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1810
Thomy Lafon was born on this date in 1810. He was a black businessman, abolitionist, and philanthropist.

Lafon was born a free person of color in New Orleans. His mother was Modest Foucher Lafon, a free mulatto born in Louisiana of a slave mother. His father was Pierre Laralde Lafon, a Frenchman who deserted the family when his son was still a boy. His father stayed a bachelor sharing his home with his widowed sister, Alice Bodin. Young Lafon was self-educated and frugal with money from necessity.

It was rumored that he was well educated and taught for a while. However, in 1842, he was listed in the New Orleans City Directory as a merchant, on 387 Rampart Street. During his lifetime, he accumulated several hundred thousand dollars in Louisana real estate which had distributed among charitable and educational institutions irrespective of race. He established the Lafon Orphan Boys’ Asylum and the Home for Aged Colored Men and Women. He gave generously to other charitable and religious organizations and to many poor people.

Lafon made large contributions to the American Anti-Slavery Society, the Underground Railroad, the Catholic Institute for the Care of Orphans, the Louisiana Asylum, the Eye/Ear/Nose/and Throat Hospital, New Orleans University, Southern University, Straight University, the Shakespeare Alms Home, the Societe des Jeunes Amis, Charity Hospital (for the benefit of the ambulance service), the Religious Order of the Holy Family, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Lafon Old Folks Home.

During his lifetime, he collected nearly half a million dollars; funds which at his death went toward the founding of the Home for Aged Colored Men and Women and the Lafon Orphan Boy’s Asylum. Lafon also lent his funds and influence to the establishment of the Institution Catholique des Orphelins Indigents, the school for poor African American children that grew from Marie Couvent’s legacy. He also bequeathed large sums to Charity Hospital, to the Society of the Holy Family, and to the Shakespeare Alms House.

Fifteen months before Lafon died, a local newspaper contained the following statement about him: “To the glory of his memory and the enrichment of society the ‘wealthy old colored man’ gave with love and affection several major gifts and numerous minor ones to care for the poor of all races.”

Thomy Lafon died on December 22, 1893. From 1868 until his death in 1893, he was a highly regarded, successful real estate broker who lived in a very unpretentious house at 242 Ursulines Street. He was buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. Right after his death the Louisiana State Legislature voted to honor him in memoriam despite the racial discrimination that was so virulent at the time. He was the first Black person to be so honored by any State in the Union.



1817
The American Colonization Society (in full, The Society for the Colonialization of Free People of Color of America), a private philanthropic organization, is organized in Washington, DC in the hall of the House of Representatives, by Robert Finely for the purpose of relocating freeborn and emancipated blacks to Africa. The Society’s supporters espoused a wide range of viewpoints on slavery and the treatment of blacks, ranging from advocacy of the abolition of slavery to the removal of the Negro race from the United States. The primary motivation for this group stemmed from the fact that there were too many ‘free’ Blacks in the United States. This was an organization that helped send Negroes to Sierra Leone and aided in the founding of Liberia in 1821, a colony on the coast of West Africa. Many progressive Black leaders were opposed to the Society’s efforts.


1829
Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman joins the ancestors. Freeman, born into slavery, ran away from her owners after she was mistreated by her master’s wife. She petitioned successfully for her freedom, citing her knowledge of the Bill of Rights and the new constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in her argument that all men were created equal, thereby justifying her petition for freedom. Her victory effectively abolished slavery in Massachusetts. Freeman was the great-grandmother of W.E.B. Dubois, one of America’s most renowned scholars, leaders, and fighters for civil rights.


1854
Thomas McCants Stewart was born on this date. He was a Black attorney, educator, and minister.

From Charleston, South Carolina, after his graduation at the University of South Carolina in 1875 he practiced law in Columbia, South Carolina. From there Stewart was professor of mathematics in the State agricultural college, Orangeburg, South Carolina. He entered the ministry in 1878, after studying at Princeton. In 1882 he became professor of belles-lettres and law in Liberia College, and spent a year on the west coast of Africa, serving also as general agent for industrial education in Liberia.

In January 1886, he was admitted to the bar of New York City and also practiced in the territory of Hawaii. Stewart has contributed to newspapers and magazines and is the author of Liberia, the Americo-African Republic 1887, and Perils of a Great City 1887. He was associated with a number of movers and shakers in the Black community nationwide, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. Du Bois among them. Thomas Stewart died in 1923.



1865
Edward Lee Baker, Jr. was born on this date. He was an African-American soldier.

From Platte River, WY he enlisted in the Army in Cincinnati, OH in 1882. Baker served with both the 9th and 10th U. S. Cavalry attaining the rank of Sergeant Major in 1892. Baker saw combat in the Spanish-American War where he earned a Congressional Medal of Honor for braving heavy fire. This happened on Jul 1, 1898 — Santiago, Cuba where he saved the life of a comrade during the assault on San Juan Hill.

After the War he was promoted to the rank of Captain and given command of the 49th Infantry. Baker led this 100-man unit to an unprecedented record of efficiency and discipline. He retired in 1902 and moved to California. Edward Lee Baker, Jr. died on August 26, 1913, and is buried at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.



1896
Theodore Sylvester Boone was born on this date. He was an African-American attorney, pastor, author, and editor.

From Winchester, Texas, Boone was the son of Alexander and Lillian (Chaney) Boone. He attended Terrell High School in Terrell, Texas, and a number of universities including Prairie View A&M and Bishop College in Texas. From 1918 to 1920 he studied at Des Moines University and the University of Iowa. One year later he wrote a book entitled Paramount Facts in Race Development. In 1922, he attended the University of Chicago and the Chicago Law School and published Laws of Trusts and Trustees. Boone practiced law in Indianapolis, Indiana, and was admitted to the Supreme and the United States district courts of that state.

He married Ruby Beatrice Alexander in December 1921. In 1924 he began a spiritual lifestyle, attending Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, Arkansas, and later that year serving as pastor of the Eighth Street Baptist Church in Temple, Texas. While serving as editor-in-chief of the Western Star, a Black Baptist church publication, Boone wrote Race Migration, Its Cause and Cure in 1924. He was the secretary of the Texas delegation to the National Baptist Convention that year and in 1925. In 1926 he wrote History of Negro Baptists in Texas and edited Flaming Sword, a monthly magazine published in Indianapolis.

Boone was a Republican, a Mason, and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi and the Odd Fellows. He moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he was pastor of a church. He died on May 23, 1973.



1897
C.V. Richey patents the fire escape bracket. Patent #596,427.


1903
Born in Duquesne, Pennsylvania, this date is the birthday of Earl Kenneth Hines (better known as Earl “Fatha” Hines). He was an African-American jazz pianist, whose style was showcased by intricate rhythms and a forceful use of octaves. He has been called the first modern jazz pianist is considered the “Father of Modern Jazz Piano.”

While attending high school around 1921, he professionally played piano in the nightclubs of Pittsburgh. His style differed from other pianists of the Twenties in his use of what were then considered unusual rhythms and accents. Jelly Roll Morton had set the direction of Jazz piano in the early part of the decade, but after 1926 Hines was at the forefront of the Hot Jazz style. In 1922, in 1923, Hines moved to Chicago where he worked with Deppe’s Seranaders, Erskine Tate’s Vendome Orchestra and with Carroll Dickerson and six years later organized his first group.

He met Louis Armstrong in 1926 at the local musician’s union hall and the two became friends. Hines worked briefly in Louis Armstrong’s Stompers and, along with Zutty Singleton and Armstrong, tried unsuccessfully to manage their own club together in Chicago. 1928 was a productive year for Hines. He recorded his first ten piano solos including versions of “A Monday Date,” “Blues in Thirds,” and “57 Varieties.” Hines worked much of the year with Jimmie Noone’s Apex Club Orchestra. Hines joined Louis Armstrong on the Hot Five and Hot Seven recording sessions, playing on the classic “West End Blues,” “Fireworks,” “Basin Street Blues” and composing “A Monday Date.” On his birthday that year, Hines debuted with his first big band.

During the 1930s, network radio audiences heard him on his own nightly broadcast. Many famous jazz musicians played with the Hines band, including Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. In 1940 Billy Eckstine became the band’s popular singer and in 1943 both Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were added. In 1947, the Hines group disbanded and, for the next four years, he played piano with Louis Armstrong’s All-Stars and played with them for three years. In 1951, Hines moved to California and formed a Hot Jazz band to cash in on the Dixieland revival that was going on at the time. He continued the Dixieland band throughout the Fifties, but by the early Sixties, Hines joined a number of smaller musical settings and was pretty much out of the Jazz mainstream and forgotten. Earl “Fatha” Hines died in Oakland, CA in April 1983.


1914
On this date, Roebuck “Pops” Staples was born. He was an African-American gospel and blues singer.

From Winona, Mississippi, his introduction to music was from singing in the church. At the age of 15 Staples began experimenting with Blues, influenced singing and guitar style came from Robert Johnson, Bubba White, “Big Bill” Broonzy and others. In 1935, Staples moved to Chicago with his wife Oceola and two children, Pervis and Cleotha. There, the family grew with the addition of Yvonne and Mavis.

Staples began teaching his children music when they were quite young in the hope of forming a group. In the early 1950s, Pervis, Cleotha, and Mavis joined him in performances at local churches. Although The Staple Singers first recorded in 1953, they did not gain recognition until moving to Chicago’s Black-owned Vee Jay Records in 1955, which released five gospel albums by the group over the next five years. They achieved their greatest popularity with a series of more elaborately produced recordings for Stax.

These featured horn sections and synthesizers, embodied by the hits Respect Yourself (1971), I’ll Take You There (1972), and If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me) (1973), as well as by their 1975 album for Curtis Mayfield’s Custom label, Let’s Do It Again, the group’s all-time best-seller. After many great gospel and soul recordings for VeeJay, Riverside, Epic, and Stax from the early 1950’s on as the father and leader of the Staple Singers, Pops Staples went out on his own. Father Father, (1994) was a high point in his solo career.

Also joining Staples on the album were several well-known guests, Ry Cooder, daughters Mavis, Yvonne, and Cleotha. In 1995, Staples received a Grammy Award in the Contemporary Blues category, he also appeared in three films: “Wag the Dog,” “Three Stories,” and a video called “Pops Staples Live in Concert.” In 1999, he was awarded the Mississippi Arts and Letters Special Award for his contribution to music. Roebuck “Pops” Staples died December 20, 2000.



1918
The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is awarded to William Stanley Braithwaite, poet, literary critic and editor, for distinguished achievement in literature.


1918
George Henry White, the last Black congressman (representative from North Carolina) of the post Reconstruction, died in Philadelphia, PA at the age of 66. White was principal of the State Normal School for North Carolina. He became a member of the State House of Representatives in 1880, served in the State Senate in 1884, and was solicitor and prosecuting attorney for the second judicial district of North Carolina 1886-94. He was elected to the U.S House as a Republican serving from 1897-1901. White became famous for his speech to Congress when he stated that, although the Blacks had been disenfranchised and forced out of national politics, “phoenix-like,” we would return because of our potential strength.


1951
Syl Jones was born on this date. He is an African American author, playwright and media consultant.

From Cincinnati, Ohio, Jones is the son of Sylvester and Juanita Jones; his family migrated north from Arkansas through Chicago in the early 1930’s. After high school, Young Jones attended and graduated from Augsburg College in Minneapolis in 1973 with a double major in English and Theatre Arts.

He initially began writing for Modern Medicine Magazine communicating through print very intricate medical procedures. This talent was honed in part because of his exposure to his mothers work at the Shiners Burns institute in Cincinnati. Jones has worked in many other forms of print, video, theater and TV, as well as a producer of documentaries.

According to Jones in 1980 his Playboy Magazine interview with William Shockley was a milestone in journalism career. He has written/published over 60 plays that are produced in many venues in America. In 1994, he began writing an Editorial and Opinion column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper. Jones has also commented that his 1998 play ‘Black No More’ was one of his favorites. This writing won a Kennedy Center Award.

As a Playwright in Residence with Mixed Blood Theatre based in Minneapolis, Jones is passionate regarding the power of theatric expression to teach and sometimes confront, heal or encourage audiences to re-think their opinions on many different subjects.



1954
Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. was born on this date. He is an African-American film and television and stage actor and occasional director.

He was born in Mount Vernon, New York. He has an older sister, Lorice, and a younger brother. His father, Virginia born Reverend Denzel Washington, was an ordained Pentecostal minister, who worked for the Water Department and at a local department store. His mother, Lennis, a beauty parlor owner, was born in Georgia and raised in Harlem. Washington was not allowed to watch movies by his parents, who divorced when he was fourteen. As a youth, he went through a rebellious stage, and several of his friends went to prison. His mother responded to his behavioral problems by sending him to preparatory school.

Washington later enrolled at Fordham University, where he discovered acting and earned a degree in journalism. His first film role was in the 1975 made-for-television movie, Wilma. His big break came when he starred as
Dr. Phillip Chandler in the television hospital drama, St. Elsewhere. He was one of a few actors to appear on the series for its entire six-year run. In 1983, Washington married actress Pauletta Pearson, whom he met on the set of his first screen role, the couple has four children, John David, who signed a football contract with the St. Louis Rams after playing college ball at Morehouse, Katia, Olivia and Malcolm. In 1995, the couple renewed their wedding vows in South Africa with Archbishop Desmond Tutu officiating.

Washington is known globally for his acting ability. In 1987, after appearing in several minor theatrical films and stage roles, Washington starred as South African anti-apartheid campaigner Steve Biko in Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom, a role for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. In 1989, Washington won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for playing a defiant, self-possessed slave in the film Glory (1992).

He was nominated as Best Actor in a Leading Role in
Spike Lee’s in Malcolm X. In 1999, he was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role — Hurricane. In 2001, Washington won Best Actor in a Leading Role in Training Day. Other film credits include: A Soldier’s Story, The Philadelhia Story with Tom Hanks, Much Ado about Nothing, John and Antwone Fisher (2002), Out of Time (2003), Man on Fire (2004), The Manchurian Candidate (2004), Inside Man (2006), Deja Vu (2006), American Gangster (2007) and The Great Debaters (2007).


1959
Everson Walls is born. He will become a NFL corner back with the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.


1977
Karen Farmer becomes the first African American member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, when she traces her ancestry back to William Hood, a soldier in the Revolutionary War.


1979
James Riley Blake was born on this date. He is an African-American tennis player.

Blake is from Yonkers, New York, His African-American father was Thomas Sr. and his mother Betty is British. His brother, Thomas Jr., is also a professional tennis player, and he has two older half-brothers, Christopher and Howard. Blake graduated from Fairfield High School, in Fairfield, Connecticut in 1997. He attended Harvard University and left after his sophomore year to pursue a career in tennis.

Blake was inspired to pursue tennis after hearing his role model, Arthur Ashe, speak to the Harlem Junior Tennis Program. Brian Barker was his first (and current) coach. Afflicted with scoliosis, for five years as a teenager, he had to wear a full-length back brace for 18 hours a day, though not while playing tennis. Blake was named Rookie of the Year for the 2000 World Team Tennis season. Away from tennis, Blake also enjoys golf, basketball, and baseball.

He first gained the attention of tennis fans worldwide after nearly beating Lleyton Hewitt at the 2001 U.S. Open. That same year, he saw his first Davis Cup action against India and became the third African-American man to play the Davis Cup for the United States. Blake won the 2002 USTA Waikola Challenger in Hawaii. He has also twice won the Hopman Cup (with Serena Williams & Lindsay Davenport).

He is also good friends with singer/songwriter John Mayer, who is also from Fairfield. When Blake was invited by Anthem Insurance to do a cancer charity game honoring his late father, he invited Mayer (along with Andy Roddick and Gavin DeGraw) to perform.



1982
The shooting of 21-year-old Nevell Johnson by police officer Luis Alvarez led to an altercation in Pennsylvania on this date.


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