1896—Ethiopia defeats Italy at the battle of Adowa (also called Adwa). It was one of the few successful military victories of Africans over Europeans as the latter attempted to colonize and economically exploit the African continent. The nominal head of the Ethiopian forces was Emperor Menelik II, but the lead general was Ras Makonnen—father of the man who would become next Emperor Haile Selassie. The battle, which began on March 1, 1896, would leave 6,000 Italians and 10,000 Ethiopians dead. But the victory forced Europe to recognize Ethiopia as an independent and sovereign nation, as well as, give inspiration to Blacks worldwide who were fighting for freedom.
1962—While Kobe Bryant may have wowed the basketball world when he scored 81 points in a single game, on this day in 1962, 7’1’ Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain scored 100 points in a single game—a professional record which still stands. Chamberlain set the record while leading the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169 to 147 defeat of the New York Knicks.
1968—The infamous COINTELPRO memorandum is sent to FBI field offices around the country. COINTELPRO was a government counter intelligence program aimed at disrupting and destroying Black, peace and anti-war groups. The March 3 memorandum specifically called on FBI agents to infiltrate militant Black organizations and employ various tactics to prevent them from growing individually or uniting with one another. The agents were also told to do whatever was necessary to prevent the rise of a “Black Messiah” who could “electrify and unify” Black people. Approximately one month after the COINTELPRO memorandum was issued, Civil Rights Movement leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. When the COINTELPRO documents were discovered by a reporter in the 1970s, suspicion increased that the FBI and its long
-time Director J. Edgar Hoover were in some way involved with the killing of King.
1991—Motorist Rodney King is brutally beaten by a group of Los Angeles police officers. Unknown to them, the beating was caught on video tape. However, a year later (April 29, 1992) when a jury in Simi Valley, Calif., with no Blacks on it found four White officers not guilty of all charges related to the beating, riots erupted in Los Angeles leaving millions of dollars in damage, nearly 50 people dead and over 300 injured. Ultimately, two of the officers were convicted on federal civil rights charges and King received a financial settlement from the city of Los Angeles. It was during this period that King uttered his signature statement: “Why can’t we all just get along?”
1877—Inventor and scientist Garrett A. Morgan is born in Paris, Ky. Among his major inventions were the gas mask and the automatic traffic signal. He made history on July 25, 1916 when he used his gas mask to rescue 32 men trapped in a mine explosion beneath Lake Erie. The U.S. Army also used the gas mask to save lives during World War I. Morgan died in 1963.
1770—Crispus Attucks is shot and killed by British soldiers becoming the first American to die in the struggle for American Independence from England. Attucks was an escaped slave who became a sailor and rope maker. It is unclear exactly how he became involved in the protest of that day. But a crowd had gathered and began to taunt British troops. Attucks, who was of Black and Indian parentage, was inspired to give a speech in which he spoke of the importance of freedom. Suddenly a volley of shots was fired into the crowd. Four people died that day in an event which became known as the Boston Massacre.