Joseph Boulogne “Chevalier de
Saint-Georges” was born on Christmas Day.
He was an African-French classic music conductor, composer, musician, and
military officer. Boulogne was born on the West
Indies island of Guadeloupe, where his mother Nanon was a
father was a Frenchman, George de Bologne Saint-Georges. He owned the
plantation on which Joseph spent his early childhood. The word “Chevalier”
means “Knight” in French. It was a title of nobility in the Kingdom of France.
Joseph could not inherit his father’s status as a member of the nobility, because
his mother was an African.
Even so, he was called “Chevalier de Saint-Georges” from a young age. At age
ten Saint-Georges moved to France
with his parents. There he continued his studies in classical music. He was
tutored in violin by Jean-Marie Leclair, and studied composition with
Francois-Joseph Gossec. Saint-Georges also spent six years at the boarding school of Texier de La Boessiere, a master of
arms. Athletics and fencing brought him a reputation at an early age. He swam
across the River Seine in winter with one arm tied behind his back. As an adult
he signed his surname “Saint-George” and that became the normal spelling in
French. Saint-Georges’ military career began in 1761 as an officer in the King’s
In his music career, the Conductor of the prestigious Le Concert des Amateurs
orchestra chose Saint-Georges as First Violin in 1769. Saint-Georges made his
public debut as a violin soloist during the 1772-73 concert seasons, performing
his own violin concertos. Many say that Saint-Georges demonstrated the
influence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He has even been called “Le Mozart Noir”
or “The Black Mozart”. History shows that Mozart came to Paris
in 1778 to study the”Paris
School” of composition
while Saint-Georges was a member. In 1775, Queen Marie-Antoniette appointed
Saint-Georges as her music director, and King Louis XVI named him director of
the Paris Opera. Saint-Georges was also the first person of African descent to
join a Masonic Lodge in France.
He was initiated in Paris
to “Les 9 Soeurs” a Lodge belonging to the Grand Orient of France.
As a conductor he later traveled to Vienna
and commissioned Franz Joseph Haydn to compose the Paris Symphonies, Nos.
82-87, which premiered in 1787. No. 85 is called The Queen was a favorite of
Marie-Antoniette. Saint-Georges joined the pro-Revolution National Guard in 1789.
That same year the Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued by the National
Assembly. On Sept. 7, 1792 a delegation of men of color asked the National
Assembly to allow them to fight in defense of the Revolution and its
egalitarian ideals. On the next day the Assembly authorized the Légion des
Hussards Américains [Legion of American Soldiers]. They had 1,000 volunteers of
color, with Saint-Georges as their Colonel. One of its squadron leaders was
Alexandre Dumas Davy de La Pailleterie (1762-1806). Like his Colonel, he was
the son of a French aristocrat and an African slave. He later had a son,
Alexander Dumas, who wrote “The Three Musketeers.”
On September 25, 1793, Saint-Georges lost his command due to false charges of
misusing public funds. He spent 18 months in the house of detention at
Houdainville, before being acquitted. After his release Saint-Georges took part
in the Haitian Revolution. Saint-Georges produced 14 violin concertos between
1773 and 1785; 9 symphonies. He wrote for 2 solo violins between, 2 symphonies,
3 sonatas for violin and harpsichord; 18 string quartets, divided in 3
collections of 6 quartets in each. Saint-Georges also composed several operas
for the Comedie- Italienne, beginning in 1777. Saint-Georges lived alone in a
small apartment in Paris
during the final two years of his life. He died of gangrene in a leg wound on
June 12, 1799.
Jupiter Hammon, a New
York slave who was probably the first African
American poet, publishes “An Evening
Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries.”
Oliver Cromwell and Prince
Whipple are among soldiers who cross the Delaware River with George Washington to successfully attack the Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey,
during the Revolutionary War.
Rev. Charles B. Ray, Black
abolitionist and prominent African American leader,
was born in Falmouth, MA. He entered Wesleyan University
and was forced to withdraw due to objections from northerners and southerners. Ray
was editor of the Colored American
and pastor of the Bethesda Congregation Church
in New York City.
He was one of the founders and leaders of the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery
Society. He and Henry Highland Garnet were elected officials of the 1834 Negro
Convention. His home in New York was a station in the Underground Railroad
where, in one day, 14 fugitives came for shelter.
father of famous painter Henry O. Tanner, Benjamin Tucker Tanner was born on
this date. He was a black minister and bishop.
From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after studying at Avery Institute and Western
Theological Seminary, Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, he officiated at the 15th
street Presbyterian church in Washington, D. C., also organizing the first
school for freedmen in the United States navy-yard, by permission of an Admiral
Dahlgren. At the end of eighteen months he returned to his own church, the
African Methodist Episcopal, entering the Baltimore conference in April 1862.
He worked as a missionary in Alexandria, where he organized the first society
of his church in Virginia. He was stationed in 1863 in Georgetown, D.C., in
1864 in nearby Frederick, Maryland, and in 1866 in Baltimore. Tanner was
reassigned to organize a proposed conference school in Frederick, Maryland and
take charge of the schools of the Freedmen’s bureau in Frederick County. He was
elected Secretary of the General Conference of 1868, and was chosen editor of
the “Christian Recorder,” in 1872, 1876, and 1880. In 1884 he was elected
managing editor of a new church publication, the “A.M.E. Church Review.”
He received the degree of A.N. from Avery College in 1870 and that of D.D. from
Wilberforce University in 1878, and on May 19, 1888, was elected a bishop. Dr.
Tanner has written prose and poetry for periodicals, and is the author of Paul
versus Pius Ninth (Baltimore, 1865); Apology for African Methodism (1867); The
Negro’s Origin, Is the Negro Cursed? (Philadelphia, 1869); and Outline of the
History and Government of the A. M. E. Church (1883). Benjamin Tucker Tanner
died in 1923.
Cheyney University is established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It will be first known
as the “Institute for Colored Youth”. The school will be moved to George
Cheyney’s farm, 24 miles west of Philadelphia, in 1902. It will be renamed in 1913 to “The Cheyney
Training School for Teachers.” Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is the first
historically Black institution of learning in America. It is also the first
college in the United States to receive official state certification as an
institution of higher academic education for African Americans.
Charles Lenox Remond begins his career as an antislavery agent. Remond will be one of the
first African Americans employed as a lecturer by the antislavery movement. He
will work many years for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
One of the first Black magazines published in America hit the
newsstands on this day. The name was Mirror of Liberty and it was published in New York
City by anti-slavery activist David Ruggles.
this date, with the U.S. government angered by the Indian’s refusal to give up
their lands to the whites and because they tended to give sanctuary to escaped
slaves, a force of Seminole Indians fought U.S. troops in the Battle of Okeechobee in Florida
in one of the major battles of the Second Seminole War. U.S. Army
Colonel Zachary Taylor and 800 troops,
including his 6th Infantry Regiment and a volunteer Missouri Regiment led by Colonel Richard
Gentry left Fort Bassinger in search of the Seminole and Miccosukki
Indian leaders Apeika, Alligator Sam Jones, and Coacoochee who had gathered nearly half (2,000) of the Florida Indian Nation on the
north shore of Lake Okeechobee. Chief John Horse, a Black
man, shared command with Jones and Wild Cat. Blacks had
a reputation as “fearless” fighters in the numerous battles with U.S. troops.
Blacks also served with the American troops as scouts, interpreters, and even
spies. The Indians angered the government by refusing to give up their lands to
the whites and because they tended to give sanctuary to escaped slaves.
Indians, at this time, made their stand at Okeechobee and resorted to
guerrilla warfare from the swamp lands of southern Florida. The Indian position
was well prepared and carefully chosen. An estimated 380 warriors (the
rest of the Indians being women, children, old men and other non-combatants)
were concealed in a hammock on a sand ridge that forced the troops to
cross a waist deep saw grass swamp, open land, then a deep slough
to get to them. By three o’clock, the fiercest battle of the
Second Seminole War was over, with Taylor’s troops
sustaining major casualties, few on the Indian side, and the
Indians escaped to the Everglades. Col. Taylor reported that 26 whites
were killed, including the majority of his officers and NCOs, and 112 wounded.
The Seminoles, outnumbered two to one, had approximately 11 killed and 14
wounded. Though no Seminoles were captured, during the battle, the Indians were
forced to withdraw and retreated in an easterly direction. Col. Taylor, because
of heavy casualties, was unable to pursue the Seminoles. He did, however,
capture 100 ponies and 600 head of cattle. On December 27, the troops began the
return trip to Fort Basinger, arriving the following day. They then proceeded
on to Fort Gardner and arrived there December 31, 1837.
was in the same year that John Horse founded the city of Wewoka in Mexico. It
served as a refuge for runaway slaves. After
the battle, the shores of Lake Okeechobee returned to frontier
obscurity and the Second Seminole War went on for 5 more years. Colonel
Taylor was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and his nickname of “Old
Rough and Ready” came mostly due to the battle.
In 1849, the U.S. attorney generals office ruled that black Seminole’s
were slaves by law. The U.S. government actively promoted slavery among
relocated Native American tribes.
date marks the birthday of John Henry
Murphy Sr., founder of the black newspaper the Baltimore Afro-American.
Murphy Sr. was born a slave on Christmas day in Baltimore, Maryland and was
freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. He served as a sergeant in the
infantry during the Civil War. After the war he worked as a white-washer and
home decorator. Murphy founded the Afro-American newspaper in 1892, originally
designed to locally serve a church community.
With the assistance of his five sons and six daughters, he turned The
Afro-American into one of the leading Black newspapers of the 20th
century. John Henry Murphy Sr. served as the paper’s editor in chief until his
death in 1922.
Sarah Gammon Bickford was born on
Christmas Day. She was a black chambermaid, administrator and entrepreneur.
She was born a slave on the Blair Plantation near Greensboro, North Carolina.
After the Civil War she lived with an aunt in Knoxville, Tennessee and changed
her last name to her aunt’s name Gammon. In 1870, Knoxville Judge John L.
Murphy was appointed to a judicial post in Virginia City, Montana Territory. At
the age of 15, she was offered a job caring for the Murphy children; the family
arrived in Virginia City, Montana in January 1871.
During Virginia City’s gold rush she quickly found work as a chambermaid at
Virginia City’s Madison House Hotel. In 1872 she married William Leonard Brown,
a successful gold miner. They had two sons and a daughter. Within a few years,
however, both her sons and her husband died of diphtheria. She and surviving
child, Eva, relocated to Laurin, Montana Territory, where they lived with a
merchant family. Eva Brown died of pneumonia in 1881 at the age of nine. Two
years later Sarah married Stephen Bickford, a white man from Maine. The couple
had four children, Elmer in 1884, Harriett in 1887, Helena in 1890 and Mabel in
In 1888, Stephen and Sarah Bickford acquired a portion of the water system that
supplied Virginia City with drinking water In 1890 they also purchased
“Fisher’s Garden,” a vegetable and fruit farm east of Virginia City. Stephen
Bickford died in 1900 and she was left with some resources provided in his
will. This included two-thirds interest in the Virginia City Water Company, a
small farm, Virginia City town lots, various interests in nearby gold mining claims
and one share of stock in the Southern Montana Telegraph and Electric Company.
She assumed control of the water company, managing and directing all company
matters. She also continued to manage the farm east of the city.
In 1902 Bickford purchased the Hangman’s Building, one of the oldest and
largest structures in the town. From here she ran the Water Company. Now
assisted by her son, Elmer, who became a master plumber, Bickford continued to
expand the business, acquiring natural springs and building a reservoir to
supply the growing population of the region. Sarah Bickford also enrolled in a
business management course through a Scranton, Pennsylvania correspondence
school to become more proficient in company management. In 1917, Bickford
purchased the other third of the Water Company from longtime partner Philip
Harry Gohn, the second investor when it was originally purchased in 1888.
At this point she became the only African American woman in Montana and
possibly in the United States to own a utility company. Known as “Montana’s
First Career Woman” Sarah Gammon Bickford managed the Virginia City Water
Company until she died of a heart attack on March 22, 1931.
Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia are founded.
Physician and founder of the first Black pharmacy, Henry McKee Minton was born in Pennsylvania.
Charles Caldwell, an officer in the Mississippe Malitia, joins the ancestors after being
assassinated in Clinton, Mississippi. He was the first African American
in the state of Mississippi to be accused of the murder of a white man
and found “not guilty” by an all-white jury. He was later elected to the
this date, Kid Ory was born.
He was an African-American trombonist and composer.
Edward Ory was born in
LaPlace, Louisiana. As a child, he began to make music on homemade instruments.
By 1911 he was leading one of the best-known bands in New Orleans. Among its
members at various times were several musicians who later were highly
influential in jazz development, including Sidney Bechet, Mutt Carey, Jimmy
Noone, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong. In 1919 Ory moved to California,
forming a new band in Los Angeles. After five years he joined King Oliver in
Chicago and by the end of the 1920s had become a prolific jazz recording
He played with King Oliver’s Dixie Syncopators, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll
Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. In 1930 Ory retired from music to run a successful
chicken farm, but on his comeback in 1939 he enjoyed even greater success. He
worked with clarinetist Barney Bigard and trumpeter Bunk Johnson (1943), and
his motion-picture credits include Crossfire, New Orleans, and The
Benny Goodman Story. Ory was perhaps the first musician to codify, purely
by precept, the role of the trombone in classic three-part contrapuntal jazz
Ory is often remembered as a “tailgate” trombonist, one whose style of playing
fills in, or supports, other band instruments and is reminiscent of the styles
of pre-jazz ragtime bands and cakewalk bands. His most outstanding jazz
composition was “Muskrat Ramble”. Edward Kid Ory died Jan. 23rd 1973
in Honolulu, Hawaii.
date marks the birth of Cabell “Cab” Calloway III who was born
on Christmas day in Rochester, New York. He was an
African-American vocalist and band leader.
Although the world knew him as “The Hi-De-Ho Man” from his hit “Minnie the
Moocher,” which was the first million-selling jazz record, “Cab”
Calloway was a jazz talent and a timeless example of the swing era’s appeal with
his “scat singing.” Calloway
started as a singer in Baltimore. In 1927 he joined the revue Plantation Days
and relocated to Chicago. Two years later, he became the leader of the
Alabamians. By 1930, Calloway became a star in New York at the famed Savoy Ballroom
and at the Cotton Club.
At this time, Calloway’s jive talking hipster act, was supported by top-flight
musicians, trumpeter Doc Cheatham, bassist Milt Hinton, and saxophonist Chu
Berry. Dizzy Gillespie was in Calloway’s trumpet section, but left after a
celebrated “spitball incident” in 1941 (in which the two got into a fight in
Hartford, Connecticut, after Calloway accused a young Gillespie of throwing
spitballs at him. Gillespie stabbed Calloway in the brawl). Afro-Cuban
trumpeter Mario Bauza was also a member of that trumpet section.
Calloway’s other important recordings included Pickin’ the Cabbage and Sunday
In Savannah, which he sang in the 1943 motion picture Stormy Weather.
He also appeared in the films St. Louis Blues, A Man Called Adam,
and Porgy and Bess, as well as perform as a singer in the touring companies of “Porgy”
and “Hello Dolly.” In the ‘90s, Calloway’s timeless appeal got
him a cameo in a Janet Jackson video that introduced a new generation to his
crowd-pleasing genius. Cab Calloway died on November 18, 1994 in Cokebury
this date, O’Kelly Isley was born.
He was an African-American R&B vocalist.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio he along with Ronald, Rudolph and Vernon Isley were
known as the Isley Brothers. They began singing in church; their mother played
piano for them. They also sang at school functions and social gatherings, such
as Girl’s Town and Boy’s Town. They won talent shows on TV. As a teen after
Vernon’s 1955 death in a bicycling accident, Ronald was tapped as the remaining
trio’s lead vocalist.
Early singles did not sell very much, but “Shout” their 1959 debut for RCA sold
a million copies, despite failing to crack the Top 40. Only after the Isleys
left RCA for the Wand label did they again have another hit, this time with
their seminal 1962 cover of “Twist and Shout.” After recording for their own
T-Neck label, they signed to the Motown subsidiary Tamla in 1965, joining
forces with the famed Holland-Dozier-Holland writing and production team.
The Isleys’ first single, the shimmering “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for
You),” was their finest moment yet, and barely missed the pop Top Ten; still,
the group felt straitjacketed by the Motown style of production formula, and in
1969 they exited Tamla to resuscitate the T-Bone label. Their next release, the
muscular and funky “It’s Your Thing,” hit Number Two on the U. S. charts in
1969, and became their most successful record. In 1973, the Isleys’ had a
massive hit with their rock-funk fusion cover of their own earlier single
“Who’s That Lady,” re-titled “That Lady (Part I); “ the album 3 + 3 also proved
highly successful, as did 1975’s The Heat Is On, which spawned the smash “Fight
the Power (Part I).”
As the decade wore on, the group again altered its sound to fit into the
booming disco market; while their success on pop radio ran dry, they frequently
topped the R&B charts with singles like 1977’s “The Pride,” 1978’s “Take Me
to the Next Phase (Part 1),” 1979’s “I Wanna Be With You (Part 1),” and 1980’s
“Don’t Say Goodnight.”
A longtime member of the Isley Brothers, singer and songwriter O’Kelly Isley
performed with his influential family group for close to four decades, a period
spanning not only two generations of siblings but also massive cultural shifts
which heralded their music’s transformation from gritty R&B to Motown soul
to blistering funk. O’Kelly Isley died of a heart attack on March 31, 1986.
On Christmas evening, Florida NAACP president,
Harry T. Moore was killed and, his wife, Harriette, seriously injured as they slept when
a bomb went off under their bedroom in Mims, Florida. Moore was a revered
and courageous teacher and civil rights worker. Active in expanding the
African American vote in Florida and in desegregating the University of
Florida, Moore was posthumously awarded the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal in 1952.
No one has ever been convicted of their murder. Five years to the day,
Birmingham, AL protest leader, the Rev. Fred L. Shutlesworth’s home was
The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is presented to Mabel K. Staupers for her leadership in the field of nursing.
The home of Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth, a Birmingham, Alabama protest leader, is destroyed by a dynamite bomb.
Rickey Henley Henderson is born in Chicago, Illinois. He will grow up to become a baseball player
with the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees and will become the stolen
base king. In 1982, Henderson will shatter Lou Brock’s modern major league
record by stealing 130 bases. He will have 23 consecutive seasons in which
he will steal more than 20 bases. He will rank 4th all-time in
games played (3,081), 10th in at-bats (10,961), 20th in
hits (3,055), and first in runs scored (2,295) and stolen bases (1,406).
Michael P. Anderson was born on this date. He was an African-American pilot and astronaut.
Born on Christmas Day in Plattsburgh, New York he was the son of Bobby and
Barbara Anderson. His father was an Air Force serviceman and a great influence
on his career choice. Young Anderson dreamed of the universe and space flight
from the time he was a boy and got his first toy airplane at age 3. He grew up
in Spokane, Washington and considered it to be his hometown. He attended
Morning Star Baptist Church and graduated from Cheney High School in the farm
town next to Fairchild Air Force Base about 25 miles from Spokane.
After graduation from the University of Washington in 1981 with a bachelor’s
degree in science, he became an EC-135 pilot with the 2nd Airborne
Command and Control Squadron in the USAF and commissioned a second lieutenant.
He became Chief of Communication Maintenance for the 2015 Communication
Squadron and later the Director of Information System Maintenance for the 1920
Information System Group. He was a flight instructor and tactics officer with
over 3,000 hours in various airplanes. Anderson earned a master’s degree in
physics from Creighton University in 1990. In 1986 he was selected to attend
Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance AFB, Oklahoma. He served as an aircraft
commander and instructor pilot in the 920th Air Refueling Squadron,
Wurtsmith AFB Michigan.
married to the former Sandra Lynn Hawkins. In December, 1994, while stationed
at Plattsburgh Air Force Base, he was chosen for the space shuttle program as a mission
specialist, one of 19 candidates selected that year from among 2,962 applicants. He was initially
assigned technical duties in the Flight Support Branch of the Astronaut Office.
He logged over 211 hours in space, according to the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration.
He was crew of STS-89 (Shuttle Endeavour to Space Station Mir) docking
mission in 1998, when the crew transferred more than 9,000 pounds of scientific
equipment and other hardware from the Endeavour to the Mir. Anderson said in an
interview with the University of Washington alumni newsletter in 1998. “I never
had any serious doubts about it. It was just a matter of when.’’ But on the eve
of his last flight, Anderson did talk about the risk of space flight. “There’s
always that unknown,” he said to reporters just before the Columbia lifted off
on January 16, 2003. Lt. Col. Michael P. Anderson died on February 1, 2003 in
an explosion of the Space Shuttle Colombia (STS-107).
The Congress of Racial Equality announces that its national director, Dr. James Farmer, would resign on March 1.
The Seaway National Bank of Chicago was established.
Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) was organized by Rev. Jesse Jackson.
the dynamic “Godfather of Soul,” whose revolutionary rhythms, rough voice and
flashing footwork influenced generations of musicians from rock to rap, joined
the ancestors early Christmas morning at the age of 73. He had been
hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital on 12/24 and
succumbed to heart failure around 1:45 a.m. He was one of the major musical influences
of the past 50 years. From Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson, David Bowie to
Public Enemy, his rapid-footed dancing, hard-charging beats and heartfelt yet
often unintelligible vocals changed the musical landscape.
On this date, legendary performer, Eartha
Kitt, died from colon cancer at her Weston, CT home at the age of