1885—Erskine Henderson, an African-American jockey, wins the Kentucky Derby on “Joe Cotton”—a horse trained by Alex Perry—an African-American trainer. Henderson was the sixth Black jockey to win the coveted race. Indeed, Black jockeys and trainers dominated the Kentucky Derby from 1875 to 1902. However, while some of the reasons are not entirely clear, it appears that as the race became more and more prosperous, Black jockeys and trainers were forced out.
1970—A student protest on the campus of Mississippi’s Jackson State University leads to a massive confrontation with local police authorities. When the smoke cleared, two students had been shot and killed and another 12 injured or wounded. Reasons given for the protests ranged from opposition to the War in Vietnam, racial tensions and anger over the National Guard killings of White students on the campus of Kent State University earlier in the month. The university memorialized the disturbance by naming the area where it took place “Gibbs-Green Plaza” after the two students who were killed—Phillip Lafayette Gibbs (21) and James Earl Green (17).
1985—In a confrontation with the Black Nationalist back-to-nature group MOVE, Philadelphia police drop an incendiary device on the group’s home and headquarters. The decision to bomb had been apparently approved by Black Mayor Wilson Goode. Eleven MOVE members, including five children, were killed. The only adult survivor was Ramona Africa. Over 60 homes in the surrounding area were burned to the ground. It was never fully clear why the decision to drop the bomb was made.
1911—Kappa Alpha Psi, one of the nation’s leading Black fraternities, is founded on this day on the campus of Indiana University by 10 young men led by Elder W. Diggs and Byron K. Armstrong.
1942—The 93rd Infantry is activated and assigned to combat in the Pacific. It thus became the first African-American division formed during World War II.
1821—The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is officially formed in New York City. However, the church had been actually operating since 1796. A decision to officially separate from the White-controlled Methodist Church was reached in 1820. The dispute centered in part on the refusal of the Whites to allow Black ministers to preach. Among the founders were James Varnick, Abraham Thompson and June Scott. Today the denomination has an estimated 1.2 million members and operates Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C.
1933—Legendary music composer and producer Quincy Jones is born on this day in Chicago, Ill.
1977—One of the unsung heroines of the Civil Rights Movement, Fannie Lou Hamer, dies on this day in 1977. Hamer, the youngest of 20 children born in Ruleville, Miss., became active in voter registration and later became Mississippi field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee as well as head of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. She also coined the phrase, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”