For the week of Feb. 8-14
1977—Henry L. Marsh III is elected the first Black mayor of Richmond, Va. Before becoming mayor of the capital of the old confederacy, Marsh had made a name for himself confronting the city’s White power structure as a civil rights attorney. He also served in the state senate.
1993—Jazz great Billy Eckstine dies at 78 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Eckstine came to fame in the 1940s and 1950s as a singer and bandleader who worked with some of the greatest names of the era including Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne. He was one of the greatest influences upon modern jazz and B-bop. Among his best known ballads were “Everything I Have Is Yours,” “Blue Moon,” “Caravan” and “That Old Black Magic.”
1841—The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Joseph Cinque and his fellow mutineers are free men. Along with several of his Mendi tribesmen, Cinque, son of an African king, had been captured and sold into slavery. But in 1839, he led a revolt on the Spanish slave ship Amistad, killed the captain and seized control of the ship. However, a U.S. military ship seized the Amistad off the coast of Long Island, N.Y. The seizure led to protracted court battles in which Cinque and his men were charged with murder. But in an unusual ruling for its day, the high court held, in effect, that the men had a human right to try to escape bondage and allowed them to return to Africa.
1871—Noted Black politician Oscar De Priest is born in Florence, Ala. After moving to Chicago, he becomes a major political force in the city serving on the board of commissioners and then on the city council (1915-1917). However, De Priest became a national political figure when he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1928. Throughout his years of political service he was known as “a persuasive agent for the Black masses.” Oscar Stanton De Priest died in 1951.
1931—Walter F. White is named executive secretary of the NAACP. The Atlanta, Ga.-born White was arguably the most devoted and determined person ever to head the civil rights organization and was easily one of the top Black leaders of the first half of the 20th century. The light-complexioned and blue-eyed White also became a legend in 1919 when he “passed for White” in order to investigate a race riot in Elaine, Ark., which had left over 100 Blacks dead. He barely escaped with his life when news leaked out as to who he was. A train conductor, thinking he was White, is said to have joked with him saying, “You’re leaving too early. The fun is about to start. The boys are going to lynch a yellow Nigger passing for White.”
1997—Rap artist The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) is shot to death in Los Angeles, Calif., as a result of an alleged east-coast-west-coast dispute in the Rap music industry. The killing has never been solved criminally. But a civil suit in Los Angeles federal court accused two rouge Los Angeles police officers of arranging the drive-by shooting that led to his death.