Thomy Lafon was born on
this date in 1810. He was a black businessman, abolitionist, and
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Richey patents the fire escape
bracket. Patent #596,427.
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.
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.
The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is awarded to William
Stanley Braithwaite, poet, literary critic and editor, for
distinguished achievement in literature.
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.
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.
Denzel Hayes Washington, Jr. was born on
this date. He is an African-American film and television and stage actor and
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
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
Everson Walls is born. He will become a NFL corner back with the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.
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.
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 &
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.
The shooting of 21-year-old Nevell Johnson by police officer Luis Alvarez led to an altercation in
Pennsylvania on this date.