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354
Saint Augustine was born on this date. He was a Black saint, philosopher, and doctor.

He was the eldest son of Saint Monica of Saint Augustine.
Aurelius Augustinus (his birth name) was born in Africa, educated in Roman, and a Milanese by baptism. He spent his early years in what is now know as Souk-Ahras, Algeria. Often called Augustine of Hippo “The knowledgeable one” by the Roman Catholic Church, he was considered by Evangelical Protestants to be (together with the Apostle Paul and the Bible) the theological fountainhead of the Reformation teaching on salvation and grace.

His famous autobiography, “Confessions”, spotlights the tormented self-depreciation that underpins Augustine’s theology and flavors over a century of Christian faith. Saint Augustine still inspires many Christians all over the world Saint Augustine died on August 28, 430 as vandals were besieging the city of Hippo; that date is now a day that Catholics honor him.



1839
The first anti-slavery political party, the Liberty Party, is organized and convenes in Warsaw, New York. Samuel Ringgold Ward and Henry Highland Garnet are two of the earliest supporters of the new political party.


1894
A.C. Richardson patents the casket lowering device. Patent #529,311.


1894
On this date, Bennie Moten was born. He was an African-American pianist and one of the earliest known organizers of bands in the Midwest in the emergent years of jazz.

Moten was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He became a band leader in and around his hometown in 1922 and remained so until his death. His recording debut was in 1923; and, although many of his recordings sound unremarkable, he is regarded as a figure of great importance in the development of the larger jazz orchestra.

His achievements being verified when, after his death, the remnants of his group were taken up by his second pianist, Count Basie, and fashioned into a new, far more streamlined orchestra destined to become one of the outstanding orchestras in jazz history. Bennie Moten died in 1935.



1899
This date celebrates the birth of Albert John Luthuli. He was a black South African leader and Nobel recipient.

Born in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), the son of well-respected members of the Zulu ethnic group. Luthuli was educated at the mission school in which he later taught (1921-1936). In 1936 he was elected chief of the Zulu Abasemakholweni tribe in Groutville. Luthuli joined the African National Congress in 1946 and took an increasingly active role in campaigns to abolish apartheid in South Africa. In 1952 he was removed as chief by the South African government and was forbidden to enter major South African cities and towns for one year.

At that time he was elected president-general of the African National Congress. Because of his persistent political actions, he was restricted to his farm in Groutville for another two years in 1953, and again for five years in 1959. For his nonviolent resistance to South African apartheid policies, Luthuli was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize. For years later, the government extended its restrictions against Luthuli for another five years. His autobiography, Let My People Go, was published in 1962. He died five years later.



1910
Painter and printmaker, Wilmer Angier Jennings, is born in Atlanta, Georgia. A graduate of Morehouse College and student of Hale Woodruff, Jennings will be employed by the Public Works for Art Project and Works Progress Administration in the 1930’s, where he will paint murals and landscape paintings, and produce prints.


1911
Buck O’Neil was born on this date. He was an African-American baseball player and manager.

John Jordan O’Neil was from Carrabelle, Florida and was initially denied the opportunity to attend high school by racial segregation; at the time, Florida had only four high schools specifically for African Americans. However, after working a summer in a celery field with his father, O’Neil left home to live with relatives and attend a black high school elsewhere in the state.

He left Florida in 1934 for several years of semi-professional “barnstorming” experiences (playing interracial exhibition games), where one of his teammates was the legendary Satchel Paige. The effort paid off, and in 1937, O’Neil signed with the Memphis Red Sox for their first year of play in the newly-formed Negro American League. His contract was sold to the Monarchs the following year.

O’Neil had a career batting average of .288, including four.300-plus seasons at the plate. In 1946 the first baseman led the leagues in hitting with a.353 average and followed that in 1947 with a career-best.358 mark. He also posted averages of.345 in 1940 and.330 in 1949. He played in four East-West All-Star games and the Negro League World Series twice. A World War II tour in the U.S. Navy from 1943 to 1945 briefly interrupted his playing career. In 1948 he took over as player/manager of the Monarchs and guided them to two league titles in 1953 and 1955.

In 1956, O’Neil was hired by the Chicago Cubs as a scout. Perhaps his greatest achievement came in 1962, when he became the first African-American coach in the Major Leagues with the Cubs. As a scout he discovered superstars like Lou Brock and Joe Carter. After 33 years with the Cubs, he returned home, in 1988, to scout for the Kansas City Royals.

O’Neil chaired the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum Board of the Directors, and serves on the Veterans’ Committee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. A member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, he missed being inducted in Cooperstown, New York by one vote. Buck O’Neil died on October 6, 2006 in Kansas City.



1913
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, the first physician to perform open heart surgery, becomes a member of the American College of Surgeons.


1922
Black Renaissance begins Harlem, NY.


1928
The founding of the Dixie Hummingbirds is celebrated on this date. They are an African-American Gospel singing group.

The Dixie Hummingbirds started in the late 1920s in Greenville, South Carolina. In their beginning they were Members of the Church of God Holiness choir in Greenville’s Meadow Bottoms neighborhood. The original quartet included
Bonnie Gipson, Jr. (lead tenor), James Davis (tenor), Barney Parks (baritone), and J. B. Matterson (bass). First called the Junior Boys they were immersed in the Black American spiritual tradition of the times. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, Ezekiel Saw he Wheel, and Old Black Joe were part of their regular repertoire. When they started high school, they changed their name to the Sterling High School Quartet.

They took their first step toward a professional career after graduating at the annual national convention of the Church of God Holiness in Atlanta, Georgia and decided to take off from there. They emulated musical groups like the Golden Gate Quartet, the Southernaires and the Heavenly Gospel Singers. The Dixie Hummingbirds made their first recordings in 1939 when only James Davis and Barney Parks remained. The new members were tenor Wilson Baker and bass singer Jimmy Bryant. In 1942, the Dixie Hummingbirds moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and shortly after they had a regular show over WCAU radio and a long-term engagement at Cafe Society, a New York City nightclub, where they were billed as the Jericho Quartet.

The Hummingbirds’ popularity began to grow as their harmonies became more sophisticated. Their virtuosity did not go unnoticed by audiences, and throughout the mid-1940s as the group regularly played to packed houses throughout the south. In 1944, they recorded first for the Regis and Manor labels, and later for the Apollo label in New York City. The group’s personnel had again changed with Davis as the only original to remain. In 1952, The Hummingbirds began recording for Peacock Records. For the next 24 years, the group would remain the same: Ira Tucker, James Walker, James Davis, Beachey Thompson, William Bobo, and Howard Carroll.

After earning a standing ovation for their performance at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, they essentially retired from mainstream appearances to focus solely on the church circuit. They came back into popularity in 1973, backing Paul Simon on his pop smash “Loves Me Like a Rock.” The death of Willie Bobo in 1976 brought to a sad end a lengthy chapter of the Hummingbirds’ history.” After Davis retired in 1984, their current lineup included Ira Tucker, Paul Owens, Howard Carroll, Carl Davis and William Bright.

Tucker continued leading the group at the 20th century’s end, recruiting new blood to keep the Dixie Hummingbirds’ spirit alive, celebrating their seventh decade with 1999’s Music in the Air: The 70th Anniversary All-Star Tribute. The Dixie Hummingbirds remain one of the leading gospel quartets on the road today.



1928
Hampton Hawes was born on this date. He was an African-American musician.

From Los Angeles, California, he came from a musical family (his mother played piano for the church run by his Presbyterian minister father), Hawes taught himself to play piano by listening to records of 30s jazz piano giants. He began to play professionally while still attending the Polytechnic High School. Hawes worked in New York but soon returned to Los Angeles, where he became an important piece of the burgeoning “west coast” school of jazz. He worked with Howard McGhee’s band and Charlie Parker.

Hawes’s first recording date was with Dexter Gordon and Wardell Gray in 1947. He played with Shorty Rogers on his 1951 Modern Sounds recording session and was occasionally at the Lighthouse Club during these years. Unfortunately, Hawes had developed a drug habit and his induction into the US Army did little to help his situation. After spending time in military prison for drugs-related offences, Hawes visited Japan where he became an early admirer and lifelong friend of Toshiko Akiyoshi.

In 1955, Hawes recorded for Contemporary Records and formed a trio, with Red Mitchell and Chuck Thompson. The trio’s first album was successful but and expanded to a quartet, with the addition of guitarist Jim Hall. This set established Hawes as a major figure. Also in the mid-50s Hawes recorded with artists including Art Pepper, Bill Perkins and Charles Mingus, and a 1958 record date, “For Real!,” with Harold Land, was the last for some time. Despite urgings and advice, Hawes had sunk into acute drug dependency.

He went to prison for heroin possession at a time when his musical importance and influence were at their height. Released in 1963 by order of President John F. Kennedy, Hawes returned to recording for Contemporary and other labels in the USA, Europe and Japan. In the 70s, Hawes recorded studio and festival sessions, sometimes using electric piano. His autobiography is called “Raise Up Off Me,” 1974. Hampton Hawes died on 22 May 1977, Los Angeles, California.



1940
On this date, the Supreme Court ruled in Hansberry v. Lee. This decision stated by law that whites can’t bar African-Americans from white neighborhoods.

Three years earlier (1937),
Carl A. Hansberry, a black businessman, defied the Woodlawn Property Owners’ Association by successfully negotiating the purchase of a building at 6140 Rhodes Avenue. At about the same time Harry H. Pace, a prominent black attorney and president of the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company, purchased a building just east of South Park Way on Sixtieth Street. Anna M. Lee, a White signatory of the restrictive covenant, filed suit against Hansberry and Pace for $100,000.

When the circuit court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs for equity, the defendants carried their fight to the Supreme Court of Illinois, which also upheld the legality of the restrictive covenant, by a vote of six to one, and ordered confiscation of Hansberry’s property. On this date 1940, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed the decision but did not hold that restrictive covenants are void.

It ruled for Hansberry on a legal technicality, that an agreement between two property owners respecting the number of signatories to the restrictive covenant agreement is fraudulent. The attorney for Hansberry was Earl B. Dickerson.



1949
Whoopi Goldberg was born on this date. She is an African American actress and comedian.

Caryn E. Johnson (her name at birth) was raised with her brother Clyde by her mother in a housing project in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, New York. She began acting at the age of 8 in children’s plays with the Hudson Guild Theatre. By the late 1960s she dropped out of the NY School for the Performing Arts to become a hippy. She also worked in choruses with various musicals. Johnson married, had a daughter, and developed a heroin habit. In the 1970s she divorced, kicked her drug habit, and moved to southern California.

In San Diego, she became one of the founding members of the San Diego Repertory Theatre. She also worked with an improv theatre group called Spontaneous Combustion. It was during this time that Johnson changed her name to Whoopi Goldberg. She had moved to Berkeley in the late 1970’s and begun performing with the Blake Street Hawkeyes Theater. She also worked as a bricklayer, a bank teller, and a mortuary cosmetologist. It was in Berkeley that she began performing monologues that would become The Spook Show. It toured Europe and the United States and performed in New York City as part of the New York Dance Theatre Workshop in 1983.

It was here that Goldberg caught the eye of stage and screen director Mike Nichols. He helped Goldberg put together a one woman show for Broadway which actually began in Berkeley. Called Moms, the one woman play co-written by Goldberg and Ellen Sebastian. In 1984 she returned to New York to perform The Spook Show now renamed Whoopi Goldberg.

In 1986 Goldberg, Billy Crystal, and Robin Williams began hosting Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. She has also starred in such plays as Love Letters and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. In addition to her film, stage, and television work, Goldberg has also written a children’s book, Alice and an autobiography entitled Book. Goldberg has gone on to star in numerous films including The Color Purple one of her signature cinematic performances. In 1988, Goldberg also performed in Clara’s Heart.

Her attempt at sitcoms failed with the short-lived series Bagdad Cafe, but she did find greater television success in the syndicated Star Trek: The Next Generation. Around the same time, Goldberg’s won acclaim for The Long Walk Home (1989), and then played an eccentric con artist possessing unexpected psychic powers in the 1990 smash hit Ghost. Goldberg’s funny yet moving performance earned her first Oscar and the widespread opinion that this marked her comeback performance. The Award made her only the second African American woman to win an Oscar. After a couple of missteps, Goldberg scored again with the 1992 hit comedy Sister Act. Nominated for Golden Globes and two NAACP awards, the film spawned mass ticket sales and an unsuccessful 1993 sequel, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit.

Meanwhile, Goldberg also continued her television work with a 1992 late night talk show. A laid back affair that ran for 200 episodes, it was praised by critics but failed to secure high ratings and went on permanent hiatus after only six months. However, Goldberg continued to appear on TV with her recurring role as a Comic Relief co-host and as an MC for the Academy Awards ceremony, a role she reprised multiple times. At the same time, Goldberg continued to work in film, doing both comedy and drama and experiencing the obligatory highs and lows.

Some of her more memorable roles included Made in America (1993), Boys on the Side (1995), The Associate (1996), How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998), and The Deep End of the Ocean (1999). In addition, Goldberg also appeared in two notable documentaries, The Celluloid Closet (1995), and Get Bruce!



1951
Janet Collins became the first Black prima ballerina when she appeared with the New York Metropolitan Opera Company to perform Verdi’s Aida on this day. She was 34. As the Met’s premiere danseuse, she danced the lead in Carmen, Samson and Delilah, and La Gioconda. Born in New Orleans, her family moved to Los Angeles shortly after her birth. While she was young, Collins wanted to study ballet, but being Black prevented acceptance to dance classes. However, she refused to give up and found a private instructor. At 15, Collins’ teacher told her to try for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The troupe’s choreographer, Leonide Massine, did not accept Collins, although he recognized her talent. But she didn’t stop. Collins went on to Los Angeles to study under Katherine Dunham, who led a landmark modern dance company. After Collins left the stage in the mid-1950s, she taught dance at St. Joseph School for the Deaf in the Bronx. Collins died May 28, 2003.


1956
After a legal defense of segregation, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision banning segregation on city buses in Montgomery, Alabama. The Court established grounds for challenging bus segregation in nine states that had violated the 15th Amendment. Federal injunctions prohibiting segregation on the buses were served on city, state and bus company officials on December 20th. At two mass meetings, the Montgomery Bus Boycott that had started more than a year earlier was called off and was officially over. Buses were integrated on December 21st.


1956
Dancer Geoffrey Holder begins a contract with the Metropolitan Opera. Holder will dance in 26 performances, including “Aida” and “La Perichole”, and his career will include dance, acting, and art collecting.


1967
Carl Stokes becomes the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city when he is inaugurated mayor of Cleveland, Ohio.


1973
Reggie Jackson, of the Oakland Athletics, unanimously wins the American League MVP award.


1985
Dwight Gooden, the youngest 20 game winner in Major League baseball history, wins the Cy Young award.


1992
Riddick Bowe wins the undisputed heavyweight boxing title in Las Vegas with a unanimous decision over Evander Holyfield.


1996
A grand jury in St. Petersburg, Florida, declines to indict police officer Jim Knight, who had shot African American motorist TyRon Lewis to death the previous month. The decision prompts angry mobs to return to the streets.


1996
An all-white jury in Pittsburgh acquits a suburban police officer, John Vojtas, in the death of African American motorist Johnny Gammage in a verdict that angers African American activists.


2006
On this date, the Ceremonial Groundbreaking for the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial took place.

To be located on the National Mall (Independence Avenue and West Basin Drive) in Washington, D.C., it was planned by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity to be constructed as a permanent testament to African-American civil rights leader and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity member Martin Luther King, Jr. The memorial will have three underlying themes: justice, democracy and hope highlighted by the use of water, stone and trees respectively throughout the memorial.

Dr. King will be the first African American honored with his own memorial in the National Mall area and the third non-President to be commemorated in such a way. The King Memorial will be administered by the National Park Service.


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1890

D. McCree is granted a patent for the portable fire escape. Patent #440,322.