1905—Robert Sengstacke Abbot founds the Chicago Defender newspaper calling it “the world’s greatest weekly.” Indeed, he would build the Defender into the largest circulation and most influential Black newspaper of its day. The Defender, which became the most widely circulated Black newspaper in the country, came to be known as “America’s Black Newspaper” and made Abbott one of the first self-made millionaires of African-American descent. In 1919, Illinois Gov. Frank Lowden appointed Abbott to the Race Relations Commission. Abbott died of Bright’s disease in 1940 in Chicago, Ill.
1787—Prince Hall organizes the nation’s first Black Masonic lodge in Boston, Mass.—African Lodge #459. Hall would go on to become the father of Black Masons in America and a major Black leader in the Northeast.
1812—Martin R. Delany, a pioneering Black nationalist, is born on this day in Charles Town, Va. Abraham Lincoln once described him as one of the most brilliant men he had ever met. Delany would fight in the Civil War to end slavery and become one of the nation’s first Black military officers. After the war he became a doctor. But over the years he became frustrated with American racism and began to advocate a return of Blacks to Africa.
1800—On this date the founder of the settlement which would grow to become the city of Chicago, Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, sold his property and left the settlement. The Haitian-born frontier trader and businessman had a history of building significant wealth, losing it and building it again. He would die 18 years later in St. Charles, Mo.
1878—Black inventor, Joseph R. Winters, receives a patent for his designing of the fire escape ladder.
2010—A report on felony disenfranchisement laws begins to receive widespread publicity. The report was actually released on April 21 by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. It showed that 5.3 million Americans were being denied the right to vote because of past felony convictions. Disproportionately, those denied voting rights were African-American. In fact, the report revealed that 13 percent of Black males could not vote because of felony convictions. Historically, most voting disenfranchisement laws were enacted after the Civil War as a means to keep newly freed Blacks from voting.