Week of April 2 to April 8
1855—John Mercer Langston becomes the first African-American elected to public office when he wins the position of clerk of Brownhelm Township, in Ohio. Though not well known today, Langston was one of the foremost Black leaders of the 1800s. With the aid of his two brothers, he organized anti-slavery societies throughout Ohio. The Oberlin College graduate also became a lawyer and statesman for Black rights. After the Civil War, he organized the law department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. The town of Langston, Okla., is named in his honor. He died in 1897.
1932—World famous Black cowboy William “Bill” Picket dies on this day in Ponca, Okla., after being kicked in the head by a horse. He was 70. But during his heyday Picket was perhaps the best known and most celebrated cowboy in the world traveling with various “wild west” shows including the Millers Brothers’ Fabulous 101 Ranch. He invented the rodeo sport of bulldogging. Picket was of Black and Indian descent.
1939—Marvin Gaye is born on this day in Washington, D.C. He signs with Detroit’s Motown Records in 1962 and goes on to become one of the leading R&B male vocalists of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, with hits ranging from the socially conscious “What’s Going On” to the sexy “Let’s Get It On.” Gaye was shot to death by his father during an argument in 1984.