Massachusetts becomes the first colony to give
statutory recognition to the institution of slavery. Other colonies followed: Connecticut
1650; Virginia, 1661; Maryland,
1663; New York and New
Jersey, 1664; South Carolina,
1682; Rhode Island and Pennsylvania,
1700; North Carolina.
The Continental Congress and President George Washington enacted the
Fairfax Resolve. The Act
was proposed to end the importation and exportation of slave. Of note George
Washington and many in the Continental Congress were slave owners.
Santo Domingo (Dominican
Republic) proclaims independence from Spain.
Congress (1873-75) convenes with seven African American congressmen: Richard
H. Cain, Robert Brown
Elliott, Joseph H. Rainey and Alonzo J. Ransier, South
Carolina; James T. Rapier, Alabama; Josiah T. Walls, Florida; John
R. Lynch, Mississippi.
Gibb is elected city judge in Little
Rock, Arkansas and becomes the first African American to hold such a position.
Bennett College (Greensboro, North Carolina)
and Wiley College (Marshall, Texas)
Chapter No. 1, Order of the Eastern Star, is established at 708 O Street, N.W., Washington, DC
in the home of Mrs. Georgiana
Thomas. The first Worthy Matron is Sister
Martha Welch and the first Worthy Patron is Bro.
Thornton A. Jackson. This establishes the first Eastern Star
Chapter among African American women in the United States.
T.J. Byrd patented
the rail car coupling. Patent #157,370.
Wright, the first African American state supreme court justice,
resigns from the state supreme court in South
Carolina. He resigns knowing that whites would soon force him off the bench after
overthrowing the Reconstruction government. He will later join the ancestors,
in obscurity, of tuberculosis.
Arthur Spingarn, founder of
NAACP, was born.
John Alexander Sommerville’s birth is
celebrated on this date. He was an African-American businessman and politician.
From Jamaica, Sommerville
came to San Francisco
in search of a new life. He was unprepared for the racist realities of life in America.
Sommerville moved to Los Angeles where he worked for two years in a bowling alley and saved enough money to attend the USC School of Dentistry. His White classmates were so opposed to being in the same room with him, and his being treated as their equal, that they demanded his removal from the classroom with threats of not returning to class until he was removed.
However Sommerville stood his ground and five years after arriving in the US, graduated
first in his class and with the highest score recorded at the time, and being
the first Black person to graduate from USC School of Dentistry. He opened his
dentist office at 4th and Broadway, the heart of Black business in Los Angeles and became
the first Black member of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. Sommerville
married Vada Watson in 1912. She later became the first Black female, second
Black person to graduate from USC School of Dentistry, and the first Black
female certified to practice dentistry in the state of California. They worked hard to provide a good life for themselves but not all Black
Angelenos were as fortunate.
The City of Los Angeles during this period experienced a substantial increase in the number of
people migrating from other states, particularly White workers from the
south, and a more than 300% increase in the number of Blacks. Discrimination
was more prevalent, and the restrictions put on Blacks grew. Hotels were
off limits to Blacks creating an increased demand for more housing to meet
the needs of the increasing Black population. The Sommerville’s founded
the Los Angeles Chapter of the NAACP in their living room, and to meet
the housing needs built a 26-unit apartment building that they named La
Following the success of the La Vada, John built the Hotel Sommerville. He
suffered during the stock market crash of 1929 and was forced to sell his
hotel. Having recovered from his financial woes, he became active in politics,
and in 1936 became the first Black delegate to the California Democratic
National Convention. In 1949, Sommerville became the first Black appointed to
the Los Angeles Police Commission, and in 1954, he was declared an Officer of
the Order of the British Empire for his
contributions to Anglo-American relations. In 1972 Vada Sommerville died and
months later John Sommerville passed away at the age of 91.
Minnie Evans was born on this date. She was an African-American artist.
Minnie Jones was born and raised in a log cabin in Long Creek, Pender County, North
Carolina, to Ella Jones, later Ella Jones Kelly. She
and her mother moved to Wilmington in early 1893. Minnie left school after the fifth grade to work as a “sounder,”
selling oysters and clams door-to-door. In 1908, at the age of 16, she
married Julius Evans. Together, they raised three sons Elisha Dyer, David
Barnes, and George Sheldon. Throughout her life, even in childhood, Minnie
experienced visions but did not begin to record them until 1935 when she
created her first two drawings.
It wasn’t until 1940 that she began to gradually create crayon and pencil and
ink drawings on small sheets of paper. Later, she added oil painting as a
medium to record her visions. Evans began working as the gatekeeper at Airlie Gardens
in 1948. From its gatehouse, she sold her drawings and paintings to interested
visitors. Evans got her first gallery exhibition in New York City in 1966. Since then, her work
has been featured in the Art Image Gallery in New York City
and the Portal Gallery in London.
Described as visionary and raw (self-taught), her art expresses dreams and
visions of religious faith, which she called her guarantee of love. A permanent
exhibit of her works at St.
of Art includes three paintings by this gifted, internationally known artist. One
of her more famous works was “Lion of Judah.” She was inducted into the Wilmington, NC
“Walk of Fame.”
Newsweek magazine once described Ms. Evans as “breathtakingly gifted” and a
“beautiful dreamer.” A documentary entitled The Angel That Stands By Me:
Minnie Evans’ Art was produced in 1983. Minnie Evans died in 1987 at the
age of 95.
Louis Allen Rawls was born on this date. He was an African-American rhythm, blues, and jazz
singer, entertainer and education activist.
From Chicago Illinois, he was raised on the South Side of
the city by his grandmother. He was a member of his Baptist church choir when
his was seven. As a teenager, his singing expanded with trips to the Regal
Theatre to see Billy Eckstine, Arthur Prysock and Joe Williams. A high school
classmate of Sam Cooke, Rawls sang with Cooke in the Teenage Kings of Harmony,
a 1950’s gospel group.
During that time he moved to Los
Angeles and sang with the Chosen Gospel Singers, where
he was first recorded. He then sang with the The Pilgrim Travelers before
enlisting in 1955 as a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. Three years later, Sergeant Rawls left the service
and rejoined the Travelers. That same year (1958), while touring the South
with the Travelers and Sam Cooke, Rawls was in a serious car crash which
killed one passenger. Rawls was pronounced dead before getting to the hospital
where he stayed in a coma for almost a week. It took him months to regain
his memory and a year to fully recuperate; and he considered the event
Rawls was signed to Capitol Records in 1962, the same year he sang background
vocals with Sam Cooke’s recording of “Bring it on Home to Me”. His first
Capitol release was “Stormy Monday”. Though his 1966 album “Live!” went gold,
Rawls wouldn’t have a star-making hit until he made “Soulin”. The album
contained his first R&B #1 single, “Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing”. In 1967, he
won his first Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance for “Dead End Street”. In 1971, Rawls released
the Grammy-winning single “Natural Man”, five years later his greatest album
success came with “All Things in Time”. The album produced his most successful
single, “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine”, which topped the R&B
charts and went to number two on the pop side and also went platinum.
Other albums, such as 1977’s When You’ve Heard Lou, You’ve Heard It All yielded such Top 25 singles as “Lady Love”. Also, in 1977, he won a Grammy for best R & B vocal performance for “Unmistakably Lou.” In all, he won three Grammys. On December 19, 2005, Rawls tried to annul his two-year marriage to Nina Malek Inman Rawls in order to “protect hundreds of thousands of dollars”. The couple had a son together, Aiden Allen Rawls. During his life, Rawls released more than 70 albums, sang in movies, television shows and voiced-over many cartoons.
Known for his fund raising activities on behalf of African American colleges in
hosting of the annual United Negro College Fund (UNCF) telethon and a smooth
vocal style, Frank Sinatra once said that Rawls had “the classiest singing and
silkiest chops in the singing game.” In December 2005, it was announced that he
was being treated for lung and brain cancer. Lou Rawls died on January 6, 2006.
Billy Paul, rhythm and
blues singer, best known for his song, “Me and Mrs. Jones”, is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Richard Franklin Lennox Pryor III was born on this date. He was an African-American actor, director, screenwriter,
and stand-up comic.
Born into a poor family in Peoria,
Illinois, Pryor grew up in a ghetto brothel owned by his grandmother, dropped out
of high school at the age of 14, and later served in the United States
Army for two years. He tried music as a drummer before his big comedy break.
He honed an instinctive talent for humor into a proficient stand-up comedy
act while touring nightclubs during the early 1960s, eventually gaining
national exposure through appearances on television talk and variety shows
including “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Responding to the social ferment of the
late 1960s and early 1970s, Pryor departed from the conventions of stand-up
He went on to product a series of successful, Grammy-winning comedy albums
where he drew freely on his experiences as an African-American, treating issues
such as racism, sex, and street life, in a confrontational manner. The
resulting routines, recorded on such hit albums as That Nigger’s Crazy, were
hilarious, insightful, and often moving. Pryor made his movie debut in 1967 and
subsequently appeared in several low-budget films. After his first major screen
role, in Lady Sings the Blues, he went on to become one of the biggest
box-office attractions of the 1970s, most notably in films such as “Stir Crazy”
and “Silver Streak,” which were two of his classic team ups with comic actor
However, he did his most critically acclaimed screen work in the political
drama Blue Collar and in two films of his deep solo shows, Richard
Pryor Live in Concert and Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip. Pryor battled drug abuse and illness in his career. This was exacerbated when his career was interrupted in 1980 when he suffered near death severe burns while freebasing cocaine. Although his career subsequently revived, he was forced to retire from performing in the early 1990s due to multiple sclerosis.
Pryor is known for dealing candidly with controversial topics and bringing
African-American comedy traditions to mainstream audiences. He raised stand-up
comedy to the level of performance art and influenced a generation of
performers. Richard Pryor died of a heart attack on December 10, 2005 in Los Angeles, CA.
On this date, Rosa Parks, a seamstress, was arrested for
violating a racial segregation city law that required Whites and Blacks to sit
in separate row in buses. She had refused to give up her seat on a bus to a
White man. She was sitting in the fifth row, the first row that Blacks were
allowed to occupy, along with three other Blacks. Soon, all of the first four
rows of the bus were filled and a White man boarded. Since Blacks, by law, were
required to give up their seats to Whites and Blacks and Whites could not sit
in the same rows, the bus driver wanted all of the Blacks to move. The other
three Blacks moved, but Parks refused. As secretary to Montgomery chapter of the NAACP, she agreed
to let the NAACP provide legal council. When found guilty on December 5, Parks
was fined $10.00 plus a court cost of $4.00, but she appealed. Her refusal to
move resulted in her arrest and began a 382-day boycott of the bus system by
African Americans, which began on December 5th and ended shortly
after December 13, 1956 and became known as the Montgomery
Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks’ case was filed in United States District Court,
which ruled in her favor, declaring segregated seating on buses
unconstitutional, a decision later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. The
boycott was planned before Rosa Parks’ arrest by E.D. Nixon, president of the
local NAACP chapter and a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
This incident set in motion the turning point in the twentieth century
African-American battle for civil rights and marked the beginning of the modern
American Civil Rights movement. As a result of her courage, Rosa Parks is
considered one the pioneers of the modern civil right movement.
African Republic is made an autonomous member of the French Commonwealth of Nations.
Quaison-Sackey of Ghana
became one of the first Blacks to preside over the General Assembly of the
United Nations on this date.
Brown was elected Speaker of the California Assembly on this date. In
1996, Brown became the first Black mayor of San Francisco.
George Rogers, of the University of South Carolina, is named the Heisman
Trophy winner. Rogers will go on to achieve success with the Washington Redskins.
Justice Department sues the city of Yonkers, New
York, citing racial discrimination.
Abdul-Jabbar surpasses Oscar Robertson as basketball’s second all-time leading scorer (second only to Wilt Chamberlain).
Kareem gets to the total of 26,712 points as the Los Angeles Lakers beat
the Utah Jazz 117-86. Chamberlain’s record will fall in 1984, when Kareem’s
scores reach 31,259. Kareem will wind up his career in 1989 with 38,387
Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller” is released and will go on to become the best-selling album in history, with over 40 million copies sold worldwide.
James Baldwin, author,
joins the ancestors in St. Paul de Vence, France,
of stomach cancer, at the age of 63. He explored the plight of oppressed
African Americans in 20th century America in a variety of literary forms. His output included novels and plays,
but it was above all, as an essayist, that he achieved a reputation as
the most literary spokesman in the struggle for civil rights in the 1950s
and 1960s. His three most important collection of essays were “Notes of
a Native Son” in 1955, “Nobody Knows My Name” in 1961, and “The Fire Next
Time” in 1963. The most highly regarded of his novels were the first three,
“Go Tell It on the Mountain” in 1953, “Giovanni’s Room” in 1956, and “Another
Country” in 1962.
Dancer and choreographer Alvin
Ailey joins the ancestors in New
York City. Ailey began his professional career with
Lester Horton, founded, and was the sole director of the Alvin Ailey American
Dance Theater in 1958. Initially performing four concerts annually, he took the
company to Europe on one of the most
successful tours ever by an American dance troupe. Among his honors were the
NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1977, and Kennedy Center Honors. His best known work,
Revelations, was created in 1961.
Pearl Stewart becomes the first African American woman editor of the Oakland Tribune,
which has a circulation of over 100,000.
Sylvester Croom became the
first Black head football coach in Southeastern Conference (SEC) history on
this day when he accepted a position with Mississippi State.
The SEC’s hiring history came under increased scrutiny that year when Croom was
passed over for a top coaching spot by his alma mater Alabama, in favor of a less experienced
White coach. Croom had never been a head coach, but had been an NFL assistant
with five teams since 1987. He established new offensive and defensive systems,
paying particular attention to an attack that mirrored what he taught as an NFL
assistant. Born September 25, 1954, in Tuscaloosa,
AL, Croom starred at Tuscaloosa
High School as a linebacker and tight end
before enrolling at the University
of Alabama in 1971 where
he played football for the university. Croom was named an All-American for
three seasons (1972–74), and went on to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree
at Alabama as
well. Currently, Croom continues to be a head football coach for Mississippi