This Week In Black History

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For the Week of August 13-19

August 13

1881—The first African-American nursing school opens at Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga.

1892—The Afro-American newspaper is founded. The first edition is published in Baltimore, Md., by John H. Murphy Sr. At its height, the newspaper chain would publish papers in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Richmond, Virginia and Newark, N.J. It continues to publish today in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

ErnestEJust
ERNEST E. JUST

1906—The “Brownsville Affair” takes place. Angry Black soldiers, who had been subjected to intense racial discrimination and insults, are accused of sneaking into Brownsville, Texas, and killing a local White bartender and wounding a police officer. Although the evidence was weak, President Theodore Roosevelt sided with Brownsville Whites and ordered 167 of the Black soldiers dishonorably discharged for a “conspiracy of silence” because they either denied involvement in the shootings or refused to say who was involved. However, 66 years later (as a result of the findings of a book) the Army opened a new investigation which cleared the accused soldiers and reversed the 1906 dishonorably discharges.

August 14

1862—President Abraham Lincoln (for the first time) meets with a group of prominent Blacks to discuss the Civil War and public policy. But before the meeting was over, he would anger those gathered. Although an outspoken opponent of the expansion of slavery, Lincoln suggested that it would be best for America and Blacks if African-Americans were to emigrate to Africa or Central America. Nevertheless, a little over a month later on Sept. 22 he would issue the Emancipation Proclamation technically freeing all slaves in the rebellious Southern states.

1883—Ernest E. Just is born in Charleston, S.C. Just would become one of the nation’s most prominent biologists conducting pioneering research in cell division. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Dartmouth University in 1907 and would go on to establish the Zoology Department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Just would die in 1941.

1959—Modern basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson is born on this day in Lansing, Mich.

August 15

1975—In another of those highly publicized “trials of century,” which frequently grip national attention, 20-year-old Joann Little is found not guilty of murder after she stabbed a White jailer who had entered her cell in Beaufort County, N.C., to sexually assault her. The trial had been moved to Raleigh because of widespread racial prejudice in the Eastern North Carolina area where the incident actually took place.

1979—President Jimmy Carter forces the resignation of United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young after he angered Jewish groups by meeting with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The resignation created stormy relations between Blacks and the generally uncompromising pro-Israel lobby in the United States.

August 16

1922—Author and investigative reporter Louis E. Lomax is born in Valdosta, Ga. Little is known today but in the 1960s Lomax was one of the most prominent Black journalists in America. He was renowned for his coverage of the Civil Rights Movement and his investigative reporting. He died mysteriously in an automobile accident near Santa Rosa, New Mexico, on July 30, 1970. One urban legend is that his car was forced off the road by persons working for the FBI because he was completing a book which would show that the assassination of civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was part of a government plot. This urban legend is often repeated but there has been little concrete evidence offered to support it. Lomax’ best known books are “Negro Revolt” and “To Kill a Black Man.”

August 17

1887—Black separatist and Pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey is born on this day in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica. Garvey advocated Black pride and the building of Black institutions. He founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1914 and with amazingly rapid speed built it into the largest independent Black organization in history with 1,100 branches in over 40 countries. He came to the U.S. in 1916 and the FBI began keeping a file on him in 1919. By 1923 he was indicted on what many considered trumped up mail fraud charges and eventually deported from his U.S. base in 1927. Garvey would die in England on June 10, 1940. But years before his death, he predicted his return, writing, “Look for me in the whirlwind or the storm, look for me all around you, with God’s grace, I shall come and bring with me countless millions…to aid you in the fight for liberty, freedom and life.”

August 18

1963—The first Black person admitted to the University of Mississippi, James Meredith, graduates on this day in 1963. His graduation was unmarred by the protests and violence which marked his federally forced entry into the once segregated institution.

1964—White-ruled South Africa is officially banned from competing in the Olympics because of its system of racial oppression known as Apartheid. The country’s Black majority would not achieve democratic rule, however, until May 1994 when the Nelson Mandela-led African National Congress won over two-thirds of the vote in the country’s first free elections.

August 19

1791—Benjamin Banneker writes a letter to Secretary of State (later president) Thomas Jefferson denouncing slavery. In his letter, Banneker declared, “I freely and cheerfully acknowledge that I am of the African race” and then precedes to label America’s recently achieved freedom from England a “hypocrisy” as long as Blacks continued to suffer under “groaning captivity and cruel oppression.” Banneker was a Black activist against slavery even though he is generally recognized for his mathematical achievements, designing one of the first clocks made in America and laying out the nation’s capital after Pierre L’Enfant abandoned the job.

1954—African-American diplomat Ralph Bunch is named Undersecretary of the United Nations. Bunch had already received the Nobel Peace Prize (1950) for his work as a UN negotiator during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948-1949. Bunch would later become UN Secretary General. He was born in Detroit but raised in Los Angeles.

(This Week in Black History is compiled by Robert Taylor. Subscribe to his free bi-weekly “Black History Journal.” Include $3 to help defray postage costs to Robert N. Taylor, P.O. Box 58097, Washington, D.C. 20037.)

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