this date, the writing of the hymn “Swing Low Sweet
Chariot” is celebrated.
It was penned by Wallace Willis, the black
slave of a Choctaw Indian. Known as “Uncle Wallace,’’ his writing of this well
known American hymn was inspired by his current home near Oklahoma City. Willis
was also a servant at Spencer Academy, a Choctaw boarding school for boys in Choctaw County. On the day he wrote the hymn,
Willis looked out over the cotton field he was tilling and gazed upon the Red River in the distance. This reminded him of the
Mississippi River and the plantation his master owned before moving to Doaksville, Oklahoma Indian Territory.
With the sun bright that hot day, Wallace expressed his longing and weariness
the only way he knew how. Willis and his wife, Minerva, often sang Willis’s
songs for the students, teachers, and guests of Spencer Academy.
A missionary took Willis’s song to the East where it was quickly picked up by
university choirs. The spiritual was composed in a Capella and was an early
hallmark in black Oklahoma’s
contribution to popular music and culture.
this date, Robert Brown
Elliott was born. He was a black lawyer, politician, and military
Elliot was born and educated in Liverpool,
serving in the British navy, Elliott arrived in Boston in 1867. Robert Elliott was a
brilliant lawyer who was admitted to the South Carolina
bar and elected to the South Carolina
legislature in 1868. In March of 1869, Elliott was appointed assistant
adjutant-general becoming the first black commanding general of the South
Carolina National Guard.
Duties included the formation and maintenance of the state militia-often called
the black militia-to protect white and black citizens from the murderous, fast
growing Ku Klux Klan. He served as United States Congressman from 1871 to 1874.
In 1876, Elliott was elected state attorney general, but with the withdrawal of
federal troops and the subsequent end of reconstruction, he was forced out of
office a year later and returned to private practice.
Robert Elliott’s partnerships eventually failed and he lapsed into poverty.
Robert Brown Elliott died in New
Orleans in August of 1884.
Carolina issues one of the first set of “Black Codes” designed to “regulate the relations
of people of color.” Several other Southern states immediately followed suit.
Although the South had just lost the Civil War and slavery had ended, Southern
whites remained obsessed with controlling Blacks. The “Black Codes” did
everything from barring interracial marriages to banning Blacks from owning
guns to outlawing Blacks from owning certain types of businesses. Many “Black
Codes” or Jim Crow laws were still enforced until the successes of the Civil
Rights Movement of the 1960s.
Robert Scott Duncanson joins the
ancestors in Detroit, Michigan. He suffers a severe mental
breakdown and ends his life in the Michigan State Retreat. Duncanson avoided
painting in an ethnic style, favoring still lifes and landscapes including “Mount
Healthy,” “Ohio,” “Blue Hole,” “Little Miami River,” and “Falls of Minnehaha.
The Detroit Tribune, on December 26, 1872, refers to Duncanson as “an artist of
this date we celebrate the founding of Saint
Peter Claver Church. For over one hundred years it has served a
large percentage of the African-American community in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Initiated by Archbishop John Ireland, who was an active promoter of equal
rights, the church began in a rented space on Market Street across from Rice Park
in 1888. In 1892 one of their founding members, Colonel Samuel Hardy helped
organize Saint Peter Claver Church while becoming the first president of the
Negro Catholic Conference. During that time, the Church moved to the corner of
Aurora and Farrington and established the “Toussaint L’Ouverture Society,” a
literary study group.
In 1950 Saint Peter Claver School (SPCC) opened. During the 1960’s SPCC grew
within the community by creating a youth drop-in Center
called “The Island.” This was a time of profound change in the life of both the
Catholic Church and African-Americans nation-wide. These changes continue to be
worked out. Throughout the 60’s many projects and programs came and went and in
1978 the church took back ownership of the school and an Urban Catholic school
was added that fall.
The church had many memorable events in the later half of the twentieth century
including annual picnics, community forums, and discussion groups; Dr. Alvin
Poussaint hosted one of them in 1988. Though the school closed in 1989, with
strong community perseverance, the Church reopened its school in 2001 and
membership in both organizations has been growing in quality and quantity. The
twenty-first century looks bright and promising for Saint Peter Claver Church
this date, Joshua “Josh”
Gibson was born. He was an African-American professional baseball player, who was one of the leading hitters in the Negro Leagues.
Joshua Gibson was born in Buena Vista, Georgia, and moved with his family to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as a child. He began playing semiprofessional baseball in 1927. In 1930
at age 18 he was attending a game between the Homestead Grays and the Kansas
City Monarchs when the Grays’ catcher was injured. The Grays called Gibson
out of the stands to catch and he was on the team. The following year he
hit 75 home runs, establishing himself as a leading power hitter. In 1932
Gibson joined the Pittsburgh Crawfords and then returned to the Grays.
He also played winter baseball in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
In 1941, Gibson played for Vera Cruz of the Mexican League. In 1942 he was
diagnosed as having a brain tumor. Gibson refused to have surgery and continued
to play ball. Although his skills did decline, he managed to win the Negro
National League batting title in 1945 and 1946. He died before the 1947 season
began, the year that Jackie Robinson became the first African American player
in the Major Leagues. The records that exist indicate that, during his career,
Gibson hit more than 800 home runs and had a batting average well over .300,
making him one of the outstanding hitters in baseball history. He has been referred
to as the “Negro Babe Ruth.” Because of Negro League victories and parity in
head to head competition with with Major League teams, some say that Babe Ruth
should have been referred to as the “white Josh Gibson.”
He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. Josh Gibson died on
January 20th 1947 in Pittsburgh.
P.B.S. Pinchback, a major
Reconstruction politician, joins at the ancestors at the age of 84.
Spingarn Medal awarded to actor Charles S.
Gilpin for his
performance in the title role of Emperor Jones.
Actor Samuel L. Jackson was born on this day in Washington, DC.
Jackson will begin his acting career as a student at Morehouse College. He will
star in over 40 movies including box office hits “The Long Kiss Goodnight”,
“Pulp Fiction”, “Jackie Brown”, and “A Time to Kill”.
date marks the birth of Delorez Florence
Griffith. She was an African-American track athlete who won three gold
medals and one silver medal at the 1988 Olympic Games.
She was born in Los Angeles, CA. She was the sister of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, another track and field star and
married to Al Joyner, becoming Florence Griffith-Joyner. Coming out of semi-retirement in track, she
came to dominate the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.
Griffith-Joyner’s record-breaking performances there were motivated in part by
a second-place finish at the 1987 World Championship Games. In the 1988 Seoul
Games, she won gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and in the 4x400-meter
relay. For these accomplishments, she received the Jesse Owens Award, given to
the year’s top track and field athlete, and the Sullivan Award, given to the
year’s most outstanding amateur athlete. With her achievements in the 1988 Olympics, she earned the title
”World’s Fastest Woman” and she became the first American woman to win four
medals in one Olympic year.
Griffith-Joyner earned the nickname “Flo-Jo” for her
blazing speed. She was famous for her flashy one-legged uniforms as well as her
long and extravagantly painted fingernails. She retired from track in 1989 in
order to devote more time to endorsement activities, modeling, writing, and coaching
her husband. President Bill
Clinton appointed her to replace Arnold Schwazeneggar as chair of the
President’s Council on Physical Fitness in Sports in 1993. This established her as the first woman to
recieve this position.
On September 21, 1998, Florence’s husband could not awaken his
wife and called 911. She was pronounced dead of an
apparent heart seizure upon the arrival
of the ambulance. To many, she represented the embodiment of a
new ideal for American women. She seemed to possess a perfect combination of
strength and beauty. She also had an exemplary record of community service for
which she won the 1989 Harvard Foundation Award for outstanding contributions
Citizens of Deerfield, Illinois block the
building of interracial housing.
Spingarn Medal was presented to Edward Kennedy
(“Duke”) Ellington, composer,
pianist and jazz pioneer, for his contributions to the arts.
Motown Records established by Berry Gordy Jr.
Diana Ross makes her
final television appearance as a member of the Supremes on “The Ed Sullivan
Spingarn Medal awarded to Gordon B. Parks “in recognition of his unique creativity, as
exemplified by his outstanding achievements as photographer, writer, film-maker
founding of the National Black
McDonald’s Operators Association (NBMOA) in 1972 is celebrated on this date.
NBMOA is a self-help organization, established for the improvement and
betterment of each and every member. On December 21, 1968, Herman Petty of
Chicago opened the first black owned McDonald’s franchise. Earlier that year,
McDonald’s Corporation and its management team felt that Black business leaders
could better address issues and concerns in the community where they live and
work. Petty is still a McDonald’s Owner/Operator today.
Roland Jones, the first African American Field Consultant with McDonald’s
worked closely with Herman Petty in his store operations. By the end of 1969,
there were twelve African American owned and operated McDonald’s restaurants,
mostly located in the Midwest. Jones’ continued work involved a series of
meetings with operators and store managers. This sharing of business ideas,
problems, and concerns eventually led to the formation of NBMOA.
Horace Mann Bond, the former president of Lincoln University,
died on this in Atlanta at the age of 70.
Harris was appointed the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development by
President Elect Jimmy Carter. Harris was the first Black to hold a Cabinet
Spingarn Medal was presented to Alvin Ailey “in recognition of his international
pre-eminence in the field of dance.”
Jesse Jackson, in a speech in Chicago, urges the use of the term “African American.”
“Every ethnic group,” he notes, “in this country has reference to some
land base, some historical cultural base. African Americans have hit that
level of maturity.” Currently, “Black” and “African-American” are used
O’Leary, a Minnesota Power Company executive, was named Secretary of
Energy by President Bill Clinton on this date.