1821—One of the most prominent Blacks in the Underground Railroad, William Still, is born near Bedford, Mass. The “Underground Railroad” was the name given to a series of secret trails and safe houses used to help Blacks escape from slavery in the South to freedom in the North.
1897—The founder of the Nation of Islam Elijah Muhammad is born Elijah Poole in Sandersville, Ga., as one of 13 children. Muhammad would build his religious sect into the largest independent Black separatist organization in America. The group is currently headed by Min. Louis Farrakhan. Muhammad died in February 1975.
1934—Activist, writer and poet Imamu Baraka is born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, N.J. Baraka was one of the leading intellectual figures in the Black Power and Black Nationalist movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. A special tribute honoring Baraka’s 75th birthday took place around this time last year.
1967—Carl Stokes is elected the first Black mayor of a major American city—Cleveland, Ohio. Interestingly, he won by defeating Seth Taft—the grandson of a former United States president—Howard Taft.
1993—Writer Toni Morrison is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
1775—Slaves and free Blacks are officially barred by the Council of Officers from joining the Continental army to help fight for American independence from England. Nevertheless, a significant number of Blacks had already become involved in the fight and would distinguish themselves in battle. Additional Blacks were barred out of fear, especially in the South, that they would demand freedom for themselves if White America became free from Britain.
1941—National Black political leader and two-time candidate for president of the United States Rev. Jesse Jackson was born on this day in Greenville, S.C. After the 1968 assassination of Civil Rights Movement icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackson, who was one of his top aides, would become the nation’s most prominent and influential civil rights leader.
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