Week of Jan. 22-28
1822—“From slavery to wealth” is the phrase that best describes the story of Barney L. Ford, who was born into slavery on this day in 1822 in Stafford Court, Va.—the product of a Black woman and a plantation owner. He was raised on a plantation in South Carolina but with the aid of the “Underground Railroad” he escaped and headed west through Chicago (where he met his wife) to the gold fields of California where he was denied the right to stake a claim because he was Black. After being cheated by a shady lawyer, he headed to the Denver, Colo., area and in time built a barbershop, a restaurant and then a fine hotel. He also built a hotel in the Central American nation of Nicaragua. Despite obstacles and setbacks such as racists bombing his hotel, Ford kept bouncing back and over time became one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Denver. After 1860, he used his influence to fight for Black rights in Colorado.
1931—Sam Cooke is born in Clarksdale, Miss. He is considered by many as “The Father of Soul Music.” The son of a minister, Cooke began his career with a gospel group known as the Singing Children. He then became a member of the famous Soul Stirrers. When he switched to secular music, he combined gospel and the blues to produce soul. Among his best known hits were “You Send Me,” “Everybody Loves the Cha Cha Cha,” and “Twisting the Night Away.” He was shot and killed as a result of a misunderstanding involving a woman at a Los Angeles motel in 1964.