1948—On this day Jackie Robinson signed a contract that would officially make him the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball. Robinson became a symbol of pride for Blacks as well as a star player. However, the admitting of Blacks into Major League Baseball helped bring about the demise of the old Negro Baseball League whose teams had become major economic institutions in cities throughout the nation.
1967—The voters of Harlem, N.Y., defy Congress and re-elect the outspoken and often flamboyant Adam Clayton Powell Jr. His opponents in Congress had recently expelled him. The decision of the Harlem voters was rendered legally sound when the United States Supreme Court later ruled that the congressional expulsion was unconstitutional. Powell was returned to Congress, but without his seniority. He died April 4, 1972 in Miami, Fla.
1787—Famous Black clergymen Richard Allen and Absalom Jordan organized the Free Africa Society which is believed to be the first Black self-help organization or mutual aid society in America. The two, especially Allen, attempted to better life for Blacks through the organization of separate Black controlled institutions. Allen is also the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
1861—The Confederates attack Fort Sumter in the Charleston, S.C., harbor setting off the Civil War. Thinking the recent election of Abraham Lincoln would lead to the ending of slavery, the Southerners struck first in a bid to form a separate, White-controlled, slave-owning nation.
1940—Contemporary jazz composer and musician Herbie Hancock is born in Chicago, Ill.
1975—Josephine Baker dies. She was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Mo., in 1906. Baker left the United States for France in 1925 seeking a career as a dancer. She achieved fame throughout Europe, becoming a versatile and sensational performer with her often revealing dances. During World War II she even aided the French resistance in its battle against occupation by the forces of Nazi Germany.