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The birth of Francis Barber is celebrated on this date. He was a black slave who became a businessmen and educator.

Barber was born on a plantation in Jamaica. He was brought to England by his owner in 1750. After a brief schooling at a village school in Yorkshire he entered the service of his owner’s son. Later he was hired out to Samuel Johnson after the death of his wife in 1752. Barber worked as Johnson’s valet for six years until he ran away to sea. There, for the next two years he served on the HMS Stag in the North Sea. On his return in 1760 he rejoined Johnson’s staff. He worked as Johnson’s butler but in 1762, after attending Bishop’s Stortford Grammar School for five years he worked as his secretary.

Barber married an Englishwoman and the couple had four children. Barber and his family lived in Johnson’s house. When Samuel Johnson died in 1784 he left Barber a gold watch and an annual payment of 70 pounds. Barber moved to Lichfield, Staffordshire, and later he became a schoolteacher in Burntwood. Francis Barber died in 1801. His son, (also) Samuel Barber, became a Primitive Methodist preacher in Staffordshire.

England’s John Wesley baptized the first two known Black converts to the Methodism movement.

Lemuel Haynes, of a Caucasian mother and a man named Haynes, who was said to be “of some form African extraction,” Revolutionary War veteran, was licensed to preaching to the Congregational Church, a predominately White denomination, making his the first Black minister to pastor a White church.

Lucille Hegamin was born on this date. She was an African-American Blues singer.

Hegamin’s birth name was Lucille Nelson; she also went by Fanny Baker and was born in Macon, Georgia, hence her first stage-nickname, the Georgia Peach. Although she had little or no vocal training, she began working the tent-show circuit in the South in her mid-teens. In 1914 she married piano player Bill Hegamin. The duo eventually wound up in Chicago, where Hegamin sang with jazz pianists Jelly Roll Morton and Tony Jackson.

She and her husband moved to Los Angeles before ultimately settling in New York in 1919. In New York she sang in cabarets and nightclubs and was signed by Arto in 1920. Her follow-up to “The Jazz Me Blues” was “Arkansas Blues,” a song that solidified her reputation as one of the more popular Black singers of the era. After Hegamin’s contract with Arto expired, she signed with Cameo and eventually became known as the Cameo Girl. Lucille Hegamin was the second black vaudeville-blues singer to record in 1920. She cut “The Jazz Me Blues” and “Everybody’s Blues” for Arto Records in November of that year, just a few months after Mamie Smith had recorded “Crazy Blues,” the first blues song to appear on disc.

Although not a pure blues singer in the tradition of, say, Bessie Smith, Hegamin seemed as comfortable singing the blues as she was singing the pop and vaudeville hits of the day. Light-skinned and attractive and born with a cool, well-rounded voice, Hegamin became one of the biggest names in blues circles in the early 1920s. Her signature song, “He May Be Your Man, But He Comes to See Me Sometimes,” is considered one of the era’s most memorable numbers. In all, Hegamin recorded some forty songs with Cameo before she slid from the scene in the 1930s. In the early 1960s, Hegamin returned to recording, thanks to the support and urging of fellow classic blues singer Victoria Spivey.

Hegamin sang songs for Spivey’s self-named label as well as for the Prestige-Bluesville label. She died on March 1, 1970.

The Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper, begins publication.

Thomas C. Fleming is born in Jacksonville, Florida. He will become the co-founder of the San Francisco Sun Reporter, an African American weekly newspaper. Mr. Fleming will be active, as a writer for the paper, from its inception in 1944 through the end of the century. He will chronicle his life as an African in America through his series, “Reflections on Black History,” published in his 90’s, while still active as a journalist with his beloved Sun Reporter.

This date marks the birth of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. He was an African-American minister, publisher, businessman and politician.

Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Powell moved to New York City where his father administered the Abyssinian Baptist Church. After attending public schools, he graduated from Colgate University and received his M.A. in religious education from Columbia University. During the Depression, while handling business affairs at his father’s church, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., established himself as a charismatic and successful civil rights leader.

He organized mass meetings, rent strikes and public campaigns that forced restaurants, stores, bus lines, utilities, telephone companies, the Harlem hospital and the 1939 Worlds Fair either to hire or begin to promoting black employees. From 1936 to 1944, he published The Peoples Voice Newspaper, served New York State office of Price Administration and the Manhattan Civilian Defense.
In 1941, with the help of his congregation and his personal popularity, he became the first Black elected to serve on the New York City Council.

In 1943, he won the endorsement of Democrats, Republicans, and the American Labor Party for the congressional nomination. He was elected to Congress in 1944 to begin what was considered a controversial congressional career, serving on the Indian Affairs, Invalid Pensions and Labor Committees. Soon after his arrival in Washington D.C., he challenged the informal regulations forbidding black representatives from using Capitol facilities reserved for members only.

On the house floor, he clashed immediately with one of the chambers most notorious segregationist, John E. Rankin of Mississippi. Powell attached an anti-discrimination clause to so many pieces of legislation that the rider became known as the Powell Amendment. In 1955, he attended the landmark Bandung Conference of African and Asian nations, returning to urge the Eisenhower administration to pay attention to the emerging third world. The early 60s were productive years for his congressional career. The committee approved over fifty measures authorizing federal programs for areas from minimum wage increases & education & training for the deaf, too student loans & school lunches.
He also led an unrelenting fight to end discrimination in the armed forces, employment, housing, and transportation.

Powell served as chairman of the House Committee of Education and Labor (1960-1967). Because of his many political enemies and a slander judgment against him involving charges of misusing public funds by a House committee, the House Democratic Caucus stripped Powell of his committee chairmanship in 1967. His questionable activities while chairman of that committee resulted in his expulsion from Congress and he would not be seated until completion of an investigation by the Judiciary Committee. A ruling two years later in his favor returned him to his seat in the Ninetieth Congress, but without his seniority. Powell Jr. had extraordinary local support from Harlem residents to the very end of his controversial career. He unsuccessfully sought re-nomination in 1970. He was defeated for re-election by Charles Rangel in that election. Following that, he retired as a minister and on April 4, 1972 in Miami, he died from complications following surgery. His body was cremated on April 10th after the funeral and the ashes scattered over the island of Bimini in the Bahamas.

On this date, William Thomas Strayhorn was born in Dayton, Ohio. He was an African-American jazz composer, arranger, lyricist, and pianist.

man many knew as “Billy” or “Sweetpea,” he was raised in Hillsborough, North Carolina. He gained most of his schooling, including private piano instruction in Pittsburgh. He sought out and met Duke Ellington in 1938, attempting to work with him as a lyricist. Strayhorn introduced himself with his songs Lush Life and Something to Live For, the latter which was the Duke’s first Strayhorn recording. After becoming a regular contributor to the Ellington Orchestra, he contributed themes such as Day Dream and Passion Flower for the Ellington saxophonist Johnny Hodges.

Other tracks that followed were Take the A Train, which he wrote in Hollywood in 1941 that ultimately became the orchestra’s theme, Raincheck, Chelsea Bridge
the ballad Daydream, After All, Rain Check, Johnny Come Lately, and Midriff, all of which became jazz standards. Openly Gay, Strayhorn and Ellington had a wonderful music-based relationship. Arriving in New York City, the young Strayhorn met jazz pianist Aaron Bridges, and the two lived together as lovers in Harlem for almost 10 years.

Strayhorn came to the world of music with a sophisticated knowledge of chromatic harmony. This gave jazz performers and listeners classic melodies unlike anyone else before him. From the mid-fifties until his death he wrote and arranged at a fever pitch, coming out with selections such as Sweet Thunder, Suite Thursday and Far East Suite.

Also known as “Sweetpea,” as he was known throughout America and Europe, stood 5-feet-2, but was head and shoulders above the crowd in musicianship.

Billy Strayhorn died on May 31, 1967 of cancer.

Dancer Pearl Primus was born in this date in Trinidad. Blending African and Caribbean sources with American traditions of blues, jazz, and jitterbug, she created new and vibrant forms of dance. She is perhaps best known for her dance Strange Fruit, in which she portrayed a woman who witnessed a lynching.

The birth of Beah Richards is celebrated on this date. She was an African-American actress and poet.

From Vicksburg, Miss., Beulah Richardson (her birth name) was the daughter of Beulah Molton Richardson a seamstress and PTA advocate and Wesley R. Richardson. She spent most of her career on-stage and only appeared in a few films. Her most famous role was that of Sidney Poitier’s mother in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner 1967, the part that won her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Before becoming a professional, Richards attended college and studied acting in San Diego.

In 1951 she moved to New York, getting her first professional acting job in 1954 when she worked in an off-Broadway production of Take a Giant Step. Over the rest of the decade, her stage appearances were spotty and she did not get much of a break until she joined a national touring company for a production of Raisin in the Sun in the early ‘60s. She had a smaller role in The Miracle Worker (1962). It was director Otto Preminger who provided Richards with her biggest role when he co-starred her in Hurry Sundown (1967) after seeing her impressive starring performance in the play The Amen Corner.

She did, however, continue working on-stage, in television and in the film Beloved (1998). She won an Emmy Award days before her death in Vicksburg, Miss., September 14, 2000.

Two-term congressman from North Carolina, Henry Plummer Cheatham joins the ancestors in Oxford, North Carolina. Cheatham was the only African American member of Congress during the 1890 term.

David Bing is born in Washington, DC. He will be selected No. 2 in the 1966 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons, and play 12 years in the NBA. He will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1990, and named one of the top 50 basketball players of all time. He will also found the Bing Group.

A type of surgery developed by Vivian Thomas for babies with congenital cyanotic heart disease “blue babies” was first performed under his supervision on this date. Thomas, who also invented a type of respirator, has saved thousands of lives.

Alice Childress becomes the first African American woman to receive an Obie Award for her play, “Trouble in Mind”.

Freedom Riders are attacked by white mob at bus station in McComb, Mississippi.

Don Cheadle is born in Kansas City, Missouri. He will become an actor and star in movies such as “Boogie Nights”, “Rebound”, “Hamburger Hill”, and “Devil in a Blue Dress”. He will also be successful on the small screen in “Picket Fences”, “Golden Palace” and a variety of guest appearances.

The space shuttle Discovery lands after completing a secret military mission. The mission was led by Air Force Colonel Frederick D. Gregory, the first African American commander of a space shuttle mission.

Eddie Robinson, head coach of Grambling State University, coached his last game on this date. Robinson, the most winning coach in football history, faced Southern University in the Heritage Bowl.

On this day,
Conrad Murray, the physician convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of singer Michael Jackson, is sentenced in a Los Angeles County courtroom to four years behind bars. The iconic pop star died at age 50 at his California home after suffering cardiac arrest while under the influence of propofol, a surgical anesthetic given to him by Murray as a sleep aid.

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