Benjamin Banneker, mathematician, astronomer, and inventor, completed the first clock
made entirely in America.
Banneker published a yearly almanac and is remembered for helping to survey the
land for the District of Columbia.
Hayne Rainey of South Carolina
was the first Black to be elected to the United States House of Representative.
He served from December, 1870 until March, 1879, to fill and unexpired term.
Governor Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, holder of more government offices
than any other Black man in history, received a telegram from U.S. Attorney
General George H. Williams stating that he “was recognized by the President as
the lawful executive of Louisiana” following the impeachment of Governor Henry
Warmouth. For 43 days, Pinchback served as governor of Louisiana, the only Black ever to hold this
office in any state. Pinckney Pinchback was born a slave in Mississippi
in 1837 but was sent to Cincinnati
to continue his education. From 1854 to 1861, he worked as a cabin bow and the
as a deck hand on a riverboat. During the early stages of the Civil War,
Pinchback recruited and organized two regiments of Black soldiers for the Union
Army. However, because of discriminatory policies, he reassigned in 1863. One
of the most colorful figures of Reconstruction, Pinchback was elected to the
House of Representative in the fall of 1872. In January of 1873, he was elected
to the Senate. When he arrived in Washington,
he had the extraordinary distinction of being a congressman-elect and a
senator-elect. After much debate in Congress, Pinchback was rejected.
celebrates the birth of Frederick
McDonald Massiah. He was an African-American engineer and businessman.
Born in Barbados, Massiah
immigrated to the United
States in 1909 where he started as a
laborer, working during the day and studying architecture at night. He studied
at the Pennsylvania School of the Fine Arts and earned a degree in Civil
Engineering at (now) Drexel
University. By the early
1920s, he established his own business and was among the first successful Black
contracting engineers in the country. He established a construction business
during a time when it was almost impossible to obtain financing, insurance, and
acceptance in trade unions.
His methods of using reinforcements in concrete pre-dated the existence of
widespread building codes in the 1920s. By using a combination of concrete and
steel acting as a unit, rebar in concrete, high tensile qualities of steel
allow concrete to stretch and twist with greater yield strength than
un-reinforced concrete while helping prevent cracks in the structures due to
changes of temperature and shrinkage.
Frederick Massiah was awarded the Harmon Foundation Medal for Engineering in
recognition of the outstanding beam and girder work. During a forty-five year
span of activity stretching into the late 1960s, Massiah was responsible for
building many structures. He died on July 7, 1975.
Mordecai Wyatt Johnson was born on
this day. He became one of the foremost Black educators in America and the first Black president of Howard University
in Washington, D.C.
Eslanda Goode Robeson was born on
this date. She was an African-American writer and activist.
From a middle-class family in Washington D.C., her maternal grandfather was Francis L. Cardozo, a
noted Black Congressman from South
Carolina. During the early 1900’s the family moved to
New York City where Goode finished high school
and attended Columbia
University received a
degree in chemistry in 1923. Soon after she attended the London School of
Economics, and earned a doctorate in anthropology from Hartford Seminary. While
Goode married Paul Robeson and had one son Paul Jr. Ms. Robeson’s main
political activity from the 1930’s to the 1960’s was focused on the colonized
people of the world, primarily African-Americans.
In 1936 while in Africa with her son she wrote African Journey, a diary of her
trip. A pioneer for African self-determination, in 1941, Robeson co-founded the
Council on African Affairs. In 1951, she was one of the three protesters who
disrupted the United Nations postwar conference on genocide. In 1958 as one of
the few women delegates, Robeson attended the All-African Peoples Conference in
the newly independent Ghana. Though never an open member of the Communist
Party, she was a well-wisher to Socialist countries like the Soviet Union and
China after its 1949 revolution.
Called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), in 1953 to
defend her political affiliations, she refused to cooperate with what she
viewed as ant-communist hysteria and was chastised. After living abroad with
her husband, Robeson returned to America as the Vietnam conflict broke out. She
spoke out against the involvement and for the peace movement of the 1960’s.
Eslanda Robeson died of cancer in 1965.
Boston native, dentist, and avid golfer George F. Grant receives a patent for his invention of the wooden golf tee. Prior to the use of the tee, wet sand was used to make a small mound to place the ball. Grant’s invention will revolutionize the manner in which golfers swing at the ball. It was patent number 638,920.
Negro Anthem, “Lift Every Voice
and Sing,” was composed by brothers James
Weldon (lyrics) and James Rosamond (melody) Johnson.
home run king of the Negro Baseball League, Josh
Gibson, is born on this day. Gibson is considered by many to have been
the best player to ever play the game of baseball.
Henry Armstrong was born in this day in St. Louis,
Missouri. In 1938 he became the first boxer to hold three titles after winning
the boxing light weight championship.
James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens is born in
Oakville, Alabama. He will become a world-class athlete in college, setting
world records in many events. He will go
on to win 4 gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, spoiling Hitler’s plans to
showcase Aryan sports supremacy.
Famed jazz singer Joe Williams is born in Cordele, Georgia. Williams will sing for seven years in
Count Basie’s band, where he will record such hits as “Every Day I have the
On this date in White Sulphur Springs,
WV, the 14th Annual Conference of Governors met and
considered the Ku Klux Klan and Prohibition. The Louisiana Governor John Milliken Parker had met
with President Warren G. Harding on November 20, 1922.
Vincent Smith is born in New York City. Smith will exhibit his works on four continents
and be represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the
National Museum of American Art, and the National Museum of Afro-American
Artists in Boston.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Missouri that a state must provide equal educational facilities
for African Americans within its boundaries. Lloyd Gaines, the
plaintiff in the case, disappears after the decision and is never seen again.
time Grammy-winning singer Dionne Warwick (and later promoter of the Psychic Friends network) was born on this day
in East Orange, NJ. Warwick will sing in a gospel trio with her sister
Dee Dee and cousin Cissy Houston and begin her solo career in 1960 singing
the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. She will become a three-time
date, Grover Washington Jr. was born.
He was an African-American tenor, alto, soprano and baritone saxophonist who also
plays the clarinet, electric bass and piano; and he composed, too.
From Buffalo, New York, he grew up in a musical family. Washington started
playing the saxophone when he was 10, and was already playing in clubs as a
teenager. After graduating from high school at the age of sixteen, he formed a
group called The Four Clefs. The group was based in Ohio. Washington was
drafted into the army and sent to radio school at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where
he was accepted into the Nineteenth Army Band. The logistical advantage of
being near New York City allowed him to moonlight and connect with many of the
great musicians of his time.
But it wasn’t until the 1970s that Washington hit it big, playing a style of
crossover instrumental music that appealed to many musical tastes. His record
sales, in particular, were enormous as they achieved gold and platinum status.
He also won a double-Grammy for his platinum album Winelight. Washington
helped usher in what has now become adult contemporary music. One of his more famous recordings was “Mr.
He continued to record and tour internationally, playing at clubs and festivals
worldwide. Grover Washington died on December
Tony Williams was born in Chicago on this date. He
was an African-American musician (drummer).
His family moved to Boston when he was about 2. He was an active freelance
musician in the Boston area by the time he was 15 thanks in large part to his
musician father, who exposed him to the club and musician scene early on. He
studied with Alan Dawson and played with Roach and Art Blakey while still a
youth. Appearing on the jazz scene in the early ‘60s, first with Sam Rivers and
then with Jackie McLean, the very young drummer Anthony Williams’ impact was
His solos and drop-time accompaniment were revolutionary departures from not
only idol Max Roach’s approach to percussion but from everyone else who’d ever
played. A frenetic yet delicate player, Williams’ early style was characterized
by blinding speed and an acute sense for hearing what everyone else was
playing. He would eventually import more bulk to his set, emphasizing volume,
and impact more than pure dexterity. It was through his association with McLean
that he met and, in May 1963, joined Miles Davis in a life-changing career
During the course of his brilliant six-year stint with Davis’ quintet, Williams
also recorded with many others, and released two albums of his own, Lifetime
(1964, Blue Note) and Spring (1965, Blue Note). These albums were critically
praised and the first real avant-garde albums for the label. By 1969, Williams
formed his seminal electric band, Lifetime, with John McLaughlin and Larry
Young. During the ‘70s, he founded different electric groups, was a member of
V. S. O. P. — the jazz band with former Davis band-mates Herbie Hancock, Ron
Carter, and Wayne Shorter—and played with various others.
In the ‘80s, Williams formed his last great band, playing acoustic,
straight-ahead jazz for Blue Note, as well as recording in a number of
different settings that emphasized his continual diverse tastes. Williams’
musical life also included work as a composer, a talent he displayed with great
flair throughout his career and that he was in the process of developing
further at the time of his sudden death on February 23, 1997.
Joseph H. Ward, the first Black to be appointed to head a Veterans Administration Hospital,
died in Indianapolis at the age of 86. In 1922, Dr, Ward was named superintendent
of the Tuskegee, AL Veterans Hospital. During his 12 years as head of the
Tuskegee institution, he built an impressive record as an administrator.
Martin Luther King Jr., along
with over seven hundred demonstrators is arrested in Albany, GA, after five
mass marches on city hall to protest segregation. The arrests trigger the
militant Albany Movement.
marks the country of Kenya achieving its independence from Great
Britain with Jomo Kenyatta as its first minister.
As an independent country, Kenya was initially a constitutional monarchy, with the British monarch as its nominal head of state and a Prime Minister as head of government. In December 1964, however, Kenya became a republic with a president as both head of state and head of government. Kenyatta was chosen as the country’s first president. Kenyatta died in 1978, and Moi assumed the presidency of Kenya. He took the Swahili word nyayo (meaning “footsteps”) as his leadership motto to assure Kenyans that he was following the legacy of Kenyatta.
At first, Moi adopted a populist approach, releasing political prisoners,
moving to limit Kikuyu political and economic influence, and traveling
among the nation’s people. In the 1980s, however, Kenya’s economic growth
began to slow, and Moi’s rule became increasingly authoritarian. In 1982
the Moi government altered the constitution to make Kenya officially a
one-party state. That year Moi survived a coup attempt by air force personnel.
Beginning in the 1980s, Kenya experienced several debilitating droughts
and the price of coffee dropped several times. These factors damaged the
Kenyan economy; the nation fell into debt, and unemployment rose dramatically.
Fueled by economic discontent, strong pressure for reform of the political
system and an end to Moi’s rule emerged from many sectors of Kenyan society
by the end of the 1980s. Moi resisted the calls for reform, but his government
came under pressure from foreign economic donors, such as the World Bank
and the United States, to implement political and economic reforms. Moi
finally bowed to domestic and international pressures in December 1991
and agreed to legalize other political parties.
Multi party legislative and presidential elections were held in December 1992, but the opposition was split along ethnic lines and Moi was reelected. Continuing economic difficulties and calls for further reform marked Moi’s standing. His administration also was accused of corruption and overspending, particularly through it’s favoring of development projects in Kalenjin-dominated areas that supported him. Before the elections of 1997, opposition parties held demonstrations calling for electoral reform, and further ethnic clashes occurred.
In late 1997 Moi consented to the repeal of repressive anti-opposition laws
that had existed since colonial times. However, opposition to Moi’s rule
remained divided, and he was reelected president.
Medgar Wiley Evers is awarded the Spingarn Medal
posthumously for his civil rights leadership.
Johnny Lee, an actor best known for his portrayal of “Calhoun” on “The Amos ‘n’
Andy Show,” joins the ancestors at the age of 67.
Gale Sayers, of the Chicago Bears, scores 6 touchdowns and ties the NFL record.
Arthur Ashe becomes the first African American to be ranked Number One in tennis.
The National Association of Black Journalists is formed in Washington,
DC. Among its founding members are Max Robinson, who will become the first African American anchor of a national
network news program, and Acel Moore, a future Pulitzer Prize winner.
strong with 74 affiliated professional chapters and 51 student chapters, it is
the largest media organization for people of color in the world. The mission of
the organization is to strengthen ties among African-American journalists,
promote diversity in newsrooms, honor excellence and outstanding achievement in
the media industry, expand job opportunities and recruiting activities for
established African-American journalists and students interested in the
journalism field, and expand and balance the media’s coverage of the
African-American community and experience.
Rhodesia becomes the
independent nation of Zimbabwe.
Bone Crusher Smith knocks out WBA champion Tim Witherspoon in Madison Square Garden in New York
Ronald (Ron) H. Brown, former Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was appointed
head of the Department of Commerce by President Bill Clinton on this date.
Willie L. Brown,
Jr., former California Assembly speaker, defeated incumbent Mayor
Frank Jordan on this day to become San Francisco’s first Black mayor. The
runoff election had been forced by the results of a November 7 mayoral election
in which no candidate had gotten a majority of the vote. Sworn-in in January
1996, Brown held the position until 2004. Born March 20, 1934, in Mineola, TX,
he worked as a janitor, crop-harvester, and messenger throughout his high
school years. When he graduated, he moved to San Francisco, where he worked his
way through San Francisco State University (1955) and the University of
California’s Hastings College of Law (1958). He was admitted to the State Bar
of California and built a thriving law practice. Brown was elected to the
California Assembly in 1964 and was reelected 16 times, serving 31 years in the
state legislature. Elected as the first Black Speaker of the Assembly in 1980,
he held a position of power second only to the governor. He served in the post
for 15 years. Currently, Brown has returned to practicing law.
On this date, musician Ike Turner died in his suburban San Marcos, CA
home, just outside San Diego. He was 76. He was a rock legend who pioneered in
Rock and Roll in 1951 with his band The Kings of Rhythm when they recorded
“Rocket 88.” In 1958, he married Annie Mae Bullock and, after changing her name
to Tina Turner, they recorded a number of hits and toured as the Ike and Tina
Turner Review. Their most famous hit, “Proud Mary,” won a Grammy for them in
1972. “Proud Mary” became a hit, catapulted Tina Turner into a stellar Rock and
R&B legend, and became her signature song along with her legs. The couple
divorced in 1976 and in an autobiography by Tina Turner, noted him for his
abuse and drug addiction. This followed him to the end of his life and was
depicted in the movie, “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” where he was depicted
by actor, Laurence Fishburne. After seeming recovering from his addictions,
Turner made concert tours, but was never able to recover from his stigma. The
Turners were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
Lois Jones (also known as Marion Jones-Thompson) was officially
stripped of five Gold Medals, three gold and two bronze, that she won in the
2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia and the books by the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) after admitting in October, 2007 to taking steroids prior
to the 2000 Games. Jones won gold medals in the 100 meters, 200 meters and
1,600-meter relay in Sydney, and bronze in the long jump and 100-meter relay.
She was the first female track and field athlete to win five medals at a single
Olympics. In addition to stripping her Sydney medals, the IOC
disqualified Jones from her fifth-place finish in the long jump at the 2004
Athens Olympics. After her admission, she accepted a two-year suspension from
track and field competition and, on October 5, 2007, she announced her
retirement from competition. She was also banned from the 2008 Summer Games.