Week of March 6-12
March 6
1857—Perhaps the most thoroughly racist decision ever rendered by a U.S. Supreme Court is released on this day in 1857—the Dred Scott decision. Scott and his wife Harriet had sued in St. Louis Circuit Court claiming they were free because their slave master had taken them from a slave state to the free territory of Missouri. However, in a majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney the court ruled: 1) Blacks, be they slave or free, were not and could not be U.S. citizens and thus were not entitled to file suit in U.S. courts, 2) Denied Congress the power to restrict slavery by declaring the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, 3) Declared that where the Constitution said, “All men are created equal,” the phrase did not include Blacks, and 4) Told African-Americans that they “had no rights the White man was bound to respect.” However, reflecting the law of unintended consequences, the Dred Scott decision was so harsh and angered anti-slavery forces  so that it helped pave the way for the Civil War which ended all slavery in America.
1957—The West African nation of Ghana becomes independent from White colonial rule becoming the first British controlled colony to gain independence. The nation took its name from the ancient empire of Ghana. Its first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was elected on July 1, 1960. Nkrumah would go on to become a major force for African independence and Black rights worldwide. The Lincoln University graduate became a major advocate of international Black unity known as Pan-Africanism.
March 7
1539—This is probably the day Estevanico—the first Black conquistador—was killed. Estevanico, a Black Moor from Morocco, was sold as a servant when he was only 10 but became friends with his owner Andres de Dorantes and joined a 1527 expedition of 300 men from Spain looking for riches in what would later become the U.S. state of Florida. All but four members of the expedition were wiped out by the Indians they tried to conquer. Estevanico was among those who survived. He was held captive for five years but became a “medicine man” and learned the languages of various tribes. He eventually escaped and in February of 1539 led an expedition to Culiacan, Mexico, looking for the fabled lost city of gold—El Dorado.
1965—On this day in Black history, the first leg of the Selma-to-Montgomery March is completed as thousands joined Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in protesting racial injustice in Alabama. An earlier attempt to complete the march had been disrupted by a police attack. The Alabama National Guard was federalized and U.S. Army troops were called in to protect the marchers. It was shortly after this march that a White female supporter of the civil rights struggle, Viola Liuzzo, was shot and killed by Ku Klan Klan–style terrorists opposed to civil rights for Blacks.
1997—Former Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley dies. Manley is perhaps best known for his brand of democratic socialism and attempting to organize Caribbean and African nations into a bloc to press for better prices for their raw materials.
March 8
1977—Henry L. Marsh III is elected the first Black mayor of Richmond, Va. Before becoming mayor of the capital of the old confederacy, Marsh had made a name for himself confronting the city’s White power structure as a civil rights attorney. He also served in the state senate.
1993—Jazz great Billy Eckstine dies at 78 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Eckstine came to fame in the 1940s and ’50s as a singer and bandleader who worked with some of the greatest names of the era including Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne. He was one of the greatest influences upon modern Jazz and B-bop. Among his best known ballads were “Everything I Have Is Yours,” “Blue Moon,” “Caravan,” and “That Old Black Magic.”

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