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1831
Jo Anderson, a slave, helps invent the grain harvester reaper.


1854
Ashmun Institute, the first institution of higher learning for young black men, is founded by John Miller Dickey and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson. In 1866 it is renamed Lincoln University (PA) after President Abraham Lincoln.


1876
This date celebrates the founding of Meharry Medical College. It is one of over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America.

In this year, Reconstruction had begun and the health of America’s poor was receiving little attention. Meharry’s inception was part of the Society’s continuing effort to educate freed slaves and to provide health care services for the poor and under-served. The first individual contributors to the school were the five Meharry brothers, led by
Samuel Meharry. Since 1915, it has remained independent, later receiving its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Over the years, Meharry has expanded in depth and diversity.

The College presently includes the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Graduate Studies and Research, and Allied Health Professions. Meharry houses the Lloyd C. Elam Community Mental Health Center and the nation’s first institute on Health Care for the Poor and Under-served. Today, Meharry Medical College is the largest private, historically Black institution exclusively dedicated to educating health care professionals and biomedical scientists in the United States. As a major resource for educating health care professionals, Meharry Medical College has graduated nearly 15 percent of all African American physicians and dentists practicing in the United States.

Since 1970, Meharry has awarded more than 10 percent of the Ph.D.’s in biomedical sciences received by African-Americans. As Meharry takes its place among the leading institutions preparing health professionals to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the College remains true to its heritage of serving the under-served of all origins, while maintaining an uncompromising standard of excellence.



1898
This date marks the birth of Raymond Pace Alexander. He was a lawyer, politician, and judge; the first African-American to hold a position on the Common Pleas Court of Philadelphia.

Born in Philadelphia, Alexander graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1920 and Harvard Law School in 1923. Alexander enjoyed a successful career in private practice, directly challenging racism and discrimination and helping to end segregation in a number of Philadelphia institutions, before becoming counsel for NAACP. Between 1933 and 1935 Alexander served as president of the National Bar Association and sought a federal appointment.

Though the prevailing racial climate made it difficult for him to break into national politics, Alexander was appointed honorary consul to the Republic of Haiti in 1938. He was considered for an ambassadorship to Ethiopia in 1951, but though he had President Truman’s support, he was not confirmed. From 1951 to 1958 Alexander committed himself to city politics, serving on the Philadelphia city council. He died in 1974.



1901
On this date, Edith Sampson was born. She was the first black woman elected judge to a municipal court.

From Pittsburgh,
Edith Spulock (her birth name) was one of seven children. Her father Louis Spurlock earned $75 per month as a shipping clerk in a cleaning, pressing and dyeing business. Her mother, Elizabeth Spurlock worked at home making buckram hat frames and twisting switches of false hair. She graduated from Peabody High School. Three years later Spurlock married Rufus Sampson, a field agent for the Tuskegee Institute.

She also attended the New York School of Social Work. There, one of her instructors was George W. Kirchwey, also a professor at Columbia University Law School. After distinguishing herself in his criminology class, he told her she had talent to be a lawyer. Working as a social worker in Chicago, she took night courses at John Marshall Law School from 1922 to 1925. In 1925, she graduated from the law school with a Bachelor of Laws degree. In 1924, she opened a law office on the South Side of Chicago, serving the local black community. From 1925 to 1942, she was associated with the Juvenile Court of Cook County, serving as a probation officer. In 1927, Sampson was the first woman to receive a Masters of Law degree from Loyola University. She also passed the Illinois Bar exam that year. In 1934, she was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court. Although Sampson found that many of her male colleagues, particularly white men, were “exceedingly cool” to her, she also found that judges would often bend over backwards to compensate for this churlishness.

In terms of her courtroom manner in her own words, she said, “I talk from my heart and let the law take care of itself.” In 1947, Sampson was appointed to serve as an assistant state’s attorney in Cook County. By that time, she was affiliated with a number of organizations, including the Women’s Progressive Committee (she served as its president), the Chicago Professional Women’s Club (president), the Afro-World Fellowship (also its president), the South Side Boy’s Club, the South Side Community Center, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, the Chicago Urban League, and the National Council of Negro Women (she chaired its executive committee).

In 1949, Sampson was part of the Round-the-World Meeting, a program that sent twenty-six Americans on a world tour, meeting with leaders of foreign countries and participating in public political debates and radio broadcasts. In these meetings, she sought to counter Soviet propaganda regarding civil rights struggles in the U.S. During one meeting in India, she said,

“The question is, quite bluntly. ‘Do Negroes have equal rights in America?’ My answer is no, we do not have equal rights in all parts of the United States. But let’s remember that 85 years ago Negroes in America were slaves and were 100 per cent illiterate. And the record shows that the Negro has advanced further in this period than any other group in the entire world. You here get considerable misinformation about American Negroes and hear little or nothing that is constructive.”

She also stated that, “I would rather be a Negro in America than a citizen in any other land.”  Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said that her actions “created more good and understanding in India than any other single act by any American.

As a result of the Town Meeting tour and her public speaking, in August of 1950, President Harry S. Truman appointed her as an alternated U.S. delegate to the United Nations, making her the first Black woman to be name as a delegate to that body. She as a member of the UN’s Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural Committee, where she lobbied for continued support of work in social welfare. She also presented a resolution pressuring the Soviet Union to repatriate the remainder of its Prisoners of War from World War II. She was reappointed to the UN in 1952 and served until 1953. During the Eisenhower Administration, she was a member of the U.S Commission for the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In 1961 and 1962, she became the first Black U.S. representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In 1962, at an age where most people would probably retire, Sampson sought election as a judge on the Chicago Municipal Court. As a Democrat in Chicago at that time and as a friend of Mayor Richard Daley, she had no difficulty in being elected. Mrs. Sampson retired from the bench in 1978. Edith Sampson died in 1979.


1902
Arnaud (Arna) W. Bontemps was born on this date to Creole parents, Paul Bismark and Maria Carolina Bontemps. He was an African-American writer.

From Alexandria, Louisiana and born to Creole parents, Paul Bismark and Maria Carolina Bontemps, the family moved across the country to Los Angeles. Raised in the Watts section of Los Angeles, Bontemps went to both public and private grammar schools. Because he refused to learn his father’s trade as a brick mason, Bontemps decided to attend college. In 1916, he married and began raising his own family that included six children. He attended the Pacific Union College of California (now known as the University of California Los Angles) where he received a B.A. degree in 1923. It was then that Bontemps began publishing his poetry, and only one year out of college Bontemps’s poem “Golgatha is a Mountain” won the Opportunity Alexander Pushkin Award for poetry. Again in 1927, Bontemps won the award and also was the winner of the NAACP’s Crisis poetry contest for his poem “Nocturne at Bethesda.” Three years after graduating he decided to move to New York City to teach at the Harlem Academy. This put Bontemps in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance. He collaborated with and learned from many other black writers of the time including Langston Hughes and Jack Conroy.

In 1943, he earned a M.A. degree from the University of Chicago. He was a teacher at every level of education. Bontemps authored 25 books and worked closely with, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay as well as Langston Hughes. For his poetic works he received the Crisis Magazine Prize in 1926, the Alexander Pushkin Prize for two consecutive years and many other outstanding awards for his poetry. (Barksdale 628).

His poems reflected the standard forms of English free verse. Bontemps grew weary of trying to change the minds of the old and turned the focus of his writing upon the youth who were “not yet insensitive to man’s inhumanity to man.” He was editor of Golden Slipper, an anthology of Negro poetry for young people and co-editor with Langston Hughes of The Poetry of the Negro: 1746-1949. Bontemps wrote a number of books of fiction for children, biographies, black history, and he compiled many African American archives to be used as resources for studying Black American literature and culture. Bontemps moved to Tennessee in 1943 and was a librarian at Fisk University in Nashville for many years his retirement in 1966. Through his librarianship and bibliographic work here, he became a leading figure on establishing African American literature as a legitimate object of study and preservation.


Bontemps grew weary of trying to change the minds of the old and turned the focus of his writing upon the youth who were “not yet insensitive to man’s inhumanity to man.” He wrote biographies, children’s fiction, and black history, and he compiled many African American archives to be used as resources for studying Black Americans. Bontemps moved to Tennessee in 1943 to serve as the librarian of Fisk University in Nashville and remained there until his retirement in 1966. Among his best-known works were “God Sends Sunday” and “Black Thunder”, the juvenile books “We Have Tomorrow,” “The Story of the Negro,” and “American Negro Poetry,” which he edited in 1943 after graduating from the University of Chicago. He died on June 4, 1973.


1906
J. Saunders Redding is born in Wilmington, Delaware. He will become a literary and social critic and author of non-fiction works on the African American experience. He will earn an advanced degree in English at Brown University (1932) and will be a professor at various colleges and universities, including Morehouse, Hampton, and Cornell. In 1949, his stint as a visiting professor at Brown will make him the first African American to hold a faculty position at an Ivy League university. He will write many books and articles on African American culture and other topics, including “To Make a Poet Black” (1939), a landmark history of African American literature; “No Day of Triumph” (1942), an autobiographical account of a journey through southern black communities; and “Stranger and Alone” (1950), a novel, as well as several more general historical and sociological works. He will also edit with Arthur P. Davis, an important anthology, “Cavalcade: Negro American Writing from 1760 to the Present” (1971). He will join the ancestors in 1988.


1909
Art Tatum was born on this date. He was an African-American pianist.

From Toledo, Ohio, blind in one eye and visually impaired in the other, Tatum began piano studies as a child and his career started as a teenager with work in his hometown and in Cleveland. During a 1932-‘33 tour with Adelaide Hall, Tatum made his first solo recordings, then went on to work as a soloist in various clubs throughout the United States, as well as in Europe. He eventually formed a trio with guitarist Tiny Grimes and bassist Slam Stewart, in 1943. In 1953 he began working with Norman Granz, which led to collaborations with the likes of Benny Carter, Ben Webster and Roy Eldridge.

Tatum was often in the presence of the rich and famous at after-hours parties in New York City and Hollywood. His fans included such classical music names as pianist Vladimir Horowitz and conductor Leopold Stokowski. Horowitz was amazed at Tatum’s technical command. Recordings that reveal his gifts include The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Vols. 1-8 and The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Vols. 1-8.

Tatum was respected by fellow musicians and often thought of as super-human. His intricate and technically dazzling improvisational flourishes helped to define the very core of the bebop lexicon, with fleet-fingered runs and adventurous improvisations. He worked steadily in solo and trio settings, with occasional forays using larger groups, until his death on November 5, 1956.



1914
Garrett August Morgan, the son of former slaves, invented and patented what he called the “Safety Hood and Smoke Protector.” Ultimately, it became know the gas mask. Patrent #1,113,675. This breathing device was used during World War I. In 1916, Morgan used his invention to rescue two people and retrieve four bodies from a gas-filled tunnel in Lake Erie near Cleveland, OH.


1919
A race riot occurred in Elaine, Phillips County, Arkansas. Five Whites and twenty-five to eight Blacks were reported killed. The riot was just one of many which struck the nation in 1919. Indeed, the period from early summer to mid-fall became known as the “Red Summer” because of the number of racial riots. The conflicts in part resulted from the movement of Blacks throughout the country as they sought jobs created by World War I and began competing with Whites for employment.


1919
The Kansas City Call founded by Chester Arthur Franklin.


1919
The Spingarn Medal is presented to Archibald Grimke, President of the American Negro Academy and former U.S. consul to Santo Domingo.


1924
Nipsey Russell was born on this date in 1924. He was an African American dancer, and comedian.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, he was most widely known for being a guest panelist on many 1970s and 1980s game shows, such as Match Game, To Tell the Truth and Pyramid. One of the early Black stand-up comedians who found success with mainstream audiences, Russell started performing professionally in 1931 at the age of 6, when he was featured as a singing, dancing master of ceremonies for a children’s troupe in Atlanta organized by Eddie Heywood Sr.

Russell went to high school in his home town and received a BA in English from the University of Cincinnati. He also served in the United States Army. He got his start in the 1940s as a car hop at the Atlanta drive-in The Varsity, where he would earn his tips by making his customers laugh. By the 1950’s he had set his act apart from the baggy-pants, mostly raunchy comics who were the staple of most Black clubs of the time. Dressed in a conservative business suit and tie but wearing a raffish porkpie hat, he offered a confident, sophisticated approach to comedy.

His jokes and topical observations were often delivered in the form of aphorisms and rhymes. Russell read Shelley, Homer, Keats and Paul Laurence Dunbar when he was 10 and sometimes quoted from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” He was hip, glib and conspicuously intelligent, he attracted downtown crowds to Harlem, becoming a standout pull at the Baby Grand, Small’s Paradise and other cabarets with puns like “America is the only place in the world where you can work in an Arab home in a Scandinavian neighborhood and find a Puerto Rican baby eating matzo balls with chopsticks.”

In addition to his sharp game-playing skills, Russell also delighted audiences with short poems, earning him the nickname “the poet laureate of television.” His move to nightclubs were essentially a compilation of his stand-up routines, not unlike what Redd Foxx was doing at the very same time. In the late 1950s, he was featured on The Ed Sullivan Show, which led to a small part in the comedy Car 54, Where Are You? in 1960.

Scattered appearances on television followed, as well as performing guest host duties on The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era. In 1971, he started as a featured panelist on To Tell the Truth, which led to him being hired for The Match Game when Goodson-Todman Productions revived it two years later. He was also a trained dancer, and appeared in the 1978 film The Wiz as the Tin Man. Nipsey Russell died October 2, 2005 in New York City from stomach cancer at age 80.



1925
Garland Anderson’s “Appearances” opens at the Frolic Theatre on Broadway. It is the first full-length Broadway play by an African American.


1926
Jesse Leroy Brown was born on this date. He was the first African-American aviator in the U. S. Navy.

From Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Brown was educated in the public schools of Hattiesburg and Ohio State University. He enlisted in the U. S. Naval Reserve in 1946. His enlistment was terminated a year later after which he accepted an appointment as a midshipman in the U. S. Navy. Midshipman Brown joined Fighter Squadron 32 in 1949 and was commissioned as an Ensign on 15 April of that year. Ensign Brown’s squadron joined Fast Carrier Task Force 77 in Korea in October 1950.

As a pilot of Fighter Squadron 32, Ensign Brown became a section leader and received the Air Medal for daring attacks against the enemy at Wonsan, Chongjin, Songjin, and Sinanju. In addition, during the Korean War he led his section in the heart of hostile anti-aircraft fire, helping inflict heavy losses on the enemy. On December 4th, 1950, during close air support to the Marines fighting near Chosin Reservoir, his plane was struck by enemy fire and crashed and Brown died. The USS JESSE L. BROWN (FFT-1089) was named in honor of Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown, U.S. Naval Reserve, the first Black naval officer to lose his life in combat during the Korean War.



1926
Ray Brown was born on this date in. He was a legendary African-American jazz bassist.

From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he started on piano, switching to bass as a member of his high school orchestra. After graduating, he worked in some territory bands, before moving to New York in 1945 where he was immediately drawn into the emerging bebop revolution. The 19-year-old bassist was hired without an audition by Dizzy Gillespie’s experimental big band that included such bebop innovators as Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and Max Roach. His bass talents were featured on such sides as One Bass Hit recorded by a sextet led by Gillespie in 1946.

The bassist also appeared with him in the 1946 film “Jivin’ in Be-Bop,” and played with Gillespie on such classic recordings as Night in Tunisia” and Emanon. In 1947, Brown married vocalist Ella Fitzgerald and later formed his own trio to tour with his wife. He became the singer’s musical director and they continued to work together even after their divorce in the early 1950s. During this period, Brown also recorded with Parker and worked with the Milt Jackson Quartet, an early edition of what became the Modern Jazz Quartet.

While touring with producer Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic, Brown played with the Canadian-born Peterson and became a founding member of the pianist’s drum-less trio in 1952. Brown was consistently voted top bassist in critics’ and readers’ polls during the decade. He proved the ideal partner for Peterson’s swirling, intricate solos. The Peterson-Brown-Ellis lineup stayed intact until 1957 and Brown remained with Peterson until 1966. In 1960, Brown created a stir when he had a hybrid instrument built for him that combined features of the cello and bass. The experiment attracted plenty of interest and eventually Ron Carter had a piccolo bass designed along similar lines. After leaving Peterson, Brown moved to California.

He co-founded the group L.A. Four with saxophonist Bud Shank, Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida and drummer Shelly Manne, and also appeared regularly on the “Merv Griffin Show.” He recorded the album Something for Lester with pianist Cedar Walton and drummer Elvin Jones. Since 1989, Brown recorded a series of albums for the Telarc label, many of which featured his trio with pianist Benny Green. His most recent recordings included Live at Starbucks, Superbass 2, and Some of My Best Friends Are... Guitarists. Brown lived in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles with his wife, Cecilia.

With a career that spanned more than half a century, Ray Brown died July 2, 2002 in his sleep. He was in Indianapolis where he was finishing an engagement at the Jazz Kitchen at the conclusion of the U. S. portion of a concert tour.



1946
Demond Wilson is born in Valdosta, Georgia. He will become an actor and will be best known as Lamont Sanford on the long-running television show, “Sanford & Son.”


1949
Leona Mitchell was born on this date. She is an African-American lyric soprano.

Mitchell is from Enid, Oklahoma and she is the daughter of Doctors Hulon and Pearl Mitchell. One of 15 children Mitchell received early vocal training in the Antioch Baptist Church choir in her home town. Following high school she attended Oklahoma City University on a music scholarship. There she obtained her bachelors degree in music in 1971. One year later she won the Kurt Herbert Adler Award of the San Francisco Opera and in 1973 received the Opera America grant to Francisco Opera that same year as Micaela in Bizet’s Carmen.

Her Metropolitan Opera Company debut in 1975 was the same role. Additional roles include Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, Musetta in Puccini’s LaBoheme, and Leonora in Verdi’s II Trovature. Mitchell gained international recognition when she was selected to sing Bess in the London Records complete recording of the George Gershwin classic, Porgy and Bess, with the Cleveland Orchestra. In addition to the Metropolitan and San Francisco Opera Companies, she has performed with the Geneva Opera, Paris Opera, New Israeli Opera, and Australia Opera. Mitchell later received honorary doctorates from Oklahoma City University and Oklahoma University. She has recently recorded a Christmas album and was featured on a recording of Tobias Picker’s Symphony No. 2. Aussohnung.

In 1982 she was featured as herself in the film Yes, Giorgio and Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (for TV). In 1986 she starred in Liberty Weekend (also for TV). In 1999, Mitchell gave ten performances of Puccini’s Turandot with the Australian opera. In 2000, she performed a new production of Don Carlo in Melbourne, Australia and was also heard in recital in Melbourne. Also that year, she sang a concert of Puccini arias in Miami, Florida. Ms. Mitchell is planning an album of spirituals and several other projects.

Leona Mitchell is married to Elmer Bush, who taught in Los Angeles before becoming her personal manager. They have one son, Elmer Bush IV, and maintain a residence in Houston, Texas.



1962
Jerry Lee Rice is born in Crawford, Mississippi. He will become a professional football player, selected as the 16th pick overall in the first round of the NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers in 1985. He will be considered to be the greatest NFL receiver of all time. He will retire as the leader in a number of statistics. His 1,549 receptions were 448 receptions ahead of the second place record held by Cris Carter. His 22,895 receiving yards were 7,961 yards ahead of the second place spot held by his Raiders teammate Tim Brown. His 197 touchdown receptions were 67 scores more than Carter’s 130, and his 207 total touchdowns were 32 scores ahead of Emmitt Smith’s second place spot of 175. He will retire from the NFL on August 24, 2006.


1970
Angela Yvonne Davis was arrested in New York City and charged with unlawful flight to avoid persecution for her alleged role in a Marin County, California courthouse shoot-out which left four persons dead. The raid on the courthouse had been designed to free imprisoned Black nationalists George Jackson. Authorities charged Davis with supplying the guns during the raid. However, a jury later found her not guilty.


1979
Clarence Muse joins the ancestors in Perris, California at the age of 90. He was a pioneer film and stage actor who appeared in 219 films. His first film was the second talking movie ever made.


1980
The unprovoked slayings of six Blacks in Buffalo, New York triggered demands for a national investigation.


1980
The Spingarn Medal was awarded to Rayford W. Logan, historian and author, “in tribute to his lifetime of service as an educator and historian.”


2000
Isiah Thomas and Bob McAdoo are enshrined into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.


2004
On this date, the federal judge overseeing the Rosa Parks/OutKast lawsuit, appointed Detroit’s former mayor Dennis Archer, to review the case.

In this incident Parks’ relatives are at odds with her lawyer and caregiver over who can best protect her well being. The dispute is especially emotional because of Parks, current medical condition. Her doctor recently asserted in a court document that she has dementia and cannot testify or be deposed. The fight is in part from litigation that has been filed in her name but that her relatives’ doubt she knows about. The case is LaFace Records v. Parks, 03-504.

Her family said her longtime caregiver and confidante, Elaine Steele, and her lawyers are seeking monetary settlements for their own gain. Steele is the co-founder of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development, which could share in the proceeds from any settlement against OutKast. Steele contends that the suits, over a song invoking her name, are meant to protect Parks’ reputation. Her family argues that they trivialize it. Now the federal judge overseeing the suits, George Steeh, brought in Archer, one of Detroit’s most respected residents.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia., who marched alongside Parks in Civil Rights protests in the 1960s said. “Rosa Parks is a mother of the civil rights movement. It would be very unfortunate if people forgot her raw courage and remembered her as an elderly African-American lady who sued a rock band.” The story of how Parks reached this point combines bravery with sadness, and royal self-respect with furious anger. It is tinged with racism and generous doses of jealousy.

On April 14, 2005 the suit was settled. Under the settlement, OutKast and co-defendants SONY BMG Music Entertainment, Arista Records LLC and LaFace Records will work with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development to develop educational programs “to enlighten today’s youth about the significant role Rosa Parks played in making America a better place for all races,” Archer said in a statement.

OutKast and other contemporary artists will perform on a tribute CD to be produced by SONY BMG, said Archer. The parties also will collaborate on an educational television program about Parks’ life and legacy. Archer will host the program, which will be distributed on DVDs to thousands of public schools nationwide, the statement said.

The settlement implies no fault by the defendants, Archer said. A message seeking comment was left Thursday evening for BMG attorney Joe Beck.

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