1914—Jazz great Billy Eckstine is born in Pittsburgh, Pa. He was raised in Washington, D.C., where he began entering talent competitions at the age of 7. Eckstine would become one of the dominant Jazz singers during the era of the big bands. He has been described as “an exceptional singer who never failed to impress.” Eckstine died of a heart attack in 1993.
1863—Eight Black regiments play a major role as Union troops capture Port Hudson in Louisiana. They had laid siege to the Confederate fortress since May 23. The victory, along with the July 4 capture of Vicksburg, Miss., gave U.S. forces control of the Mississippi River, cut the Confederate army in half and laid the foundation for ending the Civil War. The Civil War would drag on for another two years but the Confederate troops fighting to maintain slavery were never able to recover from the loss of Port Hudson.
1893—Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performs the first successful open heart surgery in American history. He repaired a knife wound to the heart of one James Cornish. Cornish would go on to live for another 20 years. Williams established himself as one of the foremost African-American surgeons in the history of this nation. In addition to the surgery, his achievements were many. Born in 1856 in Hollidaysburg, Pa., he was appointed surgeon general of Freedman’s (now Howard University) Hospital in Washington, D.C. He taught at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. He was a surgeon at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and he founded Provident Hospital in Chicago where he trained many of the nation’s early Black doctors and nurses. Williams also co-founded the predominantly Black National Medical Association.
2009—Reports first emerge suggesting that Haiti was beginning to conquer its HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to UNAIDS, the official AIDS infection rate on the poverty-ridden Caribbean island for people ages 15-49 was 2.2 percent—down from a high of nearly 8 percent in the 1980s. The decline was attributed to the closing of blood banks, where the poor sold their blood for money; the work of the Boston-based Partners in Health; and Haiti’s own GHESKIO clinic.
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