This Week In Black History 5-22-13

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GENERAL BENJAMIN O. DAVIS JR.

May 22

1863—The War Department establishes the Bureau of Colored Troops and began to aggressively recruit Blacks for the Civil War. The Black troops would play a major role in turning the tide of battle against the rebellious Southern slave states.

1959—Benjamin O. Davis Jr. becomes the first African-American general in the U.S. Air Force. His father, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., had been the first Black general in the U.S. Army.

1966—Entertainer Bill Cosby becomes the first African-American to receive an Emmy for Best Actor in a dramatic series—for his role in the 1960s television series “I Spy.”

May 23

1921—“Shuffle Along”—the first of a succession of widely popular Black musicals performed for White audiences—opened at the 63rd Street Theatre in New York City, becoming the first African-American Broadway musical. The musical comedy combined the talents of the legendary team of Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle. “Shuffle Along” produced a long list of hits including “Shuffle Along,” “I’m Just Wild about Harry,” “Gypsy Blues” and “Love Will Find A Way.”

1981—Legendary Reggae artist Bob Marley is given an official state funeral in his homeland of Jamaica. He had died of cancer on May 11 in Miami. Marley and his band “The Wailers” had made Reggae popular worldwide with such hits as “Stir It Up” and “No Woman, No Cry.” He was considered the first third world superstar and a prophet of the Rastafarian religion. He was only 36 when he died. His body now lies in a mausoleum in Jamaica.

May 24

1854 —Anthony Burns, one of the most celebrated fugitive slaves in American history, is captured by deputy U.S. Marshals in Boston. But at the time anti-slavery feeling was running high in Boston and it was one of the cities which had vowed not to obey the Fugitive Slave Act—a federal law that required even those opposed to slavery to help slave owners capture run-away slaves. For fear that Boston residents would help Burns escape to Canada, the U.S. government sent 2,000 troops to Boston to assist in returning Burns to Virginia. Thousands lined the streets as Burns was marched to a ship on June 3 for a trip back South. However, a Black Boston church raised the money to purchase Burns and within a year of his capture, he was back in Boston a free man.

1856—The so-called Pottawatomie Massacre takes place. A force of men led by famed abolitionist John Brown attacks a pro-slavery settlement in Franklin County, Kan., leaving at least five men dead. The attack was part of a period known as “Bleeding Kansas” when pro and anti-slavery forces battled one another in a bid to determine whether Kansas would be a slave or free territory. The “Pottawatomie Massacre” was also one of the events which made the Civil War unavoidable.

1944—Legendary singer Patti LaBelle is born Patricia Louise Holte in Philadelphia, Pa.

May 25

1878—World renowned dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson is born in Richmond, Va. Robinson was one of the best and best-known dancers in America up until the 1940s. He was known for his sensational footwork and speed. He once set a world record running the 75-yard-dash backwards in 8.2 seconds. But his “Bojangles” style—designed to please White audiences—angered some Blacks. However, he became a wealthy man appearing in 15 motion pictures after the 1930s.

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