Henry Highland Garnet was one of the principal Black
leaders in the abolition movement of the 1800s. This powerful noted clergyman, abolitionist, orator, and organizer was born on this day in New Market, MD in Kent County.
He was the son of William Spenser and the grandson of an African warrior prince who was captured and brought
as a slave. Together with his parents, he escaped slavery in 1824,
moving to New Hope, Pennsylvania. Garnet eventually graduated
from Oneida Institute (an abolitionist school near Utica, New York)
in 1840. His education in theology led to his work at churches in New York City and Washington
D.C. He later served as president
of Avery College
in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. In 1843, while attending the
National Convention of Colored Citizens in Buffalo, New York.
Garnet issued his celebrated “Address to the Slaves of the United States,”
calling for a slave revolt and general
This speech galvanized a whole nation of Negroes. With the passage of the
Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, he and other emigrationists began to consider
Africa, Haiti, South
America, and Central America as possible
countries for black expatriation. Garnet’s calling slavery the “highest crime
against God and man” and his pronouncement of the “moral obligation” of blacks
to destroy slavery, underscored the role of religion-Christian or non-Christian
in the “freedom striving tradition” of the black church in America. He was also the first Black minister to
preach before the U.S. House of Representatives.
Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. later embraced these
views. Henry H. Garnet was named minister to Liberia in June 1881. He died in Monrovia on February 13,
Robert Blake, powder boy
aboard the USS Marblehead, is the first African American to be awarded the
Naval Medal of Honor “for conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism, and
intrepidity at the risk of his own life.” The heroic action occurred during a
victorious battle off the coast of South
Sarah Breedlove was born in
Delta, LA. She became better known as Madame
C.J. Walker, she was an African-American businesswoman and philanthropist
generally acknowledged as one of the first black female millionaire in the United States
whose hair-care, toiletry, and cosmetics products revolutionized the standard
of beauty for African American women.
Married at the age of 14 to a Mr. McWilliams, Sarah Breedlove was a widow by
the age of 20 with a daughter, A’Lelia, to support. They moved to St. Louis, where she
worked as a washerwoman until 1905, when she developed a method for
straightening curly hair. She organized agents to sell her hair treatment
door-to-door. At its peak, her company employed some 3,000 people, many of them
“Walker agents”; saleswomen dressed in long
black skirts and white blouses who became familiar figures in the black
communities of the United States
and the Caribbean.
She was married in 1906 to Charles J. Walker, a newspaperman. Walker
also established Walker
Schools of Beauty Culture
across the country and initiated hygienic regulations for her staff that
anticipated later state cosmetology laws.
In 1910, transferred her business, by then called the Madame C.J. Walker
Manufacturing Co., to Indianapolis,
Indiana, adding a complete line
of toiletries and cosmetics to her products.
She did not invent the straightening comb but she
modified the curling iron invented by the French to make it more suitable to
the hair texture of most Black women. She once described herself in the following
manner: “I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there
I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen.
And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods
and preparations...I built my own factory on my own ground.”
Her fortune was augmented by shrewd real estate investments. Generous with her
money, she included in her extensive philanthropies educational scholarships,
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, homes for the
aged, the National Conference on Lynching, the YMCA, and other charitable
organizations. She left her estate to various charitable and educational
institutions and to her daughter, A’Lelia Walker Kennedy, who was later known
for supporting an intellectual salon known as The Dark Tower that helped to
stimulate the cultural Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Madame Walker was
well-known for her philanthropic activities, make her a popular figure in the
Madame Walker died May 25, 1919 in Irvington,
this date, Fredi Washington was born.
She was an African-American actress, writer, dancer, and singer.
From Savannah, Georgia,
Fredericka Carolyn Washington’s education began at St. Elizabeth Convent in Cornwells Heights, Pennsylvania.
She then attended the Egri School of Dramatic Writing and the Christopher
School of Languages, where her attractions included casting, writing, dancing,
singing, and civil rights. Washington’s
career began dancing in nightclubs. From 1922 to 1926, she toured with Sissle
and Blake’s Shuffle Along.
Assuming the stage name Edith Warren, she was
cast as the lead in Black Boy with Paul Robeson in 1926. With work hard
to find in America she toured Europe, some of her engagements included Gaumount
Palace and Chateau Madrid (Paris), Casino Nice, Green Park Hotel
(London), Trocadero and Floria Palast (Berlin). Washington was cast in Sweet
Chariot (1930) in New York, Singin’ the Blues (1931), and Run,
Little Chillun (1933).
Her film career began concurrently with performances in Black and Tan
Fantasy (1929), The Old Man and the Mountain, and The Emperor
Jones (1933); she married Lawrence Brown of the Duke Ellington Band later
that year. One of Washington’s primary concerns was the relationship between
black and white women. She brought to the medium a new conception of
African-American women in general and no where was this better displayed than
her role in the film Imitation of Life (1934). So convincing was
Washington’s portrayal of the tragic Mulatto, that many felt she was (in real
Friends like Bobby Short and her sister’s husband, Congressman Adam Clayton
Powell said that she never hid behind the lightness of her complexion.
Washington’s commitment to civil rights was just as strong as her
professionalism in the theater and cinema arts. She was one of the founders of
the Negro Actors Guild and from 1937 to 1938 was the organization’s secretary.
She was administrative secretary for the Joint Actors Equity-Theater League
Committee on Hotel Accommodations for Negro Actors throughout the United States.
Washington was on radio in the Jewish immigrant comedy The Goldbergs,
and performed specials for the National Urban League on CBS radio. Other films
include Drums of the Jungle (1935) and One Mile From Heaven (1937).
She also appeared in the stage production of Lysistra (1946), A Long
Way From Home (1948) and How Long Till Summer (1949). In 1952, she
married Anthony Bell, a dentist, and was inducted into the Black Filmmakers
Hall of Fame in 1975. Fredi Washington died on June 28, 1994.
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was born on this day.
Alice H. Parker patents the
gas heating furnace.
Cheikh Anta Diop, Egyptologist and author of
Civilization or Barbarism and the General History of Africa, was born on this
date. Diop proved Egyptians were Black and their culture predated and directly
influenced Greek and Roman culture.
Esther Phillips was born on
this date. She was an African-American singer.
Born Esther Mae Jones in
Galveston, Texas, she began singing in church as a young child. When her
parents divorced, she divided time between her father in Houston and her mother
in the Watts area of Los Angeles. It was in Los Angeles, in 1949, that her
sister entered her in a talent show at a nightclub belonging to blues man
Johnny Otis. So impressed was Otis with the 13-year-old that he brought her
into the studio for a recording session with Modern Records and added her to
his live revue. Billed as Little Esther, taking her name from a billboard for a
gasoline company, she scored her first success when she was teamed with the vocal
quartet the Robins (who later evolved into the Coasters) on the hit single
“Double Crossin’ Blues.”
It topped the R&B charts in early 1950 and paved the way for “Mistrustin’
Blues,” “Misery,” “Cupid Boogie,” and “Deceivin’ Blues.” In 1951, Little Esther
and Otis had a falling out, reportedly over money, which led to her departure
from his show, In 1954, she returned to Houston to live with her father, having
experimented with hard drugs developing a definite addiction to heroin. Short
on money, Little Esther worked in small nightclubs around the South, punctuated
by periodic hospital stays in Lexington, Kentucky, stemming from her addiction.
In 1962, Kenny Rogers got her signed to his brother’s Lenox label rediscovering
her while singing at a Houston club. She re-christened herself Esther Phillips,
choosing her last name from a nearby Phillips gas station. Phillips recorded a
country-soul rendition of the soon-to-be standard “Release Me,” which was a
smash, topping the R&B charts and hitting the Top Ten on both the pop and
country charts. Back in the public eye, Phillips recorded a country-soul album
of the same name, but Lenox went bankrupt in 1963. Thanks to her recent
success, Phillips was able to catch on with R&B giant Atlantic.
Her remake of the Beatles song “And I Love Him” (naturally, with the gender
changed) nearly made the R&B Top Ten in 1965 and the Beatles flew her to
the U. K. for her first overseas performances. Encouraged, Atlantic pushed her
into even jazzier territory for her next album, but none of the resulting
singles really caught on and the label dropped her in late 1967. With her
addiction worsening, Phillips checked into a rehab facility; while undergoing
treatment, she cut some sides for Roulette in 1969 and upon her release, she
moved to Los Angeles and re-signed with Atlantic.
In 1971, she signed with producer Creed Taylor’s Kudu label, a subsidiary of
his hugely successful jazz-fusion imprint CTI. Her label debut, “From a Whisper
to a Scream”, was released in 1972 to strong sales and highly positive reviews,
particularly for her performance of Gil Scott-Heron’s wrenching
heroin-addiction tale “Home Is Where the Hatred Is.” Phillips recorded several
more albums for Kudu over the next few years and enjoyed some of the most prolonged
popularity of her career, performing in high-profile venues and numerous
international jazz festivals.
In 1975, she scored her biggest hit single since “Release Me” with “What a
Difference a Day Makes” (Top Ten R&B, Top 20 pop), and the accompanying album
of the same name became her biggest seller yet. In 1977, Phillips left Kudu for
Mercury, but none matched the commercial success of her Kudu output and after
1981’s “A Good Black Is Hard to Crack”, she found herself without a record
Esther Phillips was perhaps too versatile for her own good; her voice had an
idiosyncratic, nasal quality that often earned comparisons to Nina Simone,
although she herself counted Dinah Washington as a chief inspiration. Phillips
died in Los Angeles on August 7, 1984, of liver and kidney failure.
The University of Tennessee refuses to
play Duquesne University, because
they may use an African American player in their basketball game.
Wendell Scott joins the
ancestors in Danville, Virginia. He was a prominent African American in early
stock car racing, finishing among the top five drivers in 20 Grand National
events and winning 128 races in the sportsman division. His story will be told
in the movie “Greased Lightning,” that starred Richard Pryor as Scott.
Clinton pardons Freddie Meeks, an African
American sailor court-martialed for mutiny during World War II when he and
other sailors refused to load live ammunition following a deadly explosion at
the Port Chicago Naval Magazine near San Francisco that had claimed more than
this date, a Virginia jury in the Washington-area
sniper case sentenced Lee Boyd Malvo (a young
African-American) to life in prison.
This spared him from the death penalty, the fate awaiting his mentor John Allen
Muhammad. Malvo’s lawyers had portrayed him as an impressionable boy who had
fallen under Muhammad’s murderous spell. The two were convicted of a series of
capital murders in a 2002 killing spree.
Malvo was convicted of two counts of capital murder for the October 14, 2002,
killing of FBI analyst Linda Franklin, one of 10 people killed during a
three-week span in the nation’s capital region.
This date marks the death of jazz
legend Oscar Peterson of kidney
failure at his home in Mississauga, Canada, a suburb of Toronto, Canada.
He was 82. Peterson had a dazzling keyboard technique, commanding sense of
swing and mastery of different piano styles that could leave his most
accomplished peers awestruck. During his illustrious career, Peterson played with
some of he biggest names in jazz including Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday,
Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie. He is also remembered for the trio he led
with bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis in the 1950s. His impressive
collection of awards include all of Canada’s highest honors, such as
the Order of Canada, as well as seven Grammys and a Grammy for Lifetime
Achievements in 1997.
Peterson was often invited to perform
for heads of state including Queen Elizabeth II and President Richard M. Nixon.
He wrote “A Royal Wedding Suite” fot the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady
Born in a poor neighborhood in
Monteal, he got his passion for music from his father, Daniel Peterson, a
railway porter and self-taught pianist.Peterson became a teen sensation in his
playing in dance bands and recording in the late 1930s and 1940s.
He quickly mad a name for himself as a
jazz virtuoso, often earning him comparisons to jazz piano great Art Tatum, his
childhood idol, for his speed and technical skills. He was also influenced by
Nat King Cole, whose piano trio recordings he considered “a complete musical
thesaurus for any aspiring jazz pianist.”
In 2005, he became the first living person other than a reigning monarch
to be honored with a commerative stamp in Canada. Streets,
concert halls, and schools have also been named after him in Canada.