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1754
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.


1870
Joseph 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.


1872
Acting 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.


1886
This date 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.



1890
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.


1896
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 at Columbia, 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.



1899
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.


1900
National Negro Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” was composed by brothers James Weldon (lyrics) and James Rosamond (melody) Johnson.


1911
The 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.


1912
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.


1913
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.


1918
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 Blues.”


1922
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.


1929
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.


1938
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.


1941
Three 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 Grammy winner.


1943
On this 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. Magic.”

He continued to record and tour internationally, playing at clubs and festivals worldwide. Grover Washington died
on December 17, 1999.


1945
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 immediate.

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 move.

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.



1956
Dr. 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.


1961
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.


1963
This date 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.



1963
Medgar Wiley Evers is awarded the Spingarn Medal posthumously for his civil rights leadership.


1965
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.


1965
Gale Sayers, of the Chicago Bears, scores 6 touchdowns and ties the NFL record.


1968
Arthur Ashe becomes the first African American to be ranked Number One in tennis.


1975
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.

3000 members 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.


1979
Rhodesia becomes the independent nation of Zimbabwe.


1986
Bone Crusher Smith knocks out WBA champion Tim Witherspoon in Madison Square Garden in New York City.


1993
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.


1995
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.


2007
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.


2007
Marion 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.


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