1948—Two time heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman is born on this day in Marshall, Texas.
2006—Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers scores 81 points in a 122 to 104 victory over the Toronto Raptors. The score was the second highest by a single player in the history of the National Basketball Association.
1821—Minister Lott Cary leaves the United States with a group of freed slaves to establish a colony on the West African coast. In so doing, the group lays the foundation for the establishment of the nation of Liberia. Cary became acting governor of the settlement in August 1828, but died accidentally in November 1828. Nevertheless the colony survived even though it had to fight off attacks from native Africans and slave traders. Liberia became an independent republic in 1847. In 2006, it elected its first female president.
1891—Pioneering Black surgeon, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, helped found Provident Hospital in Chicago, Ill. The hospital became one of the main teaching and training facilities for Black doctors and nurses who had frequently been denied entrance to White-owned medical facilities. It was also at Provident in 1893 that Williams achieved international fame by becoming the first American surgeon to perform open heart surgery.
1964—The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. It abolished the poll tax, which had been used in many Southern states to prevent Blacks from voting. Interestingly, the Republican-controlled legislature in Georgia in 2006 passed a voter identification law that many Blacks complained was no more than a poll tax in disguise.
1976—Paul Robeson, perhaps the greatest combination of actor, singer, athlete and political activist ever produced by Black America, died on this day in Philadelphia, Pa. During his life Robeson not only achieved a brilliant career on stage and in early movies but was also an ardent fighter for Black rights and socialist causes. As a result he was the target of a massive government campaign of disruption and character assassination.
1977—The highly acclaimed television mini-series “Roots” begins airing on ABC. “Roots” received 37 Emmy Award nominations and won nine. It received unprecedented Nielsen ratings for the finale, which still holds a record as the third-highest-rated U.S. television program. The series introduced LeVar Burton in the role of Kunta Kinte and was based on a novel by Alex Haley who also wrote the “Autobiography of Malcolm X.”