1775—A memorial is dedicated to Salem Poor in Cambridge, Mass. Poor was a slave who had bought his freedom and became a hero fighting in the American Revolutionary War for independence from England. He so distinguished himself in battle, including at Bunker Hill, that he won the praise of 14 officers.
1784—The amazing poet Phyllis Wheatley dies in Boston, Mass. Wheatley was kidnapped in Africa at age 7 and sold to a prosperous Boston family, which placed a high value on education. By age 12, she was reading Greek and Latin classics. In the 1770s she became a sensation in the city because of her amazing ability to write poetry. A London company published her first book of poetry. Sadly, she died in poverty before she could find a publisher for her second book. That second volume has never been found. Although some letters she wrote during this period were recently discovered and sold at auction.
1870—Legendary Black cowboy William “Bill” Pickett is born in Travis County, Texas. Standing only 5’7” and weighing 145 pounds, he is considered one of the toughest men every to be called a cowboy. He became famous in the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Shows where he performed dare devil feats and invented the rodeo sport of “bulldogging.” He is thought to have been of Black and Indian descent. He died at age 70 in Ponca City, Okla.
1870—Alexandre Dumas (pere) dies in France. Dumas, one of the most famous French writers of the 1800s, was a Black man born to a French marquis and a slave woman on the island of St. Domingue (now Haiti). Dumas wrote such noted works as “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count De Monte Cristo.”
1932—The “King of Gospel” Rev. James Cleveland is born in Chicago, Ill.
1932—Flamboyant singer-performer “Little Richard” is born and raised in Macon, Ga. He becomes one of the founding fathers of rock-and-roll. His dynamic stage performance and homosexuality often landed him in trouble. But he remained a major force in the music field.
1955—The historic bus boycott begins in Montgomery, Ala. The Black boycott of city buses was set in motion when civil rights heroine Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on the bus to a White man. The law at that time required her to give up the seat. A young minister named Martin Luther King Jr. was called upon to lead the boycott launching his career as the national civil rights leader.
1957—New York becomes the first city to pass a law banning racial or religious discrimination in housing with the Fair Housing Practices law.