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,
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;
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
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
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
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
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
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.,
in New York and Malcolm
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Frank Robinson became the first
Black major league baseball manager (Cleveland Indians).
Pennsylvania - African Studies Center, Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D., Courtesy
of Charles Isbell of Society.African.American Newsgroup on Usenet. Source: http://www.africa.upenn.edu/K-12/Today_B_History.html
W. Wilson Goode becomes the 1st African
American mayor of Philadelphia.
The first NFL game with a team coached by an African
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
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.”