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The African Meeting House is established in Boston, Massachusetts and will become the oldest African American house of worship still standing in the United States. This house of worship will be constructed almost entirely by African American laborers and craftsmen, but funds will be contributed by the white community. Because of the leadership role its congregation takes in the early struggle for civil rights, the African Meeting House will become known as the Abolition Church and Black Faneuil Hall. Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison will be speakers there.

Jane Cannon Swisshelm was born in on this date. She was an American educator, publisher and abolitionist.

From Pittsburgh, PA, her father died when she was eight year old, and she helped her mother to support the family by lace making and as a schoolteacher at the age of fourteen. In 1836 she married James Swisshelm and moved to Louisville, Kentucky. It was here that she became involved in the campaign against slavery and became a member of the Underground Railroad. In 1848 Swisshelm established her own anti-slavery newspaper, the Pittsburgh Saturday Visiter.

Swisshelm also used the newspaper to advocate women’s rights. She was also paid $5 a week by Horace Greeley for contributing a weekly article for the New York Tribune. On 17th April, 1850, Swisshelm became the first woman to sit in the Senate press gallery. Swisshelm moved to Minnesota and established the St. Cloud Visitor. She ran a column of comments and advice in response to readers’ letters. In 1853, she published a collection of these columns in book form called Letters to Country Girls.

Her newspaper office was attacked by a pro-slavery mob and her printing press was destroyed. Swisshelm purchased another and launched a new antislavery journal, the St. Cloud Democrat. On the outbreak of the American Civil War Swisshelm sold her newspaper and worked as a nurse for the Union Army, in Washington and Fredericksburg until 1864.

After the war Swisshelm retired to Swissvale, Pennsylvania, where she wrote her autobiography, Half a Century (1880). Jane Cannon Swisshelm died in Swissvale on July 22nd, 1884.

Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in Maryland. Tubman became the best known and most productive “conductor” on the Underground Railroad leading Blacks from slavery in the South to freedom in the North and in Canada. She conducted at least 19 trips into slave territory and brought out more than 300 slaves. She also worked as a spy for Union forces during the Civil War. Tubman was born Araminta Ross around 1820 and died in March 1913.

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified on this date.

It reads that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude” shall exist in the United States and gives Congress the power to enforce this article by legislation. Although this amendment, which was ratified in 1865, had been preceded by a federal restriction on the importation of slaves in 1808, by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, and by legislative bans against slavery in many of the states prior to 1865, the 13th Amendment was the first unconditional constitutional action to terminate the institution of slavery and the first of the amendments to protect the equal status of black people (others are the 14th, 15th, and 24th amendments.

The 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States was proposed to the legislatures of the several States by the Thirty-eighth Congress, on the 31st day of January, 1865, and was declared, in a proclamation of the Secretary of State, dated the 18th of December, 1865, to have been ratified by the legislatures of twenty-seven of the thirty-six States.

The dates of ratification were: Illinois, February 1, 1865; Rhode Island, February 2, 1865; Michigan, February 2, 1865; Maryland, February 3, 1865; New York, February 3, 1865; Pennsylvania, February 3, 1865; West Virginia, February 3, 1865; Missouri, February 6, 1865; Maine, February 7, 1865; Kansas, February 7, 1865; Massachusetts, February 7, 1865; Virginia, February 9, 1865; Ohio, February 10, 1865; Indiana, February 13, 1865; Nevada, February 16, 1865; Louisiana, February 17, 1865; Minnesota, February 23, 1865; Wisconsin, February 24, 1865; Vermont, March 9, 1865; Tennessee, April 7, 1865; Arkansas, April 14, 1865; Connecticut, May 4, 1865; New Hampshire, July 1, 1865; South Carolina, November 13, 1865; Alabama, December 2, 1865; North Carolina, December 4, 1865; Georgia, December 6, 1865. Ratification was completed on December 6, 1865. The amendment was next ratified by Oregon, December 8, 1865; California, December 19, 1865; Florida, December 28, 1865 (Florida again ratified on June 9, 1868, upon its adoption of a new constitution); Iowa, January 15, 1866; New Jersey, January 23, 1866 (after having rejected the amendment on March 16, 1865); Texas, February 18, 1870; Delaware, February 12, 1901 (after having rejected the amendment on February 8, 1865); Kentucky, March 18, 1976 (after having rejected it on February 24, 1865). Mississippi rejected the amendment, December 4, 1865.

The 13th Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to include prohibition of public or private racial discrimination in the disposal of property, in making and enforcing contracts, and in private employment. Although specifically directed against slavery, the ban against involuntary servitude (“except as a punishment for crime”) has been viewed by the federal courts as applicable to other conditions of forced labor.

The National Black Labor Convention, the first Black labor organization, meets in Washington, DC. James M. Harris is elected president.

Joseph H. Rainey from the state of South Carolina is sworn in as the first Black person to serve in the United States House of Representatives. Other Blacks were also sworn in on this day, but Rainey was first in line.

P.B.S. Pinchback is elected president pro tem of the Louisiana Senate and acting lieutenant governor. He is the first African American to serve in these positions in state government.

The Forty-Fourth Congress of 1875-1877 convenes with a high of eight African Americans taking office. They are Senator Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi and Congressmen Jeremiah Haralson of Alabama, Josiah T. Walls of Florida, John Roy Lynch of Mississippi, John A. Hyman of North Carolina, Charles E. Nash of Louisiana, and Joseph H. Rainey and Robert Smalls of South Carolina.

This date marks the birth of William S. Beaumont Braithwaite. He was an African-American author.

From Boston, the son of an immigrant from British Guiana and the daughter of a former slave he was educated at home until 1884 when his father’s death left the family impoverished. Braithwaite then attended public school by left at twelve to work and help his family. He worked for several people before settling into an errand boy job with the publishing firm of Ginn & Co., where he soon became an apprentice and compositor.

During this time Braithwaite realized his passion for poetry, he submitted poems and critical essays to various newspapers and magazines, including the Atlantic Monthly, the North American Review, and Scriber’s. In 1904 he published his first book of verse Lyrics of Life and Love. Two years later, he published his first book of anthology, the Book of Elizabethan Verse, a second volume of poetry, House of Falling Leaves, appeared in 1908. Braithwaite is recognized more for his editorials than his poems mainly because the latter give no reference to racial identity.

In 1913, he produced the first Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook, the publication for which he is best known. This appeared annually between its inception and 1939 and included Harlem renaissance authors Sterling Brown Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Anne Spencer, Claude McKay, and early works from Carl Sandburg, Vachel Lindsay, Amy Powell, and Robert Frost. A Spingarn Medal recipient in 1918, Braithwaite founded the B.J. Brimmer Publishing Company in 1922.

They published several books most notably Georgia Douglas Johnson’s first volume of poetry Bronze and James G. Cozzen first novel Confusion. Braithwaite taught at Atlanta University, retiring in 1945. William Stanley Beaumont Braithwaite died in 1962.

Sgt. Thomas Shaw earned Congressional Medal of Honor.

Theodore Lawless was born on this date in 1892. He was an African-American dermatologist, philanthropist, and medical pioneer.

From Thibodeaux, Louisiana, his parents were Alfred Lawless Jr. and Harriet Dunn Lawless. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to New Orleans. His father and mother’s generosity had a significant impact on their son. Known by his friends as “T.K.,” Lawless attended Straight College. He received an A. B. degree at Talladega College in Alabama in 1914. Lawless attended the University of Kansas medical school, earned a M.D. from Northwestern University in 1919 and a M.S. in 1920. After a one-year fellowship of dermatology and syphilogy at Massachusetts General Hospital, Lawless completed his postgraduate training at the University of Paris.

In 1924, he started his practice in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Chicago. In the same year he began teaching dermatology at Northwestern University Medical School where he served until 1941. As an instructor and researcher, Lawless made a number of contributions to the field of dermatology. His research was published in such scholarly publications as American Journal of Dermatology, Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. He worked to find a cure for leprosy and made several strides in the treatment of both leprosy and syphilis. As a physician, Lawless was often consulted by other doctors he was noted for his equal treatment of patients regardless of class or race.

He also donated funds for a research laboratory, equipped with the latest technology, at Provident Hospital in Chicago. In addition he supported several Jewish related causes in appreciation for the support he received from Jewish physicians when he sought letters of reference to study in Europe; of the 12 references he received, 11 were from Jewish physicians. He created the Lawless Department of Dermatology in Beilison Hospital, Tel-Aviv, Israel; the T. K. Lawless Student Summer Program at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovoth, Israel; the Lawless Clinical and Research Laboratory in Dermatology of the Hebrew Medical School, Jerusalem; Roosevelt University’s Chemical Laboratory and Lecture Auditorium, Chicago; and Lawless Memorial Chapel, Dillard University, New Orleans. The chapel was built in honor of his father.

Lawless was an shrewd businessman; he was a director of the Supreme Life Insurance Company and the Marina City Bank as well as a charter member, president, and associate founder of Service Federal Savings and Loan Association in Chicago. Lawless received honorary degrees from Talladega College, Howard University, Bethune-Cookman College, Virginia State University, and the University of Illinois. Among his prestigious honors were the NAACP Spingarn Medal for 1954, and the Golden Torch Award of the City of Hope. Lawless died in Chicago on May 1, 1971, after a long illness.

On this date, we remember the birth of Blind Willie Johnson. He was an African-American gospel singer who performed on the streets of the South.

He was noted for the energy and power of his singing and for his original guitar accompaniments. Johnson grew up near Temple, Texas. When he was seven years old his stepmother, fighting with his father, threw lye in Johnson’s face, permanently blinding him. From his youth, he sang gospel songs while accompanying himself on guitar, for donations on the streets of small towns and cities, mostly in Texas. Johnson recorded 30 songs in Dallas, Texas, and Atlanta, Ga., in 1927-30.

His strong voice was a rough, low baritone; joined with his urgently rhythmic guitar, his harsh singing achieved great force in “If I Had My Way I’d Tear the Building Down” a narrative of the biblical Samson and Delilah story. While most of his recordings conveyed similar potency, he created a unique joining of vocal moaning with slide guitar lines in the slow, haunting “Dark Was the Night—Cold Was the Ground,” a song about Jesus’ crucifixion.

He continued to sing and beg until, after his house burned down, Blind Willie Johnson caught pneumonia and died in 1947 in Beaumont, Texas.

Don King is born. He will become the most controversial and best known boxing promoter in the history of the sport.

The birth of Dr. Jeanne L. Noble is celebrated on this date. She was an African-American educator.

From Albany, GA, she graduated from Howard University and received a master’s and doctorate degrees from Columbia University in Guidance and Developmental Psychology. In addition to serving as the 12th National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, she was the first woman of color to serve on the National Board of the Girl Scouts USA and on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in The Services (DACOWITS).

A resident of New York City she was the first African American woman to move from assistant to full professor at the New York University School of Education. An innovator and visionary, Noble completed the first basic research on Black women in college (1950s) and published the book, The Negro Woman’s College Education. In the 1970s, her book, Beautiful, Also, are the Souls of My Black Sisters was published. She was appointed to many federal national commissions by United States Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford.

Dr. Noble was also a leader of the Women’s Job Corps Program. She also served on the board of directors of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and was a founding chairperson of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s National Commission on Arts and Letters. Dr. Jeanne Noble died in November 2002 at New York University hospital.

On this date, Richard B Spikes received a patent for an Automatic gear shift for cars. Major companies welcomed his inventions.

Milwaukee Brewing Company purchased his beer keg tap and the automobile directional signals, which were first introduced in the Pierce Arrow, soon became standard in all automobiles. For his innovative designs of transmission and gear-shifting devices, Spikes received over $100,000.00 in the 1930s. By the time he was creating the automatic safety brake in 1962, Spikes was losing his vision.

To complete the device, he first created a drafting machine for blind designers. The machine would soon be used in almost every school bus in the nation. Richard Spikes died in 1963.

Huddie Ledbetter, 60, known as “Leadbelly, king of the 12-string,” died of lateral sclerosis in New York. He was born in Mooringsport, LA, in 1888, and reared in Texas where he learned to play accordion and guitar. Discovered by folklorist Alan Lomax, and noted for his clear, forceful singing and his playing of the 12-string guitar, Ledbetter recorded for the Library of Congress and played numerous night club engagements during the 1940s. In 1949, he toured France successfully and, during the period, began to spark a general interest both at home and abroad in American folk music. Some of his songs, such as On Top of Old Smoky and Good Night, Irene became commercial success when recorded by others.

Colonel Paul Magliore was inaugurated president of Haiti following the county’s first popular presidential election.

Nelson Mandela and 156 others are jailed for political activities in South Africa.

500 store owners sign pledges of nondiscrimination in Tucson, Arizona.

Dr. Frantz O. Fanon, noted author and political activist, joins the ancestors in Washington, DC. He succumbs to leukemia at the National Institutes of Health. Born on the Caribbean island of Martinique, Fanon was a revolutionary and intellectual giant who wrote extensively on the impact of colonialism and racism on the mental makeup of the non-white peoples of the world. His subjects ranged from self-hatred to the internalization of violence within an oppressed group. His two most famous works were “Wretched of the Earth” and “Black Skins, White Masks.”

Madame Lillian Evanti, internationally famed opera singer, died in Washington, DC on this date. Evanti founded the National Negro Opera Company in 1941.

Lewis Franklin Powell is confirmed as Supreme Court justice despite opposition of civil rights organizations.

South Africa grants Bophuthatswana its independence. The constitution in effect after South Africa’s first all-race elections in April 1994 will abolish this black homeland, which will be reabsorbed into South Africa.

Grace Ann Bumbry participated in a benefit concert put on by Artists to End Hunger.

Nathan I. Huggins, who wrote about Frederick Douglass and authored several works in the Harlem Renaissance, died in Boston, MA on this date.

Grambling University football coach Eddie Robinson coaches his last game. The Louisiana Black college football legend won more college football games than any other coach in American sports history. Robinson died in 2007 at the age of 88.

Lee Brown became Houston’s first black mayor narrowly defeating businessman Rob Mosbacher.

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