For the Week of August 6-12
1870—In one of the most brazenly racist incidents of the post-Civil War period, White conservatives and racists employ assassinations and widespread violence to suppress the Black vote and take control of the Tennessee legislative from a coalition of Blacks and progressive Whites. The violence and the election effectively ended Reconstruction in the state.
1941—Blacks started being inducted into the U.S. military around April of 1941 and one result was a series of violent incidents between Black soldiers and White soldiers and between Black soldiers and White civilians. The first major incident takes place on this day in August of 1941. A group of Black soldiers board a bus in Fayetteville, N.C., headed to Ft. Bragg. The White driver complains they are being “rowdy” and asks for help from Military Police (MPs). The MPs arrive and began hitting the Blacks with nightsticks. One of the Blacks grabs an MP’s gun and begins shooting. Additional fighting and shooting break out. When the dust settled, one Black private and one White MP were dead and two Whites and three Blacks had been wounded.
1965—President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act which was designed to guarantee the right of African-Americans to vote. The Act ended a wide range of discriminatory voting practices in the South including literacy tests. The Act was probably the most significant piece of civil rights legislation ever passed. It was renewed for another 25 years in July of 2006. It was weakened a bit by a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision but remains in effect.
1970—Four people, including the presiding judge, are killed during a courthouse shootout in Marin County, Calif. A group of Blacks led by 17-year-old Jonathan Jackson stage an assault on the courthouse in a bid to free Jackson’s brother—famed Soledad Brother and militant activist George Jackson. Jonathan was among those who died. Professor and communist Angela Davis was charged with providing the guns for the bloody escape attempt but she would later be found not guilty.
1865—Explorer Matthew Henson is born in Baltimore, Md. Henson would become the first person to reach the North Pole on April 6, 1909. However, it was his boss Robert E. Perry who would receive widespread public recognition and a presidential citation for the honor. But in later years, records would show that Henson actually beat Perry to the top of the world. Henson would comment that when Perry discovered that he had beat him to the North Pole, he became “hopping mad.” Years would pass before Henson would gain some recognition for his accomplishment. Nevertheless, to this day, most history books still continue to give the honor to Perry.