Week of January 21- 27
1821—Minister Lott Cary leaves the United States with a group of freed slaves to establish a colony on the West African coast. In doing so, the group lays the foundation for the establishment of the nation of Liberia. Cary became acting governor of the settlement in August 1828 but died accidentally in November 1828. Nevertheless the colony survived even though it had to fight off attacks from native Africans and slave traders. Liberia became an independent republic in 1847. In 2006, it elected its first female president.
1891—Pioneering Black surgeon, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, helps found Provident Hospital in Chicago, Ill. The hospital becomes one of the main teaching and training facilities for Black doctors and nurses who had frequently been denied entrance to White-owned medical facilities. It was also at Provident in 1893 that Williams achieved international fame by becoming the first American surgeon to perform open heart surgery.
1964—The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. It abolished the poll tax which had been used in many Southern states to prevent Blacks from voting. Interestingly, the Republican controlled legislature in Georgia in 2006 passed a voter identification law which many Blacks complained was no more than a poll tax in disguise.
1976—Paul Robeson, perhaps the greatest combination of actor, singer, athlete and political activist ever produced by Black America, died on this day in Philadelphia, Pa. During his life, Robeson not only achieved a brilliant career on stage and in early movies, but he was also an ardent fighter for Black rights and socialist causes. As a result he was the target of a massive government campaign of disruption and character assassination.
1977—The highly acclaimed television mini-series “Roots” begins airing on ABC. The series was based on a novel by Alex Haley, who also wrote the “Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
1874—Arthur Schomburg is born Arturo Alfonso Schomburg in Puerto Rico. After moving to New York City in April 1891, he, overtime, becomes known as the “Sherlock Holmes” of Black history because of his relentless digging for Black historical truths and accomplishments. Reportedly, his drive to discover Black history was sparked by a 5th grade teacher who told him, “Black people have no history, no heroes, no great moments.” He eventually collected over 10,000 volumes on Black history in America, the Caribbean and Latin America. His collection became part of the New York Public Library system.
1885—Martin R. Delaney (1812-1885) dies on this day in Xenia, Ohio. Delaney was perhaps the leading Black nationalist of the 1800s. After fighting in the Civil War to end slavery and becoming the first Black field officer in the U.S. Army, Delaney became disillusioned with America. He began to advocate Black separatism and/or a return to Africa. He was a journalist and a physician who wrote several books including one detailing how ancient Egypt and Ethiopia were the first great civilizations long before ancient Greece. Although relatively unknown today, Delaney was also brilliant. Abraham Lincoln once told his secretary of war Edwin Stanton about Delaney saying, “Do not fail to meet this most extraordinary and intelligent Black man.”
1993—The first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall dies on this day in 1993. Unlike current justice Clarence Thomas, Marshall was a true progressive and fighter for Black rights having spent years with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, waging ongoing battles with the legal establishment to protect and expand rights and opportunities for African-Americans.