date, Queen Nzingha, the queen of
Matamba West Africa (Angola) died at the age of 81. Belonging to the ethnic group known as the Jugas,
Nzingha was a warrior queen who waged the stiffest opposition to European
domination in Africa’s interior, winning her
most noteworthy battles battle after battle against the Portuguese. Her
formation of strategic alliances and fighting prowess urged other great African
leaders to take a stand against the colonialism/imperialistic regimes of
Europeans. Nzingha was born in 1582.
Deborah Sampson Gannett, who disguised herself as a man in order to
fight in the Revolutionary War, is born in Plymouth, VA.
Teacher and minister, Henry Adams was born.
this date we celebrate the birth of Nellie Stone
Johnson. She was an activist and businesswoman.
From Lakeville, Minnesota,
Nellie and her six siblings grew up on a dairy farm near Hinckley, Minnesota.
Her father was a member of the Non-Partisan League, a radical rural
organization. Johnson grew up with a strong tradition of support for education.
Her mother and grandmother were teachers with an interest in political
philosophy. Her father was a school board member in Dakota County.
At age 13, Johnson distributed Non-Partisan League flyers on her way to and
from school. She graduated from Hinckley
High School and left home at 17 to
finish high school through the GED program at the University of Minnesota.
After a number of years in the work force, Nellie continued her studies at the
University of Wisconsin using the money she earned from trapping to finance her
education there. For over 30 years, she has owned and operated Nellie’s
Alterations in downtown Minneapolis.
Johnson’s commitment to education continued through her work on the Minnesota
Higher Education Board.
She has had a long and distinguished record of public service in support of the
advancement of minority concerns, the rights of workers, and equal
opportunities for all people. As a leader of organized labor in the 1930s and
1940s, she was the first woman vice-president of the Minnesota Culinary Council
and the first woman vice-president of Local 665 Hotel and Restaurant Employees
Union. She was also the first black person elected to citywide office in Minneapolis when she won
a seat on the Library Board in 1945. She also served on the Minnesota State
University Board for eight years, and the Minnesota State
Colleges and Universities
board of Trustees. Johnson was the inspiration for one of the nameless bronze
sculptures, titled “Shadow Spirits.” The statues represent individuals who
contributed to the development of Minneapolis
and are symbolic of persons who disappear or are omitted from the pages of our
The W. Harry Davis Foundation honored Johnson in 1988 for her service to the
community. Johnson’s many contributions were featured in the book
“Contributions of Black Women to Minnesota History”. The “Nellie Stone Johnson
Scholarship” was founded in 1989. It is awarded annually to minority students
from union families. In 1995, she received an honorary doctoral degree from St. Cloud State University.
Johnson was a life member of the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women;
a member of the National Coalition of Labor Women, the National League of Women
Voters, the DFL Affirmative Action Commission, and the DFL Feminist Caucus, a
former board member of the Minneapolis Urban League, and recipient of the Urban
League’s Cecil E. Newman Humanitarian Award. Nellie Stone Johnson who grew up
to become one of the most influential forces in the civil rights and labor
movements in Minnesota, died on April 2, 2002; she was 96.
Sy Oliver was born on
this date. He was an African-American jazz trumpeter, composer, and band leader
and one of the leading music arrangers of the 1930s and ‘40s.
Melvin James” Sy” Oliver was from Battle
Creek, Michigan. Both
of his parents were music teachers in Ohio,
where he grew up. He played the trumpet as a boy and at the age of 17 took a
job with Zack Whyte and his Chocolate Beau Brummels. He joined the Jimmie
Lunceford orchestra in 1933. There he established a reputation for innovative
arranging characterized by imaginative instrumentation and a full-bodied sound.
He also developed a distinctive “growl” sound, in his own playing.
In 1939 he joined the orchestra of Tommy Dorsey as a singer and arranger. He
led a band while in the army during World War II and returned to Dorsey’s orchestra
after the war. From the late 1940s to the early ‘70s Oliver held a variety of
jobs, including a decade as musical director of Decca Records.
In the early ‘70s he formed a nine-piece orchestra that continued to perform
until 1984. Sy Oliver died May 28, 1988 in New York City.
death on this day, James P. Thomas opened a
barbershop in his Tennessee
home. Over his lifetime he accumulated almost $100,000 in assets and property.
day, the nation’s first Black-owned and oriented film company was founded in
California. The founders were George and Noble Johnson and the company was the Lincoln Motion Picture Co. The company aimed to portray
African-Americans in a more positive light in an attempt to combat the
demeaning and stereotypical portrayals popular in the white controlled films of
the day. The first production by the brothers was entitled “The Realization of
a Negro Ambition.”
South Africa receives League of Nations mandate over South West Africa.
Barbara Sizemore was born on
this date. She was an African-American Educator.
From Chicago, Illinois, Barbara Laffoon was the only child of Sylvester Walter
Laffoon and Delila Alexander Laffoon. She grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana where
she attended Booker T. Washington Elementary School. Her father died when she
was 8 years old and her mother remarried a gentleman named Aldwin E. Stewart.
After graduating from Wiley High School, she received both her undergraduate
and graduate degrees from Northwestern University.
She also holds a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of
Chicago. Sizemore began teaching in the Chicago Public Schools in 1947 and, in
1963 she became one of the first African-American women to be appointed
principal of a Chicago school, Anton Dvorak Elementary School. She then became
the principal of Forestville High School in 1965. In 1972, Sizemore was elected
superintendent of schools for the District of Columbia public school system.
Her election made her the first African-American woman to head the public
school system of a major city. In 1975, she was a professor at the University
of Pittsburgh and taught there until she joined DePaul University in 1992.
Her first book was The Ruptured Diamond, (1981). An Abashing Anomaly followed
this in 1993. Her honors include the Maude G. Reynolds Classical Language
Scholarship, 1944-1947, the Danforth Fellowship, 1965-1967, Chicago Board
Fellowship, 1965-1967, the African Heritage Studies Association Edward Blyden
Award 1992 and the YWCA Racial Justice Award for 1995. Also she was the Dean of
DePaul University’s School of Education. On July 28th 2004, Barbara
Sizemore died of cancer in Chicago.
Walter Booker was born on
this date. He was an African-American musician, music administrator and
From Prairie View, Texas, as a youngster he moved with his family to
Washington, D.C. in the mid 1940s. In 1959, at the age of 26, Booker began
playing the bass while in the army (serving in the same unit with Elvis
Presley). Shortly after the military he joined Andrew White’s JFK Quintet; a
group of young D.C. musicians accomplished enough to attract the attention of
Cannonball Adderly, who produced a recording for them. Booker’s next work was
touring America with the Shirley Horn Trio, along with Billy Hart on drums.
In 1964 he moved to New York City, and was hired by trumpeter Donald Byrd. From
there he went on to join Stan Getz (1965 and ’66), and Sonny Rollins (1967 and
’69). Booker recorded and toured with Ray Bryant, Art Farmer, Harold Vick,
Betty Carter and, most notably, with Thelonious Monk’s last group. In was also
in 1969 Booker was invited to join the Cannonball Adderly Quintet, an
association which lasted until Cannonball’s death in 1975. Also during that
time he designed, built, and ran the Boogie Woogie Studio, a Mecca for
musicians from all over the world.
From 1975 to 1981 Booker was Sarah Vaughan’s bassist while producing recordings
at his studio. His studio helped shape a number of up-and-coming young groups,
including Natural Essence. Also during that time he became deeply involved with
Brazilian music, ultimately forming Love Carnival and Dreams. In the early
1980’s Booker went to California with the John Hicks Trio to record an album
and a tour with the trio accompanying saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders. Shortly
thereafter, Nat Adderly asked Booker to join his new quintet.
In 2001, together with Jimmy Cobb, he toured as part of the Bertha Hope (his
wife) Trio. In addition to the Walter Booker Quintet, he formed Elmollenium,
based on the same core group as the Quintet (plus Bertha Hope) and dedicated to
playing the music of Elmo Hope. Walter Booker, 72, died at his home in
Manhattan on Nov. 24, 2006 after suffering cardiac arrest.
Art Neville is born in New
Orleans, Louisiana. He will become a member of the popular singing group, “The
this date, Eddie Kendricks was born.
He was an African-American singer.
From Union Springs, Alabama, Kendricks was a founder member of the Primes in
the late 50s, an R&B vocal group that moved to Detroit in 1960 and formed
the basis of the Temptations. His wavering falsetto vocals were an essential
part of the group’s sound throughout their first decade on Motown Records. He
was singled out as lead vocalist on their first major hit, ‘The Way You Do The
Things You Do’, and was also given a starring role on the 1966 US number 29
‘Get Ready’. David Ruffin gradually assumed the leadership of the group, but in
1971 Kendricks was showcased on ‘Just My Imagination’, one of their most
affecting love ballads.
Kendricks chose this moment to announce that he was leaving the Temptations,
weary of the production extravaganzas that Norman Whitfield was creating for
the group. His initial solo albums failed to establish a distinctive style, and
it was 1973 before he enjoyed his first hit, with an edited version of the
disco classic ‘Keep On Truckin”. The accompanying album, Eddie Kendricks, was
in more traditional style, while Boogie Down! had Kendricks displaying emotion
over a succession of dance-oriented backing tracks. Rather than repeat a
winning formula, Kendricks bravely chose to revise his sound on For You in
The first side of the album was a masterful arrangement of vocal harmonies,
with Kendricks submerged by the backing. ‘Shoeshine Boy’ was extracted as a
single, and followed ‘Keep On Truckin” and ‘Boogie Down’ to the summit of the
soul charts. The Hit Man and He’s A Friend repeated the experiment with less
conviction, and by the time he left Motown for Arista Records in 1978,
Kendricks had been forced to submit to the prevailing disco current. After a
run of uninspiring efforts, Love Keys on Atlantic Records in 1981 was a welcome
return to form, teaming the singer with the Muscle Shoals horns and the
Holland/Dozier/Holland production team. Poor sales brought this liaison to an
end, and Kendricks returned to the Temptations fold for a reunion tour and
album in 1982.
When this venture was completed, he formed a duo with fellow ex-Temptation
David Ruffin and the pair were showcased at Live Aid as well as on a live album
by Hall and Oates. This exposure allowed them to secure a contract as a duo,
and Ruffin and Kendricks in 1988 represented the most successful blending of
their distinctive vocal styles since the mid-60s. Kendricks died of lung cancer
in October 1992, after having already had his right lung removed the previous
Ernie Hudson is born in Benton
Harbor, Michigan. He will become an actor and best known for his role in the
Sculptor Marion Perkins died on this date. During the
Depression of the thirties, Marion Perkins sold papers at a newsstand on
Chicago’s South Side. In his free moments at the stand he busied himself
whittling on bars of soap. Peter Pollack, then director of the Community Art
Center Division of the Illinois Art Project introduced Perkins to Si Gordon, a
sculptor, who at the time was teaching at the South Side Community Art Center.
Perkins work earned the recognition of the Rosenwald Foundation, and won the
Art Institute of Chicago sculpture purchase prize of 1951.
Congressman Charles Diggs, Jr. resigns from the
United States’ delegation to the United Nations in protest of the Nixon
administration’s policies regarding Africa.
pioneer Noble Sissle joins the
ancestors in Tampa, Florida at the age of 86. A protege of James Reese Europe,
Sissle traveled with the famous bandleader to Europe as the drum major in the
369th Regimental Band and teamed with Eubie Blake to form the
writing team of Sissle and Blake and where he achieved fame in vaudeville with
Blake as a jazz composer, lyricist, bandleader and playwright. Together with
Flourney Miller and Aubrey Lyles, Sissle and Blake wrote the controversial
musical “Shuffle Along” and other musicals. A founding member of the Negro
Actor’s Guild, Sissle was a successful orchestra and bandleader in his own
right, touring Europe in the 1930’s and with the USO during World War II. He
was born in Indianapolis, IN, in 1889.
Spingarn Medal is presented to Henry (“Hank”) Aaron “for his memorable home-run record
which stands as a landmark” and for his sportsmanship.
In a case
that aggravates racial tensions, Arthur McDuffie, a Black insurance executive, is
fatally beaten after a police chase in Miami. Four white police officers are
later acquitted of charges stemming from McDuffie’s death.
Michael Jordan, outstanding
guard for the Chicago Bulls, who led his team to their first-ever NBA
championship, is named the 1991 “Sport Illustrated” Sportsman of the Year.
Jordan’s likeness will appear on the December 23rd issue of the
magazine in the form of a full-color holographic stereogram, a first for a
Jesse Brown, Director of Disabled Veterans of America, was named Secretary of Veteran’s
Affairs by President Bill Clinton on this date.
Jazz great Grover Washington, Jr. joins the ancestors resulting from a
heart attack following a taping session.
this date, Robert Johnson became
owner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Charlotte
This made Johnson, 56 the league’s first Black majority owner and the first
black owner in major professional sports. At 56 years of age, he was the
billionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET). The league
announced its decision at a news conference the following day in New York.
Bertram Lee and Peter Bynoe were thought to be the league’s first Black
ownership in 1989 when they purchased the Denver Nuggets, but it was later
learned that Comsat Video actually owns 62.5 percent of the team. Johnson and
the other group seeking the team, headed by Boston businessman Steve Belkin and
Celtics great Larry Bird, made presentations to the league’s expansion
committee earlier that week.
Forbes magazine estimated Johnson’s wealth at $1.3 billion earlier this year,
making him No. 149 on the magazine’s list of richest Americans. The franchise
is to begin play in the 2004-05 season and replaces the Hornets, who moved to
New Orleans earlier this year. After one year at the Charlotte Coliseum, the
team will move into a new $260 million downtown arena. The franchise fee is
expected to be $300 million.