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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 slave. Boulogne’s 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 Guard.

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 in Connecticut 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.

The 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.

On 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.

The 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.

It 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.

This 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 1892.

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 state senate.

On 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 artist.

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 improvisation.

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.

This 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 Village, Delaware.

On 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 bombed.

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.

He was 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.

James Brown, 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 81.

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