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1845
Texas was admitted into the Union as a slave state.


1853
On this date, Inman Edward Page was born. He was a Black educator and academic administrator.

Page was born in Warrenton, Virginia. His parents were slaves on a Virginia plantation. Though accounts vary slightly, when Page was 10 years old and a houseboy on the plantation, he and his parents ran through Union lines while soldiers of both the North and South were in the area. The family later moved to Washington, D.C. It was in the nation’s capital that Page, while earning money as an errand boy, attended a private school. He later spent two years at what is now Howard University. Page was among the first Black students admitted to Brown University; he and classmate George Washington Milford were the first two Black graduates, in the same year. Milton went on to become a lawyer.

Page, who was class valedictorian, was selected to be the class orator for the 1877 commencement. A white man who heard the speech persuaded Page to accept a teaching position at Natchez Seminary in Mississippi. That marked the first in a series of increasingly distinguished educational successes. Page went on to become president of Langston University, in Oklahoma, for 17 years. He also was president of the Western Baptist College in Macon, Missouri, and of Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1918, Brown bestowed upon him an honorary master’s degree. Those who knew Page described him as “tall and strong in body,” and brilliant in mind, an African-American who worked for the noble achievements of others of his race. Later, he was appointed supervising principal of Oklahoma City’s separate school system for 12 years. About a year before he died, in 1935, he was named principal emeritus in honor of his outstanding contributions to the city’s school system. Page’s death at age 82 in the home of his daughter, Zelia N. Breaux in Oklahoma City made banner headlines.

His funeral, in Oklahoma City, was attended by hundreds of friends, colleagues, and relatives. Later, hundreds of others waited “in the stiff, cold north wind for his burial on the campus of Langston University. After his death, one newspaper editorialist wrote: “Old Man Ike,” as his pupils endearingly referred to him, was a terror to the disobedient and the mischievous, not because of cruel penalties visited upon them but because students abhorred the thought of their idol knowing of their delinquency.

It was this peculiar hold that he had upon youth which wove out of the fabric of their lives virtue and strength of character.”



1897
Jules Bledsoe was born on this date. He was an African-American classical baritone and composer.

Born in Waco, Texas, he was the son of Henry L. and Jessie (Cobb) Bledsoe. He attended Central Texas Academy in Waco from about 1905 until his graduation as class valedictorian in 1914. He then attended Bishop College in Marshall, where he earned a B.A. in 1918. He was a member of the ROTC at Virginia Union University in Richmond in 1918-19 and studied medicine at Columbia University in New York City between 1920 and 1924.

While attending Columbia, he studied voice with Claude Warford, Luigi Parisotti, and Lazar Samoiloff. His professional singing debut occurred on April 20, 1924, at Aeolian Hall in New York. As a concert singer, Bledsoe performed in the United States and Europe. He was praised for his ability to sing in several languages, for his vocal control and range, and for his command to communicate through music.

He is best-known for his portrayal of Joe in the 1927 production of Jerome Kern’s Showboat. His interpretation of “Ol’ Man River” made the song an American classic. In his career Bledsoe performed with the Boston Symphony Chamber Players (1926), the BBC Symphony in London (1936), and the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam (1937). He also sang vaudeville, radio and in opera. He sang the role of Amonasro in Giuseppe Verdi’s Anda with the Cleveland Stadium Opera (1932), the Chicago Opera Company at the Hippodrome in New York (1933), and the Cosmopolitan Opera Company, also at the Hippodrome (1934).

A highlight of his career was his title role for the European premiere, in Amsterdam, of Louis Gruenberg’s opera The Emperor Jones (1934). In 1940 and 1941 Bledsoe worked in films. He played the part of Kalu in Drums of the Congo, and, although his name did not appear in the credits, he probably played in Safari, Western Union, and Santa Fe Trail.

He wrote several patriotic songs, spirituals and folk songs; including “Does Ah Luv You?” (1931), “Pagan Prayer”,”Good Old British Blue” on a poem by Countee Cullen; (1936); and “Ode to America” (1941). He wrote an opera, Bondage (1939), based on the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. His African Suite, a set of four songs for voice and orchestra, was featured by the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Jules Bledsoe died on July 14, 1943 in Hollywood from a cerebral hemorrhage. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Waco



1907
This date marks the birth of Dr. Robert Clifton Weaver. He was an African-American economist, and administrator who was the first black to serve in the U.S. Cabinet.

Born in Washington, D.C., Weaver, the great-grandson of a slave, was educated at Harvard University. He held several positions in various agencies of the U.S. government for the next 10 years, starting as the first black adviser on racial problems in the Department of the Interior. After World War II he served for a time in Chicago as executive director of the Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations, taught briefly at several universities, and wrote Negro Labor, a National Problem (1946) and The Negro Ghetto (1948).

From 1949 to 1955 he ran the fellowship program of the John Hay Whitney Foundation, after which he became rent commissioner in New York State and as such a member of the governor’s cabinet. He was active in the Civil Rights Movement and served for a year as national chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1960 President John F. Kennedy appointed Weaver to head the federal Housing and Home Finance Agency. In 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson named him head of the new Department of Housing and Urban Development, making him
the first African American appointed to a presidential cabinet position.

Weaver left the government in 1969 to become president of Bernard Baruch College of the City University of New York and from 1970 to 1978 was professor of urban affairs at Hunter College. His other publications include The Urban Complex, and Dilemmas of Urban America. After leaving his cabinet post, Weaver became president of Bernard M. Baruch College in 1969.

In 1970, he became a professor of Urban Affairs at Hunter College in New York. He retired from that post in 1978. Robert C. Weaver died on July 17, 1997, at the age of 89. In 2000, the HUD headquarters building he had dedicated in 1968 was renamed the Robert C. Weaver Federal Building in his honor.



1910
Mildred “Millie” Jeffrey was born on this date. She was an American civil rights, labor, and woman’s rights activist.

Born in Alton, Iowa, Jeffrey was the oldest of seven children. Her mother, Bertha, was the state’s first female registered pharmacist. Young Jeffrey graduated from Minneapolis Central High School. She also studied psychology at the University of Minnesota and joined the campus YWCA, which at the time was considered a controversial group for sponsoring interracial dances and attempting to integrate local restaurants. After earning a graduate degree at Bryn Mawr College in 1934, she married a union organizer, Homer Newman Jeffrey, and they traveled the country, organizing textile workers. They divorced in the late 1950s.

She joined the NAACP in the 1940s and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists in the Deep South of the 1960s. Jeffrey’s involvement with the V and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom exposed her to the plight of women factory workers, who worked long hours for low wages. She then organized the mill workers into the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, and gained a reputation as a tough but compassionate labor leader.

In 1962, she arranged for her daughter, Sharon, and a group of politically active University of Michigan students, among them Tom Hayden, to use an AFL-CIO camp on Lake Huron. The students issued the Port Huron Statement, the prototype to the antiwar Students for a Democratic Society. Jeffrey made a lot of female firsts possible. She also served on the Wayne State University Board of Governors from 1974 to 1990. During this time Jeffrey, the first woman to head a United Auto Workers department and helped create the Democratic vice-presidential and history-making candidacy of Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. In 1999, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saluting her for championing civil and labor rights.

Mildred Jeffery died on March 25, 2004 of natural causes. She was 93, and passed away at a Detroit-area care facility with her family present.



1917
Thomas Bradley was born on this date. He was an African-American administrator, and politician. Bradley was born in Calvert, Texas. His family later moved to Los Angeles where he attended UCLA.

He served 22 years in the police department, rising to the rank of lieutenant, and earned a law degree from Southwestern University Law School in Georgetown, Texas, in 1956. In 1963 Bradley became the first Black elected to the Los Angeles city council. In 1973 he became the city’s first Black mayor
by winning 56% of the vote. He was re-elected for four additional terms and served for twenty years until his retirement from politics in 1993.

During Bradley’s 20 years in office Los Angeles developed into an important world city, adding a major international airport and hosting the 1984 Summer Olympic Games. The five-time Los Angeles mayor was unable to a win higher office, despite winning the Democratic Party nomination for governor in 1982 and 1986. In 1996, following heart surgery, Bradley suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, died in September 1998.



1925
At 67, Anna Julia Cooper receives her doctorate from the University of Paris. Officials of the French Embassy present the degree to her at ceremonies at Howard University. Cooper had been a noted college and secondary school educator and will continue to teach and work for educational improvement for African Americans until her death at the age of 105.


1939
Kelly Miller joins the ancestors in Washington, DC. The first African American to be admitted to Johns Hopkins University (In 1887), and later a longtime professor and dean at Howard University, Miller was a noted writer, essayist, and newspaper columnist who opposed the accommodations policies of Booker T. Washington. He was best known, however, as a champion for educational development for African Americans, dramatically increasing enrollment at Howard and founding a “Negro-Americana Museum and Library,” which will become Howard’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.


1950
On this date, Joe Gilliam Jr. was born. He was an African-American professional football player.

From Nashville, TN, Joe Gilliam was the third of four children for Ruth and Joe Gilliam Sr. He grew up on the campus of Tennessee A&I State University (as the college was known prior to 1968). His father was a defensive coordinator at TSU. The younger Gilliam displayed his own athletic abilities at a young age, beginning at Nashville’s Washington Junior high School, where he participated in tumbling, track, and basketball. In 1966, he became the starting quarterback at Pearl High School and led the squad when they played in the city’s first season of integrated football. Gilliam kept close to the Tiger football team by serving as a ball boy.

His heroes included TSU quarterback Eldridge Dickey. Gilliam, who was called “Jefferson Street Joe” for a boulevard near Tennessee State was an All-American in 1970 and ‘71. He was an 11th-round draft pick by the Steelers in 1972. Along with Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Richard Dent, he was among the most famous football players to enter the NFL after playing at Tennessee State the school that also produced Olympic star Wilma Rudolph.

Gilliam earned a starting role for the Steelers in 1974; years after James Harris and Marlin Briscoe became pro football’s first Black starting quarterbacks. Gilliam became a starter when several veterans, including quarterback Terry Bradshaw, went on strike. Gilliam kept the job when Bradshaw and the others returned, leading the Steelers to a 4-1-1 record. Gilliam played four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers however; drug problems led to his benching and derailed his NFL career.

Battles with cocaine and heroin left Gilliam in financial ruin. But he fought his problems in drug rehabilitation centers and worked as a counselor to help others with their addictions. Most recently in 1999, Dr. James Hefner, TSU President, allowed him to host a summer Youth Football Camp at Tennessee State with his father Joe Gilliam, Sr. Also he was able to go back to Pittsburgh, to be a part of the last-ever game played at Three Rivers Stadium.

He received rave reviews by the National TV announcers about his life, and path back to Nashville, Tennessee. Gilliam died of an apparent heart attack on December 25, 2000. He was 49.



1952
Noted jazz bandleader and arranger Fletcher Hamilton Henderson joins the ancestors in New York City. Henderson worked early in his career with Harry Pace of Black Swan Records as a recording manager and, in 1924, started playing at the Roseland Ballroom, the same year he added New Orleans trumpeter Louis Armstrong to the band. Armstrong’s short tenure helped it evolve from a dance to a jazz band and established Henderson as the founding father of the big band movement in jazz. He wrote songs such as “Copenhagen,” “Houston Blues,” and “Shanghai Shuffle.”


1953
Stanley “Tookie” Williams was born on this date. He was an African-American gang leader, author, and community organizer.

From Louisiana, he and his mother moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s. His first childhood encounter his new L.A. neighborhood led to a fight. This experience Williams says convinced him that being bigger, tougher, and stronger than the next guy were the keys to his survival. He and friend Raymond Washington founded the Crips, a (described) Los Angeles, California youth protection organization.

This group grew, after Williams’ incarceration and Washington’s murder, into one of America’s most widely-known and notorious street gangs. In 1979 Williams murdered Albert Owen, Thsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang, and Yee Chen Lin during two separate robberies. All four were shot execution style by close range shotgun blasts. Since his conviction, Williams has denounced his life and his role as a gang leader, and writes from prison about the harmful effects of gang life.

He has recorded public service announcements urging young people not to join gangs. Despite overwhelming evidence against him, Williams has continued to deny his guilt in the four murders. In addition, a spokesman from the California Department of Corrections states that Williams has not renounced his gang membership, continues to associate with Crips members in prison, and has received a significant amount of money from outside sources. He has written nine children’s books and an autobiography that have been popular around the world for their anti-violence message, and helped to broker a truce between the Bloods and the Crips.

In 2004, a television movie about him, Redemption: The Stan Tookie Williams Story, was released starring Jamie Foxx as Williams. Supporters claim that Williams has deterred over 150,000 individuals from joining gangs; however, when the co-author of Williams’ books was challenged on this point by The John and Ken Show in a telephone interview, she refused to provide the evidence and hung up on the hosts. Williams has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2001.

On November 18, 2005, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declared that Williams is a “cold-blooded killer” who has “left his mark forever on our society by co-founding one of the most vicious, brutal gangs in existence, the Crips.” Rapper and former Crips member Calvin Broadus (Snoop Dogg) is campaigning against his execution.

On December 1st, 2005 the NAACP announced plans to mount a tour of four cities in California to halt Williams’ execution. The NAACP’s new president and chief executive officer Bruce Gordon would be on the tour with the organization’s state president and other officials. The tour begins in Los Angeles, and goes on to San Diego, Sacramento and San Francisco. Williams is currently waiting on death row in San Quentin State Prison the outcome of his request for clemency. His execution date was set and carried out on December 13, 2005. A clemency decision by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was denied.



1954
The Kingdom of the Netherlands, with Netherlands & Netherlands Antilles as autonomous parts, comes into being.


1982
Jamaica issues a postage stamp to honor Bob Marley.


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