Clinton Bowen Fisk was born on
this date. He was an American soldier, prohibitionist, businessman and
From near the Erie Canal in Western New York,
Fisk was the son of Benjamin Bigford Fisk and Lydia Aldrich Fisk. His parents
moved to the (then) Michigan
Territory while he was a
baby. His father’s death caused him and his family to grow up in poverty. Young
Fisk did establish himself as a small banker in Coldwater, Michigan
where in 1850 he married Jeannette Crippen. Fisk’s bank business was ruined in
the economic Panic of 1857.
He was a resourceful man, who re-established himself in St. Louis, Missouri
by the start of the Civil War. As a soldier he was in the home guards, seizing Camp Jackson
in May 1861. During the summer of the following year, Fisk recruited and
organized the 33rd Missouri Volunteers, and was promoted that
November to brigadier general. He mustered out in 1865 as a major general.
After the war, Fisk was appointed to the Freedman’s Bureau. He came on board as
assistant commissioner of the Bureau of Refuges, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands
for Kentucky and Tennessee. It was here in 1866, he opened a
school for freedmen in an abandoned army barracks in Nashville, Tennessee.
A year later the institution was chartered (in his name) as Fisk University.
Soon after, Fisk returned to banking in New
York until 1874 when he was appointed to the Board of
Indian Commissioners. He was president of the board from 1881 until 1890.
During this time (1882) Fisk was appointed as a trustee of Dickinson College.
Six years later (1888) Fisk ran for President of the United States on a Prohibition
Party ticket, gaining 250,000 votes. Clinton Fisk died on July 9, 1890.
The first African American woman to graduate from college is Lucy Ann Stanton. She completes the two-year ladies’ course and receives the Bachelor
of Literature degree from Oberlin College in Ohio.
President Abraham Lincoln issues his Proclamation on Amnesty and Reconstruction for the
restoration of the Confederate states into the Union.
He offers them a full pardon and restoration of their rights if they are
willing to take an oath of loyalty to the Union
and accept the end of slavery.
Writer, clergyman, and speaker Henry Hugh Proctor was born in Fayetteville,
TN. He will be best known for his
book, “Between Black and White: Autobiographical Sketches.” “The Burden of the
Negro” was one of his famous orations. He died in 1933.
The National Equal Rights Convention adopts a resolution to include African Americans.
J.T. White patents the lemon
Sarah Williamson was born on
this date. She was an African-American teacher, administrator, and missionary.
From Norfolk, Virginia,
Williamson was sent to boarding school at Hampton
Normal School (now Hampton University).
There she completed four years of high school and two years of normal school.
After graduation she attended the University
of Rochester (New
York) for two years training for missionary work in Africa. Williamson sailed for Liberia in 1924. She was stationed
at the Suehn Industrial Academy,
becoming its third principal. Early in her missionary experience Williamson was
very discouraged to find that her translators were not interpreting her
religious messages correctly.
She then decided to work with children, believing they could learn English more
easily than their parents and they could teach her their language. She taught
them to read and hoped that in return they would teach their parents to read
the Bible. Williamson was married and widowed twice. She returned to America in
1932. During her eight years in Africa,
Williamson traveled campaigning extensively for money for her mission work. In
1954, she returned to Africa at the same
school as their Dean of Girls, working there until 1957. Sarah Williamson died
in Washington D.C. in 1986.
Zelma Watson George was born on
this date. She was an African-American activist, delegate to the U.N., opera
singer, speaker and educator.
From Hearn, Texas, George was the daughter of Samuel and
Lena Thomas; her father was a Baptist minister. Her family lived in Hearne, Palestine, and Dallas and briefly
in Hot Springs, Arkansas, during her childhood. She later
remembered the presence of a number of prominent Black leaders who spoke at her
father’s church and visited her home in Dallas.
W. E. B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Carter Woodson, Mary Branch Terrell, and
Walter White were a few of the notable visitors who frequently discussed issues
relating to African Americans in her presence.
Her family left Dallas when her father incurred the wrath of some white Dallas
citizens for his assistance to Black prisoners. Threatened by Dallas
authorities and vigilantes, the family moved to Topeka, Kansas, where her
father accepted another pastorate in 1917. After graduating from the Topeka
public schools, she enrolled in the University of Chicago. Because the
university would not permit her to reside in the dormitory with white women,
her father accepted a pastorate in Chicago, and she lived with her family while
She obtained a Sociology Degree from the University of Chicago and studied voice
at the American Conservatory of Music. She earned advanced degrees from New
York University in Personnel Administration and Sociology. George served as a
social worker for the Associated Charities of Evanston, Illinois, and was a
probation officer for the juvenile court of Chicago. From 1932 to 1937 she was
dean of women and director of personnel administration at Tennessee State
University in Nashville.
She moved in 1937 to Los Angeles, California, where she established and
directed the Avalon Community Center until 1942. With the assistance of a grant
from the Rockefeller Foundation, she then moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she
researched her dissertation and began a lengthy career of civic involvement
through membership in such organizations as the Young Women’s Christian
Association, the Council of Church Women, the Girl Scouts, the Conference of
Christians and Jews, the League of Women Voters, the Fund for Negro Students,
the Urban League, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Beginning in 1949, George performed in several stage presentations. She played
and sang the lead role in Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Medium, an opera that ran
for sixty-seven nights at the Karamu Theater in Cleveland and for thirteen
weeks in New York City at the Edison Theater. After The Medium closed on
Broadway, George received the Merit Award of the National Association of Negro
Musicians. She also acted in Menotti’s The Consul at the Cleveland Playhouse
and performed the role of Mrs. Peachum in Kurt Weill’s The Three Penny Opera at
the Karamu. Her first marriage ended in divorce and she married for the second
time to attorney Clayborne George in 1944. She had no children.
During the 1950s she became involved with national and international political
issues as an adviser to President Dwight David Eisenhower’s administration. She
toured with the Defense Advisory Committee on Women on the Armed Services from
1954 to 1957 and served in 1958 on the president’s committee to plan the White
House Conference on Children and Youth. She was on the executive council of the
American Society for African Culture from 1959 to 1971, traveled to Europe and
Asia through the Educational Exchange Program, and served as a member of the
United States delegation to the United Nations in 1960. Beginning in the 1960s,
she served as a speaker for the W. Colston Leigh Lecture Bureau, the Danforth
Foundation, and the American Association of Colleges, usually addressing
secondary schools, universities, civic clubs, and corporate employees.
George attended a “Ban the Bomb” conference in Ghana, West Africa, in 1963 and
attended the First World Festival of Negro Art with Marion Anderson and Duke
Ellington at Senegal in 1966. Also in 1966 she became executive director of the
Cleveland Job Corps Center for Women. She delivered the keynote address for the
first Student International Security Council Meeting in 1969; President Richard
Nixon named her to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, where she worked in
1971-72. On a return trip home from lecturing at Bethune-Cookman College, she
stopped in Orlando to visit relatives. During a delay at their airport, she
took a seat in a waiting room and was approached by a police officer to leave
the room: “Get out you Yankee trouble-maker or I’ll throw you out!” She
responded angrily to the room of 75 people: “I am a United States delegate to
the United Nations. Not long ago I returned from a round-the-world lecture tour
at the request of the State Department. I was trying to create for people in
foreign lands an image of my country as a land where all men are created equal
and freedom is everyone’s birthright. Is there no one in this room who will
stand up for me now?” No one spoke up for her.
From 1966-74 she was the Director of the Cleveland Job Corps where it
experienced tremendous growth. Even in her retirement and after the death of
her husband, she lectured, wrote and taught at Cuyahoga Community College in
the Elders Program; her classes were extremely popular due to her experience, knowledge
and passion. She received the Dag Hammerskjold Award, the Edwin T. Dahlberg
Peace Award and was selected by the Greater Cleveland Women’s History Committee
as one of the “Women Who Shaped Cleveland.” She was awarded the Daughter of
Ohio award by the Civic Recognition Committee of Ohio for Statewide Honors.
Zelma George died on July 3, 1994 in Cleveland, Ohio. Today, there is shelter
for homeless women and children named in her honor.
marks the birth of Sammy Davis Jr. He was an
African-American impressionist, actor, singer and dancer.
Though not a jazz singer per se, Davis could play trumpet and vibes and
occasionally subbed on drums in the Woody Herman and Lionel Hampton bands. From
Harlem, Sammy Davis Jr. was born into show business, to Elvera Sanchez, a
chorus girl, and Sam Davis Sr., the lead dancer in a vaudeville revue called
Will Mastin’s Holiday in Dixieland. Davis began in vaudeville, at the
age of 3, in that show. In 1931, he appeared in the Ethel Waters’ film Rufus
Jones for President. In 1932, his uncle’s act was renamed the Will Mastin
Trio, and Davis, who learned to tap dance from Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, soon
became the star of the act. Davis went solo in the early ‘50s and made his
first mark with an album, Starring Sammy Davis Jr., that mimicked other
singers. He released over 40 albums and won many gold
records, which included “Candy Man,” “Hey There,” “Mr. Boganles,” and “The Lady
is a Tramp, among others.
In 1954, Davis lost an eye in a car accident, and his eye patch became a stage
signature. His first hit was “Hey There,” followed by “Something’s Gotta Give,”
“Love Me Or Leave Me” and “That Old Black Magic.” He debuted on Broadway in Mr.
Wonderful and played Sportin’ Life in the film of Porgy and Bess. In the
1960s, Davis appeared with Sinatra and Martin in the “Rat Pack” films Oceans
Eleven and Robin and the Seven Hoods. Davis sold a million records
in 1962 with “What Kind of Fool Am I.” In 1988, he made a film with Gregory
Hines, named Tap. Davis died on May 16, 1990.
Davis was one of the first African-American performers to be accepted fully
into the American mainstream, and made this acceptance much the subject of his
Hank Thompson was born on this date. He was an African-American baseball player.
From Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Henry Thompson was the hard-hitting star for the
Kansas City Monarchs, playing both infield and outfield. At 17, Thompson played
right field in his first season with the Monarchs, batting around .300. The
following year, in March, he was drafted into the Army. Thompson was a machine
gunner with the 1695th Combat Engineers at the historic Battle of
the Bulge. Sergeant Thompson was discharged on June 20, 1946, and returned to
the Monarchs, who were in the midst of capturing the league title.
After winning the American League pennant the Monarchs faced the National
League’s Newark Eagles, led by Leon Day, Max Manning, Larry Doby and Monte
Irvin. During the seven-game series, Thompson hit .296, in a losing effort. He
possessed a powerful throwing arm and covered the outfield with grace. Thompson
was well liked by his teammates, but trouble also liked him. After the season,
Thompson joined the Satchel Paige All-Stars who barnstormed the country against
Bob Feller’s All-Stars in separate private luxury planes. Thompson claimed his
share for 17 days’ work was an amazing $7,500. With the start of the 1947
season, history was made when Jackie Robinson broke the color line with the
A few months later, Thompson was informed by the Monarchs’ traveling secretary
that his contract, along with teammate Willard Brown, had been sold to the St.
Louis Browns. On July 17, Thompson became the third Negro League player to play
in the Major Leagues. He went hitless, with an error, as the Philadelphia A’s
beat the Browns, 16-2. Thompson was with the Browns a little over a month and
hit only .256, in 78 at bats, playing in 27 games, mainly at second base. On
August 23, he was released and he rejoined the Monarchs through the 1948
season. Thompson batted .375 with 56 RBI’s, in 267 at-bats in his last year
with Kansas City. He finished third in the batting race behind future New York
Giants star Artie Wilson’s .402 and the Chicago White Sox’ Bob Boyd’s .376.
Thompson also led the Negro American League in steals with 20.
On June 9, 1949, he married Maria Quesada of Havana in Brooklyn, New York. On
the 4th of July that year the New York Giants called him and Monte
Irvin up from the Giants’ Jersey City farm club. Thompson received $2,500 over
the league minimum of $5,000. By signing with the Giants, Thompson earned a
unique place in baseball trivia, as the first Black to play in the National and
American leagues. Other trivia first included his appearance with Indian Larry
Doby in an August 9 doubleheader, making it the first time Black players of
opposing teams appear on the field at the same time. Another first occurred
when Thompson batted against Dodger Don Newcombe.
It was the first time in Major League history that a Black pitcher faced a
black batter. Also, in the 1951 World Series, he was forced to play right field
in place of injured Don Mueller, with Willie Mays and Irvin, creating the first
all-Black outfield in Major League history. Thompson spent the next eight
seasons with the Giants, compiling a lifetime batting average of .267. In 1957,
his contract was sold to Minneapolis of the American Association, where he
finished his career.
Thompson played in two World Series, 1951 and 1954, hitting .364 in the latter
Series against the Cleveland Indians. Hank Thompson died on September 30, 1969
in Fresno, California.
Jimmy Smith was born this date in. He is an
African-American jazz musician.
From Norristown, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia; His given name is James Oscar Smith. His mother
played the organ in a local church and his father was a tap dancer and a
musician. Smith began playing piano for his father’s act at an early age. At
the young age of 14, Smith enlisted in the navy where he played both the piano
and the bass in the segregated army band. After a couple of years in the
service, Smith moved back to Philadelphia where he worked construction and on
the Pennsylvania Railroad to make ends meet.
It wasn’t until he saw “Wild Bill Davis” perform on organ that he decided to
pursue a musical career. Soon after that night, Smith bought a Hammond B-3
organ and a big Leslie speaker. After four months of intense practice, he came
out swinging. Energetic hard bop, blues, and the sound of the church also
developed his style. Smith’s reputation grew and the Hammond organ quickly
became a legitimate jazz instruments. In 1956, Smith took his music to New
York. Successful performances helped him get signed by Blue Note Records. He
began his recording career with a trio album called “A New Sound, A New Star”
and by the end of the ‘50s he was one of the busiest artists on the label. Often
working with saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, guitarist Kenny Burrell, and
drummer David Bailey, he developed a great following. His Blue Note
recordings also included superb collaborations with Lee Morgan, Lou Donaldson,
Tina Brooks, Jackie McLean, and Ike Quebec.
In 1962, Smith signed with Verve Records and began working with larger
ensembles with arranger and composer Oliver Nelson using many of his
orchestrations. He also wrote themes for movies such as “Goldfinger” and “The
Carpetbaggers” and worked with guitarist Wes Montgomery. During the ‘70s and
early ‘80s Smith opened up a nightclub in Los Angeles with his wife Lola. His
career has spanned more than forty years and his musical influence is still
being felt. His soulful, rhythmic and thunderous sound on the Hammond B-3 organ
created a space for a new generation of jazz organists as well as other
instrumentalists. He had hits such as “Walk on the Wild Side.”
Smith lived in Sacramento, California and occasionally doing a concert or a
recording session he died on February 8, 2005.
date, Flip Wilson was born.
He was an African-American entertainer and the most visible black comedian of
the early 1970’s.
From Jersey City, New Jersey, the tenth of 24 children, eighteen of whom survived,
Clerow Wilson (his given name) was a troublesome
child in his youth. His family was extremely poor and he ran away from several
reform schools, ultimately being raised in foster homes. His comedic talents
first surfaced while he was serving in the Air Force overseas. While in the
Pacific, Wilson entertained his buddies with preposterous routines, upon his
return to civilian life he had to settle for a day job as a bellhop along with
Opportunity found him in 1959 when a Miami businessman sponsored him for
one-year for $50 per week, enabling him to concentrate on the work he loved.
For the next five years Flip Wilson appeared regularly at the Apollo Theater in
Harlem. The Tonight Show was his next stop. in 1965 he began a series of
nationwide appearances there and this was followed by long term contracts and a
number of hit records. With The Flip Wilson Show in the early 1970’s, he became
the first Black American to have a weekly prime-time television show under his
own name. Many of his original character creations (such as Geraldine), became
household conversation pieces.
Wilson made the cover of Time Magazine in 1972 and made his dramatic debut on
the Six Million-Dollar Man in 1976. Other television credits include People Are
Funny (1984) and Charlie & Co. (1985). Flip Wilson died on November 25, 1998.
“Gibbs vs The Board of Education” in Montgomery County, Maryland is the first of a succession of suits
initiated by the NAACP that eliminated wage differentials between African
American and white teachers.
“The Michigan Chronicle” is founded by Louis
The Spingarn Medal is presented to John Hope,
posthumously, for his achievement as president of Morehouse College and for his
creative leadership in the founding of the Atlanta University Center.
Jerry Butler is born in Sunflower, Mississippi. He will become a rhythm and blues
singer with his group, The Impressions and will be best known for his songs, “Never
Give You Up”, “For Your Precious Love,” “He Will Break Your Heart,” and “Only
the Strong Survive.” He will become involved in the election of Chicago’s first
African American mayor, Harold Washington, work as Cook County Commissioner and
will serve as a Chicago City Alderman.
Jackie Robinson, baseball great, received the 41st NAACP Spingarn Medal on
this date for his superb sportsmanship, for his pioneer role in opening up
baseball for Blacks to explore, and for his civic consciousness.
The Reverend John Melville Burgess is consecrated as suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts—the first African
American bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church to serve a predominantly
Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., the first African American astronaut, joins the ancestors when his
F-104 Starfighter crashes at Edwards Air Force Base in California’s Mojave
date, Los Angeles police raided the Black Panther headquarters, in L.A.
This happened four days after police assassinated Black Panthers, Fred Hampton
and Mark Clark in Chicago.
In the battle, the Panthers withstood the police (including a bomb dropped on
the roof of the building). Frustrated, the police arrested Elmer Geronimo Pratt, the
Panther’s Deputy Minister of Defense, on a fabricated robbery and murder charge
that was later dismissed. In Chicago they were able to shoot Hampton through a
wall because they had a detailed map of the apartment provided by an FBI agent
who had also made sure Hampton would be on the other side of that wall by
drugging his food the night before.
Pratt, a decorated Vietnam vet, had used his military training to successfully
fortify the building. The 11 Los Angeles Panthers inside the office kept up
their resistance for five hours on that December night! On June 10, 1997 after
27 years in prison, many of them under severe hardship in solitary confinement
Elmer Geronimo Pratt’s conviction was overturned and he was released.
The (then) 49-year-old former paratrooper was greeted by hundreds of
well-wishers with words of peace, not bitterness.
Representative George Collins joins the ancestors in an airplane crash, near Midway Airport in
Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 47.
Lafontant is named Deputy Solicitor General of the
Earl Campbell, a running back with the University of Texas, is awarded the Heisman
Trophy. Campbell will play for the
Houston Oilers and be elected to the Football Hall of Fame in 1990.
Mike Rozier, of the University of Nebraska, is awarded the Heisman Trophy.
Kurt Lidell Schmoke is inaugurated as the first African American mayor of Baltimore,
Maryland. He would later generate controversy by calling for the
decriminalization of certain drugs arguing that the so-called war on drugs was
counter-productive and unfairly harmful to Blacks. Schmoke currently heads the
Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C.
Barry Sanders, a running
back with Oklahoma State University, is awarded the Heisman Trophy.
Tap dancing legends Fayard and Harold Nicholas and six others receive Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC.
Nkem Chukwu, a Nigerian
American, delivers Ebuka, the first of eight children at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston,
Texas. In what doctors consider a medical first, the other seven siblings will
be delivered on December 20. Only seven will survive.
A Memphis, Tennessee jury hearing a lawsuit filed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s family, finds that the civil rights leader had been the victim of a vast
murder conspiracy, not a lone assassin.