1865—The last battle of the Civil war ends. Ironically, it appears the Confederate troops won the battle at Palmetto Ranch, Texas. However, it was the actions and bravery of the 62nd Regiment of United States Colored Troops which prevented the defeat from turning into a rout. The Confederates had actually underestimated the fighting prowess of the Blacks assuming they would run in fear when the fighting started. Instead, what occurred was the rapid defeat of two White regiments, but the Black soldiers of the 62nd held firm. The Confederates would later surrender.
1950—Singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder is born Stevland Hardaway Judkins in Saginaw, Mich. Blind since shortly after birth, Wonder signed with Motown Records’ Tamla label at the age of 11, and continues to perform and record for Motown to this day. Wonder has recorded 30 Top Ten hits and has won 24 Grammy awards—a record for any living artist.
1885—Erskine Henderson, an African-American jockey, wins the Kentucky Derby on “Joe Cotton”—a horse trained by Alex Perry—an African-American trainer. Henderson was the sixth Black jockey to win the coveted race. Indeed, Black jockeys and trainers dominated the Kentucky Derby from 1875 to 1902. However, while some of the reasons are not entirely clear, it appears that as the race became more and more prosperous, Black jockeys and trainers were forced out.
1970—A student protest on the campus of Mississippi’s Jackson State University leads to a massive confrontation with local police authorities. When the smoke cleared, two students had been shot and killed and another 12 injured or wounded. Reasons given for the protests ranged from opposition to the War in Vietnam, racial tensions and anger over the National Guard killings of White students on the campus of Kent State University earlier in the month. The university memorialized the disturbance by naming the area where it took place “Gibbs-Green Plaza” after the two students who were killed—Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, 21, and James Earl Green, 17.
1985—In a confrontation with the Black Nationalist back-to-nature group MOVE, Philadelphia police drop an incendiary device on the group’s home and headquarters. The decision to bomb had been apparently approved by Black Mayor Wilson Goode. Eleven MOVE members, including five children, were killed. The only adult survivor was Ramona Africa. Over 60 homes in the surrounding area were burned to the ground. It was never fully clear why the decision to drop the bomb was made.
1911—Kappa Alpha Psi, one of the nation’s leading Black fraternities, is founded on this day on the campus of Indiana University by 10 young men led by Elder W. Diggs and Byron K. Armstrong.
1942—The 93rd Infantry is activated and assigned to combat in the Pacific. It thus became the first African-American division formed during World War II.