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.”
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.
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.
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.
John H. Conyers, Sr. becomes the
first African American admitted to the United States Naval
On this date,
Don Byas was born in Oklahoma. He was an African-American tenor
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.
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.
date, Dizzy Gillespie was born. He was an African-American jazz trumpeter and
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.
Celia Cruz was boron on this date. She was an
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
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.
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
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.
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.
coup occurs in Somalia (National Day).
States recalls William Bowdler, ambassador
to South Africa, due to the country’s apartheid policies.
The Black Fashion Museum is opened
in Harlem by Lois Alexander to
highlight the achievements and contributions of African Americans to fashion.
Valerie Thomas invents the illusion transmitter.
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.
Dexter Scott King, youngest son of
Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King, is named head of SCLC.
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
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.
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!!”