October 17

1720—Jupiter Hammon, the first Black American poet, is born in slavery. He was a Calvinist and self-educated writer.

1787—Led by Black Mason Prince Hall, free Boston Blacks petition the Massachusetts legislature for equal school facilities for African-American children. In addition to spreading Freemasonry among Blacks, Hall became the most prominent Black leader of the period. For reasons which are not entirely clear, records show there were at least 21 men named “Prince Hall” living in Massachusetts at the time.

1871—President Ulysses Grant suspends the writ of habeas corpus in nine South Carolina counties in order to combat a Ku Klux Klan terror campaign against Blacks and some progressive Whites. Grant pretty much crushed the Klan during this period. It would not rise again until the 1920s.

LeroneBennettJr1888—The nation’s first Black bank—Capital Savings—is chartered in Washington, D.C., by a group known as the Order of the True Reformers. The now little known, but once influential group set up chapters throughout the South and advocated Black self-help and the starting of Black-owned businesses. The founder was William Washington Browne—a Methodist Minister from Richmond, Va.

1928—Historian and Ebony magazine editor Lerone Bennett Jr. is born. His best known book is “Before the Mayflower.”

1956—Physician and astronaut Mae Jamison is born in Decatur, Ala.

1969—Dr. Clifton R. Wharton becomes the first Black in the 20th century to head a major, predominantly White university when he is named president of Michigan State University.

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