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1849
William Washington Browne was born on this date. He was a Black slave, minister, educator, and businessman.

From Habersham County, Georgia he lived there until he was 8 years old. As a slave he was sold into Tennessee, where he ran away during the Civil War becoming a Union officer’s servant. Browne joined the Union Army at age 15 and served until 1866. He then attended school in Wisconsin before returning to the South to teach in Georgia and Alabama. It was in Alabama that Browne became active in the self-control movement. He argued that alcohol consumption among Black Americans wasted precious money and led to crime and disenfranchisement.

In a speech Brown once said: “Do you not see the yawning gulf standing open, and our young men rushing headlong into it, thereby destroying themselves and us, too? Are we men and women, standing still with our arms folded and mouths shut, to see this demon of intemperance, sloth and cowardice swallow up our Race?” After becoming a Methodist minister he urged the formation of “fountains” to pool money and buy land. Soon, the True Reformers of Virginia called Browne to restore its stagnant organization because his vision extended into business activity. Eventually, he established a group whose objective was to stop crime, decadence, poverty and misery while promoting joy, peace, and abundance.

In less than a ten years, he revolutionized Black insurance in Richmond and created a financial haven for his vision; The True Reformers Savings Bank. Opened in 1889, it was the first Black bank in the United States to receive a charter. At its peak in 1907, it took in more than $1 million in deposits. Browne’s national stature grew; he was linked with Booker T. Washington and others of the late 19th century who stayed away from politics favoring a non-obtrusive approach to race relations. Yet, his views did not enjoy universal approval. Browne would have a falling out with John Mitchell, the anti-lynching crusader, and editor of the Richmond Planet.

Browne died of cancer in 1897 and his bank collapsed 11 years later from mismanagement and embezzlement. True Reformers continued as a fraternal order and insurance agency until its demise during the Great Depression.



1890
Jelly Roll Morton was born on this date. He was an American jazz composer and pianist who pioneered the use of prearranged, semi-orchestrated effects in jazz-band performances.

Ferdinand Joseph Lamenthe (his original name) was from New Orleans, Louisiana. He learned the piano as a child and from 1902 was a professional pianist in the bordellos of the Storyville district of New Orleans. He was one of the pioneer ragtime piano players, but he would later invite criticism by claiming to have “invented jazz in 1902.” He was an important contributor in the transition from early jazz to orchestral jazz that took place in New Orleans about the turn of the century.

About 1917 he moved west to California, where he played in nightclubs until 1922. He made his recording debut in 1923, and from 1926 to 1930 he made, with a group called Morton’s Red Hot Peppers, a series of recordings that gained him a national reputation. Morton’s music was more formal than the early Dixieland jazz, though his arrangements only sketched parts and allowed for improvisation. By the early 1930s, Morton’s fame had been overshadowed by that of Louis Armstrong and other emerging innovators.

As a jazz composer, Morton is best remembered for such pieces as “Black Bottom Stomp,” “King Porter Stomp,” “Shoe Shiner’s Drag,” and “Dead Man Blues.” Jelly Roll Morton died on July 10, 1941 in Los Angeles, California.



1893
On this date, we celebrate the birth of Jomo Kenyatta. He was an African political leader, and the first president of Kenya.

From the Kikuyu tribe, he was one of the earliest and best-known African nationalist leaders. He became secretary of his tribal association in 1928, campaigning for land reform and African political rights. In England he collaborated with other African nationalist students and in 1946 founded with Kwame Nkrumah, the Pan-African Federation. Returning to Kenya, he became president of the Kenya African Union that same year.

In 1953, during the Mau Mau uprising, Kenyatta was imprisoned by the British as one of its instigators, and sent to internal exile in 1959. Kenyatta was elected president of the newly founded Kenya African National Union while in exile (1960). Released in 1961, he participated in negotiations with the British to write a new constitution for Kenya, which became independent in 1963.

As an author, he wrote Facing Mount Kenya (1938) and Suffering Without Bitterness (1968). Kenya became a republic in 1964 with Kenyatta as its first president. Influential throughout Africa, Kenyatta was intolerant of dissent in Kenya. Outlawing some opposition parties in 1969 he established a one-party state in 1974.

The stability resulting from his leadership attracted foreign investment. He followed a non-aligned foreign policy and died in office in 1978.



1895
Rex Ingram was born on this date in 1895. He was an African-American actor.

He was born on a houseboat on the Mississippi River near Cairo, Illinois, when his mother, on her way home from a visit with relatives in Natchez, Mississippi, went into labor. The son of a riverboat fireman, Ingram is said to have grown up working with his father on the steamer Robert E. Lee. He enrolled in medical school at Northwestern University in 1912; he was the first Black man to earn a Phi Beta Kappa key at the school. Ingram claimed that he headed for California in 1919, where he sailed for 18 months as a crewman on a windjammer. Ingram became interested in acting while attending military school.

In his first film, Tarzan of the Apes 1918, Ingram was cast in a bit part. He appeared in many other Tarzan films and in the silent films The Ten Commandments, The Big Parade, Salome, and King of Kings. While he was in Hollywood, Ingram worked a number of jobs between films in order to support himself. According to Ebony Magazine, he claimed to have been called “the greatest Negro heavyweight prospect since Jack Johnson” when he fought professionally in California in 1921. Ingram moved from California to New York City in 1928. In 1929 he made his stage debut on Broadway in Lulu Belle, and he played in Porgy and Bess on Broadway in 1933. Goin’ Home (1932), Stevedore (1933), Marching Song (1934), and Once in a Lifetime (1935) were other off-Broadway shows in which he performed small parts.

In 1933 Ingram played a small part in the film Emperor Jones. More successful on screen than on stage, Ingram’s first big break came in 1936 when he was cast as De Lawd in the film version of The Green Pastures, Ingram married Francine Everett the same year. Ingram was denied many roles during his career because of racism, yet he was one of the few actors to serve on the board of directors of the studio actor’s guild. One of his best-known roles was in the film Cabin in the Sky (1943). As Ingram’s fame soared, he promised himself not to accept any more roles that were demeaning to blacks. He recognized the powerful influence of the entertainment media and wanted to help rather than retard the process of black freedom and acceptance in America. Ingram became an international star when in 1940 he was chosen to play the role of the Genie of the Lamp in the British film The Thief of Baghdad.

He returned to Hollywood performing in Talk of the Town (1942), Cabin in the Sky (1943), Sahara (1943), Fired Wife (1943), A Thousand and One Nights (1948), and Moonrise (1948). In 1948 Ingram’s bright career stopped when he was arrested for transporting a minor, a 15-year old white girl from Salina, Kansas, across state lines for immoral purposes. He pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to an 18-month jail term. He served ten months before being released on parole. Ingram lost his home in Warm Springs Canyon, California, and suffered greatly from bouts of depression and self-doubt, but he refused to quit. In 1951, Ingram made his first appearance since the tragedy in Nick Stewart’s Christopher Columbus Brown. The way back was not easy, and Ingram never achieved again the stardom he lost.

However, he did manage find to work, playing an African chief in Ramar of the Jungle (1952), Anna Lucasta (1958), God’s Little Acre (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960), Your Cheating Heart (1964), and Hurry Sundown (1967). In 1957 he appeared on Broadway in the all-Black production of Waiting for Godot. He appeared in the television shows Daktari, I Spy, Gunsmoke, and Playhouse 90. His last role was for The Bill Cosby Show. Ingram smoked a pipe and made a hobby of collecting them; he owned about 500 pipes.

He had a heart attack and died at his home in Hollywood on September 19, 1969, leaving behind his second wife, Dena, daughter Gloria Wagner, and two grandsons. He was 73 years old. He had a long career as an actor and enhanced the Black male image on stage and in film.



1898
North Carolina Mutual Life and Provident Association is organized by seven African Americans: John Merrick, Dr. Aaron M. Moore, P.W. Dawkins, D.T. Watson, W.G. Pearson, E.A. Johnson, and James E. Shepard. Each invests $50 in the company, which will grow to become North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and have over $211 million in assets and over $8 billion of insurance in force by 1991.


1901
On this date, Adelaide Hall was born. She was an African-American entertainer, dancer and vocalist.

She was from Brooklyn and was taught to sing by her father, making her show business debut in a number of black musical shows in Hew York. This included Shuffle Along, Chocolate Kiddies, Desires Of 1927, and Black birds Of 1928. The last of these introduced several songs sung by Hall including I Can’t Give You Anything But Love. Hall went to Paris and was married to a British seaman (Bert Hicks) who opened a club for her called La Grosse Pomme.

Throughout the 1930s she stayed very busy working in America and Europe, recording with Art Tatum, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller and others. During World War II her club was destroyed in a bombing arid, but Hall’s career continued undisrupted. She toured for ENSA, sang in theaters, clubs and on the radio, plus in 1951 she appeared in the London version of Kiss Me Kate. In 1957, Hall went back to Broadway to star in Jamaica with Lena Horne.

During 1960-70 (after her husband’s death) she recorded two jazz albums and in 1974 she sang at the memorial service for Duke Ellington at St. Martin-in-the-fields, London. In 1988, she performed a one-woman show at Carnegie Hall. Adelaide Hall died on November 7th 1992 in London.



1904
Enolia Pettigen McMillan was born Enolia Virginia Pettigen on this date in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. She became the first female president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She died October 26, 2006.


1924
The “First Colored World Series” of baseball is held in Kansas City, Missouri. The series, which pits the Kansas City Monarchs against the Hillsdale team from Darby, Pennsylvania, is won by the Monarchs, five games to four, and was organized by Rube Foster.


1927
Morris Miller was born on this date. He was an African-American nurse and health care advocate.

From St. Vincent, West Indies, he received his initial training there through a fellowship with the World Health Organization. In 1959, he earned the equivalent of a Master of Science degree from the University of West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. After further study in microbiology at the University of Minnesota, he became one the first Black nurses at Abbot Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. There he spent 16 year in their coronary care unit. In 1977, Miller became director of nursing at Queen of Peace hospital in New Prague, Minnesota, and three years later he became associate administrator.

Miller was a warm-hearted professional who broke down many racial barriers during his career. He was a volunteer for the board of directors with the American Heart Association for over thirty years. After his retirement he was appointed to the board of directors with the Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis. There he was developing a strategic five-year plan with incentives for teenagers (specifically young Black males). Miller was also a long-standing Masonic Lodge member.

Married with three daughters, Morris Miller died on April 23rd 2002 in Minneapolis.



1932
Roosevelt Brown is born in Charlottesville, Virginia. He will become a football star at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland, and will be drafted in the 27th round by the New York Giants in 1953. Over his career he will be All-NFL for eight straight years (1956-1963), play in nine Pro Bowl games, and named NFL’s Lineman of Year (1956). He will play for the Giants for 13 seasons and will be elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1975.


1942
Sixty leading southern African Americans issued the “Durham Manifesto,” calling for fundamental changes in race relations after a Durham, North Carolina, meeting.


1951
On this date, a racial incident of national degree occurred in Stillwater, Oklahoma. It was in the college football game between Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) and Drake University.

During the first quarter of the game Drake’s
Johnny Bright, a Black running back and the nations leading rusher was knocked out of the game with a broken jaw by Oklahoma A&Ms defensive tackle Wilbanks Smith who was white. With Bright gone A&M erased an early deficit and won the game over previously unbeaten Drake.

A sequence of photos the next day in the Des Moines Register by photographers Don Ultang and John Robinson showed Wilbanks Smith punching Bright on two separate plays (one shown). When Bright (an Indiana native) attended Drake in 1948 as one of the few Black collegians in Des Moines, there was a distinct line between blacks and whites at the school. Among other things Blacks were not permitted to live on campus. The entire state of Oklahoma was totally segregated, transportation, water fountains, everything.

The day before the game Drake fullback Gene Macomber while getting a haircut remembers the barber telling him “the black guy would not finish the game.” In the photos (shown) the third hit clearly shows Smith drawing back his fist and hitting Bright, and after taking him out of the game it was found that his jaw was broken. In retaliation Drake sidelined three A&M running backs, as the game became a rough and dirty afternoon. Without their star player, A&M won 27-14.

Years later in 1983, Johnny Bright, then a junior high school principal in Edmonton, Canada died of a heart attack at age 53. A friend of Bright remembers that one of those who sent a floral arrangement to the funeral was Wilbanks Smith.



1952
The Mau Mau uprising against British rule in Kenya begins, with attacks against both British settlers and Africans who refused to join the rebellion. Although British rule is widely resented in Kenya, the Mau Mau fighters are mostly members of the Kikuyu ethnic group, whose land had been taken over by British settlers. The British will respond harshly to the rebellion, killing nearly 11,000 rebels and confining 80,000 Kikuyus in detention camps.  Although it will be a military failure, the Mau Mau rebellion will bring international attention to the Africans’ grievances, and contribute to Kenya’s independence in 1963.


1953
Jomo Kenyatta and five other Mau Mau leaders are refused an appeal of their prison terms in British East Africa (Kenya). Members of the Mau Mau guerilla troops all took an oath to commit themselves to expelling all white settlers in Kenya and to eliminate the Africans who cooperated with or benefited from colonial rule.


1963
Jim Brown, of the Cleveland Browns, sets the then NFL all-time rushing record, 8,390 yards.


1963
South Africa begins the trial of Nelson Mandela & eight others on charges of conspiracy.


1967
An all-white federal jury in Meridian, Mississippi convicts 7 white men in the murder of 3 civil rights workers. They are convicted of civil rights violations.


1968
Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, joins the ancestors at the age of 84. His church services were broadcast weekly, first on radio, then on television. The theme song of his broadcasts was “Happy am I, I’m Always Happy!”


1976
New York Nets’ (ABA) Julius “Dr. J” Erving is traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. This will be the beginning of his All-Star career in the NBA.


1989
The Senate convicts U.S. District Judge Alcee L. Hastings of perjury and conspiracy and removes him from office. The conviction will be overturned and Hastings is later elected to the House of Representatives.


2006
On this date, the heritage of the Tuskegee Airmen became a component of the classroom curriculum of the United States Air Force Officers Training School.

Trainees attending Officer Training School to become future leaders of the Air Force will now visit where the Air Force’s first black pilots attended training more than 60 years ago. Officer trainees visit various historic sites in Tuskegee, Alabama as part of an expanded curriculum to enhance trainee’s knowledge Air Force history and heritage particularly the services’ first black aviators, the Tuskegee Airmen.

Officials at the school approved a set of courses plan that includes tours to facilities where the Army Air Corps’ first black aviators, the Tuskegee Airmen, made history. The plan also includes classroom instruction, film presentations and briefings from distinguished Tuskegee aviators such as retired Col. R.J. Lewis, who will also share some of his personal experiences with other legendary Tuskegee Airmen such as Generals Benjamin O. Davis Jr. and Daniel “Chappy” James.

Lt. Col. Hans Palaoro, 24th Training Squadron commander said “This partnering of the Air Force’s OTS and Tuskegee’s historic Robert Moton Field is a direct response to the Air Force chief of staff’s call for all Airmen to learn more about and embrace their proud heritage.” Officer Trainee Gerry Thompson, an 11-year Air Force veteran, said the visit to Tuskegee inspired him both professionally and personally. “Listening to Colonel Lewis was inspirational and motivational because despite all the prejudice and discrimination, the Tuskegee Airmen had the strength and perseverance to maintain a standard of excellence that was truly amazing.” Thompson said he was so impressed that he plans to come back to Tuskegee with his family.

Maj. George Scheers, 24th Training Squadron director of operations said, “Incorporating Tuskegee’s proud history into the curriculum without cutting other course material took some creative thinking, but they were still able to develop a successful plan for implementation.” Capt. Arnold Bowen, 24th TRS assistant director of operations, added students will now have a standardized training schedule instead of weekly schedules that varied for each class due to holidays. This allows officials to focus more on courses such as history and heritage, cultural awareness and Air Expeditionary Force skills as outlined by the Air Force chief of staff.

OTS officials said some of the new curriculum changes will be added gradually until a new expanded syllabus is implemented in fiscal year 2008.


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