Week of April 12-18
1787—Famous Black clergymen Richard Allen and Absalom Jordan organized the Free Africa Society which is believed to be the first Black self-help organization or mutual aid society in America. The two, especially Allen, attempted to better life for Blacks through the organization of separate Black controlled institutions. Allen is also the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
1861—The Confederates attack Fort Sumter in the Charleston, S.C., harbor setting off the Civil War. Thinking the recent election of Abraham Lincoln would lead to the ending of slavery, the Southerners struck first in a bid to form a separate, White-controlled, slave-owning nation.
1940—Contemporary jazz composer and musician Herbie Hancock is born in Chicago, Ill.
1975—Josephine Baker dies. She was born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, Mo., in 1906. Baker left the United States for France in 1925 seeking a career as a dancer. She achieved fame throughout Europe, becoming a versatile and sensational performer with her often revealing dances. During World War II she even aided the French resistance in its battle against occupation by the forces of Nazi Germany.
1873—The Colfax Massacre takes place in Grant Parish, La. Still smarting from the loss of the Civil War and enraged by the political powers being given Blacks during Reconstruction, a White paramilitary terrorist group known as the White League set out to restore White rule in Louisiana. The spark was a disputed election and a confrontation near the Colfax courthouse between a 60-member sparsely armed Black militia and nearly 300 heavily armed members of the White League. The Blacks took refuge in the courthouse and a gun battle rages for hours leaving three Whites dead. Then the Whites convinced an elderly Black man to sneak into the courthouse and set it afire. As the Blacks escaped the flames, they were either shot or arrested. But even those arrested were later killed. Before the day was over, somewhere between 60 and 100 Blacks were massacred.