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1748
James Lafayette’s birth is celebrated on this date. He was a black slave and patriot.

Born on William Armistead’s New Kent County farm, in 1781 he received permission to leave his master’s service and volunteer with the American forces under the Marquis de Lafayette, (a young French general and American ally). During this time the British had devastated Richmond, looting and burning much of the city and chasing the Virginia legislature from the Capitol; thus the Generals offer to assist the small army came at a critical time.

Gen. Lafayette began sending spies behind British lines. Impressed with his aptitude and superior memory, he sent him to enemy camps to get information on troop numbers, gun locations and morale of the army. He first worked as a volunteer in the camp of Benedict Arnold, who led one of two British armies in Richmond. Lord Charles Cornwallis led the other. Historians believe his job as a trusted servant gave him the opportunity to stand by as the general and officers discussed plans while they ate and drank. Risking his life, James would later whisper what he overheard to other trusted Black men in the camp who passed the information on to General Lafayette. He later returned to the Generals camp told him that Cornwallis had sent him as spy.

His work as a master spy helped keep enemy troop advances in check and was instrumental in setting the stage for George Washington’s victory at Yorktown, the final battle in the war. After the British surrender, Cornwallis visited General Lafayette’s headquarters where he saw James who he thought was his spy, wearing an American uniform. In 1784, Gen. Lafayette wrote a certificate to the Virginia legislature praising and a request companion James to be a free man, which was granted in 1787. James took Lafayette as his surname.

Twenty-three years passed before the state awarded James Lafayette the annual pension paid to whites that had taken part in the war. Decades later the state awarded James Lafayette an annual pension for his service to the American cause during the Revolutionary War. In 1824 the aging Marquis toured America for the last time. While in Richmond he met with his old comrade James, then 76 years old. During this visit James Lafayette, dressed in a military coat, sat for his portrait. It hangs in Richmond’s Valentine Museum. James Lafayette died in 1830.



1805
William Lloyd Garrison was born this date. He was an American abolitionist and newspaper publisher.

The son of a seaman from Newburyport, Massachusetts he was indentured at the age of 14 to the owner of the Newburyport Herald where he became an expert printer. The struggles of all oppressed peoples for freedom built his kind character as a youth. He expressed this in articles written by him anonymously or under the pseudonym Airsides, in the Herald and other newspapers. Here he tried to awaken Northerners from their apathy over the question of slavery in America.

In 1829 Garrison entered into partnership with the American antislavery agitator Benjamin Lundy to publish a monthly periodical, the Genius of Universal Emancipation, in Baltimore, Maryland. Lundy believed in gradual emancipation, as did Garrison at first; but he soon felt that immediate and complete emancipation was necessary. Because Baltimore was then a center of the domestic slave trade, Garrison’s eloquent accusations of the trade made many whites angry. A slave trader sued him for libel; he was fined, and jailed. After his release from prison Garrison ended his partnership with Lundy and returned to New England.

In partnership with another American abolitionist, Isaac Knapp, Garrison published The Liberator newspaper in Boston in 1831; the newspaper became one of the most influential journals in the United States. Garrison was also a pacifist and involved in other reform movements. He was deeply convinced that slavery had to be abolished by moral force. He appealed through The Liberator and through his speeches, especially those to religious leaders, for a practical application of Christianity in demanding freedom for the slaves.

His campaign provoked great hostility. That same year the state of Georgia offered a reward of $5000 for his arrest and conviction under Georgia law, and he received hundreds of threats on his life. Fearless, he helped to organize the New England Anti-Slavery Society in 1832. The next year, after a trip to England, where he enlisted the aid of abolitionist sympathizers, he helped establish the national American Anti-Slavery Society, of which he was president from 1843 until 1865.

After the passing of the 13th Amendment in 1865, Garrison decided to cease publication of the Liberator. Garrison spent his last fourteen years campaigning for women’s suffrage, pacifism and temperance. William Lloyd Garrison died on May 24, 1879.



1810
Tom Cribb of Great Britain defeats beats African American Tom Molineaux in the first interracial boxing championship. The fight lasted 40 rounds at Copthall Common in England.


1846
On this date, Norbert Rillieux patented the evaporating pan, his revolutionary improvement in the cultivation and processing of sugar. In 1843, he began developing a method for refining sugar into crystallized granules.

Prior to his invention, sugar was an expensive luxury, used only on special occasions. The previous process used to make sugar, known as the Jamaica Train, was a slow, dangerous, and expensive task, usually performed by slaves.

They’d work over open, boiling kettles, ladling sugarcane juice from one container to another. A large number of workers were scalded to death and others received terrible burns. The final product of this process was a dark thick syrupy substance, resembling caramel rather than the granulated form known today. The syrupy sugar was poured into cones to dry and was bought and sold in this condition.

The concept for Rillieux’s evaporation process is a multiple-effect operation in which a series of vacuum pans heat one another in sequence, thus controlling the overall temperature and producing the desired crystallized form. The importance of Rillieux’s invention to the American sugar-making industry cannot be overstated.


His evaporation process made it possible for the United States to dominate the world market and this process is still used for things like freeze-drying food, pigments, and other industrial products.


Rillieux was the son of a Black woman and a white plantation owner. He was sent to Europe to be educated.


1854
Edwin C. Berry was born on this date in 1854. He was a black businessman. From Athens, Ohio he was often called the “Black Horatio Algier” of Athens.

Berry was owner and co-founder of the City Restaurant and the
22-room Hotel Berry in Athens. It was one of the finest and most elegant hotels in the State of Ohio. He retired from business in 1921 having he had the reputation as the most successful black small-city hotel operator in the U. S.

Berry was a member of the National Negro Business League and Trustee of Wilberforce University. Edwin Berry died 1931.



1864
A mixed cavalry force, including Fifth and Sixth Colored Cavalry regiments, invades southwest Virginia and destroys salt mines at Saltville. The Sixth Cavalry was especially brilliant in an engagement near Marion, Virginia.


1910
Smarting from the humiliation of seeing the Ty Cobb-led Detroit Tigers tie the Negro Havana Stars in a six game series 3-3, the Indianapolis Freeman” states, “The American scribes refused to write on the matter, it cut so deep and was kept quiet.” Not quiet enough, however, to prevent a ban on Negro teams, even the Cuban-named clubs, from playing whites.


1943
Theodore Wilson is born in New York City. He will become an actor and will star on television in “That’s My Mama” (Earl the Postman), and “Sanford Arms”.


1948
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adapted by the United Nations General Assembly on this date.


1950
Dr. Ralph J. Bunche is the first African American to be presented the Nobel Peace Prize. He is awarded the Peace Prize for his efforts as under-secretary of the United Nations, working for peace in the Middle East. He received the honor for negotiating a (temporary) peace settlement between Israel and the Arab states that felt the new Jewish nation had been established on lands that rightfully belong to Palestinian Arabs.


1953
Mrs. Bessie A. Branch, noted Negro welfare worker, was named as “South Jersey Woman of the Year.” Mrs. Branch was the first Black so honored because of her 50 years of service to youth in the heavily populated area of Camden, NJ.


1955
The Montgomery Bus Company stopped service in Black neighborhoods on this date, the fifth day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.


1963
Zanzibar becomes independent within the British Commonwealth.


1964
Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at ceremonies in Oslo, Norway for leading the Black struggle for equality in the United States through non-violent means. The award helps make him an internationally recognized human rights figure and gives international prominence to the Black struggle for rights in America. In his acceptance speech, he dramatically rejects racism and war and reaffirms his commitment to “unarmed truth and unconditional love.” At 35, Dr. King was the youngest man, the second American, and the third black man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated his award money, $54,000, to the civil rights movement.


1965
Sugar Ray Robinson permanently retires from boxing with six victories in title bouts to his credit, more than any other fighter in history.


1967
Otis Redding, one of the most popular soul music stars in African-American history, and four members of the original Bar-Kays (Otis’ backup group) were killed when the twin-engine private plane Redding was piloting crashed near Madison, Wisconsin and Lake Monoma.  Redding was 26 years old. His signature song, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” was recorded just three days before his death. It became #1 for four weeks beginning February 10, 1968. He also wrote “Respect,” a classic R&B hit performed by Aretha Franklin. For the Bar-Kays, most of the group died in the crash, including, the group’s saxophonist Phalon Jones, but trumpeter Ben Cauley survived and group founder and bassist, James Alexander, who did not take the fateful flight. Alexander had returned a rental car and taken a commercial flight. The remade Bar-Kays went on to produce 28 albums with 20 Top 10 records. Their hits included Soul Finger, Son of Shaft, and She Talks To Me With Her Body. As the second house band for Stax Records at that time, the reborn Bar-Kays also played for Isaac Hayes. On his Theme From Shaft, Alexander played the distinctive bass riff on the classic.


1973
Rev. S. Howard Woodson became the first Black Speaker of a state legislature in the 20th century when he was elected by the New Jersey Assembly on this date.


1982
Pamela McAllister Johnson becomes the first African American woman publisher of a mainstream newspaper, the Gannet-owned Ithaca Journal.


1984
South African Anglican Bishop, Desmond Tutu receives the Nobel Peace Prize.


1999
Actress Shirley Hemphill joins the ancestors in West Covina, California at the age of 52. She was best known for her role as the “waitress with an attitude” on the television series, “What’s Happening!”

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