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This date celebrates the life of Denmark Vesey. He was self-educated black abolitionist who planned the most extensive slave revolt in U. S. history, Charleston, South Carolina, 1822.

Born in St. Thomas, Danish West Indies, he was sold in 1781 to a Bermuda slave captain named Joseph Vesey. Young Denmark, who assumed his master’s surname, accompanied him on numerous voyages and in 1783 settled with his owner in Charleston.

In 1799 Vesey was allowed to purchase his freedom with $600 he had won in a street lottery. He was already familiar with the great Haitian slave revolt of the 1790s, and while working as a carpenter he read anti-slavery literature. Dissatisfied with his second-class status as a freedman and determined to help relieve the far more oppressive conditions of others he knew, Vesey planned and organized an uprising of city and plantation blacks.

The plan reportedly called for the rebels to attack guardhouses and arsenals, seize their arms, kill all Whites, burn and destroy the city, and free the slaves. As many as 9,000 Blacks may have been involved, though some scholars dispute this figure. Warned by a house servant, White authorities on the eve of the scheduled outbreak made massive military preparations, which forestalled the rebellion. During the ensuing two months, some 130 Blacks were arrested.

In the trials that followed, 67 were convicted of trying to raise an insurrection; of these, 35, including Vesey, were hanged, July 2, 1822 in Charleston, South Carolina and 32 were condemned to exile. In addition, four White men were fined and imprisoned for encouraging the plot.

Alarmed by the impact of the British Dunmore Proclamation, Gen. George Washington reversed himself and issued an order allowing free Blacks to enlist in the Continental Army to help Americans fight for independence from Britain. The Dunmore Proclamation was an order issued by English officials declaring martial law in the rebellious American colonies and offering freedom to slaves who would fight on behalf of England.

The importation of African slaves is banned by all of the northern states in the United States.

This is the date of “Watch Night”, also known as “Freedom’s Eve.” The tradition began on the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation going into effect and technically freeing all slaves. On that night, Americans of African descent came together in churches, gathering places and private homes throughout the nation, anxiously awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had truly become law. Hundreds of residents of Rochester, NY went to the home anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass to conduct a vigil waiting for the emancipation to become official. Although, the proclamation freed very few slaves, its symbolic importance was considered highly significant at the time.

President Abraham Lincoln made a contract with Bernard Kock, a contract colonizer, to carry 5,000 Negroes to Isle a Vache, Haiti, at $50 each. Later, the contract was canceled, although 450 Negroes had already been sent to Haiti under Kock’s guidance.

Annie Holland is born. She will become an educator and will found the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) in North Carolina.

Amy E.J. Garvey was born on this date. She was an African-American historian, journalist, and Pan-Africanist.

A key figure in the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), she was the second wife of Marcus Garvey. From Kingston, Jamaica, Amy Jacques was educated at Wolmers Girls’ School. Her family was middle class with valued real estate. She had to move to a cooler climate because of attacks of malaria as a young girl. Jacques became affiliated with UNIA in 1918, serving as Garvey’s private secretary; they were married in 1922. During Marcus Garvey’s incarceration, her activism through speaking and writing emerged. She served as the editor of the woman’s page column “Our Women and What They Think,” in the Negro World, the UNIA’s weekly newspaper published in New York.

Her editorials demonstrated her commitment to Pan-Africanism and her held belief that Black women should be active in their communities even to the point of sacrifice of self. Amy Jacques Garvey traveled across the United States as liaison between her husband and UNIA officials and the Marcus Garvey Committee of Justice.

Her uncompromising dedication towards organization bothered many within the UNIA, however she was able to keep meticulous records in the heart of this flurry. Upon Garvey’s release from prison and deportation in 1927, Amy and her husband returned to Jamaica; they had two sons, Marcus Jr., and Julius. After Marcus Garvey’s death in 1940, she continued to serve the UNIA. Her authored books include, Garvey and Garveyism, (1963) and Black Power in America, (1968). Amy Garvey received the Musgrave Medal in 1971; she died on July 25, 1973.

On this date, Selma Burke was born. She was an African-American sculptor and educator who was from Mooresville, North Carolina.

Burke is best known for her work of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the American ten cent piece (dime).
She was commissioned to create a profile of President Roosevelt after a national competition sponsored by the Fine Arts Commission in Washington, DC. The completed project, a plaque, was unveiled and installed at the Record of Deeds Building in Washington DC. As a child she liked to whittle and model in clay but her first career was in nursing. She graduated from the St. Agnes Training School for Nurses in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1924. After working in New York she turned to art receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University in 1941.

Burke also studied ceramics in Vienna and sculpture in Paris. Her influences include Matisse and Frank Lloyd Wright. Selma Burke has received many awards and honorary doctoral degrees. Her pieces can be viewed in the Metropolitan and Whitney museums. Selma Burke died in 1995.

On this date, Beauford Delaney was born. He was an African-American artist.

From Knoxville, Tennessee, his brother Joseph was also a painter. His parents named him Beauford for the coastal town Beauford, South Carolina where they had come from. Early in life he showed skill in drawing and he studied at the Massachusetts Normal School, the South Boston School of Art and the Copley Society. Delaney moved to New York during the Harlem Renaissance gaining a reputation as a pastel portraitist. Some of his works were exhibited at the Whitney Studio Gallery in 1930.

Delaney lived an unsettling life as an artist and was in constant need of money to continue his work and studies. Delaney, known for his commanding high spirit and charm attracted friends and patrons willing to support his free spirit as an expressive artist; he managed to meet, sketch, or paint a host of celebrities. By 1929, with the Harlem Renaissance was in full bloom Delaney got to know Countee Cullen, W.E.B. Dubois, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ethel Waters, Henry Miller, and James Baldwin and others.

He worked as part of the Harlem Artists Guild and at the studio of Charles Alston. It was at in Greenwich Village where that he got to feel totally at home and during the 1950’s.; he was able to reach Paris due to the help of a friend. Delaney lived and worked in Paris for many years and much of his work was neglected until a retrospective in 1978 at the Studio Museum in Harlem. During his absence, the French government, in an effort to collect delinquent accounts, sealed off his apartment and prepared to auction off his products of nearly a forty year career. Had the works been sold, dispersed throughout Europe, the neglect may have been irreversible.

Many felt him to be the “Dean of African-American Artists Living in Europe.” Although he never fully wanted this distinction most of Delaney’s works were close to being classified as abstract art. Beauford Delaney died in Paris at age 78 from alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease on March 26, 1979.

Frank Marshall Davis was born on this date. He was an African-American poet.

From Arkansas City, Kansas his parents divorced one year after his birth. At the age of seventeen, he moved to Wichita to attend Friends University, transferring to the school of journalism at Kansas State Agricultural College. He started writing poems as an assignment in college. In 1927 Davis moved to Chicago, where he wrote articles and short stories for magazines and newspapers. Three years later he moved to Atlanta to become an editor of the Atlanta Daily World. Under Davis’s editorship, it became the first successful black daily newspaper in America.

His poems caught the attention of Frances Norton Manning, a bohemian intellectual, who introduced Davis to Norman Forge. Forge’s Black Cat Press brought out Davis’ first book, Black Man’s Verse, (1935) which became a critical success. The book brought together Davis’s interest in jazz and free verse with a criticism of racial oppression. Davis’ book, Ebony Under Granite, chronicles the lives of various Black people buried in a cemetery. In 1937, Black Cat Press released Davis’s second book, I Am the American Negro.

Between 1935 and 1947, Davis was Executive Editor for the Associated Negro Press in Chicago. He also started a photography club, worked for numerous political parties, and participated in the League of American Writers. In 1948, 47th Street was published. It was a chronicle of life on Chicago’s Southside. That same year Davis relocated to Honolulu, Hawaii, raising five children, operating a small wholesale paper business, and writing a weekly column for the Honolulu Record. Although his work fell slightly out of favor, it was rediscovered during the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s, and in 1978 he published his final volume, Awakening, and Other Poems.

Frank Marshall Davis died in 1987. Livin’ the Blues: Memories of a Black Journalist and Poet 1992 and Black Moods: Collected Poems 2002 were published posthumously.

On this date, Jonah Jones was born. He was an African-American musician.

From Louisville, Kentucky, Jonah Jones was born Robert Elliott Jones. He began playing music at the age of 11. He watched the Booker T. Washington Community Center Band march through town as a boy and the flashy trombones impressed him. The band’s organizer gave him his chance, but Jones ’arms were too short for trombone, so he moved on to the trumpet. Jones started out playing on a Mississippi riverboat in the 1920s. He freelanced in the Midwest (including with Horace Henderson), was briefly with Jimmie Lunceford (1931), had early work with Stuff Smith (1932-1934), and then spent time with Lil Armstrong’s short-lived orchestra and the declining McKinney’s Cotton Pickers.

Jones became famous for his playing with Stuff Smith’s Onyx club band (1936-1940), recording many moving solos. He worked with Benny Carter, Fletcher Henderson and became a star soloist with Cab Calloway, staying with the singer after Calloway’s big band became a combo. In 1952, Jones played Dixieland with Earl Hines and toured Europe. In 1954 his shuffle version of “On the Street Where You Live” was the first of many hits that he recorded.

From 1957 to 1963 Jones had a long series of popular albums for Capitol during, switching to Decca for a few more quartet albums in 1965-1967. Jonah Jones died April 30, 2000, in New York, NY at the age of 91.

Odetta Felious Gordon Holmes is born in Birmingham, Alabama. She will become a famous folksinger, known simply as “Odetta”, who will sing all over the world and at major peace and civil rights meetings, including the 1963 March on Washington, becoming a significant figure in the Civil Rights Movement.

Donna Summer is born in Boston, Massachusetts. She will be the reigning “Queen of Disco” music in the 1970’s, known for her renditions of “Bad Girls” and “Last Dance.” Summer was one of the dominant influences during the disco music era of the 1970s.

Norwood (Barney) Ewell, famous Penn State sprint champion, was declared a professional by the AAU because he accepted a furnished house as a gift from hometown admirers in Lancaster, PA soon after his return from the Olympics in London.

Hulan Jack, a West Indian native, is inaugurated as New York City Manhattan borough president. He becomes the first African American to hold the post and the first Black to hold an executive office in a major city. He will use the position to become one of the most influential Black figures in New York politics.

The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is presented to Paul R. Williams for his achievements as an architect.

Katanga becomes part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In a speech before a group of young people, Malcolm X urges them “to see for yourself and listen for yourself and think for yourself. This generation, especially of our people, have a burden, more so than at any other time in history. The most important thing we can learn to do today is think for ourselves.”

Roberto Clemente, Pittsburgh Pirate slugger, joins the ancestors after a plane crash on his way to a humanitarian mission to Central America.


Roland Hayes joins the ancestors in Boston, Massachusetts at the age of 89. He had been an acclaimed tenor whose pioneering recitals of German lieder and other classical music opened the concert stage for African American singers.

The first nationally broadcast telethon for the United Negro College Fund raises $14.1 million, using the now famous theme “A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” The telethon will become an annual fundraising drive that will support more than 40 historically African American institutions of higher learning and draw widespread individual and corporate support.

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