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On this date, William Day was born. He was a black abolitionist, editor, educator and a minister.

From New York City his mother, Eliza was a founding member of the first AME Zion Church and an abolitionist. His father, John was a sail maker who fought in the War of 1812 and in Algiers, in 1815, and died when his son was four. William Howard Day made an impression as a child, on a white ink manufacturer who was an advocate of abolitionist and temperance movement. He asked Mrs. Day to give him custody of William. This white family known as the Willistons of Northampton, Massachusetts raised him.

Day attended at Oberlin College. After graduation he spent the rest of his life campaigning for the rights of Blacks. He became the secretary of the National Negro Convention in Cleveland in Sept. of 1848. He was a committee member along with Frederick Douglass and others who generated the “Address to the Colored People of America.” In 1858, Day was elected president of the National Board of Commissioners of the Colored People by the black citizens of Canada and the United States.

He traveled to the United Kingdom in 1859, preaching at a large congregational church in Lincolnshire, England and worked with the Young Men’s Christian Association. While in England, he and several colleagues formed the African Aid Society. Day returned to the United States after the Civil War and worked for the Freedmen’s Bureau. He became an inspector of schools in Maryland and Delaware before being ordained a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1867.

In 1878 Day was elected school director in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was the first colored school board member and president. He won reelection in 1881, retaining his position on the board until 1884. Though he did not seek reelection in 1884, the public appealed for his return in 1887, and he was easily elected to another three years as Harrisburg School Board president. In 1879, during his tenure, Day also opened Livingstone College with J.C. Price, William H. Goler, and Solomon Porter Hood. Established in Salisbury, NC, for colored students, this institution remains a predominantly black college.

In The Rising Sun, Dr. William Wells Brown praised Day’s professional conduct: “As a speaker, Mr. Day may be regarded as one of the most effective of the present time; has great self- possession and gaiety of imagination; is rich in the selection of his illustrations, well versed in history, literature, science and philosophy, and can draw on his finely-stored memory at will.”

Day died in Harrisburg on December 3, 1900 at the age of 75. William Howard Day Cemetery was established in nearby Steelton in the 1900s as a burial place for all people, including people of color who were denied burial at the nearby Baldwin Cemetery. It remains a popular burial site for local African American families.

Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett was born on this date. He was a Black diplomat.

Born in Litchfield, Connecticut, he was also of Pequot Indian ancestry. Bassett was educated at the Connecticut Normal School and worked for fourteen years as a teacher in Philadelphia. He was United States minister
resident and consul general to Haiti from 1869 to 1879 by President Ulysses S. Grant.

This appointment made Bassett the first Black diplomat in America. He also became the Haitian consul in New York City. Ebenezer Bassett died in 1908 and his burial was in Philadelphia, PA.

George Washington Williams was born on this date. He was a Black historian, officer, and writer.

He was born in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania and enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 14. He served and went on to become a lieutenant-colonel in the Mexican Army, and after the fall of Maximilian, he moved west. Later Williams attended Howard University and Newton Theological Seminary eventually becoming a minister. His career reached into journalism, writing for two newspapers, “The Commoner” in Washington, DC and Cincinnati’s “The Southern Review,” law and politics, where he served in the Ohio State Legislature, and also as minister to Haiti.

Williams wrote two definitive books on the black experience in the civil war, and the period from the Jamestown landing to the end of reconstruction, “A History of Negro Troops in The War of Rebellion “ and “The History of the Negro Race in America 1619-1880”. After the publication of these books, Williams turned his attention to the plight of Africans under European colonial rule. He was interested in conditions within the Belgian Congo. He met with King Leopold II of Belgium, planning to travel to the Belgian Congo to review the conditions. The King strongly objected to Williams’ trip but he went ahead with his plans. Returning, Williams wrote a letter to the King detailing the extensive greed and cruelty of the Belgian rulers that he observed in the Congo.

He charged that the slave trade was still active in Africa through the cooperation of the European powers and workers were being exploited and denied access to the wealth they produced. Williams’ grueling travels to Africa took a tremendous toll upon his health. George Washington Williams died in England in 1891.

Charles L. Reason was named professor of belles-lettres and French at Central College, McGrawville, New York. William G. Allen and George B. Vashon also taught at the predominantly white college.

Avery College was established in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

More than one hundred delegates from six states held a Black convention in Philadelphia.


John Mercer Langston, one of the first Blacks to win public office, elected clerk of Brownhelm Township, Lorain County, Ohio. In 1856 he was elected clerk of the township of Russia, near Oberlin. In 1857 he was elected to the council of the incorporated village of Oberlin. From 1871 to 1878 Langston was president of the board of health of Washington, D.C. In 1889 he was elected to the U.S. Congress from Virginia. The pioneer Black lawyer also served as minister to Haiti and Vice President of Howard University.

On this date, abolitionist John Brown and a group of his followers raided the Harpers Ferry Virginia arsenal.

This was a crucial turning point in the movement that led to the American civil war and the legal end to African slavery in the United States. Brown’s plan seemed fairly straightforward: he and his men would establish a base in the Blue Ridge Mountains from which they would help runaway slaves and launch attacks on slaveholders. This plan had described to potential funders two years earlier. But he had been ready in 1858 to launch his war he had the men and the money to carry on.

Brown had to postpone the launch, because one of his followers threatened to reveal the plan, which the blackmailer did follow through on. As a result Brown went into hiding. The following summer, after a one-year delay, Brown was ready. He rented a farm in Maryland, across the Potomac River from Harpers Ferry. Here he collected his arms and waited for his “army” to get there. A problem with Brown’s plan was that many of the men he had recruited the previous year had changed their minds, moved away, or simply didn’t think it would work.

Even Henry Highland Garnet, the abolitionist who advocated insurrection, felt that slaves were unprepared. Brown also met with Frederick Douglass in August of 1859. Brown told his friend of his intentions for Harpers Ferry rather than guerilla warfare from the mountains. Douglass concluded that attacking the arsenal was in effect attacking the federal government and a grave mistake. “You’re walking into a perfect steel-trap,” he said to Brown, “and you will never get out alive.”

On October 16, Brown set out for Harpers Ferry with 21 men, 5 Blacks, one of whom  was a free man,
Osborne Perry Anderson, and, the other, Dangerfield Newhy, who hoped to rescue his Newhy’s who was still a slave, and 16 whites, including two of Brown’s sons. Leaving after sundown, the men crossed the Potomac, walked all night in heavy rain, reaching the town at 4am. They cut telegraph wires, and made their assault. First they captured the federal armory and arsenal. They then captured Hall’s Rifle Works, a supplier of weapons to the government. Brown and his men rounded up 60 prominent citizens of the town and held them as hostages, hoping that their slaves would join the fight; this did not happen.

The local militia pinned Brown and his men down. Under a white flag, one of Brown’s sons was sent out to negotiate with the citizens. He was shot and killed. News of the raid was relayed by the conductor of a train heading to Baltimore, reached President Buchanan. Marines and soldiers went dispatched, under the leadership of then Colonel Robert E. Lee. By the time they arrived, eight of Brown’s 22-man army had already been killed. Lee’s men moved in and quickly ended the insurrection. In the end, ten of Brown’s men were killed (including both Blacks and both of his sons), seven were captured (two of these later), and five had escaped.

Brown, who was seriously wounded along with the other captives, was taken to Charlestown, Virginia (now Charles Town, West Virginia). There they were quickly tried, sentenced, then executed. John Brown’s statements during his trial reached the nation, inspiring many with his righteous resentment toward slavery. The raid ultimately rushed the beginning of the American Civil War.

South Carolina Republicans carried an election with a ticket of four whites and four Blacks: Richard H. Gleaves, Lieutenant Governor; Henry E. Hayne, Secretary Of State; Francis L. Cardozo, Treasurer; Henry W. Purvis, Adjutant General. Blacks won 97 of the 158 seats in the General Assembly and four of the five congressional districts.

A race riot occurred in Cainhoy, South Carolina. Five whites and one Black killed.

S.E. Thomas, inventor, patented the Waste Trap (curved metal plumbing pipe) on this date. Patent #286,746.

The National Medical Association is founded in Atlanta, Georgia. The mission of the NMA was to advance the art and science of medicine for people of African descent through education, advocacy, and health policy to promote health and wellness, eliminate health disparities, and sustain physician viability.

Booker T. Washington dined at the White House with President Theodore Roosevelt and was criticized in the South.

Buck Washington was born on this date. He was an African-American dancer, recognized as one of Vaudevilles best known all around entertainers and innovators.

Ford Lee (Buck) Washington was from Louisville, Kentucky. In 1913 at the age of ten he joined Pianist John W. Sublett, later known as “Bubbles” who was one year older and an astonishing career began. Buck and Bubbles teamed up in Indianapolis, with Bubbles singing and dancing, and Buck accompanying on piano. After winning several amateur contests, they played professional engagements in Louisville, Kentucky (often in blackface), Detroit, Michigan, and New York City. Audiences were thrilled with Buck and Bubbles’ singing, dancing, and comedy routine, with Buck’s variations in tempo that forced Bubbles to quickly adapt.

By 1922, they performed at New York’s Palace Theatre, the nation’s top vaudeville venue. They broke color barriers by headlining the white vaudeville circuit across the U. S., and were featured in several Broadway revues in the 1920s and 1930s. Stage success resulted in roles in such movies as Varsity Show (1937) and A Song is Born (1948). Buck and Bubbles performed together until shortly before Buck Washington died in 1955.

Rev. Leon Sullivan was born on this date 1922. He was an African-American minister, educator, and activist.

From West Virginia, Sullivan, the son of an elevator operator and a movie theater janitor grew up in an impoverished and segregated community. As a child, he helped support himself by collecting and reselling discarded bottles. Among the many indignities of being black in early twentieth century America was having to walk on the “colored side of the street” to deliver laundry to his grandmother’s customers.

Sullivan said the defining moment of his life came when he was eight years old as he tried to buy a soda at a white lunch counter. Sullivan recalled the clerk said to him, “Stand on your feet black boy, you can’t sit down here.” “It was then I decided I was going to stand against that kind of thing for the rest of my life.” At the age of seventeen, he was ordained a Baptist minister. After finishing high school, he went on to graduate from West Virginia State College with the help of a football scholarship and a part-time job at night in a local steel mill. After graduating in 1943, Sullivan served as pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

He increased the church’s membership to 6,000 and became known as “The Lion from Zion.” It was in Philadelphia that Sullivan began his mission to create more jobs for minorities. He organized pastors from more than 400 Black churches and implemented a strategy called “selective patronage,” meaning, “don’t buy where you don’t work.” It was through these boycotts that businesses were forced to hire more minorities. Sullivan discovered, however, that many minorities were unprepared for jobs. This encouraged him to found the Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), which provided realistic training for Black Americans. Currently, there are 76 centers in the United States and 33 centers in 18 different countries. In 1971, Sullivan became the first African-American to serve on the board of a major U. S. Corporation, General Motors.

In 1975, he was described as “the most hated man in South Africa” due to his efforts to end apartheid in that country. Sullivan created the African/African-American Summit to form a stronger bond between the two continents, and established the International Foundation for Education and Self Help, which trains teachers and oversees the building of schools in Africa. In 1992, Sullivan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He also received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award in 1999.

He was a 33rd Degree Prince Hall Mason, a Shriner, and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. Leon Sullivan died in Scottsdale, Arizona, April 25, 2001.

Henry Lewis was born on this date. He was an African-American double-bass player and orchestra conductor.

From Los Angeles, California Lewis began studying piano at the age of five and later learned to play the clarinet as well as several string instruments. At the age of 16, he joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic, becoming the first black instrumentalist in a major orchestra. After six years as a double-bassist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, he played with and conducted the Seventh Army Symphony while serving in the United States Armed Forces (1955-1956).

He gained national recognition in 1961 when he was appointed assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, a post he held until 1965. Lewis moved to Newark, New Jersey, where in 1968 he became conductor and music director of the New Jersey Symphony, a small community ensemble. He transformed the ensemble into a nationally recognized orchestra that yearly performed more than a hundred concerts, including outreach programs for local communities, and in 1972 he debuted at the New York Metropolitan Opera, conducting Puccini’s La Boheme. From 1960 to 1979 he was married to famed opera singer Marilyn Horne, who considered him her “teacher and right hand.”

After retiring from the New Jersey Symphony in 1976, Lewis continued to tour as a guest conductor for 20 years until his death. He was the first Black to become a regular conductor of a major American symphony orchestra. During a music career that spanned nearly five decades, Henry Lewis gained wide respect as a conductor, instrumentalist, and pioneer in the classical music world. Lewis died from a heart attack in 1996 at the age of 63.

Chi Eta Phi sorority is founded in Washington, DC. Aliene Carrington Ewell and 11 other women establish the nursing society, which will grow to 72 chapters in 22 states, the District of Columbia, and Liberia and will eventually admit both men and women.

Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr., commander of Harlem’s 369th Coast Artillery (National Guard), was named the first Black General in the U.S. Army. Davis commanded a brigade artillery unit based at Fort Riley, KS.

Two Black sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, used their victory ceremony in the 200-meter dash as a vehicle for a Black Power demonstration on this day. Smith, who was born June 5, 1944, in Clarksville, TX, and Carlos born in Harlem a year later, were both teammates at San Jose State University when they competed in the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City. As the national anthem played, Smith, who had won the gold medal (in a then-world record 19.83 seconds) and Carlos who won the bronze—both shoeless except for black socks on their feet—bowed their heads as they stood on their podiums and raised a black-gloved fist. Two days later, the Olympic committee suspended them for their silent protest, which both symbolized the injustices that plagued Black Americans and the turbulence of the ‘60s. Smith and Carlos both went on to finish their education and have spent their lives teaching and coaching. Currently, Smith is head track coach at Santa Monica College and Carlos is a counselor at Palm Springs High School.

On this date, a group of about 12 Black sailors aboard the USS Hassayampa (AO-145), a fleet oiler docked at Subic Bay, told ship's officers that they would not sail with the ship when the ship put to sea. The group demanded the return of money that allegedly had been stolen from the wallet of one of the group. The ship's leadership failed to act quickly enough to defuse the situation and later that day, a group of seven white sailors were set upon by the group and beaten. It took the arrival of a Marine detachment to restore order. Six black sailors were charged with assault and rioting.

This incident and one on the USS Kitty Hawk four days earlier 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 U.S. Naval vessels. 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.

Maynard Jackson was elected mayor of Atlanta, GA, becoming the first Black mayor of a major Southern city.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced former archbishop Desmond Tutu as the 1984 Nobel Prize recipient for category of peace, which had a cash value of $193,000. He was awarded the actual Nobel Peace Prize on December 10. He was chosen for the award for his role as a unifying figure in helping to resolve the problems of apartheid in South Africa. Tutu was born on October 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, South Africa. He was ordained an Anglican priest in 1960 and earned a bachelor of divinity in 1965 and a master of theology in 1966 from King’s College in London. In 1994 Tutu published The Rainbow People: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution. He is currently archbishop emeritus of the Diocese of Cape Town, South Africa. He has received more than 25 honorary degrees from colleges and universities worldwide.

Art Blakey, jazz musician and bandleader, died of cancer in New York on this date at the age of 71.

Dr. Wilma King, Professor of History and author, published “Stolen Childhood,” the first book-length study of the slave child.

On this date, the Million-Man March occurred in Washington D.C.

Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam organized this activity of African-American solidarity. The event was billed as a “holy day of atonement and reconciliation” in which Black men would unite and pledge to take responsibility form themselves, their families, and their communities. The autumn chill of that day was barely noticeable by the one million who gathered and wrapped themselves in racial pride and unity. It was a time when the world witnessed the largest gathering of African-Americans in the history of the United States. It was a day when 2.2 million people saw the event on television.

Those who participated reflected the diversity of our country. They included laborers, educators, postal workers, truck driver’s, policemen, and attorneys, waiters; to electricians, ministers and businessmen, doctors, government employees, artist, chefs, musicians and teachers; to pharmacist, entertainers, athletes, and politicians.

Fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles-all Black men telling the nation that they will take responsibility for the social despair in their communities-each of them telling the nation that they will help reduce Black-on-Black crime, respect Black women, and seek spiritual support and guidance.

The march drew Black leaders from business, politics, religion, sports, education, and entertainment. They included Rep. Charles Rangel, Kwesi Mfume, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, as well as singers Isaac Hayes and Stevie Wonder and poet Maya Angelou.

The Million Family March, called for by Minister Louis Farrakhan, is held in Washington, DC.

On this date, the Democratic mayor of Newark, New Jersey,
Corey Booker, became the first black senator elected from the state of New Jersey. Booker solidly defeated Republican Steve Lonegan to fill the seat long held by Frank R. Lautenberg, who died in June. With 95% of precincts reporting, Booker was led Lonegan, 55% to 44%. In going to the Senate, at the time, Booker became the second African American to the U.S. Senate, joining Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina.

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