University was founded in Pennsylvania. It emerged as one of the most
prominent and successful historically Black colleges in America.
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.
On this date, William Montague Cobb was born. He was an African-American scientist and physicist from Washington
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
She was known for her realistic stories about the lasting optimism of Black
Americans. Alice Childress died in 1994, in New York City.
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
in New Jersey
from 1977 to 1978 and served as judge for Missouri Arts Council Playwriting
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
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.
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.)
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.
Dick Gregory was born on this date in 1932. He is an African-American
comedian and activist.
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
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
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
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).
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.
Rita Frazier Normandeau of NYC was born
in Newport News, VA.
Equatorial Guinea gains independence from Spain.
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.
Frank L. Stanley, Sr., owner and
publisher of the Louisville Defender, died in Louisville, KY on this date.
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
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.
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.