1872—John Henry Conyers becomes the first Black student at the U.S. Naval Academy. However, racism and often violent harassment forced him to leave the academy before he was able to graduate.
1905—The Atlanta Life Insurance Co. is established in Atlanta, Ga., and becomes one of the largest insurance companies in America serving a predominantly African-American clientele.
1984—Gen. Colin Powell becomes the first African-American named as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As the nation’s top military leader, Powell was praised by some Blacks as a role model while he was criticized for supporting what critics considered the government’s war-mongering policies. His generally positive reputation was damaged by his speaking before the United Nations and providing misinformation in 2003 in support of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq.
1863—Mary Church Terrell is born on this day in 1863. She became one of the nation’s leading activists advocating greater education for Blacks and women. She was the first Black person to sit on the Washington, D.C., school board and played a major role in desegregating that city’s restaurants.
1961—The Interstate Commerce Commission officially prohibits segregation in buses traveling in interstate commerce. It also banned segregated terminal facilities even though the ruling was largely ignored in many Southern states. But during the mid-1960s civil rights activists would frequently cite the ruling as they integrated facilities throughout the South.
1926—Legendary jazz great John Coltrane is born on this day in Hamlet, N.C. He is generally credited with reshaping modern Jazz and setting a pattern which would be followed by generations of Jazz saxophonists.
1930—Singer-performer Ray Charles is born on this day in Albany, Ga.
1894—Author and scholar E. Franklin Frazier is born. He became one of the leading Black intellectual figures in America. He is perhaps best known for his 1939 book “The Negro Family in America.” It is generally credited with being the first major sociological on African-Americans researched and written by a Black person. The book analyzed the cultural and historical forces which had shaped and often undermined the Black family in America.
1957—President Dwight Eisenhower orders federal troops into Little Rock, Ark., to prevent angry Whites from interfering with the integration of the city’s Central High School by nine Black students. The confrontation was one of the most dramatic during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. Governor Orval Faubus had vowed to go to jail to block the court ordered desegregation of the school claiming that Whites would be destroyed if they integrated with Blacks. But the confrontation settled the issue of whether states had to obey orders issued by federal courts.
1965—President Lyndon Johnson issues what is generally considered the nation’s first affirmative action order—Executive Order #11246. It required companies receiving federal construction contracts to ensure equality in the hiring of minorities. Despite a disastrous war in Vietnam, which would eventually force his resignation, the Southern-born Johnson generally supported a host of legislative and executive efforts beneficial to Blacks.
1986—Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone caused an international controversy by alleging that American intelligence levels were generally lower than those in Japan “because of Blacks, Puerto Ricans and Hispanics.”
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