Week of Jan. 8-14
1811—The largest slave revolt in American history took place on this day in 1811. Charles Deslandes led an estimated 500 slaves in an uprising in St. Charles and St. James parishes in Louisiana. After burning crops, plantations and killing several Whites, the slaves marched on New Orleans. But federal troops, aided by a militia of plantation owners, turned them back, killing 63 Blacks. Deslandes and 20 other slaves were sentenced to death and beheaded.
FIVE FISK GRADUATES
1836—Fannie Mae Jackson is born. She became the first Black female college graduate.
1866—Fisk University is founded in Nashville, Tenn., for recently freed slaves by the American Missionary Association. The college grew to become one of the leading Black institutions of higher learning in America by graduating several figures who played major roles in Black cultural, political and entertainment life.
1906—Poet and novelist Paul Lawrence Dunbar dies. Born in Dayton, Ohio, Dunbar rapidly gained national recognition as a poet. Although he only lived to be 33, he was prolific—writing short stories, novels, plays and songs. In Dayton, he was a classmate of the Wright brothers of aviation fame. In fact, the Wright brothers helped Dunbar finance his newspaper—the Dayton Tattler.
1935—Black Enterprise magazine founder and publisher Earl Graves is born on this day in Brooklyn, N.Y.
1946—Poet Countee Cullen dies at 42 in New York City. Cullen was one of Black America’s greatest poets and novelists. One of his most controversial works was “The Black Christ & Other Poems.” He was born in 1903. But some mystery surrounds exactly where he was born with both Baltimore and New York City being given as his place of birth. Cullen also taught high school. One of his best known students was the great writer James Baldwin.
1967—The Georgia legislature finally seats Rep. Julian Bond. In an amazing anti-democracy display of arrogance, Georgia legislators refused to allow Bond to take the seat he duly won because of his opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam. But a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared their action unconstitutional. Bond is now chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors.
1924—Legendary jazz drummer and composer Max Roach is born in New York City. He was perhaps the greatest drummer-composer of the jazz era performing with some of America’s best known jazz musicians and singers. He formed Debut Records in 1952 with bassist Charles Mingus.
1957—The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is founded in New Orleans, La., by a group of Black ministers led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The SCLC went on to become one of the premier leadership organizations of the Civil Rights Movement. Among the original founders were Ralph Abernathy, Joseph Lowery, Fred Shuttlesworth and C.K. Steel. Washington, D.C. Minister Walter Fauntroy was chairman of the board of directors and one of the leading women of the Civil Rights Movement, Ella Baker, became executive director. In 2009, Dr. King’s daughter Bernice was elected to head the organization.
1965—The extraordinarily talented author and dramatist Lorraine Hansberry dies. Deeply committed to the Black struggle, Hansberry’s brilliant career was cut short by cancer. She was only 35. Her primary works included “A Raisin In The Sun” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” “A Raisin In The Sun” became the first play written by a young Black woman to be produced on Broadway.
1971—Popular R&B singer Mary J. Blige is born on this day in the Bronx, N.Y. She is said to be currently working on a movie about the legendary career of songstress Nina Simone.
1988—Scientists (paleo-anthropologists) announce the discovery of the “African Eve”—the mother of all humankind. Based on research in East Africa involving mitochondrial DNA, the researchers from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, England, concluded that the original woman evolved in East Africa approximately 200,000 years ago and that all of humanity can ultimately trace their ancestry to this woman. However, some more recent studies suggest that humankind first evolved in Southern Africa.
1890—Educator Mordecai Wyatt Johnson is born in Paris, Texas. Johnson became the first Black president of Howard University and presided over the prestigious Black institution for over 30 years. He died in 1976.
1920—Civil rights leader James Farmer is born on this day in Marshal, Texas. During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s he was among the top three or four most prominent civil rights leaders. He helped organized the “Freedom Rides” to help desegregate public transportation and founded the Congress of Racial Equality. He died in 1999.
1944—Boxer Joe Frazier is born in Beauford, S.C. His fights with the legendary Muhammad Ali have become boxing classics.
1960—Basketball great Jacques Dominique Wilkins is born in Paris, France.
1971—The Congressional Black Caucus is first organized on this day in 1971.
1869—On this day in 1869, one of the earliest post-Civil War attempts at organizing Blacks on a national level occurred. The National Convention of Black Leaders was held in Washington, D.C. Frederick Douglass was elected president. Also, the first Black labor union convention took place. It was called the Convention of the Colored National Labor Union.
1913—The sorority Delta Sigma Theta is organized on the campus of Howard University by 22 coeds. It developed into one of the most prestigious and influential Black Greek letter organizations in the nation.
1953—Don Barksdale becomes the first African-American to play in an NBA All-Star game.
1966—Robert C. Weaver became the first Black member of a presidential cabinet. Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
1987—In what many considered a racist decision, Arizona Gov. Even Mecham rescinds the gubernatorial decree that had established the birthday of civil rights legend Martin Luther King Jr. as a state holiday. The decision set off protests and a national Black boycott of Arizona.
1989—Poet Sterling Brown dies. Brown, a middle class Black, born into one of Washington, D.C.’s most prominent Black families, has probably never received full credit for the power, thought-provoking and even revolutionary nature of his poetry. He was a professor at Howard University for nearly 40 years.
1999—Superstar Michael Jordan retires from professional basketball. However, in 2009, Jordan was still ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the top 10 richest Blacks in America.
1895—A group of African-Americans organized the National Steamboat Co. in Washington, D.C. The group sailed the luxury steamer “George Leary” between the nation’s capital and Norfolk, Va., during the waning years of steamboat popularity in America. The George Leary was a triumph for Black entry into business.
1930—Ernest Just becomes vice president of the American Association of Zoologists. Just was perhaps the most noted Black zoologist in American history. He accomplished pioneering research in fertilization and cell division while also publishing more than 70 scientific papers and books. Born in Charleston, S.C., he was a brilliant student who graduated from Dartmouth magna cum laude. He taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., for years and helped a group of students organize the Black Greek letter fraternity—Omega Psi Phi. Just died in 1941 of pancreatic cancer.
1972—“Sanford and Son” starring Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson premiers on NBC. The sitcom gains almost immediate popularity among Blacks as well as develop a large following of Whites. The name “Sanford” came from John Sanford—Redd Foxx’s real name.
(This Week in Black History is compiled by Robert Taylor. He welcomes comments and additions at SirajT12@yahoo.com or brief messages at 202-657-8872. Also, Taylor will soon be organizing a Black History Club in this area. Contact him at either the e-mail address or the telephone number if you are interested in joining.)