Week of May 3-9
1845—Macon B. Allen passes the Massachusetts bar thus becoming the first African-American lawyer to pass a state bar and the first Black person permitted to practice law in the United States. Allen was born in Indiana but after the Civil War he moved to South Carolina where he was elected a judge in 1873.
1933—Singer James Brown, known as “The Godfather of Soul” for his game-changing style in funk, soul and R&B throughout his career, was born on May, 3, 1933, in Barnwell, S.C. Brown charted on the Billboard Pop Charts close to 100 times and on the R&B charts at least 110 times. In a career that spanned six decades, Brown influenced the development of several music genres. Brown died on Dec. 25, 2006.
1949—The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of J.D. Shelley on Shelley v. Kraemer, a landmark housing and civil rights case. After years of living with relatives or in rental properties, Shelley, who’d migrated from the South to St. Louis, Mo., with his family to escape racial oppression, decided to buy a house. He learned, however that many owners had agreed to a real estate contract clause that banned them from selling their homes to people of “Negro or Mongolian” descent. After Shelley finally bought a house, White homeowner Louis Kraemer hired an attorney to invalidate the contract and took the case to court. After Kraemer successfully appealed, which reversed the first court’s decision, the Shelley family took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.
1891—Dr. Daniel Hale Williams founds the Provident Hospital and Training Center in Chicago, Ill. It becomes a major training center for Black doctors and nurses. Williams is best known, however, for performing the nation’s first open heart surgery on July 9, 1893. He operated on a man injured in a knife fight. The man would live for another 20 years after the surgery.
1961—Thirteen Freedom Riders began bus trips through the South to test Southern compliance with a 1960 U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in interstate transportation facilities. They were soon joined by hundreds of other “Freedom Riders” of all ages and races. Despite the Court decision, dozens of Freedom Riders were arrested as the South attempted to hang onto its segregationist ways.