The First African Baptist Church of Savannah,
Georgia began on this date. This is one of the oldest black churches in
Originally called the First Colored
Church the pastoral life of George Leile’s preaching is tied to its
beginning. He began leading this congregation on the second Sunday in December
that year, marking the beginning of this house of worship. The First African
has survived the birth of America,
the repressive hand of a hostile British, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Black
Codes and the
Revolutionary changes of the 1960’s upon their community. For over 200 years
the First African
has served on behalf of all people and is a standing monument for black America in the
eyes of God. One of the slaves baptized by Minister Leile was Andrew Bryan. He
became the second pastor of the church, purchasing the fourth site on which
they worshiped on West Bryan
The congregation changed the name of the church in 1822 from the First Colored
Church to First African
On July 26, 1826, their Sunday school was organized with the aid of the
Independent Presbyterian Church. The members of the congregation erected the
present sanctuary, in 1859. This is the first building constructed of brick in
the State of Georgia
owned by blacks. For years it was known as the “Brick Church.” The pipe organ was installed in 1888.
Currently the church houses a museum containing archives and memorabilia that
date the church back to the 18th century. Listed in the National
Register of Historic places, the First
operation at 24 Montgomery Street,
president of the United
States of America, George Washington, technically frees his slaves.
However, no slaves became free immediately. Washington’s will stipulated that the slaves
be granted their freedom upon the death of his wife Martha.
marks the birth of John Mercer
Langston. He was a black politician.
Langston was born in Louisa County, Virginia to a
plantation owner and Jane Langston, a slave. When he was 4, both his parents
died and he moved to Oberlin,
Ohio, with a family friend. He was allowed a
quality education and attended Oberlin College
and earned bachelors, masters and theology degrees. After studying under an
attorney, he was admitted to the Ohio
bar in 1854. He was elected Virginia’s
first Black congressman more than 100 years ago and served as a “first” in
several other arenas. Langston helped create the Republican Party in 1854 and
participated in various anti-slavery activities, including a major role in the
Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape the South to freedom in the North.
He became the first black elected official in the United
States in 1855 as elected clerk of a rural Ohio township. He played
a major role in recruiting black soldiers for the Union army during the Civil
War, recruiting troops for the all African American 5th Ohio
and 54th and 55th Massachusetts
regiments. When the war ended, he was appointed inspector general for the
Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal agency created to assist freed slaves. Langston
moved to Washington in 1868 to organize and establish the Howard University
in Washington, DC. It was the first
Black law school in the nation and becoming its dean and president. He also
became the first Black to practice before the U. S. Supreme Court, was elected
a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1876, and a year later
named U. S. minister to Haiti.
Langston returned to Virginia in 1885 to serve
as the first president of what is now Virginia State
University. In 1888, he
ran as an independent in Virginia’s
4th Congressional District and was eventually awarded the seat in
September 1890. His term ended 161 days later and he was defeated in a bid for
re-election. Langston retired to Washington,
where he died in 1897. Langston, Okla., and Langston
University are named in
his honor. He was also the great uncle of renowned Harlem Renaissance poet
Lillian Randolph was born on
this date. She was an African-American actress.
From Louisville, Kentucky, she and her older sister Amanda were very successful
stage and film performers. Her guest star roles include: Here Comes the Bride
and There Goes the Bride (1972); Sanford and Son as Aunt Hazel; Tenafly as Aunt
Gertrude (1973); The Six Million Dollar Man as Landlady- Clark Templeton
O’Flaherty (1975); The Jeffersons as Emma — Mother Jefferson’s Birthday (1976).
Other starring roles include The Bill Cosby Show (1969) — Rose Kincaid
(1969-1970). Randolph’s film credits include: It’s a Wonderful Life; Once Is
Not Enough; How To Seduce a Woman; Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins; The
McCullochs; Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte and The Onion Field; Magic (1978). She
died of cancer on September 12, 1980 in Los Angeles, California.
Deford Bailey was born on this date. He was an
African-American Country and Blues musician.
From Bellwood, Tennessee, Bailey overcame polio early in his life. His back was
deformed and he never grew taller than four feet, ten inches. His mother died
when he was a baby, and his father’s sister and her husband raised him.
Stricken with infantile paralysis at the age of three, the bedridden child was
given a harmonica as a means of amusement. Bailey’s skill with the harmonica
and his musical talent gained him a reputation in the field of country music.
Bailey’s impressionable years were spent around the rural communities of
Tennessee, near the railroad, where Bailey composed many of his tunes on the
harmonica. He had to go under a train trestle on the way to school, and said he
would wait for the train to go over; then “I would get under it, put my hands
over my eyes, listen to the sound, and then play that sound all the way to
school.” He was famous for recreating the sounds of rushing locomotives. During
his teenage years, Bailey worked for a White storekeeper in Thompson’s Station
and played the harmonica, to the delight of the customers and the proprietor.
He remained with the storekeeper before joining his family in Nashville, where
he held several jobs and continued to play the harmonica.
In 1925, Bailey won second place with his rendition of It Ain’t Gonna Rain
No More in a French harp contest on radio station WDAD. Then he made his
first appearance on WSM Radio, after overcoming some racial opposition from the
station’s director. From that point on he was given the title “Harmonica
Wizard.” Bailey played a role in the naming of the “Grand Ole Opry.” In 1926,
the WSM Barn Dance followed an hour of symphonic music, and one evening its
programming concluded with a selection by a young composer from Iowa
reproducing the sound of a train. Bailey opened the country music program with
his rendition of “Pan American Blues.” The difference in the musical genres
caused the director, George D. “Judge” Hay, to observe, “For the past hour we
have been listening to music taken largely from grand opera; from now on we
will present ‘The Grand Ole Opry.’”
Bailey toured with other stars of the Opry, including Roy Acuff, Uncle Dave
Macon, and Bill Monroe. During the 1930s, he was well received by the country
music public, though racial segregation caused Bailey problems in hotels and
restaurants. To get a hotel room, on some occasions he posed as a baggage boy
for the White performers. In 1927, Bailey teamed with the Black Golden Echo
Quartet to make his first recordings of “Pan American Express” and
“Hesitation,” the Columbia recordings were never released. In 1928, he recorded
Ice Water Blues/Davidson County Blues for Victor records during a Nashville
session that became so popular that the Victor label released it three times.
Bailey’s popularity peaked and waned within fifteen years.
During the height of his popularity, he was allowed a twenty-five-minute
performance on the three-hour Opry show. By 1941, he was off the Opry and
beginning a thirty-year career of shining shoes at his shop on Twelfth Avenue,
South. Apparently, WSM dropped Bailey because of his limited repertoire and his
failure to convert to new tunes and written music. Bailey denied this claiming
that the audience and the director insisted on hearing the old tunes. During
the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Bailey’s career was remembered.
He made an appearance on a local syndicated blues television show, “Night
Train,” and in 1965 he gave a concert at Vanderbilt University. He celebrated
his 75th birthday by appearing in the new Grand Ole Opry House and
playing several of his old tunes. Deford Bailey died at the age of 82 on July
2, 1982. On June 23, 1983, the country music industry celebrated Bailey as the
first African-American star of the Grand Ole Opry.
Jack Johnson—a man who could stake a serious claim on being the greatest boxer of
all time—became world heavyweight boxing champion on this day. However, his
tendency to speak his mind, passion for white women, and the racism of the day
would combine to force his imprisonment on what are widely considered today to
have been trumped up charges.
Clark Terry is born in St. Louis, Missouri. He will become a trumpeteer and flugelhorn player who will be known for his association with Duke Ellington on the 1950’s, his innovative flugelhorn sound and unusual mumbling scat singing.
Sam Jones was born on this date. He was an
African-American baseball player.
From Stewartsville, Ohio, Jones pitched the Cleveland Buckeyes to the Negro
World Series in 1947. He was known as Red, in the Negro leagues, for his
reddish complexion, in the majors Jones became Sad Sam, after the original Sad
Sam Jones, and Toothpick Sam for the toothpick he always chewed on the mound.
He signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1950 but the rotation of Bob Feller,
Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, and Mike Garcia was a tough one to get into.
Traded to the Cubs, on May 12, 1955 Jones threw a no-hitter against Pittsburgh,
the first black man to do so. That year he led the NL in losses (20),
strikeouts, and walks (185, while allowing only 175 hits). He repeated as
strikeout and walk leader in 1956 and again in 1958 after his trade to the
Cardinals. With the Giants in 1959, he was both a leading starter and most
On June 30 of that season, at Los Angeles, an error by Giant shortstop Andre
Rodgers was scored a single, keeping Jones from a second no-hitter, He got it
instead on September 26, though it was a rain-shortened, seven-inning one
against St. Louis. His 21 wins in 1959 led the NL, as did his 2.83 ERA and 109
walks. That year he was the only NL pitcher to receive a MVP vote. After an
18-14 1960 season, Jones was hindered by arm problems, winning only 12 more
over the next four seasons.
Hobie Landrith, who caught Jones with the Cubs, Cards, and Giants said, “You’ve
never seen a curve ball until you’ve seen Sam Jones’s curve ball. If you were a
right-handed hitter that ball was a good four feet behind you.” It took a
little courage to stay in there because he was wild and he could throw a
fastball very hard. Sam Jones died on November 5, 1971 in Morgantown, West
date, Raymond R. Patterson was born.
He was an African-American poet, writer, and professor.
From Harlem, NY he was a graduate of the New York City Public School System.
Patterson received his BA in Political Science from Lincoln University in
Pennsylvania, where he was class poet, and won the Boretone Mountain Poetry
Award for best poem written by an undergraduate. He received his MA in English
from NYU. A prolific poet whose work was widely anthologized, Patterson was
author of 26 Ways of Looking at a Black Man and Other Poems 1969, and Elemental
He also wrote an unpublished book length poem on the life of Phillis Wheatley
and two opera librettos. Patterson read his works widely, from local venues to
the Library of Congress in Washington DC and at the 60th Birthday
Celebration of Chinua Achebe at the University of Nigeria. He collaborated with
his wife in the creation of Black Poets Reading, a non-profit speakers’ bureau;
represented the US at the Struga Festival in Macedonia. He was an Umbra Poet
who served on the executive boards of the Poetry Society of America, the PEN
American Center, and the Walt Whitman Birthplace.
Patterson was also a well-known figure on the Long Island poetry landscape, a
dignified voice for poetry who served for many years as a mentor to many
individual writers regionally. His poetry also appeared in publications like
Transatlantic Review, Ohio Review and Beloit Poetry Journal, as well as in many
anthologies including “The Poetry of the Negro,” “New Black Voices,” “The
Norton Introduction to Literature” and “The Best American Poetry of 1996.”
Patterson joined the New York City College faculty in 1968 and was founder of
its Langston Hughes Festival, which he directed from 1973 to 1993. Ray Patterson
died on April 5th 2001 at the age of 71. He is survived by a
daughter, Ama Patterson, a sister, Carol Patterson Lewis of Plainfield, New
Jersey, and two grandchildren.
Ernest “Ernie” Davis was born in New Salem, Pennsylvania. Out of Syracuse University, in 1961,
he became the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy. He was
drafted by the Washington Redskins, but traded to the Cleveland Browns.
He died the following year on May 18, 1963, succumbing to acute monotypic
leukemia before he was able to play in the National Football League.
Stanley Crouch was born on this date in 1945. He is
an African-American music critic, syndicated columnist, and novelist.
From Los Angeles, CA Crouch began writing at the age of eight through the
encouragement of his mother. He also became active in the civil rights movement
while in junior high school. After graduating from high school, he attended two
junior colleges in the Los Angeles area. While studying at the East Los Angeles
Junior College, Crouch worked for a poverty program in East Los Angeles,
teaching a literacy class.
Witnessing the 1965 Watts Riot radicalized Crouch and he became a Black
Nationalist. From 1965 to 1967, Crouch was an actor-playwright in the Studio
Watts Company. While there, the writings of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray
became major influences in Crouch’s thinking. He thus turned away from the Black
Nationalist movement, finding it too reactionary. Crouch taught at Claremont
College in California from 1968 to 1975 before moving to New York City.
There, he lived along with tenor saxophonist David Murray in a loft above an
East Village club called the Tin Palace. While working as a drummer, Crouch
conducted the booking for an avant-garde jazz series at the club, as well as
organizing occasional concert events at the Ladies’ Fort. Since the early 1980s
Crouch has become critical of the more progressive forms of jazz and has been
an ardent proselytizer for the music of Wynton Marsalis.
Crouch has written articles for the New York Daily News and for magazines such
as New Yorker, The New Republic and Esquire. He is the author of three
collections of essays, Notes of a Hanging Judge (1990), The
All-American Skin Game; or, The Decoy of Race: The Long and Short of It,
1990-1994 (1995), and Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives,
1995-1997 (1998). He has also written, Don’t the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel
in Blues and Swing (2000).
In recent years, Crouch has also been a fierce critic of rap and hip hop music,
citing their lack of musical qualities, and their promotion of criminal
lifestyles and degrading attitudes toward women. With this viewpoint, he has
defended Bill Cosby’s 2004 remarks and praised a women’s group at Spelman
College for speaking out against those same qualities. Several of his
syndicated columns have been dedicated to these subjects.
Carolyn Rodgers was born on this date. She is an
African-American writer, poet, and educator.
From Chicago, Illinois, Carolyn Marie Rodgers attended the University of
Illinois in 1960, but transferred to Chicago’s Roosevelt University one year
later and received her BA in 1965. She began writing as a college freshman. In
1980, she earned a master’s degree in English from the University of Chicago.
She achieved a national reputation as a writer whose works largely relate to
her concern with feminist issues, and a particular concern for Black women.
Her poems include Paper Soul (1968) and Songs of a Blackbird
(1969) which hold a strong thematic connection to the ideologies of Black revolutionary
thought. Her works also include comments on the roles of women, female
identity, and the relationships between mother and daughter. Following the
publication and success of Paper Soul, Rodgers was awarded the first Conrad
Kent Rivers Memorial Fund Award (1968). After the publication of Songs of a
Blackbird, Rodgers received the Poet Laureate Award from the Society of
Midland Authors in 1970. Rodgers also received an award from the National
Endowment of the Arts. Two other volumes of her poetry, The Heart As Ever
Green (1978) and how I got ovah (1975) also shed light on these and
other feminist issues.
Rodgers met one of her mentors, Hoyt Fuller, while working as a social worker
at the YMCA (1963-1966). Rodgers exhibits clarity of expression and a respect
for well-crafted language in her work, how I got ovah: New and Selected
Poems (1975). Her work, The Heart As Ever Green (1978), incorporates
themes of human dignity, feminism, love, black consciousness, and Christianity.
Rodgers has also published short stories such as, “Blackbird in a Cage” (1967),
“A Statistic, Trying to Make It Home” (1969) and “One Time” (1975). In her
short stories, as in her poetry, the dominating theme is survival, though she
interweaves the idea of adaptability and conveys the concomitant message of
life’s ever-changing avenues for black people whom she sees as her special
During her career she has taught at: Columbia College (1968-1969); University
of Washington (1970); Malcolm X Community College (1972); Albany State College
(1972); and Indiana University (1973). She has also been a book critic for the
Chicago Daily News, and a columnist for the Milwaukee Courier. In 1967, along
with Haki R. Madhubuti, Johari Amini, and Roschell Rich, Rodgers helped found
Third World Press, an outlet for African-American literature. Rodgers is also a
member of the Organization of Black American Culture, a group that promotes a
city-wide impact on cultural activity in the arts.
Washington joins the ancestors after a sleeping pill overdose
at the age of 39 in Detroit,
Michigan. Washington is generally considered one of
the most influential vocalists of the 20th century. She had an amazingly strong
and emotionally voice and influenced such singers as Aretha Franklin. She
popularized many, many great songs, including “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes”,
“Unforgettable” and several hits with Brook Benton, including “Baby (You’ve Got
What it Takes)” and “A Rockin’
Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall in Love)”. She
was born in Tuscaloosa, Ala.,
and raised in Chicago, Ill.
Sammy Davis Jr. is awarded the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for his “superb and many-faceted
talent,” and his contributions to the civil rights movement.
Classes of San Francisco State University are suspended after demonstrations by the Black Student Union and Third World Liberation Front.
Johnny Rodgers, a running back with the
University of Nebraska, is awarded the Heisman Trophy. Rodgers gained a total
of 5,586 yards for the Cornhuskers in three years.
Elston Howard, a New York Yankee catcher
for many years, joins the ancestors. He was an outstanding catcher during the
1950s and 1960s and a nine-time All Star. He was also the first Black player
for the Yankees.
Desmond Howard, of the University of
Michigan wins the Heisman trophy.