1760—The great religious leader Richard Allen is born in slavery in Philadelphia, Pa. After being required to sit in the back of a White church, Allen would go on to help found and become the first active bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Today, the church, one of the largest predominantly Black denominations in America, has more than 1 million members in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Africa. Allen died in 1831.
1817—February 14, 1817 is the most likely birth date of abolitionist and orator Frederick Douglass. Douglass purchased his freedom in 1845 and went on to become the most influential Black leader of his day. He did most of his work while living in Rochester, N.Y. But after the Civil War, he moved to Washington, D.C.
1867—One of the nation’s most distinguished institutions of higher learning, Morehouse College, was founded on this day in Augusta, Ga., as the Augusta Institute. It moved to Atlanta in 1879 and became the Atlanta Baptist Seminary. It became “Morehouse” in 1913. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. graduated from Morehouse.
1936—The National Negro Congress is organized on this day at a meeting in Chicago, Ill., attended by over 800 delegates representing nearly 500 Black organizations. A. Phillip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, is elected president. One of the congress’ chief aims was to generate national support for the “New Deal” legislation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Chicago Defender described the congress as “the most ambitious effort for bringing together members of the Race on any single issue.” Up until this time, most Black voters were Republicans. But the National Negro Congress and Roosevelt’s social betterment programs led to a massive African-American switch to the Democratic Party.