September 28, 1991—Jazz Trumpeter Miles Davis dies from the combined effects of a stroke, pneumonia and respiratory failure in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 65. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
Week of Sept. 19-25
1861—The Secretary of the Navy authorizes the enlistment of free Blacks and slaves as Union sailors in a bid to help the North win the Civil War against pro-slavery Southern Whites who had proven more difficult in battle than the North had originally expected.
1962—In another one of those instances demonstrating the tenacity of racism among Southern Whites, Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett defies a federal court order and personally stands in the door to block the admittance of a Black student—James Meredith—to the University of Mississippi. Meredith would eventually be admitted and graduate. Historians now generally believe Ross’ “show” was primarily designed to curry favor among White voters not actually to stop desegregation of the then-all-White university.
1867—Maggie L. Walker is born. She would become the most prominent Black businesswoman in the Richmond, Va., area and one of the wealthiest Black women in the nation. She also became the first Black woman to establish a bank in the nation. A social activist, she would help establish the Lilly Black political party in part as a slap at the “Lilly White” political parties of the day.
1907—The People’s Savings Bank is incorporated in Philadelphia by one of the nation’s early Black Congressman George H. White. White had been pretty much forced out of Congress as Jim Crow laws led to the increasing disenfranchisement of Black voters after Reconstruction. After leaving Congress, he turned his attention to Black economic advancement. His bank helped thousands of Blacks buy homes.
1929—Ida Stephens Owens is born. She would become the nation’s first Black female bio-chemist.
1937—Blues great Bessie Smith dies of injuries sustained in an automobile accident near Clarksdale, Miss. Rumors spread that White medics refused to treat her. However, later information did cast doubt on the accuracy of those rumors.