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1731
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.



1802
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.



1868
Medical 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.


1868
Arkansas Governor Powell Clayton declares martial law in ten counties and mobilizes the state militia in a Ku Klux Klan crisis.


1890
On this 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 State Museum 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.



1901
The Boston Guardian newspaper was founded by William Monroe Trotter in Boston, Massachusetts.


1913
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.



1922
This date 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.


1923
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 Medal.

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 conference championships.

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.



1925
Oscar Micheaux’s movie “Body and Soul” is released. It marks the film debut of Paul Robeson.


1931
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.


1935
Robert “Bob” Gibson was born on this date. He was an African-American baseball player.

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, Nebraska.



1956
The first Black to sing a romantic lead at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City was Mattiwilda Dobbs as Gilda in Rigoletto.


1961
The Professional Golfers Association eliminates their Caucasians only rule.


1964
Roger Arliner 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.


1965
Willie Mays is named the National League’s Most Valuable Player.


1970
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.


1975
This is the birthday of the musician Sisqo.


1976
The United Nations General Assembly endorses 10 resolutions condemning apartheid in South Africa, including one that says the white-only government is “illegitimate.”


1982
Sugar Ray Leonard retires from professional boxing for the first time, because of a recurring eye problem sustained in a welterweight title match.


1990
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.


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