Week of June 8-14
1886—Homer A. Plessy, a light-complexioned Black man, refuses to leave the “White” section of a New Orleans railroad car and move to the “colored” section. His Rosa Parks type refusal sets in motion a legal case, which eventually reached the United States Supreme Court. In its May 1896 ruling, the Court decided against Plessy and thus confirmed the segregationist doctrine of “separate but equal.” The ruling also had the effect of treating anyone with any “Black blood” as Black. The court never actually ruled on Plessy’s claim that he was 7/8 White and only 1/8 Black and thus should not be treated as “colored” under the laws of that day.
1968—James Earl Ray, the man convicted of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is captured at an airport in London using a false Canadian passport. Ray would spend the rest of his life trying to withdraw his guilty plea charging that his brother and a mysterious man he met in Montreal, Canada, named Raoul were actually involved in the killing of King. He claimed he “did not personally shoot Dr. King” but suggested he knew beforehand about the conspiracy to assassinate him. Ray died in prison in April 1998.
1982—One of the greatest athletes to ever play the game of baseball, Satchell Paige, dies in Kansas City, Mo. Paige had played in the old Negro Baseball Leagues and went unrecognized by Major League Baseball and the general public for decades. He was finally voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1971.
1948—Oliver W. Hill becomes the first African American elected to the Richmond, Va., city council. He is best known for his work as a civil rights attorney helping bring down the segregationist doctrine of “separate but equal.” Hill was born in 1907.
1989—One of the “founding fathers” of the Congressional Black Caucus, Michigan Rep. John Conyers issues the first call for a Congressional investigation into paying African Americans reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors.