The birth of
York is celebrated on this date. He was a
black slave and explorer.
York was born in Caroline
County, Virginia. He lived near the county’s York River where as a child he ran basically naked and
barefoot most of the year. His diet would have been high in starch and low in
protein. He lived in a cabin surrounded by a dirt yard. York’s
life conditions improved when he became Clark’s
slave. This occurred when both were around fifteen. Clark inherited York, along with a couple believed to have been York’s parents (Old York
and Rose). They accompanied the Clark family when they moved to Kentucky in the late
There York grew up in an environment where race
relations were more humane than in Virginia.
Some slaves handled guns; others were able to buy goods on credit. Some worked
in mines with whites. The forest environment there might have encouraged York to hone the
wilderness skills that would later become invaluable on the Lewis and Clark
expedition. Clark recruited nine Kentuckians
and began training in October 1803. The group included York and left a few weeks later; it was
called the Corps of Discovery. Historians say York
quickly earned Clark’s respect as a scout and
hunter, even carrying a gun.
Clark eventually freed York
sometime after 1815 and gave him a wagon and horses for a freight-hauling
venture. But the business failed, and York
eventually died of cholera, probably between 1822 and 1832.
General George Washington issues an order forbidding recruiting officers from enlisting African
Twenty slaves petition New Hampshire’s legislature to abolish slavery. They argue that “the god of nature gave them life
and freedom upon the terms of most perfect equality with other men; that
freedom is an inherent right of the human species, not to be surrendered but by
On this date
we recall the birth of William
Edmondson. He was a black sculptor and the first Black artist to achieve
a one-man museum exhibition in America.
A child of slaves he was born in the Hillsboro
section of Davidson County, next to Nashville,
Tennessee. His father died while
he, four brothers and a sister were young. His education was minimal and his
early job resume consisted of labor on farms and as an orderly in the Baptist Hospital
everywhere he worked he was known for his independence and wit. It was in 1931
that he began working as a stonemason’s helper. It was here where the sculptor
in him emerged.
He forged and ground his own chisels from old railroad spikes and the steady
ring of his hammer became a neighborhood sound. Through the depression this
slow, lonely work crated many animal forms, ‘critters” as he called them; if
anyone remarked about them he‘d say it was “the Lord’s gift.” In about 1934,
Sidney Hirsch from Vanderbilt
University came upon
Edmondson and his work. Amazed at the beauty, the pieces came to the attention
of Alfred and Elizabeth Starr who knew members of the board of the Museum of Modern Art.
From October to December in 1937, his exhibit was shown. Unfortunately racism
kept a damper on the success of the show. The editor of Harper’s Bazaar
attempting to write an article on Edmondson was stopped by it publisher,
William Randolph Hearst who had a terrible prejudice about Black people being
shown as anything but servants in his magazine. Also his hometown remained
racially entrenched to his success as well.
He did not get his first showing in Nashville until 1941 and it was not until
1951 that the Nashville Artist Guild presented a large exhibit of his work, the
year he died.
Lane College is founded in Jackson, Tennessee.
Moses Williams is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery in the Battle of Cuchillo Negro Mountains, in New Mexico.
African-American painter Henry O. Tanner was one of
the 6,916 American exhibitors at the Paris Exposition which closed its gates on this day. Tanner won a silver medal for his
On this date,
Buck Clayton was born.
He was an African-American jazz musician.
One of the yeoman trumpeters of the swing era, Buck Clayton’s career extended
into the early-‘90s as an arranger and band leader. Clayton was born in
Parsons, Kansas, and began piano lessons at age 6 and switched to trumpet at
16. The early days of his career were spent in California, where he organized a
band to play in Shanghai in ‘34. After returning to California he continued to
lead his own groups. During a tour to the Midwest he met Count Basie, who hired
him to replace Hot Lips Page as soloist and arranger.
Clayton’s trumpet style — a full, clear tone, warm lyricism, with swinging
improvisations derived from Louis Armstrong and the often overlooked Joe Smith
can be heard on Basie’s early recordings such as Swingin’ The Blues, Jumpin’ At
The Woodside and Good Morning Blues. He also played sessions with Billie
Holiday and jams produced by John Hammond and later with Jazz at the
Philharmonic. After leaving Basie he led his own groups, toured Europe and
worked with Jimmy Rushing. Clayton appeared in the film The Benny Goodman Story
and played with Sidney Bechet at the World’s Fair in Brussels.
In ‘59 he joined Eddie Condon’s band, touring Japan and Australia with the
group in ‘64. He made annual tours of Europe in the ‘60s, appearing at major
jazz festivals both there and in the States. Medical and dental woes ended that
career in the late ‘60s, though he got some of his chops back and continued to
play into the ‘70s, touring Africa for the State Department in ‘77, and Europe
with the Countsmen in ‘83.
Clayton taught at Hunter College in the early ‘80s and formed a big band
featuring Howard Alden and Dan Barrett to play his arrangements in ‘87. Buck
Clayton died on December 8, 1991.
On this date
we remember the birth of Daisy Bates. She was an
African-American civil rights activist who coordinated the integration of
Little Rock, Arkansas’s Central High School.
Born in Huttig, Ark., Daisy Lee Gatson Bates never knew her parents; her mother
was killed by three white men after she resisted their sexual advances; her
father left town, fearing reprisals if he sought to prosecute those
responsible. Orlee and Susie Smith, friends of her parents, adopted her. In
1941, she married L. C. Bates, a journalist. They moved to Little Rock,
Arkansas, and established a newspaper, the Arkansas State Press; it became the
leading African American newspaper in the state and a powerful voice in the
Civil Rights Movement.
It was as president of the Arkansas state conference of the NAACP that Bates
coordinated the efforts to integrate Little Rock’s public schools after the
Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed segregated public
schools in 1954. Nine African-American students, the “Little Rock Nine,” were
admitted to Little Rock’s Central High School for the 1957-1958 school year.
Violent white reaction against integration forced President Dwight D.
Eisenhower to order 1000 army paratroopers to Little Rock to restore order and
protect the children.
Bates was the students’ leading advocate, escorting them safely to school until
the crisis was resolved. She continued to serve the children, intervening with
school officials during conflicts, and accompanying parents to school meetings.
In 1962, Bates published her memoir of the Little Rock crisis, The Long Shadow
of Little Rock.
of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. occurred on
this date. This was the first African-American sorority founded at a
predominantly white college.
Sigma Gamma Rho was organized at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana by
seven school teachers: Mary Lou Allison (Gardner) Little, Dorothy Hanley Whiteside, Vivian White Marbury, Nannie Mae Gahn Johnson, Hattie Mae Annette Dulin Redford, Bessie Mae Downey Martin, and Cubena McClure. The group became an incorporated
national collegiate sorority on December 30, 1929, when a charter was granted
to Alpha chapter at Butler. The sorority is based on a desire to raise the standards of teachers in normal and other schools.
Their first three years were devoted to organizing and Sigma Gamma Rho
continues to grow through Sisterhood, Scholarship and Service. The sorority has
supports the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People,
National Council of Negro Women, National Pan Hellenic Council, Leadership
Conference on Civil Rights, National Urban League, March of Dimes Birth Defects
Foundation, National Mental Health Association, United Negro College Fund,
Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, Black Women’s Agenda
and American Association of University Women.
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. has over 400 chapters in the United States,
Bermuda, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas and Germany. Founder
Vivian White Marbury is still witnessing the progress of the sisterhood she
Opera instructor Mary
Cardwell Dawson and internationally famed opera coloratura Madam Lillian Evanti establish the National
Negro Opera Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to provide
more opportunities for African Americans to sing and study opera. The company’s
first opera, Verdi’s “Aida”, will be staged the following August at the annual
meeting of the National Association of Negro Musicians. In its 21-year history,
its performers will include Evanti, Minto Cato, and Robert McFerrin. The Opera
Company remained in the steel city until 1960 and lasted outright until 1962.
Sammy Sosa was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.
South Africa is suspended from the U.N. General Assembly over its racial policies.
Ernest Nathan (Dutch) Morial, a lawyer, was elected the first Black mayor of New Orleans in this
day. His election made news throughout the nation. Morial served two terms from
1978 to 1986, He created the first Office of Economic Development to coordinate
the city’s efforts to retain and attract business and the first minority
business enterprise counselor to assist small and minority owned businesses. A
New Orleans native, born on October 9, 1929, he entered Xavier University in
New Orleans and graduated in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in business
administration. Morial took an interest in the Louisiana political arena and began
his law career in 1954. From 1965 to 1967, hew was Louisiana’s first Black
assistant U.S. attorney. In 1967, he was the first Black since the
Reconstruction to be elected to the Louisiana legislature. Morial died December
The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is awarded to Alexander P. Haley “for his unsurpassed effectiveness in portraying the legendary story
of an American of African descent.”
Rudolph died at the age of 54 in her home in