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1854
Lincoln University was founded in Pennsylvania. It emerged as one of the most prominent and successful historically Black colleges in America.


1879
Chris Smith was born on this date in 1879. He was an African-American songwriter.

From Charleston, South Carolina his first experience in show business was in a medicine show. He came to New York around the turn of the century with his childhood friend and lifelong vaudeville partner, Elmer Bowman. He and Bowman wrote many songs including I’ve Got De Blues and their first big hit, “Good Morning Carrie” co-written with Cecil Mack and sung on stage by Bert Williams. Smith collaborated on many songs during this time. Some of the most popular were He’s a Cousin of Mine, Down Among the Sugar Cane and You’re in the Right Church But the Wrong Pew. The latter was a hit for Bert Williams in his musical Bandana Land and was published by the first African American owned publishing company, Gotham-Attucks.

Smith wrote and also did some acting and appeared on vaudeville with his partner Elmer Bowman. In 1911 and 1912, he wrote some excellent syncopated instrumentals including the “Honky Tonk Monkey Rag.” In 1914, he had his biggest hit, Ballin The Jack which was written with Jim Burris and started a dance craze that lasted the decade. Smith wrote many songs over the next 10 years, two popular numbers in the early Twenties were co-written with Jimmy Durante and it is rumored that he and Durante performed together in vaudeville after Smith’s partner, Elmer Bowman died. He was one of the most popular and prolific songsters of the time. Chris Smith died in New York City on October 4, 1949.



1904
On this date, William Montague Cobb was born. He was an African-American scientist and physicist from Washington D.C.

Cobb was a graduate of Dunbar high school, from there he pursued a degree in liberal arts at Amherst College; earning an A.B. there in 1925. His special talent for science allowed him to study through scholarship at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole Massachusetts in 1925. He entered Howard University Medical College that fall earning his M.D. in 1929. Cobb taught embryology in his final year at Howard. This started a life long career in teaching and research.

Following a year internship at Freedmen’s Hospital, he enrolled and earned a Ph.D. in anatomy at Western Reserve University in 1932. From that point, Cobb began a forty-one year professorship at Howard University. His research interests were wide-ranging. He contributed a chapter on the skeleton to the 1952 edition of E.V. Cowdry’s Problem of Aging: Biological and Medical Aspects. Along with Julian H. Lewis, Cobb pioneered efforts to counteract the myths that had developed concerning the biological inferiority of black people.

William Montague Cobb is remembered most within the medical community and beyond for his civil rights activities. During the 1940’s, he represented the NAACP before the U. S. Senate in testimony supporting a national health-insurance program. Cobb served as the president of the NAACP from 1976 to 1982. He also was president of the National Medical Association in 1964, where he found a primary role in for discussing contemporary issues of health-care access and for portraying the rich heritage to which Blacks going back prior to colonial times can lay claim.

William Cobb died in 1990.



1906
Jay Saunders Redding was born on this date. He was an African-American professor of English, an author, and literary critic.

The New York Times once called him “probably the most eminent Negro writer of nonfiction in the country.” From Wilmington, Delaware, he was the third of seven children growing up in a middle class predominantly white neighborhood. Redding went to Howard High School, doing extremely well in journalism, debate, basketball, drama, and speech. His mother died at this time and after graduating, he went to college in Pennsylvania.

Redding followed his brother Louis to Brown University, transferring after a year at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. After graduation in 1928, he taught at Morehouse College until 1931, and came back to Brown for a master’s degree in 1932. He spent an additional year at Brown and studied at Columbia in 1933-34. He taught at Louisville Municipal College from 1934 to 1936, and at Southern University in Baton Rouge from 1936 to 1938. He was head of the English Department at State Teachers College, Elizabeth City, N. C., from 1938 to 1943, and professor of English at Hampton Institute from 1943 to 1966.

In the first semester of 1949-50 Redding was a visiting professor at Brown, the first black appointed to the faculty. His course on the Negro in American literature was the first such course given in a Northern college. In 1964-65 he was a fellow in the Humanities at Duke. His first book, To Make a Poet Black, was published in 1939 and was followed by the autobiographical No Day of Triumph in 1942 and his first novel, Stranger and Alone, in 1950. Then followed his books on the black experience, They Came in Chains (1951), On Being Negro in America (1951), The Lonesome Road (1958), and The Negro, a book on the role of blacks in America, written for U. S. Information Agency distribution in 1967.

In 1954 he wrote An American in India after a State Department assignment in that country. Redding became professor of American history and civilization at George Washington University in 1969, and from 1971 until his retirement in 1975 he was Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University. He was a member of the Board of Fellows of Brown University from 1969 to 1981. J. Saunders Redding died on March 2, 1988 in Ithaca, New York.



1908
Ann Lane Petry was born on this date. She was an African-American writer of adult novels and children’s literature who chronicled the urban Black female experience.

Petry was born and raised in Seabrook, Connecticut. The daughter of a pharmacist, she went on to major in pharmacology at the University of Connecticut. After graduating, she worked at and managed the family drugstore. Petry wrote short stories while working, none were published. After marrying George Petry, a mystery writer, she moved to New York City to develop her career as a writer. Her first job was at the Amsterdam News, where she worked for four years. Petry moved on to The Peoples Voice, where she wrote a column on Harlem society.

In addition to writing, Petry became involved in community issues. She formed a black woman’s consumer advocacy group, and the establishment of a program in a Harlem school to help children living in crime-ridden neighborhoods. During this period, Petry wrote a few short stories, one, “On Saturday Night, the Sirens Sound” and a few more she wrote, ran in the NAACP’s Crisis newspaper, where it caught the attention of editors at Houghton Mifflin. Her first novel, “The Street and the Juvenile Work” (1946) was a resounding success, eventually selling more than two million copies, the first book by a Black woman to do so.

She went on to publish two more novels, Country Place and The Narrows. In addition to her novels, Petry authored adolescent nonfiction chronicling the lives of historical Black figures one of which included “Harriet Tubman, Conductor of the Underground Railroad.” She also wrote two children’s books and many essays on a variety of topics. A true visionary and pioneer of multiculturalism and Black feminism, Ann Petry died on April 28, 1997 in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.



1919
Doris “Dorie” Miller was born on this date. He was an African-American sailor and WW II hero.

From Waco, Texas, he was the son of Henrietta and Conery Miller. He had three brothers, one of which served in the Army during World War II. Miller attended Moore High School in Waco, played fullback on the football team, and worked on his father’s farm. On September 16, 1939, Miller enlisted in the U. S Navy as Mess Attendant, Third Class. He later was promoted to Ship’s Cook, Third Class. Following training at the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia, he was assigned to the ammunition ship USS Pyro (AE-1).

He was transferred to USS West Virginia (BB-48), where he became the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion. In 1940 he had temporary duty aboard USS Nevada (BB-36) and was serving on the West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Miller was collecting laundry when the alarm for general quarters sounded. He was assigned to carry wounded fellow Sailors to places of greater safety. Then an officer ordered him to the bridge to aid the mortally wounded Captain of the ship. He subsequently manned a 50-caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun until he ran out of ammunition and was ordered to abandon ship.

Miller (untrained to use the weapon) described firing the machine gun during the battle: “It wasn’t hard. I just pulled the trigger and she worked fine. I had watched the others with these guns. I guess I fired her for about fifteen minutes. I think I got one of those Jap planes. They were diving pretty close to us.” Heavily damaged by the ensuing explosions, and suffering from severe flooding below decks, the crew abandoned ship while West Virginia sank. Of the 1,541 men on West Virginia during the attack, 130 were killed and 52 wounded. Subsequently re-floated, repaired, and modernized, the battleship served in the Pacific Theater through to the end of the war. On December 13, 1941, Miller reported to USS Indianapolis (CA-35).

The Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox commended Miller in April 1942, and in May he received the Navy Cross, which was personally presented to Miller on board aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) for his extraordinary courage in battle. He returned to the west coast of the United States in November 1942. Assigned to the USS Liscome Bay (CVE-56) in 1943, Miller was on board that escort carrier during Operation Galvanic, the seizure of Makin and Tarawa Atolls in the Gilbert Islands. Liscome Bay’s aircraft supported operations ashore in November 1943.

During that time while cruising near Butaritari Island, a single torpedo from Japanese submarine I-175 struck the escort. The aircraft bomb magazine detonated a few moments later, sinking the warship within minutes. Listed as missing following the loss of that escort carrier, Dorie Miller was officially presumed dead 25 November 1944, a year and a day after the loss of Liscome Bay. Only 272 Sailors survived the sinking of Liscome Bay, while 646 died. In addition to the Navy Cross, Miller was entitled to the Purple Heart Medal; the American Defense Service Medal, Fleet Clasp; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal.



1920
On this date Alice Childress was born. She was an African-American playwright, novelist, and actress.

From Charleston, South Carolina, Childress grew up in Harlem, New York City, where she studied drama with the American Negro Theater in the 1940s. There she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play, Florence (1949), a dramatic piece about a black woman who, after meeting an insensitive white actress in a railway station, comes to respect her daughter’s attempts to pursue an acting career.

Other Childress theatric offerings included Trouble in Mind (produced 1955, 1956 Obie award for best original Off-Broadway play; revised and published 1971)., Wedding Band (1966), String (1969), and Wine in the Wilderness (1969). All examine racial and social issues. Among Childress’ plays that feature music are Just a Little Simple (1950); based on Langston Hughes’s Simple Speaks His Mind, Gold Through the (1952), The African Garden (1971), Gullah (1984); based on her 1977 play Sea Island Song, and Moms (1987); about the life of comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley. Childress was also a successful writer of children’s literature.

A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich (1973; film 1978) is a novel for adolescents about a teenage drug addict. Similarly, the novel Rainbow Jordan (1981) concerns the struggles of poor black urban youth. Also written for juveniles were the plays When the Rattlesnake Sounds (1975) and Let’s Hear It for the Queen (1976). Her other novels include A Short Walk (1979), Many Closets (1987), and Those Other People (1989). Childress also lectured at Fisk University and Radcliffe.

She was known for her realistic stories about the lasting optimism of Black Americans. Alice Childress died in 1994, in New York City.



1925
Charles Gordone was born on this date. He was an African-American Playwright, Director, Actor, and Educator.

Born Charles Edward Fleming in Cleveland, Ohio he was the son of William Fleming and Camille Morgan Fleming. Growing up in Elkhart, Indiana in this family setting, he had two brothers Stanley and Jack. In 1930, his mother married William L. Gordon and they had a daughter, Leah Geraldine. He was educated at California State University, Los Angeles, (B. A., 1952); New York University and Columbia University.

After spending time in the U. S. Air Force Gordone became a waiter and actor in New York City. He married Januita Barton they had two children, Stephen, and Judy Ann, he later had two other children Leah-Carla and David. In 1962, he co-founded the Committee for the Employment of Negro Performers and worked with the Ensemble Studio Theatre; Actors Studio. In 1967, Gordone began a relationship with Jeanne Warner. That same year he worked at the Commission of Civil Disorders, he was also an instructor at Cell Block Theatre and Bordentown Detention Center in New Jersey from 1977 to 1978 and served as judge for Missouri Arts Council Playwriting Competition.

From 1978 to 1979, he was instructor for the New School for Social Research, New York, New York. Gordone’s moment in the sun came in the late 1960s with his play No Place to Be Somebody. Initially staged Off-Broadway, it struck a chord with audiences and critics for its vivid characterizations of a vibrant cast of characters whose lives intersect in a New York City bar. Compared by a number of critics to the works of Eugene O’Neill, the story centers on a saloonkeeper and pimp named Johnny Williams who tries to take over neighborhood rackets from the local syndicate.

Much of the materials for the play came from his own experience working in a tavern after he first came to New York City. During the last two decades of his life, Gordone directed plays and lectured in community theaters around the country. In the late 1980s he voiced his opinion that minority actors should have more of a presence in realistic American plays. As a director, he cast Hispanic actors as migrant laborers in a production of “Of Mice and Men” and a Creole actor in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

He earned many awards and honors such as: Obie Award, Best Actor (Of Mice and Men), 01953); Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Los Angeles Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award (No Place to Be Somebody), (1970), and the Vernon Rice Award, (1970). Gordone began a nine-year teaching association with Texas A&M University in 1986. Known for his flamboyant appearance in wearing apparel he remained a dramatic figure on the theater scene until his death on November 13, 1995, in College Station, Texas, of cancer.



1925
Xavier University, America’s only African American Catholic college becomes a reality, when the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is established. The first degrees were awarded three years later. (The Normal School was founded in 1915.)


1929
Napoleon Brown is born in Charlotte, North Carolina. He will become a blues singer better known as “Nappy” Brown. He will begin his career as the lead singer for the gospel group, The Heavenly Lights, recording for Savoy Records. In 1954, Savoy will convince Brown to cross over to secular music. For the next few years, he will ride the first wave of rock and roll until his records stop selling. After years away from the limelight, Nappy Brown will resurface in 1984 with an album for Landslide Records. Since then, he has been regularly performing and currently records for the New Moon Blues independent label.


1932
Dick Gregory was born on this date in 1932. He is an African-American comedian and activist.

Richard Claxton Gregory was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Reared in poverty; he began working at an early age to help support his family. He was involved in sports and social causes in high school, and he entered Southern Illinois University on an athletic scholarship in 1951, standing out as a middle-distance runner. He was named the university’s outstanding student athlete in 1953, the same year he left college to join the U.S. Army, where he hosted and performed comedy routines in military shows. Gregory began his professional career in 1958 as a master of ceremonies at several Chicago nightclubs.

He achieved national recognition following his debut at the Playboy Club in Chicago in 1961. The one-nighter turned into a six-week stint that earned him a profile in Time magazine and a television appearance on the Tonight Show of the time, The Jack Paar Show. In his numerous succeeding television, nightclub, and concert routines, he targeted poverty, segregation, and racial discrimination. He gained fame as a comedian for his satirical views on American racial attitudes. In addition, Gregory wrote several books of racial humor, the first being From the Back of the Bus (1962). Gregory shocked the country by titling his second book, an autobiography, NIGGER! (1964). He described his humble beginnings, and the racism he experienced at Southern Illinois University in the 1950s.

During his presidential campaign, he also wrote Write Me In (1968). There was also No More Lies: The Myth and the Reality of American History (1971). Active in the Civil Rights Movement, Gregory was arrested for Civil Disorder during a 1963 civil rights demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama. He was also an outspoken critic of American involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1968, he believed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation played a role in the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Gregory’s personal study into the matter resulted in his book Code Name Zorro (1978). A congressional investigation disagreed with his theory.

In the early 1970s Gregory abandoned comedy to focus on his political interests, this widened from race relations to include such issues as violence, world hunger, capital punishment, drug abuse, and poor health care. He generated particular attention for his more than a hundred hunger fasts. At this time he became a vegetarian, a marathon runner, and an expert on nutrition. In the 1980’s, he began a soon successful business venture with his nutritional product, the “Bahamian Diet,” around which he built Dick Gregory Health Enterprises, Inc. Through his company, he targeted the lower life expectancy of Black Americans, which he attributed to poor nutrition and drug and alcohol abuse. Dick Gregory seems to never be finished he won’t quit — he just won’t go home. His wife, Lil, has been putting up with it for 41 years now. Just like their 10 children.

Now, Gregory is fighting cancer. Southern Illinois University inducted him into its Athletic Hall of Fame recently. Then there was a tribute to Gregory by his friends and supporters in the nation’s capital on October 9, 2000 at the Kennedy Center, hosted by the National Council of Negro Women showing him their “appreciation for his uncommon character, unconditional love, and generous service.”

At a Civil Rights rally marking the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Gregory called the United States, “the most dishonest, ungodly, nonspirituals nation that ever existed in the history of the planet. As we talk now, America is 5 percent of the world’s population and consumes 96 percent of the world’s hard drugs.”



1935
Samuel Moore is born in Miami, Florida. He will become a rhythm and blues singer and one half of the group: Sam & Dave (Dave Prater). The two singers will be brought together onstage at Miami’s King of Hearts nightclub during an amateur night venue. Sam and Dave will record for the Alston and Roulette labels before being discovered by Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler, who caught their act at the King of Hearts in 1964 and then sent them to Memphis-based Stax to record the next year. They will be best known for their hits, “Hold On! I’m a Comin’”, “Soul Man”, “I Thank You”, and “You Got Me Hummin’”. Sam and Dave will finally call it quits after a performance in San Francisco on New Year’s Eve in 1981. Samuel Moore will live to see the induction of Sam and Dave into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 (Dave Prater will be killed in an automobile accident in 1988).


1945
Jesse James Payne was lynched in Madison County. Florida. The most historically significant aspect of this lynching was that it came to typify the lies or deliberate misinformation which led to the brutal lynching of many Black men (and some women) during the era. In this case, Payne got into a disagreement with his White boss and threatened to expose some of his illegal dealings. The boss then spread the word that Payne had molested his young daughter and Payne was lynched.


1946
Rita Frazier Normandeau of NYC was born in Newport News, VA.


1968
Equatorial Guinea gains independence from Spain.


1972

Forty six Black and White sailors were injured during the Vietnam War as a result of a race riot involving more than 100 sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk (CV-63) enroute to her station in the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam. The incident broke out when a black sailor was summoned for questioning regarding an altercation that took place during the crew's liberty in Subic Bay (in the Philippines). The sailor refused to make a statement and he and his friends started a brawl that resulted in sixty sailors being injured during the fighting. Eventually 26 men, all black, were charged with assault and rioting and were ordered to appear before a court-martial in San Diego.. During Congressional hearings the onus was placed on Blacks who were accused of “senselessly beating and terrorizing” White sailors.

This incident and an incident four days later on the USS Hassayampa, indicated the depth of the racial problems in the Navy. All of the services had experienced similar problems earlier, but the Navy had lagged behind the others in addressing the issues that contributed to the racial tensions that erupted on these two ships. Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations, instituted new race relations programs and made significant changes to Naval Regulations to address many of the very real issues raised by the black sailors regarding racial injustice in the Navy.


1974
Frank L. Stanley, Sr., owner and publisher of the Louisville Defender, died in Louisville, KY on this date.


1989
George Beavers, Jr., the last surviving founder of Golden State Life Insurance Company of Los Angeles, California, joins the ancestors. He co-founded this company in 1925, which is the third largest African American life insurance company, with $120 million in assets and $5 billion of insurance in force.


1989
Herschel Walker is traded from the Dallas Cowboys to the Minnesota Vikings for 12 players. The trade will turn out a lot better for Dallas than for Minnesota.


1999
Wilt Chamberlain joins the ancestors. He succumbs to a heart attack at the age of 63 in his Bel Air home in Los Angeles, California. Chamberlain was a center so big, agile and dominant that he forced basketball to change its rules and is the only player to score 100 points in an NBA game.


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