1959—Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” opens on Broadway at the Barrymore Theatre with Sidney Poitier and Claudia McNeil in the starring roles. With 530 performances, the play became the longest running African-American written play in Broadway history. It was also the first Broadway hit written by an African-American woman. It became a movie in 1961. Hansberry’s promising career was cut short by cancer in 1965. She was only 34.
1773—This is the most probable date when Black explorer Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable begins building the settlement which would eventually become the city of Chicago, Ill. The Haitian-born de Sable would over time become a man of considerable wealth owning commercial buildings, docks, trading posts and a mansion. De Sable was the product or a French man and an African woman. He died Aug. 19, 1818.
1791—Pierre Charles L’Enfant is commissioned to design and layout the nation’s capital city—Washington, D.C. However, a dispute with President George Washington forces his departure the very next year. Thus, the final design and layout fell to Black inventor and mathematician Benjamin Banneker. Although two White men were nominally in charge of the project, historical records show that it was Banneker’s mathematical skills and his memory of L’Enfant’s plans that enabled the project to be completed.
1955—One of the chief founders of modern Jazz, Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, dies on this day in New York City. Parker is widely considered “the greatest Jazz saxophonist of all time.” His death at 35 was reportedly a result of pneumonia worsened by drug and alcohol abuse.
1964—Legendary Black leader Malcolm X formally separates from the Elijah Muhammad-led Nation of Islam although his initial statement of resignation was given March 8. The separation was triggered by growing differences over Islam and the proper role of religion in the Black liberation struggle as well as by Malcolm’s objections to Elijah Muhammad’s infidelities. Less than a year later, Malcolm was assassinated by men allegedly connected with a Nation of Islam mosque in New Jersey.