Charles Lenox Remond joins the
ancestors. He was the first African American lecturer employed by the
Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
W.E.B. Du Bois is elected
as the first African American member of the National Institute of Arts and
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
South Africa signs an
accord granting independence to South West Africa.
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.
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.
this date, Shani Davis became the
first African-American to qualify for the United States Olympic speed skating
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.