Week of April 21-27
1898—An official state of war is said to exist between Spain and the U.S. over Cuba. This Spanish American War was fought with major representation of Black soldiers from Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois and Kansas. For imperialistic reasons of its own, the U.S. aided Cuban independence from Spain. Cuba became independent in 1902. However, when the Black troops returned to America, their greetings ranged from parades and speeches in some cities to assaults and lynching in other cities.
2003—African-American song stylist Nina Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, dies in Paris. She was was an American singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger and civil rights activist. Over the length of her career Simone recorded more than 40 albums, mostly between 1958, when she made her debut with “Little Girl Blue,” and 1974. She was 70 years old.
1692—The notorious “Salem Witch Trials” of Salem, Mass., claim their first Black victim. Mary Black, a slave, is accused of sorcery and jailed. The hysteria created by the trials would lead to the arrests of 141 people (mostly women) and result in 19 of them being put to death. Ironically, there is reason to believe that the witch trials were indirectly set in motion by the voodoo stories of a Black slave. It seems that a minister brought to Salem a slave from Barbados named Tituba. He fascinated the minister’s daughters with stories about witchcraft in Africa and the Caribbean. The two daughters shared the stories with other young girls in the area and soon imagination took the place of reality. The girls started acting strangely and claimed they were victims of witchcraft. Superstitious adults began pressuring them to name names and soon dozens of women were being jailed for practicing witchcraft. The trials, which were not limited to Massachusetts, but spread throughout New England, are perhaps one of the greatest testimonies to how minds can be twisted to believe in the ridiculous and hurt others of as result of false belief.
1922—Jazz great Charles Mingus is born. The virtuoso bass player was born on a military base in Nogales, Ariz.