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1873
Abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond joins the ancestors. He was the first African American lecturer employed by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.


1883
On this date, Arthur Wergs Mitchell was born near Lafayette, Alabama in Chamber County. He was an African-American teacher, administrator, and politician.

He was the first black representative elected to Congress as a Democrat. Mitchell was from Lafayette, Alabama; he attended public schools and entered the Tuskegee Institute in 1897. He worked his way through school as a laborer and as an office boy for Booker T. Washington. He eventually taught in rural schools with an emphasis on farm management and he served as president of Agricultural School in West Butler, Alabama for ten years. Mitchell began practicing law in Washington D.C. in 1927 and two years later moved to Chicago where he had some dealings in real estate.

He was elected to the Seventy-Fourth Congress in 1935 representing Illinois, denouncing the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and condemning the Mussolini regime. In 1937, Mitchell traveled to Arkansas. As the train crossed the state line Mitchell was forced to ride the rest of the way in a decrepit “Jim Crow” car. He immediately challenged transportation segregation through political means, suing the railroad and eventually arguing unsuccessfully before the Supreme Court that interstate trains be exempt from Arkansas’ “separate but equal” laws.

Throughout his four term career, Mitchell issued bills holding state and local offices accountable for lynching and to prohibit racial discrimination. He chose not to run for reelection in 1942, Arthur Mitchell died on May 9th 1968.



1898
Dr. Chancellor Williams was born on this date. He was an African-American historian and author.

Williams was born in Bennettsville, South Carolina. His father had been a former slave, and his mother had been a cook, a nurse, and an evangelist. Williams’ curiosity, about racial equality and cultural struggles began as early as the fifth grade. He received his undergraduate degree in Education and Master of Arts degree in History from Howard University. He studied abroad serving as a visiting research scholar at the University of Oxford in England and at the University of London. Williams began field research in African History in Ghana (University College) in 1956. His main focus was on African achievements and self-ruling civilizations before colonization.

His last study in 1964 covered 26 countries and more than 100 language groups. His best known work is “The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 BC to 2000 A.D.” For this effort, the Black Academy of Arts and Letters gave Dr. Williams honors. Dr. Williams argued that the successes and greatness of Black civilizations going back to ancient Africa had been destroyed and distorted by both Muslim and Christian scholars in order to justify the exploitation of Blacks.

A little known fact about Williams is that in addition to being an historian and professor, he was president of a baking company, editor of a newsletter, The New Challenge, an economist, high school teacher and principal, and a novelist. Dr. Williams remained a staunch believer that African historians should do independent research and investigations so that the history of African people will be told and understood from their perspective. Dr. Chancellor Williams died in Washington, D.C. on December 7, 1992. He was a leader in the field of academics known as Afrocentricity.



1905
James Amos Porter was born on this date. He was an African-American painter and art historian, instrumental in the development of the scholarly study of African-American art.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, James Porter studied art at Howard University, graduating in 1927. He joined the Howard faculty that same year as a drawing and painting instructor and remained a professor there until the end of his life. The first exhibition of one of Porter’s paintings was in 1928. Group and solo exhibitions followed in the United States and abroad. As an artist, Porter was best known for his portraits, including the prize-winning “Woman Holding a Jug”. Porter made his most lasting mark, however, as a historian and scholar of African-American art.

His landmark study, Modern Negro Art, published in 1943, remains a foundational text. Porter gave generous attention to his contemporaries in paintings and sculptures and helped legitimize their contributions to American art by examining their artistic styles. Called the “father of African-American art history,” James Porter had the ability to combine teaching and writing with the production of art. He honed his skill as a draftsman rendering fine portraits and figure studies with the precision of a surgeon.

From 1953 to 1970, he was chairperson of the department of art at Howard University.

His drawings reveal academic tradition and a patient capacity for detail. He was one of the earliest scholars of African American art, exhibited his works widely in the United States, Europe, and Africa. James Amos Porter died on the last day of February 1970.



1939
Jerry Pinckney is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He will become an award-winning illustrator of children’s books and numerous U.S. postage stamps featuring notable African Americans.


1943
W.E.B. Du Bois is elected as the first African American member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.


1948
Lynne Thigpen was born on this date. She was an African-American actress.

From Joliet, Illinois she was first seen on the New York stage in 1975’s The Night That Made America Famous. Unfortunately, it didn’t make her famous (not overnight, anyway), but she stuck with her craft, and not long thereafter won a Theatre World Award for her performance in Tintypes. Thigpen was also in films, including Warriors (1979), Godspell (1981), Tootsie (1981), Lean on Me (1985) and Impulse (1988). Other films were Bob Roberts, Random Hearts, Shaft, and The Insider.

By the early ‘90s, Thigpen was well known to TV viewers of all age ranges. She played the Chief in PBS’ Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? Thigpen played Nurse Grace Keefer on ABC’s All My Children. Most recently she played the role of Ella Farmer on the crime drama The District, a statistics clerk who aided the chief of police of Washington, D.C. in his work. Thigpen won a Tony Award for her role in the Broadway production of An American Daughter.

She also won a L.A. Drama Critics Award for her role in a Los Angeles production of Fences. Her additional television credits include the series Thirtysomething and L. A. Law and the movies The Boys Next Door and Night Ride Home. Thigpen was also the voice of Luna in the children’s show, Bear in the Big Blue House. Lynne Thigpen died suddenly at her Los Angeles home on March 12, 2003.

No cause of death was immediately announced, but death was later attributed to a heart attack, she was 54.



1956
Bill Russell, NBA basketball legend, played his first game with the Boston Celtics on this date. In 1966, Russell became the first Black coach in the NBA or in any professional sports league to coach a predominately white team, the Boston Celtics.


1960
This date marks the birth of Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was an African-American artist specializing in painting. Initially a street artist, his graffiti-inspired work won international acclaim during the 1980s.

Born to a Haitian father and a first-generation Puerto Rican-American mother, Basquiat grew up in Brooklyn. As a child, he created drawings inspired by comic books and television cartoons. His mother who often took him to local art museums nurtured his early interest in art. In May 1968, a car hit Basquiat. He suffered a broken arm and his spleen had to be removed.

While hospitalized, his mother gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, a book that inspired many of his later works as well as the name of the noise band he co-founded in 1979, Gray. After his parents separated in 1968, Basquiat and his two sisters lived with their father spending two years in Puerto Rico during that time. At the age of 17, Basquiat dropped out of high school and lived, by choice, in the streets and with various friends. Basquiat’s career as an artist began in 1977 when he began to spray-paint New York City streets and subways with one of his high school classmates, Al Diaz.

The works were signed SAMO, an acronym for “same old shit,” and consisted of short poetic phrases such as “Plush safe he think; SAMO.” In December 1978, The Village Voice published an article about the SAMO writings. While working on the SAMO project, which ended in 1979, Basquiat sold hand-painted postcards and T-shirts to make money. Basquiat’s art was publicly exhibited for the first time in the 1980 Times Square Show. Art critics responded positively to Basquiat’s debut and in May of 1981, after being included in several group shows, he had his first solo exhibition in Modena, Italy. His first one-man show in the United States took place in March of 1982 at the Annina Nosei Gallery.

Basquiat was also featured in the 1983 Biennial exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where he became the youngest artist ever to be included. Between 1983 and 1985, Basquiat produced 31 works in collaboration with Andy Warhol. Basquiat was devastated by the death in 1987 of Warhol who had been his close friend and mentor. A year later, at the age of 27, Basquiat died of a drug overdose in his New York apartment. Within the span of eight years, Jean-Michel Basquiat went from being an anonymous tag-writer to an internationally celebrated artist. His large, colorful works combine graffiti art with abstract expressionism.

Some of Basquiat’s paintings celebrate African-American jazz musicians and boxers while others address issues such as mortality, racism, and commercialism. Basquiat’s rhythmic combination of words and images constitutes one of his most distinctive contributions to twentieth century painting.



1980
Samuel Riley Pierce, Jr., a New York City lawyer and former judge, is named to President Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.


1984
Four African American youths on a New York City subway train, are shot by Bernhard Goetz. The white man shoots because he thought they were going to rob him. He claims he was seconds from becoming a mugging victim when he opened fire, and will be acquitted of attempted murder in 1987 but will serve 8 months on a weapons charge. In 1996, he will lose a civil case brought against him by one of the youths that he shot and paralyzed. The civil judgment brought against him will be $ 43 million.


1988
South Africa signs an accord granting independence to South West Africa.


1989
The art exhibit “Afro-American Artists in Paris: 1919-1939” closes at the Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Gallery on the Hunter College campus in New York City. The exhibit of eight artists including William Harper, Lois Mailou Jones, Archibald Motley, Jr., Henry O. Tanner, and Hale Woodruff, among others, powerfully illustrates the results achieved by African American artists when they were able to leave the confines and restrictions imposed upon them by race in the United States.


1996
Kordell Stewart of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs 80 yards for a touchdown in the first half of an 18-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the longest scoring run by a quarterback in NFL history.


2001
On this date, Shani Davis became the first African-American to qualify for the United States Olympic speed skating team.

Davis, a former roller skater from Chicago beat his close friend and world cup champion Apolo Ohno in the 1,000 meter short-track final held in Kearns, Utah and qualifying for the 2002 Salt Lake Games. Davis (19 years old) needed the 987 points that went with first place in order to finish sixth, knocking out 1998 Olympian Tommy O’Hare off the team, O’Hare stormed out of the Olympic Oval without talking to reporters.


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