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1832
Maria W. Stewart, an African American women’s rights and abolitionist speaker, says in her farewell address “...for it’s not the color of the skin that makes the man or woman, but the principle formed in the soul.”


1835
William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of the Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper, was dragged through the streets of Boston, MA by a pro-slavery mob on this date.


1835
The New York Antislavery Society was formed on this date with some 600 delegates assembled in Utica, NY, despite a disruption by a pro-slavery mob.


1865
Jamaican National Hero, George William Gordon, is unfairly arrested and charged for complicity in what is now called the Morant Bay Rebellion. George William Gordon was a free colored land owner. Born to a slave mother and a planter father, who was attorney to several sugar estates in Jamaica, he was self-educated and became a landowner in St. Thomas. Gordon had urged the people to protest against and to resist the oppressive and unjust conditions under which they were forced to live. He is illegally tried by court martial and, in spite of a lack of evidence, convicted and sentenced to death.


1872
John H. Conyers, Sr. becomes the first African American admitted to the United States Naval Academy.


1912
On this date, Don Byas was born in Oklahoma. He was an African-American tenor jazz saxophonist.

Byas began playing music as an alto saxophonist moving to tenor in 1933. Two years later he moved to California and began with Lionel Hampton and Buck Clayton on the dance band circuit. In 1937, he moved to New York, working with the likes of Andy Kirk, Benny Carter, and within two years replacing Lester Young as lead tenor with the Count Basie band. Byas is well known for his solo on Harvard Blues 1941.

He left Basie in 1943, working with smaller groups and recording creatively for many independent labels and companies. Byas was one of the most versatile and omnipresent musicians on the New York scene in the 1940’s. It was he and Dizzy Gillespie who formed the well-known and groundbreaking Onyx Club band in 1944. Byas’ love and ability to convey chromatic harmony on the tenor made him one of the few swing-era soloists who were welcomed into the world of Be-bop.

He spent a number of years in Europe, returning briefly in 1970. Don Wesley Byas died on August 24, 1972.



1916
Hadda Brooks was born on this date. She was an African-American pianist and singer.

From Los Angeles, from her request (at age 4) her parents gave her piano lessons. After she attended public schools, she later studied classical music. In 1941, she married Earl “Shug” Morrison of the Harlem Globetrotters; he died within the first year of their marriage and Brooks never remarried. In the mid- to late ‘40s, Black popular music began to change from swing jazz and boogie-woogie into the sort of rhythm & blues that helped lay the foundation for rock & roll.

As a singer and pianist Brooks was one of the many figures who was noteworthy in aiding that transition, although she’s largely forgotten today. While her torch song delivery was came from the big band era, her boogie-woogie piano looked forward to jump blues and R&B. Ironically, the same qualities that made her briefly successful, her elegant vocals and jazzy arrangements left her ill-equipped to compete in the music business when harder-driving forms of rhythm & blues, and early rock & roll, began to dominate the marketplace in the early ‘50s.

Brooks actually preferred ballads to boogie-woogies, but worked up her style by listening to Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, and Meade Lux Lewis records. Her first record “Swingin’ the Boogie” was a sizable regional hit in 1945. Brooks’ first records were instrumental, but by 1946 she was singing as well. She had a fair amount of success in the late ‘40s, reaching the R&B Top Ten with “Out of the Blue” and her most famous song, “That’s My Desire.” Her success on record led to some roles in films, most notably in a scene from In a Lonely Place, which starred Humphrey Bogart.

In the mid 1950’s, Brooks briefly withdrew from recording into the nightclub circuit. For most of the 1960s, in fact, she was based in Australia, where she hosted her own TV show. Her profile was boosted in the mid-‘90s by her induction into the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, and by the inclusion of her recording of “Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere” in the film The Crossing Guard. A new album on Pointblank, Time Was When, was released in early 1996. She died on November 21st, 2002 in Los Angeles.



1917
On this date, Dizzy Gillespie was born. He was an African-American jazz trumpeter and band leader.

Born
John Birks Gillespie From Cheraw, South Carolina starting as a self-taught player, his natural gifts won him a scholarship at the Laurinburg Institute, where he studied for three years before moving to Philadelphia in 1935. He first recorded with Teddy Hill’s band in New York, as a replacement in Hill’s group. In 1939 he joined the Cab Calloway band and during its travels first encountered Charlie Parker in Kansas City.

But his after hours work that would lead to bebop was mostly confined to a handful of uptown clubs in New York, where Gillespie jousted with other players to the delight of mostly other musicians. Two showmen in one band is one too many showman and in Calloway’s band the guy getting the attention was to be Calloway, who was not amused at Gillespie’s peculiar brand of antics that had a way of winking at the audience behind the leader’s back. Fired in 1941, Gillespie moved to Lucky Millinder’s orchestra, where, just as Parker’s first alto solos were coming out with Jay McShann, Gillespie recorded “Little John Special” for the same label (Decca).

It not only included solo work every bit as provocative as Parker’s, but it also had the singular riff that the jazz world would shortly come to know as “Salt Peanuts.” Many of the same records that would launch Parker and bebop would also introduce Gillespie. Performances such as Groovin’ High, Dizzy Atmosphere and Hot House would also link Gillespie with “Bird.” Gillespie wanted to lead a band and in 1946 assembled one that would hold together for four years and record extensively for RCA Victor, song such as Cubana Be/Cubana Bop, Good Bait, Manteca, and Ool-Ya-Koo were a few.

There would be other bands, such as one assembled for an early State Department tour in 1956, and occasional reunions with Parker on Debut and Clef records and many tours with Norman Granz’ Jazz At The Philharmonic units. Gillespie emerged in the middle 1940s as essentially the last in a series of symbolic progressions of virtuosity in jazz that ended in the consolidation of bebop. If Charlie Parker was the soul of bebop, Gillespie was its heart and public face.

If Armstrong had expanded the reach of instrumental technique for his generation making more things possible, then Gillespie seemed to reach the final theoretical point of command that made all things possible, effectively ending the arms race of capacity that had driven jazz for two decades. His speed, articulation, and sense of surprise showed up in many bebop trumpet players in the years after 1946, but few doubted that he was the master and matrix of it all.

Gillespie’s rapport with audiences was equally golden, yet never got in the way of the music he offered. He was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1990. Dizzy Gillespie died on January 6, 1993, of cancer.



1924
Celia Cruz was boron on this date. She was an Afro-Cuban entertainer.

She was one of fourteen children, born in the small village of Barrio Santra Suarez, Havana, Cuba. Cruz was drawn to music from an early age. Her first pair of shoes was a gift from a tourist for whom she sang. A young Cruz sang her younger siblings to sleep, in school productions and community get-togethers. Soon she was taken to cabarets and nightclubs by an aunt and was introduced to the world of professional music.

Cruz then began to enter and win local talent shows. While her father attempted to guide her towards a career as a teacher, Cruz continued to be lured by music. In a 1997 interview, she said, “I have fulfilled my father’s wish to be a teacher as, through my music, I teach generations of people about my culture and the happiness that is found in just living life. As a performer, I want people to feel their hearts sing and their spirits soar.” While attending Cuba’s Conservatory of Music in 1947, Cruz found her earliest inspiration in the singing of Afro-Cuban vocalist Paulina Alveraz.

Her first break came when she was invited to join the band La Sonora Matancera in 1950. Cruz remained with the group for fifteen years, touring throughout the world. She married the band’s trumpet player Pedro Knight on July 14, 1962. With Fidel Castro’s assuming control of Cuba in 1960, she and her husband refused to return to their homeland and became citizens of the United States. Although they initially signed to perform with the orchestra of the Hollywood Palladium, they eventually settled in New York.

Cruz left the band in and pursued a solo career with Tito Puente. Despite releasing eight albums together, the collaboration failed to achieve commercial success. Their collaborations resumed their partnership with a special appearance at the Grammy award ceremonies in 1987. Cruz recorded with Cheo Feliciano, Oscar D’Leon and Hector Rodriquez in the mid- to late-‘60s. Cruz’s first success since leaving Sonora Matancera came in 1974 when she recorded a duo album, Celia and Johnny, with trombone player and the co-owner of Fania. She subsequently began appearing with the Fania All Stars.

Cruz’ popularity reached its highest level when she appeared in the 1992 film, The Mambo Kings. Cruz also appeared in the film, The Perez Family. She sang a duet version of “Loco de Amor,” with David Byrne, in the Jonathan Demme movie, Something Wild. In 1998, Cruz released an album featuring her singing with Willie Colon, Angela Carrasco, Oscar D’Leon, Jose Alberto “El Canario” and La India. Cruz continued to record and perform until sidelined by a brain tumor in 2002.

While recovering from surgery to remove the tumor, she managed to make it in to the studio in early 2003 to record Regalo de Alma. Her surgery was only partially successful and Celia Cruz died July 16, 2003. The passing of the “Queen of Salsa” left a huge gap in Latin music, but also a remarkable catalog to document her reign.



1950
Ronald E. McNair is born in Lake City, South Carolina. He will become an astronaut and the first African American astronaut to perish during a mission (Challenger – STS 41B, 51L disaster).


1950
Earl Lloyd becomes the first African American person to play in an NBA game (beating out Charles Cooper and Nat Clifton by one day). He will later become the first African American NBA Assistant Coach and first African American NBA chief scout.


1955
On this date, an eighteen-year-old Black woman was arrested for refusing to move out of her seat for a white woman on a public bus. Before Rosa Parks, in Montgomery, Alabama, Mary Louise Smith was tried, jailed, and fined nine dollars because of her stand. She later testified in the similar Bowder v. Gayle case.


1969
A bloodless coup occurs in Somalia (National Day).


1977
The United States recalls William Bowdler, ambassador to South Africa, due to the country’s apartheid policies.


1979
The Black Fashion Museum is opened in Harlem by Lois Alexander to highlight the achievements and contributions of African Americans to fashion.


1980
Valerie Thomas invents the illusion transmitter.


1989
Bertram M. Lee and Peter C.B. Bynoe sign an agreement to purchase the National Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets for $54 million. They become the first African American owners of a professional basketball team.


1994
Dexter Scott King, youngest son of Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King, is named head of SCLC.


1994
In 1960, Charles Edward Anderson earned a Ph.D. in Meteorology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts. Charles Edward Anderson, the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Meteorology, died on this date.


1999
Gaston T. Neal, a community activist and influential performance poet, who was best known for his work in the genre of the Black power movement and social change, joins the ancestors after a bout with lymphatic cancer, at his home in Washington, DC.


2003
Fred Berry, actor, joins the ancestors at the age of 52 after succumbing to a stroke. He played the character “Rerun” on the TV sitcom “What’s Happening!!”


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