1870—The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified giving Blacks the right to vote. Actually, it gave Black males the right to vote. It would take the Suffrage Movement and another 50 years before women (Black and White) had full voting rights. But even in the case of Black males, the “right” to vote only lasted briefly. With the end of Reconstruction, “Jim Crow” laws were passed throughout the South, which in effect took away the right of Blacks to vote despite the Constitutional guarantee. African-Americans did not achieve full voting rights in this country until the mid-1960s.
1741—Black rebellion hysteria grips New York. A series of mysterious fires and reports of slaves plotting rebellion sweep New York. The hysteria lasts through April. Thirty-one alleged slave plotters and five White sympathizers were hanged.
1931—Cab Calloway recorded “Minnie the Moocher”—the first jazz album to sell over one million copies.
1948—Labor leader A. Phillip Randolph issues a threat before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He declares that unless more is done to end segregation and discrimination in the military, he would launch a campaign encouraging Black youth to employ civil disobedience to resist the draft. His threat helps to bring an end to a host of discriminatory practices in the U.S. armed forces.
1980—Olympic legend Jesse Owens dies at 66 in Tucson, Ariz. Owens won four track and field gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany, embarrassing German leader Adolph Hitler and undermining his ideology of White Aryan superiority.
1868—Hampton University is founded during Reconstruction in Hampton, Va. The school is now one of the leading Black educational institutions in America.
1950—Surgeon Charles Drew dies at 45 in an automobile accident near Burlington, N.C. Drew developed the concept of a blood bank for storing large amounts of plasma. Anyone who has ever received a blood transfusion is indebted to Dr. Drew. He had dedicated his life to insuring that increased scientific knowledge actually led to the betterment of human life. One of his most frequently repeated quotes: “There must always be the continuing struggle to make the increasing knowledge of the world bear fruit in [the form of] increased understanding and the production of human happiness.”
1984—Sensational, Washington, D.C., born R&B singer Marvin Gaye is shot and killed by his father during an argument. Gaye was 38—just one day short of his 39th birthday. The senior Gaye later died of pneumonia. Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown Records in the 1960s with a string of hits, including “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, and duet recordings with Mary Wells and Tammi Terrell, later earning the titles “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul.”