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1663
On this 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.


1760
Deborah Sampson Gannett, who disguised herself as a man in order to fight in the Revolutionary War, is born in Plymouth, VA.


1802
Teacher and minister, Henry Adams was born.


1905
On 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 history.

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.



1910
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.



1913
Before his 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.


1916
On this 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.”


1920
South Africa receives League of Nations mandate over South West Africa.


1927
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.



1933
Walter Booker was born on this date. He was an African-American musician, music administrator and teacher.

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.



1937
Art Neville is born in New Orleans, Louisiana. He will become a member of the popular singing group, “The Neville Brothers.”


1939
On 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 1974.

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 year.



1945
Ernie Hudson is born in Benton Harbor, Michigan. He will become an actor and best known for his role in the movie “Ghostbusters.”


1961
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.


1971
Congressman Charles Diggs, Jr. resigns from the United States’ delegation to the United Nations in protest of the Nixon administration’s policies regarding Africa.


1975
Jazz 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.


1975
The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is presented to Henry (“Hank”) Aaron “for his memorable home-run record which stands as a landmark” and for his sportsmanship.


1979
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.


1991
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 mass-market publication.


1993
Jesse Brown, Director of Disabled Veterans of America, was named Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs by President Bill Clinton on this date.


1999
Jazz great Grover Washington, Jr. joins the ancestors resulting from a heart attack following a taping session.


2002
On this date, Robert Johnson became owner of the National Basketball Association (NBA) Charlotte Hornets expansion franchise.

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.


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