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January 13

Frederick Douglass1869—On this day in 1869, one of the earliest post-Civil War attempts at organizing Blacks on a national level occurred. The National Convention of Black Leaders was held in Washington, D.C. Frederick Douglass was elected president. Also, the first Black labor union convention took place. It was called the Convention of the Colored National Labor Union.

1913—The sorority Delta Sigma Theta is organized on the campus of Howard University by 22 coeds. It developed into one of the most prestigious and influential Black Greek letter organizations in the nation.

1953—Don Barksdale becomes the first African-American to play in an NBA All-Star game.

1966—Robert C. Weaver became the first Black member of a presidential cabinet. Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

1987—In what many considered a racist decision, Arizona Gov. Even Mecham rescinds the gubernatorial decree that had established the birthday of civil rights legend Martin Luther King Jr. as a state holiday. The decision set off protests and a national Black boycott of Arizona.

1989—Poet Sterling Brown dies. Brown, a middle class Black, born into one of Washington, D.C.’s most prominent Black families, has probably never received full credit for the power, thought-provoking and even revolutionary nature of his poetry. He was a professor at Howard University for nearly 40 years.

1999—Superstar Michael Jordan retires from professional basketball. However, in 2009, Jordan was still ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the top 10 richest Blacks in America.

ErnestEJustJanuary 14

1895—A group of African-Americans organized the National Steamboat Co. in Washington, D.C. The group sailed the luxury steamer “George Leary” between the nation’s capital and Norfolk, Va., during the waning years of steamboat popularity in America. The George Leary was a triumph for Black entry into business.

1930—Ernest Just becomes vice president of the American Association of Zoologists. Just was perhaps the most noted Black zoologist in American history. He accomplished pioneering research in fertilization and cell division while also publishing more than 70 scientific papers and books. Born in Charleston, S.C., he was a brilliant student who graduated from Dartmouth magna cum laude. He taught at Howard University in Washington, D.C., for years and helped a group of students organize the Black Greek letter fraternity—Omega Psi Phi. Just died in 1941 of pancreatic cancer.

1972—“Sanford and Son” starring Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson premiers on NBC. The sitcom gains almost immediate popularity among Blacks as well as develop a large following of Whites. The name “Sanford” came from John Sanford—Redd Foxx’s real name.

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