Week of June 7-June 13
1868—This is generally recognized as the day Marie Laveau retired (or was forced out) as the most powerful Voo Doo priestess in the world. The New Orleans native had become powerful and wealthy catering to the superstitious beliefs of both Blacks and Whites throughout the South. The daughter of a slave and a French plantation owner, Laveau was raised as a Catholic but became intrigued by stories of the city’s first Voo Doo priestess Sanite De De and by 1830 had built her own Voo Doo religious empire. She was replaced by one of her daughters but she would live until 1881 dying at the age of 98.
1917—One of the greatest poets of the 20th century Gwendolyn Brooks is born in Topeka, Kan. Pushed by her mother and father, Brooks began writing poetry at a young age and was even introduced to some of the best known Black poets and writers of the Harlem Renaissance while still a child. She won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1950 for a collection entitled “Annie Allen.” She died on Dec. 3, 2000.
1930—Under pressure from early civil rights activists, the New York Times begins using the word “Negro” as the official designation for African Americans. It also agreed to capitalize the “N.” The decision by the Times gradually led to “Negro” becoming the official designation for Blacks nationwide and it would remain so until it was dethroned by “Black” in the 1960s. Positively, the rights advocates were attempting to build greater respect for African Americans but negatively, the selection of “Negro” also reflected a desire not to be referred to as “Blacks.”
1953—Educator and activist Mary Church Terrell wins a legal battle to end segregation in Washington, D.C., restaurants.