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This date marks the birth of Lewis Temple. He was a black inventor.

He was the creator of a whaling harpoon, known as “Temple’s Toggle” and “Temple’s Iron” that became the standard harpoon of the whaling industry in the middle of the 19th century. Lewis Temple was a skilled blacksmith, not a whaler. He was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia and came to New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1829. By 1836, Temple was one of the 315,000 free Black people in the United States and a successful businessman who operated a whale craft shop on the New Bedford waterfront.

Based on conversations with the whalers who came to his shop to have their whaling tools made and to buy harpoons, Temple learned that many whales escaped, since the harpoons used at the time were not particularly effective in holding a struggling whale. In 1848, Lewis Temple invented a new type of harpoon, with a movable head that prevented the whale from slipping loose. The Temple Iron was more effective than any other and when the head on Temple’s harpoon became locked in the whale’s flesh, and the only way to free the harpoon was to cut it loose after the whale was killed. Initially, whalers did not accept Temple’s harpoon.

However, after some trials, most whaling captains were convinced that Temple’s “Toggle Iron” was far superior to the ordinary barbed head harpoon. Lewis Temple never patented his invention, but was able to make a good living from his harpoon sales. Temple was able to buy the building next to his shop and, in 1854, arranged for construction of a blacksmith shop near Steamboat Wharf. Temple accidentally fell one night while walking near his new shop construction site. He never fully recovered from his injuries.

Temple was unable to return to work and died destitute in May 1854. Clifford Ashley, author of the book, The Yankee Whaler, said that Temple’s harpoon was “the single most important invention in the whole history of whaling.”

The birth of Rev. James William Charles Pennington is celebrated on this date. He was a black Educator, Clergyman, and author.

From Maryland’s Eastern Shore Pennington’s mother, brothers, and he were sold when he was four from other family members on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He ran away from a harsh slave life to a Quaker family in Pennsylvania. Through the Underground Railroad, he found a home on Long Island where he was able to get a fundamental education. He taught in schools on Long Island, and in Connecticut.

In the late 1830’s, he emerged as a leader in Black churches in New England. He became political and was active in the Union Missionary Society, which encouraged boycotts on items produced by slaves. Soon after Pennington took charge of a Presbyterian congregation of colored people, went to England, the West Indies, and returned to the Shiloh Presbyterian Colored Congregation. He was sent as a Delegate to the Peace Congress at Paris in 1849 to preach and attended the National Levee at the mansion of the Foreign Secretary of State, Minister Alexis De Tocqueville.

While in Europe, Pennington earned the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Heidelberg in Germany. In 1843 he attended the World’s Anti-Slavery Society and was the representative from Connecticut. In the 1850’s in New York, he helped to organize one of the nation’s earliest civil rights societies—the New York Legal Rights Association. He traveled to Europe in his cause for world human rights, and anti-slavery. While abroad, his freedom was purchased from his former owner.

He was a prolific writer, and is noted for his prose, religious leadership and abolitionist efforts. In 1843 he represented Connecticut at the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, the first of several international tours in Europe on behalf of the international abolition movement. He continued to minister, educate, and agitate for abolition and equal rights up to his death in 1870 in Jacksonville Florida.

This date marks the birth of James A. Bland. He was a Black entertainer and composer, born in Flushing, New York.

Bland was one of the best-known black composers for the theatrical entertainment called the minstrel show. He was educated in Washington, DC, where he graduated from Howard University in 1873. He went on to become a performer in minstrel shows, achieving his greatest success in Britain between 1882 and 1901.

He wrote more than 700 songs, mostly for minstrel shows, among them “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny,” which was chosen in 1940 as the state song of Virginia with the Virginia
state legislature little knowing the identity and race of its composer, “In the Evening by the Moonlight,” and “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers.” Virginia decided to change their state song in the late 1990s due to protest from civil rights activists who noted that the song glorified slavery and was and is inappropriate. Bland spent the latter years of his life in poverty and obscurity, and James Bland died on May 5, 1911 of tuberculosis in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On this date, we celebrate the founding of Oakwood College. They are a certified United Negro College Fund (UNCF) institution.

For over 100 years Oakwood has provided students the opportunity of learning in preparation for service to community, country, and the world. The college is regionally accredited by the Southern Accrediting Association of Colleges and Schools and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Department of Education. It offers a liberal arts curriculum in a religious atmosphere. Oakwood College rest on nearly 1,000 acres in Huntsville in northwest Alabama. It is nestled in the beautiful Tennessee Valley at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Huntsville is home for the Marshall Space Center, and is recognized as being one of the most progressive cities in America.

The diverse mix of students from many foreign countries and over 40 states provides an enriched environment that exposes their students to the richness of different cultures. Oakwood College fosters the development of self-esteem, respect for others, and the required skills to be socially adaptable and globally successful.

Three thousand African Americans demonstrated and rioted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to protest a theatrical presentation of Thomas Dixon’s “The Clansman.” “The Clansman” extended the true story of the “Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy,” which overturned Reconstruction.

George Leighton was born on this date. He is an African-American attorney, judge and activist.

Raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, George Neves Leitao (his birth name) is the son of Anna Silva Garcia and Antonio Neves Leitao; both were from Cape Verde. It was in school that he got the name “Leighton” as the teacher claimed she could not pronounce his last name “Leitao.” His parents, wanting no problems for their son, agreed. Due to his family’s need for money, Leighton left school before the 7th grade to take a job on an oil tanker in the (then) Dutch West Indies, (now) Netherlands Antilles.

In 1935, as a memorial to the sinking of the USS Nantucket by the SS Olympic, the Cape Verdeans of New Bedford, Massachusetts, under the leadership of Alfred J. Gomes, a lawyer, created the Cape Verdean Memorial Scholarship Fund. In the early winter of 1936, the first essay contest was held and two prizes were awarded for the best essays submitted; each for $200.00. They were to provide initial tuition for the winners in any college of their choice. Leighton, seeking to complete his education through a scholarship won one of the awards.

He gained conditional admittance to Howard University that year and graduated magna cum laude four years later. Drafted into military service in 1940, Leighton became an infantry captain. In 1945, he entered Harvard, earned an L.L.B. in 1946 and passed the Illinois bar exam the following year. He was chairman of the Legal Redress Committee of the Chicago NAACP between 1947 and 1952, and president of the Third Ward Regular Democratic Organization. A From 1949 to 1951 he was assistant attorney general of Illinois. In 1951, he co-founded one of the largest African American law firms in the country and the next year, he became the Chicago Branch NAACP president.

In 1964, Leighton was elected a Cook County Circuit Court judge and began teaching at the John Marshall Law School the next year. In 1969, Leighton became a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Illinois’ First District. After six years, he was nominated to serve as a U.S. District Court judge. Leighton retired from the U.S. District Court at the age of seventy-five but began counseling at Earl L. Neal & Associates. Leighton has played a leadership role in governmental groups, serving as chairman of the Character and Fitness Committee for the First Appellate District of Illinois and chairman of the Illinois Advisory Committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

A man with a lifelong passion for the game of Chess, Leighton has also participated in civic groups, serving on the board of directors of the United Church of Christ and Grant Hospital. He and his late wife, Virginia Berry Quivers, have two daughters, Virginia Anne and Barbara Elaine.

Lucy D. Slowe, dean of women at Howard University, organizer of the National Association of College Women, and a founder of AKA, Inc., died in Washington, DC, at the age of 52. Slowe Hall, a residence for women located on the Howard campus, is named in her honor.

Charles Cooper and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton become two of the first three African Americans to play in an NBA game. Cooper had been drafted by the Boston Celtics on April 25, 1950, becoming the first African American ever drafted by a NBA team.

Frank E. Peterson, Jr. is commissioned as the first African American marine aviation officer.

Clarence S. Green becomes the first African-American certified in neurological surgery.


The first African American post office opens in Atlanta, Georgia.

225,000 students boycott Chicago public schools in a Freedom Day protest against de facto segregation.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Spike Lee says, “Movies are the most powerful medium in the world and we just can’t sit back and let other people define our existence, especially when they’re putting lies out there on the screens.”

President George H.W. Bush vetoes major civil rights legislation, arguing that the measure would force employers to adopt hiring quotas. The veto is later upheld.

Thirty African American delegates conclude a three-day visit to the Republic of South Africa at the invitation of the African National Congress. While there, TransAfrica’s Randall Robinson charges President George H.W. Bush with failing to exert his influence to end Black township strife and Congresswoman Maxine Waters vows to press United States’ cities and states to maintain sanctions against the republic.

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