T. Burleigh, famed baritone and composer, was born in Erie, PA. He
as the soloist at St. George’s Episcopal Church for 52 years and the soloist at
for 25 years in New York.
Mr. Burleigh began to compose in his forties. Some of his spirituals were: Steal
Away, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, Everytime I Feel the
Spirit, and Deep River. He is
credited with some 250 songs.
Charles H. Wesley, a noted African American historian, educator, writer,
author, and minister, was born in Louisville,
Kentucky. Wesley was the third
African American to receive his doctorate from Harvard. He served as president
of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History from 1950-1965 and
as executive director for the next twelve years. Wesley wrote several articles
and books on the African American experience including The History of Alpha Phi
Alpha published in 1953. Besides serving as a pioneer in the study of African
Americans, Wesley was president of Wilberforce
University from 1942 to 1947 and
president of Central State College of Ohio
from 1947 to 1965. He died August 16, 1987 in Washington, D.C. and was
buried at Lincoln Memorial Cemetery
in Suitland, Maryland.
John Brown, white abolitionist
and martyr, who planned the failed attack on the Federal Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, is hanged at Charles Town, West Virginia.
this date, “Freedom,” the statue on top of the dome of the U.S. Capitol, was put in place permanently.
The Man responsible for this architectural feat was Philip
Reid, a Black man. Reid was a slave at the Bladensburg (Maryland) Foundry when
he supervised the bronze casting of the statue. The story of the building of
the nation’s capital began in 1856. At that time Thomas Crawford completed the
full -size plaster model of Freedom at his studio in Rome, Italy.
When cast in bronze, it was intended to stand atop the Dome of the United
In April, 1858, the model left Rome
in six crates aboard the ship Emily Taylor. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sprung a leak which got progressively
worse. The Taylor made it to Bermuda
and was condemned. Freedom was transferred to another ship for the trip to the
Mills Foundry in Maryland.
The federal government had awarded the Mills Foundry a contract to cast the
plaster model in bronze and the work began in May, 1860. In the midst of the
casting the Foundry Foreman went on strike for higher wages, believing he was
the only person qualified to see the casting to its completion. Clark Mills,
owner of the foundry instead turned to the slave who had been working alongside
of the Foreman and put him in charge of the final casting.
This was Philip Reid. Reid supervised the remaining casting of the statue in
five sections, each weighing over a ton. The tons of Freedom were moved by
wagons from Bladensburg, Maryland
Reid and other slaves put the Statue of Freedom together on the grounds of the
Capitol in a month during the spring of 1863. On this date in 1863 the Statue
of Freedom was hoisted to the top of the Capitol Dome along with great celebration
and a 35-Gun Salute.
Philip Reid was one of the last of hundreds of slaves involved in the building
of the Capitol between 1790 and 1863. The slaves worked in the quarries of Virginia, digging and
transporting the stone that became the beautiful building that stands today. At
the building site the slaves performed the truly backbreaking work required to
place the cut stones on the walls of the Capitol building. They dug trenches
and ditches, hauled lumber and performed other tasks requiring great strength
Half the workforce at the Capitol building site was such slaves. Shortly after
he completed this mission, the District of Columbia
issued its Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery within the Capital City and Philip Reid was no longer a
Henry T. Burleigh was born on
this date in 1866. He was an African-American gospel singer and composer.
From Erie Pennsylvania,
he was the grandson of slaves. It was his grandfather that passed on to him the
tradition of plantation songs. Burleigh had little formal music training in his
youth, but was accepted into the National Conservatory of Music at the age of
26. There he took voice and lessons in composition with Antonin Dvorek.
It was from Burleigh that Dvorek learned about Black American folk music (which
later was so important in his New World Symphony.) There are various estimates
of the number of songs Burleigh wrote. The numbers range from 200 to 300. They
include arrangements used in Henry E. Krehbiel’s 1914 collection, Afro-American
Folksongs, a Study in Racial and National Music, “By an’ By” (1917), “Go Down
Moses” (1917), “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (1917), and an Old Songs Hymnal in
1929. Over the years, he performed for such dignitaries as the King and Queen of
and President Theodore Roosevelt.
He encouraged the careers of young musicians like Marian Anderson, Paul
Robeson, Carol Brice, Margaret Bonds, and William Grant Still. Burleigh was a
charter member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers
(ASCAP) when it formed in 1914 and became a member of its board of directors in
1941. He received a number of honors, including the Spingarn Medal in 1917, and
honorary degrees from Atlanta University and Howard University.
In 1944, members of St. George’s (of New York City) recognized
him with gifts of $1,500 and a silver-banded cane. Later that year, he gave the
fiftieth annual performance of Jean-Baptiste Faure’s “The Palms” at both morning
and afternoon services.
Burleigh also did a special broadcast performance over a local radio station,
for New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. Illness forced his retirement as
soloist in 1946. His son, Alston, placed him first in a Long Island rest home
then to a nursing home in Stamford,
Connecticut, in 1948. On
September 12, 1949, Burleigh died of heart failure at the age of 82.
His funeral was held at St. George’s
and was attended by 2,000 people. The pallbearers included composers Hall
Johnson, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, William C. Handy, and Cameron White. Burleigh
was best known for his arrangements of the Negro spiritual “Deep
Granville T. Woods receives a
patent for his first electric device and second invention, an improved
telephone transmitter. His invention was far more superior to the
invention of Alexander Graham Bell.
A&T College, Delaware State College, and West Virginia State College are
The Fifty-second Congress convenes.
Only one African American congressman has been elected - Henry P. Cheatham of North Carolina.
date marks the birthday of Charles Harris
Wesley. He was an African-American historian, educator, and minister
who was an early proponent of African-American studies.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Charles Wesley attended public schools in his
hometown of Louisville, Kentucky and then went on to receive a B.A. at Fisk
University in 1911, an M.A. in economics at Yale University in 1913, and a
Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1925. Wesley’s doctorate in history was the
third awarded by Harvard to an African-American. Wesley served on the Howard University
faculty from 1913 to 1942.
In 1916, Wesley began a long association with Carter G. Woodson’s Association
for the Study of Negro Life and History, serving as president from 1950 to 1965
and as executive director until 1972. In 1942, Wesley became president of Wilberforce University
in Ohio, a
school supported by the African Methodist Episcopal (AME). As president until
1965, Wesley improved the faculty, founded new programs (such as African
Studies), and integrated the student body. Wesley served as director of the
Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia
from its opening in 1974 to 1976.
In addition to his work as an educator, Wesley was AME Church
minister and elder from 1914 to 1937. Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1930,
Wesley went to England to
study slave emancipation in the British Empire.
From 1931 to 1946, he was president of Alpha Phi Alpha, a Black fraternity
about which he wrote in 1953. Wesley also wrote many other articles and books
on African-American history, leaders and organizations, including Negro
Labor in the United States,
1850-1925 (1927), Collapse of the Confederacy (1937), Neglected
History, and his last book, The History of the National Association of Colored
Women’s Clubs: A Legacy of Service (1984).
Wesley was also the first president of Central University.
Charles Wesley died August 16, 1987, in Washington,
Congress (1895-97) convened. One Black congressman: George W. Murray, South Carolina.
Wilfredo Lam was born on
this date. He was an Afro-Cuban twentieth century artist.
Born (Wifredo Yscar de la Concepayn Lam y Castilla) Lam was from Sagua La
Grande, a small town in Cuba.
His father was Chinese and his mother was African, Spanish and Native-Cuban.
Young Lam had artistic talent as a young man; he went to Havana
to study law, and also learned painting at the Academy of San Alejandro.
In 1923, he traveled to Madrid
to further his artist studies. During that time (1929) he married Eva Piriz but
both she and their young son died in 1931 of Tuberculosis.
Lam lived in Madrid
during the Spanish civil war in which he sided with the Republic. In 1937, he
traveled to Paris
and became close friends with Pablo Picasso. It was through Picasso that he met
many of the leading artists in Paris
at the time. With the threat of German invasion in World War II, he left Paris in 1940 and went to
Marseille. There, through Varian Fry he became friends with André Breton and
formed close ties with the Surrealist movement.
In 1941, he returned to Cuba
and stayed there until 1946. During this time (1944) he married Helena Holzer;
they were divorced in 1950. In 1960, he married Lou Laurin with whom he had
three children. His masterpiece is considered to be “La Jungla” (“The Jungle”,
1943). He was predominantly a painter but he also worked with sculpture and
ceramics. Wilfredo Lam died in Paris
on September 11, 1982.
Alfred E. Smith was born on
this date. He was an African-American administrative activist.
From Hot Springs, Arkansas,
he left his hometown at the age of seventeen to attend Howard
University in Washington, D.C.
In 1932, Smith received his master’s degree in history, and for the following
year he worked as a substitute teacher in the Washington public schools. He then joined
the Federal Works Progress Administration, beginning a life-long career in
public service. Smith began as Assistant to the Director of the Negro Works,
Federal Emergency Relief Administration.
From 1935 to 1943, he was Administrative Assistant and Staff adviser, of the
Federal Works Progress Administration. In these positions, Smith acted as a
member of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet” an unofficial group
of black individuals in the upper reaches of the federal government who advised
President Roosevelt on policies affecting black Americans. Smith worked in
public relations, speech writing, and press advisory positions for the Public
Housing Authority, the Federal Civil Defense Agency, and the Department of
Labor. He also had an independent career as a successful journalist.
During the 1940s, Smith wrote two regular columns for the Chicago Defender
newspaper, edited a Washington
based newsletter, and contributed articles to a number of publications. Smith’s
other professional activities included founding the Capitol Press Club; a group
based Black journalists. He was also active in various civil rights
organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People and the Urban League, and formed a social group called the Gourmet Club.
These interests brought Smith into contact with many of the black leaders and
produced friendships that included the poet Langston Hughes, Dean of the Howard University
W. Montague Cobb, psychologist Kenneth Clark, and writer Alain Locke. Alfred E.
Smith retired from government service in 1974 and died May 26, 1986.
John Baxter “Doc” Taylor joins the ancestors as a result of
typhoid pneumonia at the age of 26. Taylor had
been a record-setting quarter miler and the first African American Olympic gold
medal winner in the 4 x 400-meter medley in the 1908 London games.
Henry Armstrong is born in Columbus, Mississippi,
Better known as “Hammering Hank,” Armstrong will become the only man to hold
three boxing titles at once in the featherweight, welterweight, and lightweight
this date, Charles Diggs
Jr. was born. He was an African-American politician.
From Detroit, Michigan,
he was the son of an undertaker and respected father in the Motor City
area. Young Diggs attended Miller High School, the University of Michigan, Fisk
University, and Wayne State University; earning a degree in Mortuary Services
in 1946. He joined his father in the family mortuary business, and then won his
father’s seat in the Michigan
senate in 1951. Early on, Diggs was a strong voice for civil rights.
He attended the Emmett Tills murder trial as an observer and was diligent in
awakening the conscience of the national Democratic Party; part of this effort
allowed the opening of a second Black-majority voting district in Michigan following the
1960 census. He was Michigan’s
first Black congressman and was the key player in organizing the Congressional
Black Caucus (CBC) and the National Black Political Convention. During the
Nixon Administration, he was a United Nations delegate. However early in 1978,
he faced charges of diverting $60,000 in office operating funds to pay his
personal expenses. Though convicted of the charges he still won re-election
Diggs appealed his conviction, was eventually censured by the House, and
stripped of his committee memberships; he resigned his seat in 1980 after
twenty-five years in Congress. He was sentenced to five years in prison and was
released after serving seven months. Afterwards, Diggs opened a funeral home in
Maryland and was indirectly involved in
politics; he also earned a political science degree from Howard University.
Charles Diggs Jr. died of a stroke in August 1998 and was eulogized warmly by
black colleagues from across the country.
Roland Hayes becomes the
first African American to sing in the Symphony Hall in Boston, Massachusetts.
A 1917 concert did not attract much public attention, but another in
the same venue held on this day, was triumphant.
this date, Evelyn Fairbanks was born.
She was an African-American writer, educator, and administrator.
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota,
Fairbanks spent a year in Omaha,
Nebraska with her natural mother (Eva Mae
Riddle) before resettling in St. Paul
with George and Willie Mae Edwards. She attended Mechanic
School and became the first Black employee at Hamline University
in St. Paul, as
a cashier. Later Fairbanks received a bachelor’s
degree from the University
of Minnesota at age 40.
After the University, she wrote The Days of Rondo, a memoir of growing up in
the 1930s and ‘40s in the thriving Rondo community the largest Black
neighborhood in St. Paul.
Published in 1990, the book is currently in its fourth printing. “Days of
Rondo” was adapted into a play, as was Everlasting Arms, another piece she
wrote about her childhood. During her life, she held jobs as a factory worker,
maid, and director of a neighborhood arts center. Fairbanks
moved to a 20-acre tree farm near a small town, Onamia, Minnesota
after she retired in 1991. Pneumonia in 1993 slowed her down and her breathing
was often labored because of asthma. In 1995, she received an honorary
doctorate from Hamline.
About that same time, she began her research on black pioneers in rural Minnesota, hoping to
compile her research into a book. When she died on March 21, 2001, she was
working on a book contract; she was also learning Japanese and lecturing to
Willie Brown, NFL
defensive back for the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders, is born.
“Carmen Jones,” a contemporary reworking of the Bizet opera “Carmen” by Oscar Hammerstein
II with an all-black cast, opens on Broadway.
Dr. Rufus Clement, president
of Atlanta University, is elected to the Atlanta
Board of Education.
Dial Press publishes Frank Yerby’s “Judas My Brother.”
In 1969 Marie
V. Brittan Brown designed a “Home Security System with Television Surveillance” for the homeowner to view the visitor on a television screen and the visitor also able to
view a screen. The homeowner could open the door via a manual lock mechanism.
Patent # 3,482,037.
Ohio State running back Archie
Griffin becomes the first person ever to win the Heisman Trophy twice,
when he is awarded his second trophy in New
York City. He amassed a career record of 5,176 yards
and 31 consecutive 100 yard plus games. He will play
for the Cincinnati Bengals and be elected to the National Football Hall of Fame
Andre Ware of the University of Houston becomes the first African
American quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy.
Dr. Maya Angelou is asked to
compose a poem for William Jefferson Clinton’s presidential inauguration.
date, Motown legend and diva and lead singer for the Supremes, Diana Ross was prestigiously honored at the 30th Annual Kennedy Center
Honors program with four other legendary contributors to the performing arts.
The other honorees were actor/comedian Steve Martin, pianist Leon Fleisher,
film maker/director Martin Scorsese, and singer/song writer Brian Wilson. The
Kennedy Center Honor annually honors individuals for lifetime contributions and
achievements in the performing arts at a star studded gala affair at the John F. Kennedy Center
for the Performing Arts in Washington,
DC. Some consider the height of
the honor to be akin to receiving the Nobel Peace for the arts.