1868—The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified formally making former Black slaves citizens of the United States. Many scholars consider this the most important amendment to the Constitution. In addition to making Blacks citizens, it contains both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause. These clauses have been used to guarantee a wide range of rights for all U.S. citizens. The 14th Amendment was passed, in part, to overturn the “Black Codes” being adopted in many Southern states after the Civil War. The Black Codes were an attempt to give Blacks official second class status in America by, among other things, limiting their rights to vote, sue a White person or testify in court.
1915—United States Marines begin the first American occupation of Haiti. The official justification was that disturbances on the predominantly Black island might allow Germany’s Adolph Hitler to infiltrate troops into the Americas. But the U.S. invasion was driven in large measure by a desire to put down a popular rebellion which threatened the rule of Haiti’s dictator and American business interests. Over 2,000 Haitians were killed in the early weeks of the occupation which did not end until August of 1934.
1917—The NAACP organizes an 8,000-person strong “silent march” down New York’s Fifth Avenue to protest lynching and other brutalities against African-Americans. The marchers were particularly outraged by the July 2, 1917 massacre of Blacks in East St. Louis, Ill. President Woodrow Wilson (considered by many Blacks to be a racist) had just taken America into World War I under the theme of “Making the World Safe for Democracy.” Thus, many of the marchers carried signs reading “Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy?”
2009—Death of the flamboyant Rev. Ike is announced. At his height in the mid-1970s, Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter reached an estimated 2.5 million African-Americans with his New York-based spiritual and financial betterment radio program. However, critics often described him as a “hustler” and a “scoundrel” who exploited poor Blacks by selling “healings” and “prayer clothes.” He died in California but was born in Ridgeland, S.C.