Jupiter Hammon was born on
this date on Long Island, NY. He was a self-educated Black Calvinist poet and
the first published black writer in America, a poem appearing in print in 1760.
He is considered one of the founders of African American literature.
Hammon served several generations of the Lloyd family on Long Island, New York.
He had been a slave his entire life, allowed to attend school, (and, thus, unlike many
slaves, was able to read and write), and his formal education influenced
his development as a poet. Like his masters, Hammon was a devout Christian, and
was influenced by the religious revivals taking place in 18th
century New England.
His writing reflects his deep spirituality, and his first published poem “An
Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries” was written on
Christmas Day, 1760, published as a broadside in early 1761; making it the
first piece of literature published in the United States by a person of African
descent. His second extant piece of poetry, published 17 years after the first,
honors Phyillis Wheatley. Hammon never mentions himself in the poem, but it
appears that in choosing Wheatley as a subject, he was acknowledging their
He also wrote an Address to the Negroes of the State of New York before their African Society on
September 24, 1786. In this speech, at the age of seventy-six, after a lifetime
of slavery, Jupiter Hammon expressed his opinions on slavery most
clearly. The speech drew heavily on Christian motifs and theology. For example,
Hammon said that Black people should maintain their high moral standards
precisely because being slaves on Earth had already secured their place in
heaven. Hammon’s speech also promoted the idea of a gradual emancipation was a
way of ending slavery. It is thought that Hammon stated this plan because he
knew that slavery was so entrenched in American society that an immediate
emancipation of all slaves would be more difficult to achieve. His speech contained a famous
quote of his, “If we ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us
for being black or being slaves.” As an individual, he claimed he did
“not wish to be free”, he did add that he believed slavery was unjust, and
would be “glad if others, especially the young Negroes, were free.” Hammon
apparently remained a slave until his death. The speech was later reprinted by
several groups opposed to slavery.
Because of Hammon’s famous speech and his poetry are still
often anthologized, in recognition of his role as a founder of the African-
American literary tradition.
Boston Blacks, led by Prince Hall, petitioned the State Legislature of
Boston, Massachusetts for equal school facilities and equal
educational rights. His petition was not granted.
The First African Church
of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, PA became affiliated with the Protestant
Episcopal Church on this date. It became the St. Thomas African Episcopal
Church as it was formally received into the Diocese of Philadelphia.
Jean Jacques Dessalines, revolutionist
and Emperor of Haiti (1805-1806), was assassinated near Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
He was a slave when he joined the insurrection of 1791, rose to be the second
in command under Toussaint L’Ouverture. In 1802, he resisted Charles Leclerc’s
army in the west but finally submitted. After Toussaint had been sent to France
as a prisoner, Dessalines headed another revolt and, aided by the British,
drove out French (1803). On January 1, 1804, he was proclaimed Governor General
for life of Haiti and, on October 8, 1804, had himself declared Emperor Jean
Rev. Samuel Ringgold Ward was born on
this date. He was a Black abolitionist and minister.
Born a slave on Maryland Eastern Shore he escaped with his parents in 1820. His
father was a descent from an African prince who learned to read, so that he
could enjoy the priceless privilege of searching the Scriptures and supporting
himself as a house painter. His mother was widowed in a previous marriage and
bore three children all boys; Samuel was the second. Ward grew up in New York,
and was placed at a public school in Mulberry Street.
In 1833, he became a clerk of Thomas L. Jennings, Esq., one of the most worthy
of the colored race. “That same year it pleased God to answer the prayers of my
parents, in my conversion.” Ward’s attention turned to the ministry where he
was advised and recommended by the late Rev. G. Hogarth, of Brooklyn. In 1839
he became an agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Licensed the same year
by the New York Congregational Association, he served as pastor to an all-white
congregation in South Butler, New York, from 1841 to 1843. His second
pastorate, from 1846 to 1851, was of a white congregation in Courtlandville,
While there, he was editor of an excellent newspaper, devoted to the religious
elevation of that denomination. Ward was very talented as an orator and
educator of religion. He was nominated for two or three years, as Liberty party
candidate for Vice President of the United States. For his eloquence, he was
styled “the Black Daniel Webster,” but in 1850, he criticized Webster sharply
for his acquiescence concerning the Fugitive Slave Act. Ward himself became
involved in the rescue of a fugitive slave in 1851. Then, fearing arrest, he
fled to Canada.
During his two years in Canada, he served as an agent of the Anti-Slavery
Society of Canada and assisted the fugitive American slaves who had taken
residence north of the border. In April 1853 Ward went to England on a
fund-raising mission. During his two-year stay, he gave many speeches and
published his life story, Autobiography of a Fugitive Negro (1855).
In 1855, he settled in Kingston, Jamaica. Until 1860 he served as pastor to a
small group of Baptists there. He later moved to St. George Parish where he
died in 1866.
President Ulysses S. Grant suspended the writ of habeas corpus
and declared martial law in nine South Carolina counties affected by Klan disturbances.
On this date, one of the first all-Black ventures in the field of high
finance was organized and opened its doors. It was Capital Savings Bank of Washington D.C.
The beginnings of black capitalism in America have a strong history. They were
introduced in spite of brutal racial segregation during the first thirty years
of the 20th Century. Because economic empowerment was another
vehicle for equality there was a great entrepreneurial spirit that showed in
the escalation of black banks, insurance companies, newspapers, and other
enterprises that served the black community. The Freedman’s Bank, which had been
provided for by an act of Congress and set up by the Freedman’s Bureau to
encourage saving among the newly freed, had failed 15 years earlier. The
rebirth of Black banking began with a rush thanks to the insurance business.
However, the black church and fraternal organizations raised and channeled that
economic spirit into empowerment. At first, black churches didn’t have
businesses in the traditional sense but they were in possession of buildings
and real estate. This represented the only major assets owned by blacks. These
institutions collected large sums of contributions and soon went on to
establish the first black banks. Because of the enormous growth of black-owned
banks, there was a consequent growth of black businesses with receipts in the
millions of dollars from products sold primarily to a black consumer market.
This couldn’t have materialized without the capital and credit that black banks
provided and white-owned financial institutions were unwilling to give. For
example, Richard Wright established Citizens and Southern Bank and Trust
Company and played a vital role in launching many small enterprises that
included groceries, bakeries, cleaning establishments, and caterers.
Between 1888 and 1934, 134 black banks were established, while from 1867
through 1917, the number of Black businesses increased from 4,000 to 50,000. By
1890, four of those 134 banks were flourishing in four Southern cities. Capital
Savings Bank helped many businesses and property owners until it closed in
1902. The site was given National Historic Landmark status in 1975. Capital
Saving Bank was located at 609 F Street, NW, Washington D.C. Currently the site
is home to the newly built MCI Center for sports.
Guard kills 3 members of a lynch mob while rescuing an African American man.
date, Jazz drummer, William Randolph
“Cozy” Cole was born in East Orange, New Jersey.
His three brothers, all of whom were jazz musicians, influenced Cole’s musical
education. He attended Wilberforce University for two years, moving to New York
in 1926. Two years later Cole began playing professionally as a teenager with
Wilbur Sweatman, then leading his own band before joining Jelly Roll Morton’s Red Hot Peppers
in 1930. With Jelly Roll, he made his first recording at age 20 with a drum solo on “Load of Cole.” From
1931 to 1930 Cole played with Blanch Calloway (1931-1933), Benny Carter
(1933-1934), Willie Bryant (1935-1936), Jonah Jones, Stuff Smith’s small combo
(1936-1938), and Cab Calloway (1938-19420. His break came with Duke Ellington
in 1939. It was his drum solo that you hear on the song “Cresecendo in Drums.”
Cole’s career moved to the CBS radio until 1943, where he played in
Raymond Scott’s CBS Orchestra, becoming one of the first African American
musicians on a network musical staff. This led to
film scores such as Make Mine Music (1945), The Strip (1951), and an appearance
in the Glenn Miller Story 1953. From 1949 to 1953, he played and recorded with
Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars, he then managed a drum school in Manhattan with
Gene Krupa. Along with Sid Catlett, Cole was one of the most influential
drummers of the swing era. He was particularly noted for his ability to play
In 1958, he made the solo hit record “Topsy” that sold more than a million copies.
The song contained a lengthy drum solo and was one of the few drum solo
recordings that ever made the popular Billboard 100 charts. The single issued on
the tiny Brooklyn based Love Records was sensational. He was a very popular attraction
in the New York club scene during the 1960’s. Cole toured Africa in 1962 and
1963 and at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1973. He died in Columbus, Ohio on
January 31, 1981.
date, the Phyllis Wheatley settlement house was founded
and began operation in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
At the start of the twentieth century, community centers known as “settlement
houses” began in many urban areas of the United States. The neighborhoods were
close to ruined and usually contained a predominantly immigrant population.
These houses were designed to help “Americanize” the communities they served.
The original site was an old frame building once a Hebrew Talmud Torah school
and later a sewing shop in the north side of town.
Its first director was W. Gertrude Brown. The settlement house had four
departments: education, recreation, music, and dramatics. What were noticeably
missing were classes in citizenship and English. This set the Phyllis Wheatley
house apart from other settlement houses that focused on the “Americanization
of foreigners.” A black woman ran each department and their classes were
structured for both children and adults. Though resistant to the idea of a
settlement house in the beginning, African-American men and their groups
changed their mind after the house opened. During the twenties and thirties
“Phyllis Wheatley” as it was affectionately called became the center of the
Minneapolis African-American community.
Because Blacks were often excluded from other special social service agencies,
the Phyllis Wheatley House was called upon to perform a wider range of
functions than most settlement houses serving European immigrants. The house
was a hotel for out-of-town visitors to Minneapolis because hotels at the time
would not accommodate black guest. Artist performing at the University such as
Langston Hughes, Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, and others would stay at
This was also true of students trying to educate themselves in the Minneapolis
area. Many Civil Rights organizations held meetings and many activists gave
speeches at the house as well. W. Gertrude Brown left the Phyllis Wheatley
house in 1937. Many of its programs are still in operation today.
James William “Junior” Gilliam is born in Nashville, Tennessee. He will become a professional baseball
player for the Brooklyn Dodgers and will be the National League Rookie
of the Year in 1953 and a key member of ten NL championship teams from
1953 to 1978. The Dodgers’ leadoff hitter for most of the 1950s, he will
score over 100 runs in each of his first four seasons and lead the National
League in triples and walks once each. He will be the first switch hitter
since the 19th century to play regularly for the
Dodgers for more than three years, and will later became one of the first Black
coaches in the major leagues. He will join the ancestors on October 8, 1978 in
Inglewood, California after succumbing to a cerebral hemorrhage.
Lerone Bennett, Jr. was born on
this date. He is an African-American author, historian, and journalist.
From Clarksdale, Mississippi, he is the son of the Lerone and Alma (Reed)
Bennett. He and his family moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where he attended
public schools. Bennett graduated from Morehouse College with a Bachelor of
Arts degree in 1949. That same year Bennett attended Atlanta University for
graduate study. Bennett became a journalist for the Atlanta Daily World, from
1949-53 and worked as city editor for JET magazine from 1952-53.
In 1953, he became associate editor for Ebony magazine where he currently
serves as executive editor. As an author Bennett, Jr., moves between the worlds
of research and reporting, wrestling with the history of race relations in the
United States and the present political surroundings in which Blacks continue
to strive for equal opportunity. In his writings, Bennett establishes himself
as a shrewd observer of society’s racial injustices, articulating how people of
color can overcome bigotry.
Bennett Jr. is one of Mississippi’s most successful Black writers of the
twentieth century. His writing career includes Before the Mayflower: A History
of the Negro in America 1619-1966, The Negro Mood, What Manner of Man: A
Biography of Martin Luther King Jr., Confrontation: Black and White, Black
Power U.S.A., The Human Side of Reconstruction 1867-1877, Pioneers in Protest,
The Challenge of Blackness and Great Moments in Black History.
Lerone Bennett also assisted with the movie Amistad and has recently written
about Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.
Howard Rollins Jr. was born on
this date. He was an African-American actor.
From Baltimore, Maryland, Howard Ellsworth Rollins, Jr. was the youngest of
four children born to Howard E. Rollins, Sr. (steelworker) and Ruth R. Rollins
(domestic worker). After high school, he attended Towson State College, MD
where he studied theater. In his early years, Rollins vaguely considered
becoming a teacher. At 17, a friend convinced him to attend a casting call at a
local Baltimore theater where he won a role in “Of Mice and Men.”
Rollins surprised himself with the talent he displayed. Of that experience,
Rollins told the New York Times in 1981: “Things made sense to me for the first
time in my life.” In 1974, he moved to New York City to try to get his career
off the ground in earnest.
The big break for Rollins came when director Milos Forman cast him as Coalhouse
Walker, Jr. in the 1981 film “Ragtime,” based on the best-selling novel by E.L.
Doctorow. Set at the beginning of the twentieth century, “Ragtime” includes a
powerful storyline about a talented Black pianist who is the victim of racism,
demands justice from the legal system and receives none, and ultimately turns
to desperation and retaliation. Rollins won wide acclaim for his portrayal of
Coalhouse Walker, Jr. and ultimately was nominated for an Academy Award for
Best Supporting Actor in 1981.
In 1982, speaking to the Los Angeles Herald Examiner about the treatment of
racism in “Ragtime,” Rollins stated: “It’s as valid today as it ever was. You
have neo-Nazis re surging, you have the Klan attempting to resurrect its
members. There’s no huge difference between 1906 and 1982 if one really looks
at it. That movie could be done today and called ‘Nowtime.’”
Rollins’ performance in “Ragtime” led to many film and television roles. In
1982, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work
in the daytime serial “Another World.” He also appeared in a TV production of
Carson McCullers’ “The Member of the Wedding,” in the comedy series “Fridays,”
and as the late civil rights leader Medgar Evers in “For Us the Living: The
Medgar Evers Story.”
In 1984, he played the lead role of Captain Richard Davenport in “A Soldier’s
Story,” a film drawn on the Pulitzer-Prize winning play written by Charles
Fuller and originally produced in New York City in 1981 by the famed Negro
Ensemble Company. Rollins starred as an Army lawyer sent from Washington, D.C.
to investigate the murder of an African-American sergeant on a military base in
the South, a murder which may have been committed by Ku Klux Klan members from
the area. Captain Davenport’s investigation takes a surprising turn and the
results demonstrate the pernicious impact of racism on African Americans.
Beginning in 1988, Rollins starred with Carroll O’Connor in the TV series, “In
the Heat of the Night,” which was drawn on the 1967 film starring Sidney
Poitier and Rod Steiger. The series was first shot in a small town in Louisiana
and then in a small town in Georgia. Although Rollins had grown up in
Baltimore, he often felt uneasy and isolated in the Deep South. He frequently
said that when he left the set, derogatory words were used in reference to
Blacks. He did not find the environment welcoming or friendly, he found the
work on the series to be formulaic, and he began to indulge in cocaine and
alcohol. In 1988, while filming in Louisiana, he was arrested for possession of
cocaine. Despite efforts at rehab, his problems continued and in the early
1990s he served a 70-day jail sentence in Georgia for driving under the
influence. Despite Carroll O’Connor’s continued friendship and loyalty, Rollins
was eventually written out of “In the Heat of the Night.”
In his last years, Rollins made determined efforts to rebuild his career. He
appeared in the TV series “New York Undercover” and “Remember WENN,” in the PBS
television film “Harambee,” and in the theatrical film “Drunks.”
Rollins’ exceptional acting throughout his career helped to inspire subsequent
generations of African American actors, playwrights, and filmmakers. Despite
his troubles, he was cherished by his friends inside and outside the
Howard Rollins died on December 9, 1996, of complications from lymphoma. He was
46 years old. On October 26, 2006, a statue of Rollins was unveiled in his
native Baltimore at the Senator Theater. This statue is now part of the
collection of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in Baltimore.
Mae Carol Jemison was born on
this date. She is an African-American Astronaut, and Physician.
From Decatur, Alabama she was raised in Chicago, the youngest of three
children. Her parents, Dorothy and Charlie Jemison, encouraged, stimulated, and
supported the many interest of their children. Young Jemison loved to read and
to dance. She enjoyed science fiction, pure science, and the formation of the
universe. She graduated from Morgan Park High School in 1973, and entered
Stanford University as a scholarship student (all) at age 16.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering and
an A. B. in African and Afro-American studies, she earned her doctorate in
medicine at Cornell University Medical College. Before joining NASA in 1987,
Dr. Jemison worked in both engineering and medicine. As the science mission
specialist on the STS-47 Space lab J flight, a US/Japan joint mission, she
conducted experiments in life sciences, material sciences, and co-investigated
the Bone Cell Research experiment. In 1992, Space lab J flight was a successful
joint U. S. and Japanese science mission, making Mae Jemison the first Black
woman in space.
After serving six years as a National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(NASA) astronaut, Dr. Jemison left NASA in 1993 to start The Jemison Group,
Inc.; they focus on the beneficial integration of science and technology into
daily life. In 1994, Dr. Jemison founded and chairs The Earth We Share (TEWS),
an annual international science camp where students, ages 12 to 16, work
together to solve current global dilemmas. The four-week residential program
builds critical thinking and problem solving skills through an experiential
curriculum. She also directs the Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in
She has received many awards and honors’, including induction into the National
Women’s Hall of Fame; Dr. Jemison also holds a number of honorary doctorates.
She serves on several corporate boards of directors as well as on the Texas
Governor’s State Council for Science and Biotechnology Development. Her first
book was “Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments From My Life,” 2001. Dr. Jemison
loves cats and lives in Houston.
She speaks nationally and globally on vital 21st Century issues
including science literacy; sustainable development; education; achieving
excellence; the importance of increased involvement of women and minorities in
science and technology fields; and investing in the present to secure the
Dr. Clifton R. Wharton Jr. was elected the 14th president
of Michigan State University and became the first Black to head a major,
predominantly white, university in the Twentieth Century.
This date is
the start of Black Poetry Day. This
unofficial day celebrates past and present poetic authors like Langston Hughes,
Phyllis Wheatley Frank X. Walker and Maya Angelou.
This day is not officially endorsed by an American city, state, or federal
government. It has gained notoriety and grown because of its importance in
black heritage, literacy, community meaning. Schools and the general public are
asked to spend this day appreciate African-American authors and spreading the
word of Black poets through friends, family members and throughout the world.
The birth of Black Poetry Day (some say) started as an anniversary of the first
published African-American poet, Jupiter Hammon, who was born into slavery in
1711 on Long Island. With the birth of the Harlem Renaissance, prose, and
spoken word, Black Poetry has strived to become what it is today.
Legendary jazz and blues singer Alberta Hunter joins the ancestors in New York City.
She achieved fame in Chicago jazz clubs in the 1920’s, toured Europe in the
1930’s and, after over 20 years of anonymity as a nurse, returned to performing
Dr. Ralph D.
Abernathy, civil rights leader, joins the ancestors.
The 100th episode of “A Different World” airs on NBC. The acclaimed show, a spin-off of “The Cosby Show” that stars Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, and an ensemble of young African American actors that included Jada Pinkett, wife of rapper and actor Will Smith,
is directed by Debbie
date, The National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People called for a formal dictionary revision of the word “nigger.”
The NAACP publicly requested Merriam-Webster to revise its dictionary
definition of the word. The Merriam-Webster dictionary’s 9th and 10th
editions (as well as online) define the word as “a black person... usually
taken to be offensive.” NAACP President Kweisi
Mfume said that definition “doesn’t say, Once used to describe a
black person, a slur.’ It says, A black person.”
He also mentioned “The NAACP finds it objectionable that the Merriam-Webster
would use black people as a definition for a racist term.” The (Baltimore) Sun
reported that the NAACP said it would lead a boycott against the publisher if
the word’s definition were not revised.