The life of Zumbi
is celebrated on this date. He was an Afro-Brazilian
abolitionist and soldier.
Zumbi pronounced: “Zoom-bee”) was an Afro-Brazilian slave and one of the most famous leaders of Palmares. As a child he was given to a missionary, Father Antonio Melo at age 6. Baptized Francisco Zumbi, he was taught the sacraments, learned Portuguese and Latin, and helped with daily mass. Despite attempts to “convert” him, Zumbi escaped in 1670 and, at the age of 15, returned to his birthplace. Zumbi became known for his physical prowess and cunning in battle and was a respected military strategist by the time he was in his early twenties.
In 1678, the governor of the captaincy of Pernambuco offered its leader
Ganga Zumba freedom for all runaway slaves if Palmares would submit to
Portuguese authority, a proposal which Ganga Zumba favored. Zumbi rejected
the deal and challenged Ganga Zumba’s leadership. Vowing to continue the
resistance to Portuguese oppression, Zumbi became the new leader of Palmares.
Fifteen years later, Portugual mounted an artillery assault on the quilombo.
On February 6, 1694, after 67 years of ceaseless conflict with the cafuzos,
or Maroons, (a Portuguese term describing the first generation offspring
of a Black African and an Amerindian) of Palmares, the Portuguese destroyed
Cerca do Macaco.
Zumbi was wounded, betrayed, captured almost two years later and immediately
executed (beheaded) on November 20, 1695. Today, November 20 is celebrated,
chiefly in Rio de Janeiro,
as a day of national pride. The day has special meaning for Afro-Brazilians,
who honor him as a hero, freedom fighter and a symbol of freedom. Zumbi was was
the last of the leaders of Quilombo dos Palmares, in the present-day state of Alagoas, Brazil.
African Americans hold a nearly week long protest convention in Zion Church in Charleston, South Carolina and demand equal rights and repeal of
the “Black Codes,” which restricted the movement
and freedom of freedmen.
On this date, Howard University was
founded. They are one of over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities
(HBCU)’s in America.
General Oliver O. Howard established Howard Theological Seminary in an abandoned
dance hall, today called Howard
University. With a campus
covering eighty-nine acres in northwest Washington
D.C., presently more than 10,000 students are enrolled there and 88 per cent are African-American.
The first African-American president of Howard was Mordecai Wyatt Johnson.
Today, it has become America’s
largest predominantly African-American university.
Charles Gilpin was born on this date. He was an African-American actor and singer.
From Richmond, Virginia, Charles
Sidney Gilpin worked as an apprentice in the Richmond Planet print
shop before finding his career in theater and becoming one of the most highly
regarded actors of the 1920s. He first came on stage as a singer at the age of
twelve. In 1896, Gilpin joined a minstrel show, leaving Richmond and beginning a life on the road for
many years. While not on stage in theaters, restaurants, and fairs he worked odd
jobs as a printer, barber, boxing trainer, and railroad porter. In 1903, Gilpin
joined Hamilton Ontario’s Canadian Jubilee Singers.
Two years later he performed with the Abyssinia Company and the Original Smart
Set, two traveling musical troupes. He also played his first dramatic roles and
honed his character acting while he appeared with Robert Mott’s Pekin Theater
in Chicago for
four years until 1911. Soon after, he toured the United
States with the Pan-American Octetts and spent some time
with Rogers and Creamer’s Old Man’s Boy Company in New York. In 1915, Gilpin joined the Anita
Bush Players as it moved from the Lincoln Theater in Harlem to the Lafayette Theater, a time when many famous black theatrical careers were launched.
In 1916, he made a memorable appearance in whiteface as Jacob McCloskey, a
slave owner and villain of Don Bouciault’s The Octoroon. Though he left
Bush’s Company over salary, his reputation while there allowed him to get the
role of Rev. William Curtis in the 1919 premier of John Drinkwater’s Abraham
Lincoln. On November 1, 1920 at the Playwright Theater in New York’s Greenwich Village in the title role of Brutus Jones Gilpin
moved, next, into Eugene O’Neill’s long one-act
play, Emperor Jones, a role he played fro 204 performances until
1924 to great critical acclaim. The play and
its principal actor later transferred to Broadway and later went on tour. His work with this production allowed the Drama League of New York to name
Gilpin as one of the ten people who had done the most for American theater
in 1920, the first Black American so honored.
After the post-Broadway tour, which played in Richmond to great
acclaim, Gilpin’s insistence on eliminating racial epithets from the play angered
O’Neill. O’Neill, who at one time was said to be writing a play especially for
Gilpin, cast budding actor Paul Robeson in the London production of Emperor Jones. Robeson also played Jones
on film. Except for Ira Aldridge, who lived and performed mostly in Europe
before the Civil War, Gilpin was the first African American to be widely lauded
as a serious actor on America’s mainstream stage.
His invitation to the league’s presentation dinner, however, created a public
controversy that ended with his attendance. Following the Drama League’s refusal
to rescind the invitation and Gilpin’s refusal to decline it, he was given a
standing ovation of unusual length on accepting the award. A 1921 Spingarn
recipient from the NAACP, Gilpin was also honored in the White House of President
Warren G. Harding. A year later the Dumas Dramatic Club (now the Karamu
Players) of Cleveland renamed itself the Gilpin Players in his Honor. He lost his voice in 1929 and he died on May 6, 1030 in Eldridge Park,
Sallie Martin was born on this date. She was an
African-American gospel singer and businesswoman.
From Pittfield, Georgia, after quitting school during the eighth grade, she
moved to Atlanta, where she began a run of jobs including babysitting, cleaning
houses and washing clothes. In 1916 she joined the Fire Baptized Holiness
Church, enjoying the Sanctified singing she met there. During the 1920s,
Martin, her husband and their son relocated to Chicago.
Following a 1929 divorce, she began working at a nearby hospital, in her off
hours continuing to pursue her interest in gospel. Martin had heard (on the
street) about Thomas A. Dorsey whose original gospel songs were electrifying
the Chicago church culture. She arranged an audition; despite serious
misgivings (her style was unrefined, with whooping, groaning and a great deal
of physical movement and to top it off, she couldn’t even read music) he hired
In early 1932, Martin made her debut with his group at the Ebenezer Baptist
Church. After a year she got her first solo, and Martin instantly connected
with audiences. Dorsey became increasingly aware of her value not only as a
performer but also as an entrepreneur. She took over his music store and within
a few months was turning a neat profit. Their relationship was often
adversarial, but respectful because neither could succeed without the other.
As gospel choruses instructed to sing Dorsey’s songs began saturating the
Chicago area, Martin traveled to Cleveland in 1933 to organize a chorus there
as well; she also helped set up similar groups throughout the South and
Midwest. Martin and Dorsey organized the yearly National Convention of Gospel
Choirs and Choruses; she was its first vice president until the time of her
death. In 1940, Martin went solo; teaming with a young pianist named Ruth Jones
(Dinah Washington) and began touring the country.
That same year, Martin and gospel composer Kenneth Morris joined forces with
financial backer Rev. Clarence H. Cobb to found Martin and Morris, Inc., a
publishing company which became the biggest of its kind in the America. Martin
next began performing with the gifted pianist and arranger Roberta Martin (no
relation) that did not last. She next formed the Sallie Martin Singers;
believed to be the first female group in gospel history, they existed until the
mid-1950s. Despite her national renown, Martin had a few hits, however, among
them “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “He’ll Wash You Whiter Than Snow.”
An active supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, her involvement in the civil
rights movement led to an invitation to attend the 1960 celebration marking the
independence of Nigeria; Martin’s visit inspired her to donate to the Nigerian
Health Program, resulting in a state office building named in her honor. Known
as “The Mother of Gospel” by the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and
Choruses, Martin is widely credited with introducing spiritual music to the masses.
While her rough, voice lacked the finesse of many of the singers in her time,
she was an artist who got respect from both her audiences and peers. An astute
businesswoman and tireless supporter of charitable causes, she died in Chicago
on June 18, 1988.
The Reverend Dr. Anna Pauline “Pauli” Murray was born in Baltimore, MD.
A lawyer, author of poetry such as “Song in a Weary Throat,” “Proud Shoes,” and
“Dark Testament and Other Poems,” she also became a powerful theologian and the
first African American woman priest to be ordained in the Episcopal Church.
this life she was a remarkably diverse woman who was a pioneer for her gender
in a number of areas. From Baltimore, her
academic background began at Hunter College (B. A., 1933), Howard
School (LL. B., 1944); the University of California
Berkeley (LL. M., 1945), and Yale Law School, she was the first black woman to
receive a degree of doctor of juridical science in 1965. While in her various
maintained several careers.
She served as deputy attorney general of California
in 1946, the first black to hold that position. From 1968-1973, she was
professor of American studies at Bandies
University, and from 1977
to 1984 (when she retired from public life) she was the first black woman
Episcopal priest; serving in Washington and Baltimore. Murray’s published writings include State’s
Laws on Race and Color 1951, Dark Treatment and Other Poems 1970, Song in a Weary
Throat: An American Pilgrimage 1987, and more.
named Woman of the Year in 1946 by the National Council of Colored Women and
again in 1947 by Mademoiselle Magazine. Serving as one of the thirty-two
founders of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966, she won the
Eleanor Roosevelt Award from the Professional Woman’s Caucus in 1971. Pauli
Murray died of cancer in Pittsburgh
on July 1, 1985.
Jane Cooke Wright is born in New York City, one of two daughters of Dr. Louis Tompkins
Wright and Corinne Cook Wright. Her father was a physician who practiced in New
York City and later established the Cancer Research Foundation at Harlem
Hospital. She will live in New York City until 1938 when she leaves to enroll
in Smith College. She will begin college intending to major in art, but will
switch to pre-medicine. She will graduate from Smith in 1942, one of only two
graduates in that class later accepted to medical school. She will bring the field
of chemotherapy to the forefront of cancer treatment, publishing over 130
papers. Her research team will focus on the investigation of a wide variety of
anticancer drugs and develop procedures for the sequential use of these drugs
in cancer treatment. She will be awarded a full scholarship to New York Medical
School and receive an M.D. degree upon graduating with honors, third in her
class. In 1945, she will intern at Bellevue Hospital, followed by two
residencies at Harlem Hospital. At this point, she will set up private practice
since no medical institution will offer her a position. In 1949 she will join
the medical staff at the Cancer Research Foundation at Harlem Hospital as a
clinician and research scientist and begin her work in cancer research. After
her father joins the ancestors in 1952, she will become director of the
foundation. In 1955 she will move to New York University Medical Center as
director of cancer chemotherapy research and instructor of research surgery. In
1964, she will be appointed to President Lyndon Johnson’s Commission on Heart
Disease, Cancer, and Stroke. Her subcommittee’s recommendation to develop
regional centers will be an important outcome of this commission. By 1967, Jane
Wright will be promoted to associate dean and professor of surgery at NYU
Medical Center where she will continue to be active in research until retiring
in 1987. Her honors will include the Spirit of Achievement Award of the Women’s
Division of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (1965); the Hadassah Myrtle
Wreath (1967); the Smith Medal from Smith College (1968); featured by Ciba
Geigy on its Exceptional Black Scientist poster (1980); and be honored by the
American Association for Cancer Research (1975). She will receive several
honorary degrees and serve on boards of trustees for various organizations.
The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is awarded to Mary B. Talbert, the former president of the National Association of Colored Women,
for service to African American women and for the restoration of the Frederick
Douglas home in Southeast Washington, DC.
On the verge of invoking marshal law over the growth and energetic outreach
and influence of the Ku
Klu Klan to “officers of law and justice,” the governor of Louisiana,
John Milliken Parker, conferred with President
Warren G. Harding.
Garrett A. Morgan, inventor and engineer, received a patent for his three-way traffic signal on this date. It was one of the first traffic signals in
the United States. Morgan later had his technology patented in Great Britain
and Canada. The signal, a red, green, and amber light to
direct traffic to stop, proceed with caution, or go, revolutionized traffic
control. This complex device saved many lives by directing the flow of
automobiles on city streets. General Electric bought Morgan’s
patent for $40,000, and his traffic management device was used throughout North
America until it was replaced by the red, yellow and green-light traffic
signals. Today, traffic lights throughout the world
work on a red, amber, and green pattern, with some variations. Morgan was born
in Paris, NY on March 4, 1877 and attended elementary school whole he worked
with his brothers and sisters on the family farm. He left Kentucky while still
a teenager and moved north to Cincinnati in search of employment. His formal
education ended after elementary school. However, he hired a tutor and
continued his studies in English grammar. Shortly before his death in 1963,
Morgan was awarded a citation for the traffic signal by the United States
government. Patent #1,475,024. Some of his other inventions were a hair-straightening
process and the gas mask.
Morgan State College was founded on this date in Baltimore, Maryland, succeeding Morgan State Biblical College, founded in 1857. It is one of over 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America.
The school actually began in 1867 as the Centenary Biblical Institute.
This happened through the Baltimore Conference of the Methodist Episcopal
Church, whose original mission was to train young men in ministry. This
goal was broadened to educate both men and women as teachers. The school
was renamed Morgan College in 1890 in honor of the Reverend Lyttleton Morgan,
the first chairman of its Board of Trustees, who donated land to the college.
Morgan awarded its first baccalaureate degree to George F. McMechen in
In 1915 Andrew Carnegie gave the school a conditional grant of $50,000
for the central academic building. The terms of the grant were met and
the college moved to its present site in northeast Baltimore in 1917. Carnegie
Hall, the oldest original building on the present MSU campus, was erected
two years later. Morgan remained a private institution until 1939. That
year, the state of Maryland purchased the school to provide more opportunities
for its Black citizens.
From its beginnings as a public campus, Morgan was open to students of all
races. By the time it became a public campus, the College had become a
relatively inclusive institution. Until the mid-1960s, when the state’s
teachers colleges began their transition to liberal arts campuses, Morgan and
the University of Maryland College Park were the only two public campuses in
the state with inclusive missions. In 1975 the State Legislature designated
Morgan as a university, gave it the authority to offer doctorates, and provided
for it to once again have its own governing board.
In 1988 Maryland reorganized its higher education structure and strengthened
its coordinating board, the Higher Education Commission. The campuses in the
state college system became part of the University of Maryland System. Morgan
and St. Mary’s College of Maryland were the only public baccalaureate-granting
institutions authorized to have their own governing boards. The legislation
also strengthened Morgan’s authority to offer advanced programs and designated
the campus as Maryland’s Public Urban University.
President John F. Kennedy issues an executive order barring racial discrimination in federally
The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is awarded to Robert C. Weaver, economist and government official, for his leadership in the movement for open housing.
Brazilian soccer star, scores his 1,000th soccer goal.
The gravesite of Mary
Seacole, a Jamaican nurse who served in the Crimean
War, is restored in England. Traveling to the battlefield at her own expense,
when her expert services are rejected by English authorities and Florence
Nightingale, Seacole opens her own nursing hotel, which she operates by day,
serving as a volunteer with Nightingale at night. Seacole’s skills saved the
lives of many soldiers wounded during the war or infected with malaria,
cholera, yellow fever, and other illnesses.
Three-time Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes is born in
Silver Spring, Maryland. She will win an Olympic gold medal and two bronze
medals. She will also win more national titles than any other gymnast-male or
Walter Payton, of the Chicago Bears, rushes for NFL record 275 yards in one game.
The Negro Ensemble Company’s production of Charles Fuller’s “A
Soldier’s Play” opens the Theatre Four. The play will win a New York Drama
Critics Award for best American play and the Pulitzer Prize.
date, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in
favor of reverse discrimination suits.
The Supreme Court at that time was moving in a generally conservative direction
after President Ronald Reagan promoted William H. Rehnquist from associate
to chief justice in 1986. With three other Reagan appointees usually voting
with him, Rehnquist was able to overturn some important precedents.
Under Rehnquist, the Court made it clear that it would take a dim view of most
affirmative action policies.
A.C. Green sets the NBA “Iron Man” record for consecutive games played at 907
games. The previous record had stood for fifteen years. Iron Men from
professional baseball and professional hockey were present at courtside to
observe the record-breaking performance.