power was in the hands of army commander, Idi Amin, who began eight years of misrule.

By 1978 Uganda was bankrupt, and the government was dependent on massive loans from Arab states friendly to Amin. Uganda went to war with neighboring Tanzania in late 1978, and Tanzanian forces allied with Ugandan rebels drove Amin from the country early the following year. In 1982, after Tanzanian troops had been withdrawn, anti government guerrillas became active, and thousands of young men were arrested, suspected of being guerrillas. Thereafter, more than 100,000 Ugandans were killed or starved to death. The early 1990s saw an upsurge in terrorism in northern Uganda, the home of Museveni’s political enemies. In the mid-1990s hundreds of Ugandan soldiers and civilians were killed in attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Christian fundamentalist rebel faction led by a former faith healer.

A new constitution was adopted in 1995 that established a democratic, though non party, system of government. Despite unrest and dissent in the north, presidential and legislative elections proceeded as planned in 1996. Museveni won 74 percent of the vote in Uganda’s first presidential elections in 16 years. Opposition candidates, forced to run unaffiliated with a political party and limited to one month of campaigning, claimed the vote was unfair, but the elections were widely endorsed by international observers.

Frank Robinson became the first Black major league baseball manager (Cleveland Indians).
-University of Pennsylvania - African Studies Center, Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D., Courtesy of Charles Isbell of Society.African.American Newsgroup on Usenet. Source:

W. Wilson Goode becomes the 1st African American mayor of Philadelphia.

The first NFL game with a team coached by an African American, Art Shell, takes place as his Los Angeles Raiders beat the New York Jets 14-7 on Monday Night Football.

Korean store owner shoots and kills teenager Latasha Harlins in the back of the head. Despite widespread protests, the store owner is only convicted of 10 years of probation. Her store was firebombed weeks later.

Milt Jackson, a jazz vibraphonist who made the instrument sing like the human voice as a longtime member of the Modern Jazz Quartet, joins the ancestors at the age of 76. He succumbs to liver cancer in a Manhattan hospital.

On this date, protesters gathered to demonstrate outside an Urban Outfitters store in Philadelphia, PA.

The racial issue centered on the
‘Ghettopoly’ board game being sold at the store. Many in the Black community were outraged over the ‘Ghettopoly’ game, sold by the store, that has players acting as pimps and game cards reading “You got yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack. Collect $50.” Properties in the game include West side Liquor, Harlem, The Bronx, and Long Beach City. Black clergymen say the game should be banned.

The game’s creator, David Chang, from St. Marys, PA, said “It draws on stereotypes not as a means to degrade, but as a medium to bring together in laughter.” “If we can’t laugh at ourselves... we’ll continue to live in blame and bitterness.” On his Web site, Chang is unapologetic, and promises that more games, Hoodopoly, Hiphopopoly, Thugopoly and Redneckopoly are coming soon.

On this date, for the first time in the 50-year history of the Billboard music charts, all top 10 songs in the America were by black artists.

It’s was a moment of closure in hip-hop’s ascent as a dominant force in popular culture. Once an underground style characterized by rhymes about urban life and later gangster mythology and real-life turf wars, rap music is now embraced across the radio dial and across the nation by a diverse fan base. Heavy beats serenade shoppers at the malls. Street rhymes are the soundtrack to suburban sleepovers.

The last time Black artists so dominated the charts was in May 1972, when the top eight songs were by Roberta Flack, Joe Tex, the Chi-lites, the Staple Singers, Michael Jackson, the Stylistics, Al Green and Aretha Franklin. Currently (2003) in October’s second week issue of Billboard, the top 10 songs ranged from the R&B style of Beyoncé’s (shown) “Baby Boy” (at No. 1) to the now ever-present rap partnerships such as “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” by Nelly, P. Diddy and Murphy Lee, and “Into You,” by Fabolous featuring Ashanti. Also on the list is “P.I. M. P.” by 50 Cent, who has the year’s top-selling CD.

Early in 2003 you had Eminem as a huge success as a great rapper and a white one too. Now you have Nelly and Lil Jon crossing over, Black artists doing Black music. Rappers are more conscious of the growing market, and they’re creating records to accommodate that consumer. Currently, 70 percent of hip-hop is bought by white kids; hip-hop is the new American music.

On this date, Kenyan ecologist Wangari Maathai restated her claim that the AIDS virus was a deliberately created biological agent.

The 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner said “Some say that AIDS came from the monkeys, and I doubt that because we have been living with monkeys (since) time immemorial, others say it was a curse from God, but I say it cannot be that. “Us black people are dying more than any other people in this planet.” Maathai spoke at a press conference in Nairobi a day after winning the prize for her work in human rights and reversing deforestation across Africa. “It’s true that there are some people who create agents to wipe out other people. If there were no such people, we could have not have invaded Iraq.”

Maathai, also the Kenyan deputy environment and natural resources minister, and fearless speaker said, “In fact if the HIV virus is created by a scientist for biological warfare. Why has there been so much secrecy about AIDS? When you ask where did the virus come from, it raises a lot of flags. That makes me suspicious.” Africa accounts for 25 million out of the estimated 38 million people across the world infected with HIV, and the vast majority of infected Africans are women, according to UNAIDS estimates.

The United States congratulated Maathai on winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but tempered its praise over her claims about AIDS. “She said (HIV/AIDS) was invented as a bio-weapon in some laboratory in the West,” a senior State Department official said. “We don’t agree with that.”

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