Salem Poor was a Black hero of the Revolutionary War. He distinguished himself so
in battle that fourteen American officers praised him before Congress. On this
day, a memorial was dedicated to him at Cambridge,
Massachusetts which carried the citation that
“under our own observation, we declare that a Negro man called Salem Poor, of
Colonel Frye’s regiment, Captain Ame’s company, in the late battle of Charleston, behaved like
an experienced officer, as well as an excellent soldier.”
African American poet Phyllis Wheatley joins the ancestors in Boston
at the age of 31. Born in Africa and brought
to the American Colonies at the age of eight in 1761, Wheatley was quick to
learn both English and Latin. She was the first African American author to be
published in form. Her first poem was published in 1770 and she continued to
write poems and eulogies. She astonished Bostonians with her ability to write
poetry yet while being a slave. A 1773 trip to England secured her success there,
where she was introduced to English society. Her book, “Poems on Various
Subjects, Religious and Moral”, was published late that year. Married for six
years to John Peters, Wheatley and her infant daughter died hours apart in
poverty in a Boston
boarding house, where she worked.
Sarah Gorham, the first woman appointed by the African Methodist Episcopal Church to serve as a foreign missionary in 1881, is born.
Alexandre Dumas, père (French for “father,” akin to Senior in English),
French novelist and dramatist, of “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “The Three Musketeers,”
and “The Man in the Iron Mask,” died at the age of 68 in Chaine des Puys,
William “Bill” “Dusky Demon” Pickett was born on
this date in Travis County, TX. He was a legendary cowboy of Black and Indian descent.
Bill Pickett was the second of thirteen children who began his career as a cowboy while in grade school. Pickett soon began giving exhibitions of his roping, riding and bulldogging skills, passing a hat for donations. By 1888, his family had moved to Taylor, Texas, and Bill performed in the town’s first fair that year. He and his brothers started a horse-breaking business in Taylor, and he was a member of the National Guard and a deacon of the Baptist church.
He signed on with the 101 Ranch show in 1905, becoming a full-time ranch
employee in 1907. Soon he moved his wife and children to Oklahoma. From 1905 to
1931, the 101 Ranch Wild West Show was one of the great shows in the country.
The 101 Ranch Show introduced bulldogging (steer wrestling), an event invented
by Bill Pickett, one of the shows stars. Riding his horse, Spradley, Pickett
came alongside a Longhorn steer, dropped to the steer’s head, twisted its head
toward the sky, and bit its upper lip to get full control. Cowdogs of the
Bulldog breed were known to bite the lips of cattle to subdue them. This was
how Pickett’s technique got the name “bulldogging.”
He later performed in Canada, Mexico, South America, England, and became the
first black cowboy movie star. Had he not been banned from competing with White
rodeo contestants, Pickett might have become one of the greatest record-setters
in his sport. He was often identified as an Indian or some other ethnic
background other than black, to be allowed to compete. Bill Pickett died in
1932, after being kicked in the head by a horse.
Famed humorist Will Rogers announced the funeral of his friend on his radio
show. His grave is on what is left of the 101 Ranch near Ponca City, Oklahoma.
In 1989, years after being honored by the National Rodeo Hall of Fame, Pickett
was inducted into the Pro-rodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy
at Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Bill Pickett is also in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
John Mathew Shippen Jr. was born on this date. He was an African-American golfer.
From Long Island, New York, Shippen was the fourth of nine children of
John Sr. and Eliza Spotswood Shippen, his father, a Presbyterian minister,
held a degree in theology from Howard University. One of his father’s early
assignments was pastor of a church on the Shinnecock Indian reservation
in Southampton, New York. Two years later when a group of Southampton residents
bought 80 acres in the area to build a golf course, Shinnecock Hills opened
for play in 1894 as a 12-hole golf course, which was expanded to 18 holes.
The owner, Scotsman Willie Dunn began to teach some of the local youth
how to caddy and play golf. One of his star pupils was John Shippen Jr.
Under the watchful eye of Dunn, not only did Shippen become a fine caddy,
but an accomplished golfer as well. His talent made him an assistant and
he also gave lessons to some of the club members. In addition, he served
as a starter for tournaments, repaired clubs and helped out the maintenance
crew, all this at the age of sixteen. In 1896, his golfing ability was
so evident that members encouraged him to enter the second U. S. Open,
scheduled to be played at Shinnecock.
With the club’s support, Shippen entered and convinced one of his young friends, Oscar Bunn, a full-blooded Shinnecock Indian, to play also. It wasn’t long before the nasty side of golf’s elite reared its ugly head. Several of the English and Scottish professionals confronted USGA president Theodore Havemeyer and threatened to withdraw if Shippen and Bunn were allowed to compete. Considering the times, Havemeyer’s response was one of a truly enlightened man. He informed the protesting professionals that the tournament would be played as scheduled, even if Shippen and Bunn were the only players. Everyone arrived for their assigned tee times when the Open started the next morning. Shippen quickly demonstrated his skill by carding a 78 in the first round, leaving him in a tie for first. The early Opens were contested over 36 holes and in the second round Shippen made the turn with a shot at the title.
Then came hole number 13 where he shot an 11, stopping any chance for the
trophy. Still, he finished with an 81, for a 159 total, 5th place and a $10 prize; Shippen said that hole haunted him his entire life.
He just could not believe he took that many strokes on a hole he had played
so many times. He played in four more U. S. Opens but his best finish was
in 1902 where he again finished fifth. In 1898 when Shippen’s father completed
his tenure as pastor on the Shinnecock Reservation, he moved to Washington.
Everyone in the family went with him except young Shippen who stayed in
golf, his first love, for the remainder of his life.
He served as golf professional at several clubs with his last stop being the
Shady Rest Golf Course in New Jersey in 1924, where he remained until he
retired in 1960. He died in 1968 in a nursing home in Newark, New Jersey.
Shippen played in the U. S. Open six times, ending in 1913. No African-American
played in the Open again until Ted Rhodes in 1948. It wasn’t until 1995 that
the John Shippen Memorial Golf Foundation was formed, honoring the memory of
one of American golf’s true pioneers.
The Forty-Seventh Congress (1881-83) convenes. Only two African American congressmen have been elected, Robert Smalls of South Carolina and John Roy Lynch of Mississippi.
Elbert Frank Cox was born on
this date. He was an African-American mathematician and educator.
Cox was born in Evansville, Indiana. He was the oldest of three boys born to Johnson
D. Cox, an elementary school principal, and his wife, Eugenia D. Cox. Close
knit and highly religious, the Cox family had a respect for learning that
mirrored the father’s educational career. When Cox demonstrated unusual ability
in high school mathematics and physics, he was directed toward Indiana
University. While at Indiana, he was elected to undergraduate offices and
joined the Kappa Alpha Phi fraternity.
After graduation in 1917, Cox entered the U.S. Army as a private during World
War I and was promoted to staff sergeant in six months. Upon discharge, he
became an instructor of mathematics at a high school in Henderson, Kentucky. In
1920 or 1921 (sources vary) Cox joined the faculty of Shaw University in
Raleigh, North Carolina, and left there two years later to attend Cornell
University with a full scholarship. In the summer of 1925, when Cox received
his doctorate from Cornell, he became the first Black to earn such a degree in
pure mathematics, a field concerned with mathematical theory rather than with
practice or application.
The topic of Cox’s dissertation concerned polynomial solutions of difference
equations. In the fall of 1925, Cox became the head of the mathematics and
physics department at West Virginia State College. He married Beulah P.
Kaufman, an elementary school teacher, on September 14, 1927. They had three
sons, James, Eugene, and Elbert. In 1929, he moved to Washington, D.C., to join
the faculty of Howard University. In 1947, Cox became chair of Howard’s
department of mathematics, a position he held until 1961 (a university rule
mandated that all department heads resign at the age of 65). In addition to his
contributions to abstract mathematics, he made his mark as an educator by
helping craft Howard’s grading system the year he joined their staff and by
advising numerous successful masters’ degree candidates in mathematics.
He remained a full professor in the department until his retirement in 1966.
During his career, Cox specialized in difference equations, interpolation theory,
and differential equations. Among his professional honors were memberships in
such educational societies as Beta Kappa Chi, Pi Mu Epsilon, and Sigma Pi
Sigma. He was also active in the American Mathematical Society, the American
Physical Society, and the American Physics Institute. Cox died on November 28,
1969, after a brief illness.
date, Mary Modjeska Monteith Simkins was born.
She was an African-American activist.
From Columbia, South Carolina Modjeska Monteith (as she was popularly known)
lived for over ninety years. She was the first of eight children (named after a
favorite polish actress of her parents Helena Modjeska) born to Henry and
Rachel Monteith. They were a prosperous couple that made academic structures
for Modjeska and her brothers and sisters in the home. She was placed in the
second grade upon enrollment at Benedict College (a private Black school designed
to give quality education not available in segregated school at the time). She
excelled in mathematics and decided to teach the subject after graduation.
In 1921, after receiving her A. B. degree, Simkins began teaching at the
elementary division of the Booker T. Washington School in Columbia; moving to
her favorite subject there two years later. In 1929, she married Andrew W.
Simkins and had to resign because married women were not allowed to teach in
Columbia’s city schools. Two years later she found work at the South Carolina
Tuberculosis Association as its Director of Negro Work; a position that lasted
until 1942, when she was released due to her participation in civil rights
activities. Before retiring, Simkins worked at Victory Savings Bank in Columbia
heading a branch and serving on their board of directors. Because of the
numerous Black colleges in the area: she completed her graduate studies.
Simkins attended Columbia University in New York, the University of Michigan,
and Michigan State Normal School (now Eastern Michigan University). Possibly
her greatest work during the 1940s and 1950s was as branch secretary with the
South Carolina NAACP (1942-1957). They launched a number of court cases
establishing equality for Black American’s Elmore v. Rice 1947 and Brown v.
Baskins (1948) dismantled the states long running all-White primary.
Briggs v. Elliot was filed in federal district court in May, 1950; setting a
tone with five other cases leading to Brown v. B.O.E. four years later. Simkins
also supported two predominantly Black third-party platforms, the Progressive
Democratic Party in 1940, and the United Citizens party in the 1970s. Her work
spanned more than six decades, she was a major figure in South Carolina
history. She received many honors in her lifetime including the highest
commendation given by her home state, the Order of Palmetto. Mary Modjeska
Simkins died in 1992.
Annie Green Nelson was born on this date in 1902. She is an African-American writer.
From Darlington County, South Carolina, she was the oldest of 14 children of
Sylvester and Nancy Greene. Her parents instilled honesty, truth, devotion, and
love. Her education started at a five-month school on the Parrot’s Plantation
in her home state and later she attended Benedict College and Voorhees College.
She studied drama at the University of South Carolina when she was 80 years
old. Nelson’s first published work, a poem entitled What Do You Think of
Mother, appeared in the Palmetto Leader newspaper in 1925.
Nelson’s first published book, After the Storm (1945), The Dawn
Appears, Don’t Walk on My Dreams, and Shadows of the South Land
portray the lifestyles of average black people. Her plays, Weary Fireside
Blues, T the ‘Parrots’ Plantation, as well as her book, To Paw
With Love, are autobiographical autobiography revealing aspects of her
triumphs and tragedies growing up in South Carolina. She is known for turning
sorrow into laughter. Her manuscript, Eighty, So What, is about how great life can begin at 80.
She has given readings all over her home state. She is a recipient of many
honors, including the Lucy Hampton Bostick Award and the P. Scott Kennedy Award
for dedication and devotion to African-American theatre. Annie Greene Nelson is
South Carolina’s first known, published, female African-American author.
Charity Adams (later Earley) is born. She will become the first African American commissioned
officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in 1942. She will serve in the Army
for four years and hold the rank of Lt. Colonel at the time of her release from
date, Geneva Handy Southall was born.
She was an African-American musician, educator, activist, and author.
From New Orleans, LA she was one of four children born to Rev. and Mrs. W. T.
Handy Sr. She attended segregated schools and overcame a speaking impediment
while young. All of the children in the Handy family were expected to learn
piano and a string instrument. Though her mother was her first piano teacher,
as she became skillful, her lessons came from Carol Blanton at Dillard
In 1941 Southall entered Dillard University. As a student she was active with
the school newspaper, theater guild, and community through Delta Sigma Theta
Sorority. She also accompanied the school choir and the chapel services on
piano. She taught piano privately as well, one of her students was Ellis
Marsalis, the father of renowned musicians Branford and Wynton.
After graduation she moved to Los Angeles and in 1944 married Patrick Omille
Rhone; the couple had one daughter Patricia (Tisch) Camille. In California she
continued school and taught piano at the Gray Conservatory of Music. In 1953
her husband died and she began to pursue work in higher education. This came in
the form of graduate work at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.
Three years later Southall received her Masters of Music in piano and theory.
Over the next ten years Dr. Southall performed nationally and internationally,
while presenting papers at major music conferences. Simultaneously she worked
in her community, with many Historically Black Colleges and University in America
and her church as she raised her daughter.
She also began involvement in civil rights through the NAACP. In 1966, Dr.
Southall became the first woman to receive a PhD in piano performance and Music
Literature at the University of Iowa. As an activist she was most impacting
while a professor at South Carolina State University at Orangeburg, S. C.
During the 1960s, Southall and her daughter, Tisch, were active in the civil
rights movement. Southall was a Plaintiff in school a desegregation suit and a
consistent picketer of government agencies and businesses. “She was political
minded,” her daughter said. “She was in prison twice. I was in jail seven
In 1970, Southall joined the University of Minnesota’s Afro-American Studies
Department as Professor of black music culture courses. She also became a
member of the Graduate Faculty in their Department of Music. She was named
department chairwoman in 1974. While in Minneapolis, she was one of the
organizers of the Black Music Educators of the Twin Cities, which promoted the
work of Black musicians. She headed the University of Minnesota’s
African-American Faculty Association and received numerous teaching awards,
including Outstanding Educator of America in 1973.
Other global recognitions include: International Who’s Who of Music,
International Who’s Who of Intellectuals, Dictionary of International
Biography, Who’s Who among Black Americans, Who’s Who of American Women, Who’s
Who in American Music, Eileen Southern’s Dictionary of Afro-American and African
Musicians, National Woman of the Year, Black Music Hall of Fame, and Dillard
University’s Distinguished Alumni Award. Southall pushed for increased racial
diversity at the University of Minnesota and in 1988 received an All-University
Diversity Award. In 1993, the African-American and African Studies department
named its library after Southall.
She retired in 1992. As an author she was known as a musical scholar and wrote
three books on Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins, the famed slave pianist and composer
of the 1800s. She spent more than 30 years researching Blind Tom’s life and
music and also made the first recording of his music. She also was inducted
into the Black Musicians Hall of Fame in 1988 and was a former board member of
the National Association of Negro Musicians. Professor Emeritus Geneva Southall
died on January 2, 2004 in Iowa City, Iowa, of complications from several
At the time she was the grandmother of four children and the great grandmother
of two. Her ashes are scattered at Dillard University.
James Cleveland was born on this date. He was an African-American minister, composer,
and gospel vocalist.
From Chicago, Illinois, Cleveland’s life calling began at the age of eight in that
city’s Pilgrim Baptist Church where he sang his first gospel solo in a choir
directed by famed gospel pioneer Thomas Dorsey. Mahalia Jackson lived on
Cleveland’s paper route and influenced his career too. In 1953, he joined a
gospel group called the Caravans as pianist, arranger, and occasional singer.
They had two successful recordings The Solid Rock and Old Time
Religion. Between 1956 and 1960, Cleveland wrote an average of three songs a week.
During this time, he left the Caravans, moved to Detroit, as the musical director at the Bethel Baptist Church and formed his own group, The Gospel Chimes in 1959. It was during this time that he collaborated with Aretha Franklin on the Grammy winning album Amazing Grace and received a record contract with Savoy Records. While there, Cleveland recorded over 100 albums and in 1963 released Peace Be Still, which remained on the gospel music charts for fifteen years.
That same year he moved to Los Angeles as pastor of the New Greater Harvest
Baptist Church and in 1970, he opened his own house of worship, the Cornerstone
Institutional Baptist Church. During the 1980’s Cleveland became a gospel music
legend, maintaining his commitment to gospel. His imaginative arrangements
brought jazz and pop rhythms into the music and paved the way for fusion gospel
artist such as Edwin Hawkins and Andre Crouch. His recording
of Peace Be Still with the James
Cleveland Singers and the 300-voice Angelic Choir of Nutley, New Jersey, will
earn him the title “King of Gospel.”
James Cleveland suffered severe respiratory problems in his later years and
died of heart failure on February 9, 1991 in Los Angeles.
n this date, Little Richard was born.
He is an African-American musician, singer, and Rock & Roll Icon.
Born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Georgia, he was one of twelve children. His father
Charles “Bud” Penniman was a Seventh Day Adventist preacher who sold moonshine
on the side. Growing up in Macon, Georgia, music was all over. Street vendors
and evangelist would sing selling everything from vegetables to religion. The
neighborhood sang spiritual songs as they worked. Several gospel singers
As a kid he sang gospel with the Penniman Singers and Tiny Tots Quartet.
Richard had a hyperactive personality that made him popular, but also got him
into trouble. His homosexuality didn’t help matters and he left home and danced
to draw customers in a traveling medicine show. By age fifteen he was a regular
with Sugarfoot Sam’s Minstrel Show. At 18 he won a talent contest in Atlanta
that led to a recording contract with RCA Victor. Four records were recorded
that went nowhere. In 1955, Art Rupe of Hollywood-based Specialty Records got a
demo tape from Richard. That same year, Richard came to J&M Studios in New
Orleans for the first time. It was here that he recorded some of the greatest
sides in rock and roll history with producer Bumps Blackwell.
Later that year “Tutti-Frutti” crossed over from the R&B to the pop chart,
rising to #17. This was followed by “Long Tall Sally” released on Specialty
Records, topping the R&B chart for eight weeks and reaching #6 on the pop
chart. Richard hit #2 on the R&B chart and #33 on the pop chart with
“Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)” and #1 on the R&B chart and #17
on the pop chart with “Rip It Up”. In 1957, He hit #1 on the R&B chart and
#21 on the pop chart with “Lucille”, #3 on the R&B chart with “Send Me Some
Lovin’”, #2 on the R&B chart and #10 on the pop chart with “Jenny, Jenny”
and #2 on the R&B chart and #8 on the pop chart with “Keep A Knockin’.”
That same year Richard suddenly left rock and roll for religion. He entered
Oakwood Theological College in Huntsville, Alabama. One year later he hit #4 on
the R&B chart and #10 on the pop chart with the Specialty release “Good
Golly, Miss Molly”. In 1959 the album “Little Richard Sings Gospel” was issued
on the 20th Century label. He recorded gospel in the coming years
for the Mercury and Atlantic labels, working with such producers as Jerry
Wexler and Quincy Jones.
In 1970, he quit music at the height of his career to re-enter Oakwood
theological college. He received a BA from the college and later became
ordained as a Seventh Day Adventist minister. That same year Richard released “The
Rill Thing,” the first of three albums. It was followed by “The King of Rock
and Roll” and “The Second Coming.” The last of these reunited him with the core
crew from his historic Fifties sessions in New Orleans. 1977, Richard again
walked away from rock and roll to embrace evangelical Christianity. He became a
traveling Bible salesman and preacher following a period of drug and alcohol
abuse. In 1979, he released the gospel album God’s Beautiful City.
Known for his flamboyant singing style, which was influential to many
Rhythm and Blues and British artists, in 1986 Little Richard was inducted
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That same year he had a memorable role in
the 1986 film ‘Down and Out in Beverly Hills. In 1993, he received a Lifetime
Achievement Award during the 35th annual Grammy Awards. One year
later, Richard received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm and Blues
date, Adolph Caesar was born.
He was an African-American actor.
From Harlem, New York, Caesar graduated from George Washington high school in
New York City and enlisted in the Navy where he achieved the rank of chief
petty officer. After military retirement he studied dramatic arts at New York
In 1970, he joined the Negro Ensemble Company, performing in many of their
productions including, The River Niger, The Brownsville Road, and the one-man
show The Square Root of Soul. He worked with the New York Shakespeare Festival,
the Lincoln Center Repertory Company, and the American Shakespeare Company in
Stratford, Connecticut, and the Center Theater Group at the Mark Tapper Forum
in Los Angeles. Caesar came to prominence in 1981 with a strong performance of
Sgt. Vernon C. Waters in the Negro Ensemble Company’s production of A Soldier’s
Play. This earned him an Obie Award and a New York Drama Desk Award.
His performance in the film version of the same drama earned him an Oscar
nomination for best supporting actor in 1984. Other credits to him included The
Color Purple (1985) and Club Paradise (1986). Adolph Caesar died during a
filming on March 6, 1986.
date, the National Council of Negro Women was founded in New York City.
Founded by Mary McLeod
Bethune, thirty-five women gathered to map out a program for united and concerted
action by various Black women’s organizations to unite women and secure
justice. NCNW has grown into a multi-faceted, non- profit organization
that works at the national, state, local and international levels. It pursues
the goal to: “leave no one behind” and improve quality of life for women,
children and families. With a worldwide membership of over one million,
the NCNW consists of 38 affiliated national organizations, 250 community-based
Sections chartered in 42 states, 20 college-based Sections and 60,000 individual
As the umbrella organization for this widely diverse group of organizations and individuals, ranging from college-based sororities and professional associations to civic and social clubs, NCNW has an outreach to over four million women. With a national headquarters in Washington, D.C. since 1942, NCNW now maintains offices, in Atlanta, Brooklyn, New York, and New Orleans, and three international field offices Dakar (Senegal), Harare (Zimbabwe), and Cairo (Egypt).
NCNW has also sponsored the merging of two community-based agencies, NCNW
of Greater New Orleans, and NCNW of Greater New York in Jamaica, New York.
NCNW is run by a Board of Directors made up of the heads of each of its
affiliated national organizations and an Executive Committee of 20; elected
by the membership at the biennial National Convention.
NCBW’s Chair of the Board of Directors is also elected at the National
Convention; celebrated civil rights leader Dr. Dorothy I. Height currently
serves as the elected Chair.
Langston Hughes’s play, “The
Mulatto,” begins a long run on Broadway.
Mary McLeod Bethune is awarded the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for her work as
founder-president of Bethune Cookman College and her national leadership.
The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is awarded to Thurgood Marshall, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, “for his
distinguished service as a lawyer before the Supreme Court.”
In the aftermath of World War II, mob violence and lynching of Black
Americans, in conjunction with the continuing controversy about segregation in
American society, led President
Harry S. Truman to created The Committee on Civil Rights
by Executive Order No. 9808. Attorney Sadie
Tanner Mossell Alexander and Channing H. Tobias were two African Americans who will serve as members of the committee
which was set up to study the protection of civil rights in the United States.
Despite being knocked down twice, once in the first round and second in
the fourth, Joe
Louis defeats Jersey Joe Wolcott in a 15 round split decision in New York City. It was also the first
time a heavyweight championship boxing match is televised.
Ezzard Charles defeats Jersey
Joe Walcott for the heavyweight boxing title.
date, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began. This
was one of the pivotal starting points of the modern civil rights movement in
In Montgomery, Alabama segregation was a part of everyday life. Blacks, who
lived there, faced segregation in places such as parks, schools, restrooms,
theaters, and buses. The laws of the country made it hard for blacks to
register and participate in elections. The justice system discriminated against
them, unjustly jailing and prosecuting many, while banning them from holding
public office. One particular area of bitterness amongst Montgomery Blacks of
that era was the segregation law of the bus system. Blacks were the majority of
the customers of the buses accounting for 60% of the riders. Yet, they were
forced to adhere to oppressive conditions on buses. The bus drivers, all of
whom were white, treated blacks with racist and abusive attitudes, often
calling their passengers derogatory names such as “nigger,” “Black cow”, and
They often required blacks to pay their fares in the front of the bus, and then
walk to the back door to board the bus. Sometimes though, bus drivers would
take off before the passenger could get on leaving their passenger behind.
While, this practice often angered blacks, the practices of “White-only”
seating angered them even more. The law stated that blacks could not sit in the
front of the bus, regardless of whether the seats were empty or not. After Rosa Parks was arrested on December 1st
1955 for her refusal to yield her seat to a White man and
ride in the back of a city bus, the news of this event spread
through the black community. Community members decided that a boycott of the
bus system was long overdue. Jo Ann Robinson of the
Women’s Political Committee began to organize a one-day protest. When the word
spread about the protest several other black leaders wanted to convene. At a mass meeting at the Holt Street Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr. was elected president of the boycott organization.
Under the leadership of E.D. Nixon, former
chair of the NAACP of Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, H.H.
Hubbard, and Ms. A.W. West, an
organized movement got underway. In order, to resourcefully carry out this
goal, the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) was formed, with King as
their leader. The MIA adopted a plan of action for the protest that was
officially to begin on December 5. The resolution basically stated three
demands: 1) Blacks would not ride the buses until polite treatment by bus
drivers was guaranteed to them. 2) Segregation must be abolished on buses and
first come first served policy adapted and 3) The employment of black bus
drivers. Deciding that they could no longer fight the county of Montgomery,
black leaders filed a federal lawsuit against Montgomery’s segregation laws,
because they were not in accordance with the fourteenth amendment.
On May 11, 1956 the case was heard before a three panel federal court. About
three weeks later in a two to one decision; it was decided that the segregation
laws were indeed unconstitutional. The Montgomery County lawyers immediately
appealed the decision in the Supreme Court. While the boycotter’s were waiting
for the Supreme Court to rule the protest continued. During that time,
incidences continued to try to end the movement. Reverend
Robert Graetz, a White minister, who served a predominately Black
church, had his house bombed. The Mayor denounced the incident as a publicity
stunt by blacks and reiterated that Whites did not care if the boycott lasted
forever. Harassment by cops increased and insurance policies continued to be
canceled. The law was making it almost impossible for the carpool system to
take place and eventually the city filed suit against leaders of the movement
citing that the car pool was a “public nuisance” and an illegal “private
enterprise”. On November 13, 1956 leaders readied to face on of the darkest
days of the movement; knowing that without the car pool system people might be
forced to ride the buses.
While in Montgomery waiting for the decision about the carpools, King received
a message from the federal court. It simply stated that “the motion to affirm
is granted and the judgment is affirmed,” meaning that the Supreme Court
supported the decision that segregation on the buses was illegal. The next
night the official boycott was called to a conclusion; but it was soon revealed
that the order would not reach Montgomery for about a month. Faced with the
obstacle of not being able to participate in carpools, a “share a ride” system
was worked out, and the buses remained empty for another 30 days.
On December 20, 1956 the mandate came to Montgomery. The next day King,
Abernathy, and Nixon were the first to integrate the buses. The boycott was
Asa Philip Randolph and Willard
S. Townsend are elected vice-presidents of the AFL-CIO.
Carl Murphy, publisher of the Baltimore Afro-American, is awarded the NAACP’s
Spingarn Medal for his contributions as a publisher and civil rights leader.
New York City becomes the first city to legislate against racial or religious
discrimination in housing market (Fair Housing Practices Law).
Martin Luther King Jr. is awarded the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
C. Wallace, then Circuit Court Judge of Clayton, AL, who later became
Governor of Alabama, threatened to jail any Civil Rights Commission agent who
tried to get voter registration records in six Alabama counties. The Commission
had subpoenaed the records in any inquiry into charges that Black had been
denied the right to vote.
Marcus Allen, tailback for the University of Southern California, wins the Heisman
Trophy. Six years later, Tim Brown of the Notre Dame “Fightin’ Irish” will win the
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at age 37, is the oldest player in the National Basketball
Association. He decides to push those weary bones one more year by signing with
the Los Angeles Lakers - for $2 million.