Benjamin Banneker was born
free on this date. He was a self-taught, black astronomer and mathematician.
From Ellicott Mills (now Ellicott City), MD, at the
age of 22, Benjamin Banneker created a working clock from wood after studying
the watch of a friend. It took him two years to finish the clock, which kept
accurate time in hours, minutes, and seconds until his death. It was the first clock made in America. Banneker
became interested in astronomy through a local surveyor named George Ellicott,
who loaned him astronomy books. In 1791, George Washington commissioned George
Ellicott and French engineer Pierre L’Enfant to help plan the construction of
the nation’s capital on a ten square mile area of land. Ellicott invited
Banneker to be his assistant. A dispute between some Americans and Frenchmen
led L’Enfant to abandon it and take the drafted plans with him. Over the course
of two days, Banneker reproduced the intricate plans from memory, a complete layout of the streets, parks, and major buildings, preventing
a major delay.
Shortly after returning to his farm in April 1791, Banneker issued his first of
some ten annual Farmer’s Almanacs, which were
published from 1792 to 1802 by several
printers and sold widely in both England
and the United States.
Banneker charted the movement of heavenly bodies and successfully predicted
several solar eclipses. Farmers and navigators relied on this important
information. Banneker and his sisters were born free and grew up on a
self-sufficient, 100-acre tobacco farm. Growing up, he spent much of his free
time devising and solving mathematical puzzles. It was not until after his
retirement from farming at the age of 59 that Banneker began to study astronomy
through borrowed books, becoming a man of science and mathematics through
unassisted experimentation and close observation of natural phenomena.
Benjamin Banneker built a clock out of wood, planned the survey for the
establishment of the city Washington,
DC, and published important
almanacs, and died in 1806.
Elijah Parish Lovejoy was born on
this date. He was an American abolitionist.
The son of a Congregational minister, and brother of Owen Lovejoy, he was born
in Albion, Maine. After graduating from Waterville College
in 1826, Lovejoy moved to St. Louis,
Missouri, where he established a
school before attending the Princeton Theological Seminary. In 1834 Lovejoy
became the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in St. Louis. He started a religious newspaper,
the St. Louis Observer, where he advocated the abolition of slavery. In 1836
Lovejoy published a full account of the lynching of an African- American in St. Louis and the
subsequent trial that acquitted the mob leaders.
This critical report angered some local people and his press was destroyed by a
white mob. Unable to publish his newspaper in St. Louis,
Lovejoy moved to Alton, Illinois where he became an active member of
the local Anti-Slavery Society. He also began editing the Alton Observer and
continued to advocate the end of slavery. Three times Lovejoy’s printing press
was seized by white mobs and thrown into the Mississippi
River. Lovejoy wrote in his paper: “We distinctly avow it to be
our settled purpose, never, while life lasts, to yield to this new system of
attempting to destroy, by means of mob violence, the right of conscience, the
freedom of opinion, and of the press.”
On November 7th 1837, Lovejoy received another press from the Ohio
Anti-Slavery Society. When local slave-owners heard about the arrival of the
new machine, they decided to destroy it. A group of his friends attempted to
protect it, but during the attack, Lovejoy was killed.
School at Howard University opens with eight students. Dr. Alexander T. Augusta was the
only Black man on the original five member faculty. He was the first Negro to
serve on the faculty of any American medical school.
Arkansas Governor Powell Clayton declares martial law in ten counties and mobilizes the state militia
in a Ku Klux Klan
date, we celebrate Palmer Hayden birth. He
was an African-American painter whose work was evident during the Harlem Renaissance.
Born Peyton Cole Hedgeman, in Widewater, Virginia, he lived in Paris
and New York
when he was a young man. During his life, Palmer Hayden made many
contributions. Like many artist, he got inspiration from the environment around
him. The inspiration for The Janitor Who Paints came from one of Palmer’s
friends whose name was Cloyde Boykin. Boykin was a painter who had to become a
janitor to support himself. Hayden once said, “I painted it because no one
called Cloyde a painter; they called him a janitor.” Many people consider this
painting to be an expression of the tough times Palmer was having.
Another one of Palmer Hayden’s contributions was his painting series on
African-American folk hero John Henry. This series consisted of twelve works and
took ten years to complete. John Henry was said to be a strong man who used a
hammer to create railroads and hammer tunnels through mountains. It was said
that he had the soul, the spirit, and the strength of a hero. Another of Palmer
Hayden’s painting was a painting called Fetiche et Fleurs (Fetish and Flowers).
This painting was started around 1925. It was shown in The Exhibition of the
Works of Negro Artists in 1933. It won the Mrs. John D. Rockefeller award and
was also in some other shows. Other exhibitions with his works have been shown
including the New Jersey
and the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune.
Palmer Hayden was a great artist who made many visual contributions to this
country. He died on February 18, 1973 at the age of 83.
The Boston Guardian newspaper was founded by William
Monroe Trotter in Boston, Massachusetts.
The birth of
Ted Rhodes is marked
on this date. He was an African-American golfer.
From Nashville, Tennessee, Rhodes grew up during segregated times in the south
as part of a poor family. He began his golf career as a 12-year-old caddie in
his segregated hometown teaching himself the game with a discarded two-iron in
a city park, a twig stuck in the grass, his flagstick. He caught the attention
of the golf-crazed Joe Louis in 1946 and then becoming the Brown Bomber’s
personal golf instructor in exchange for sponsorship. Rhodes was the brightest
star of the post-war United Golf Association, winning 150 times on the
Black-run summer tour, a golfing equivalent of baseball’s Negro Leagues.
He was the first black to play in the U. S. Open, in 1948, shooting 70 in the
first round at Riviera before fading into the pack behind winner Ben Hogan.
Rhodes was a quiet victim of the PGA’s deceit and fraud in keeping the games
country clubs Caucasian until it finally stooped to public pressure and the
courts in 1961. Rhodes died on July 4, 1969 in Nashville. Two years after his
death, Nashville officials renamed the nine-hole Cumberland Golf Course after
him. In 1993, the city christened an 18-hole daily-fee layout in his honor. In
1998 he was inducted into the Tennessee Hall of Fame.
marks the birth of Dorothy Jean Dandridge. She was an
African-American actress, singer, dancer, and entertainer and the first recognized African American actress and sex symbol.
Dorothy Jean Dandridge was from Cleveland, her mother was an aspiring actress
named Ruby Dandridge. Ruby had walked out on Dorothy’s father, moved into an
apartment with a friend, (Geneva Williams) who became instrumental in teaching
Dorothy and her sister singing, dancing and piano. They moved to Nashville and
were signed with the National Baptist Convention to tour churches throughout
the southern states. The Great Depression put a halt to progress and moved to
Hollywood. The Dandridge Sisters, as they were known, received an unaccredited
cameo in the film The Big Broadcast of 1936. They tried vaudeville and a stint at the Cotton Club where they
were a hit and soon toured Europe.
The girls returned to Hollywood, but they eventually split up due in part to
Dandridge’s increasing desire to have a solo career. In 1942, she married
Harold Nicholas, a daughter; Lynn was born a year later. By the time Lynn was
two, she noticed that Lynn was not acting normally; soon diagnosed as disabled.
Harold was often on the road touring and he did not offer much solace. In 1949,
they divorced. Ruby and Geneva looked after Lynn while Dandridge tried to
re-establish her career. She still wanted to act in films but she realized that
that possibility was slim.
She did not relish the thought of returning to nightclubs, especially in Las
Vegas where racism was almost a bad as in the south. The reviews were very good
and that would help her get film work at The Mocambo in Hollywood and numerous guest
television appearances. She also did minor movie
roles in a series of low-budget movies including “Tarzan’s Perils.” MGM offered and Dorothy
enthusiastically accepted a role an all black drama called Bright Road.
The film opened in April of 1953 to good reviews.
When Dandridge heard that an all Black production of Carmen Jones was
being planned, she knew this was the role she had dreamed of. The project in
1954 with Harry Belafonte, Pearl Bailey, Diahann
Carroll, and Brock Peters was the mastermind of Austrian director Otto
Preminger. Carmen Jones was a resounding success and Dandridge was the
first Black woman to be nominated in the category of Best Actress. In 1959,
came the film Porgy and Bess with Sidney
Poitier. She reluctantly accepted but the entire shoot was to be an
unhappy one and the reviews were mediocre.
However she won a Golden Globe Award for her performance. Dorothy’s life seemed
to unravel later that year. In 1963 she declared bankruptcy, continued to drink
heavily, was a very lonely woman and she often sounded disoriented. She was
given a prescription antidepressant drug that seemed to lift her spirits. On
the morning of September 8, 1965, Dorothy Dandridge was found lying dead on the
bathroom floor. Her death was from an overdose of the antidepressant that she
was taking. Many felt her death was a suicide. Dorothy’s
daughter, Harolyn, still lives in a California institution.
On this date
we remember the birth of Alice Coachman. She is an
African-American athlete who was the first black woman to win an Olympic Gold
From Albany, Georgia, the fifth of Fred and Evelyn Coachman’s ten children,
Coachman grew up in the segregated South. Barred from public sports facilities
because of her race, Coachman used whatever materials she could piece together
to practice jumping. Coping with a society that discouraged women from being
involved in sports, Coachman struggled to develop as an athlete.
Coachman received encouragement from her fifth-grade teacher, Cora Bailey, at
Monroe Street Elementary School and from her aunt, Carrie Spry, who defended
her niece’s interest in sports in the face of parental reservations. In 1938,
when Coachman enrolled in Madison High School, she immediately joined the track
team. The Madison boys’ track coach, Harry E. Lash, recognized and nurtured her
talent. She quickly attracted the attention of the Tuskegee Institute, in
Tuskegee, Alabama, where she enrolled in the high school program in 1939. Even
before classes started, she competed in and won her first Amateur Athletic
Union (AAU) national championship in the high jump.
That day she broke the AAU high school and college women’s high jump records
while barefoot. She won the AAU outdoor high jump championship for the next
nine years, also winning three indoor high jump championships. Coachman
excelled in the sprints and basketball as well; competing at Tuskegee Institute
from 1940 to 1946. There she won national track and field championships in the
50 and 100-meter dashes, the 4 X 100 meter relay, and the running high jump;
and as a guard, she led the Tuskegee basketball team to three consecutive
At Albany State College in Georgia, Coachman continued high jumping in a
personal style that combined straight jumping and the western roll technique.
At the 1948 Olympics in London, her teammate Audrey Patterson earned a bronze
medal in the 200-meter sprint to become the first Black woman to win a medal.
In the high jump finals Coachman leaped 5 feet 6 1/8 inches (1.68 m) on her
first try. Her nearest rival, Britain’s Dorothy Tyler, matched Coachman’s jump,
but only on her second try, making Coachman the only American woman to win a
gold medal in that year’s Games.
Altogether she won 25 AAU indoor and outdoor titles before retiring in 1948.
After getting her degree in home economics with a minor in science, Coachman
began teaching physical education. Now retired, she lives with her second
husband, Frank Davis in Alabama.
Oscar Micheaux’s movie “Body
and Soul” is released. It marks the film debut of Paul Robeson.
Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb is born. He will become a professional football star with the old
Baltimore Colts. He will enter the NFL without ever playing college football.
He will be considered one of the greatest defensive tackles in NFL history. He
will join the ancestors in May, 1963.
Robert “Bob” Gibson was born on this date. He was an African-American baseball
From Omaha, Nebraska he was named Pack Robert Gibson, after his father who died
3 months before his birth and changed his name to Robert when he turned 18.
Despite a childhood filled with health problems, including rickets, asthma,
pneumonia, and a heart murmur, he was active in sports particularly baseball
and basketball. After a standout career at Tech High in Omaha, Gibson won a
basketball scholarship to Creighton University.
In 1957, Gibson received a $4,000.00 bonus to play with the St. Louis
Cardinals. He delayed his start with the organization for a year, playing
basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters, earning the nickname “Bullet” Bob
Gibson (his nickname in baseball was “Hoot”. In 1958 he spent a year at the
triple-A farm club in his home town. He moved up to the major leagues in 1959
and had the first of nine 200-strikeout seasons in 1962.
Over 17 seasons (all) with the Cardinals, Gibson won 20 games five times and
established himself as the definition of intimidation, competitiveness, and
dignity. He posted a 1.12 ERA in 1968, the lowest figure since 1914, and was
named the National League Cy Young Award winner in 1968 and
1970 and the National League Most
Valuable Player in 1968. He also won the
Baseball Writers Award in 1968 and nine Gold Glove Awards. Known as a
premier big-game pitcher, Gibson posted World Series records in the 1964, 1967, and 1968 Series of seven consecutive wins and 17
strikeouts in a game, and was named World Series MVP in 1964 and 1967.
Gibson was a fierce competitor who rarely smiled and was known to hit players
when pitching to let them know who was in charge. Known by many as the best
pitcher in Cardinals history, Gibson dominated with his fastball, sharp slider,
and a slow, looping curve ball. He was inducted into the Major League Hall of
Fame in Cooperstown in 1981. Since retirement, he now resides in Bellevue,
The first Black to sing a romantic lead at
the Metropolitan Opera in New York City was Mattiwilda Dobbs as Gilda in Rigoletto.
The Professional Golfers Association eliminates their Caucasians only rule.
Young died on this date in New Orleans, LA. In
1940, she was the first black woman to receive a doctoral degree in zoology.
She received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She was born on
August 20, 1899 in Cifton Forge, VA.
Willie Mays is named the National League’s Most Valuable Player.
William L. Dawson, Democratic congressman, vice presidential candidate, the first Black
Vice Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and the first Black
congressman to chair a standing Congressional committee, dies on this date at
the age of 84.
This is the birthday of the musician Sisqo.
The United Nations General Assembly endorses 10 resolutions condemning apartheid in South Africa, including one that says the white-only government is “illegitimate.”
Sugar Ray Leonard retires from professional boxing for the first time, because of a
recurring eye problem sustained in a welterweight title match.
Freedom Bank in New York City, one of the largest African American-owned banks in
the nation, is declared insolvent. Its losses in 1988-1989 totaled $4.7
million, and it was expected to lose $2 million in 1990. A last-minute effort
to revive the bank by raising funds from the local Harlem community will fail
to meet the government-imposed deadline.