Today in “Hidden” History

Today in “Hidden” History is a daily listing of important but little-known events illustrating the range of innovators, contributors, or incidents excluded from formal history lessons or common knowledge. Hidden history is intended not as an exhaustive review, but merely as an illustration of how popular narratives “hide” many matters of fundamental importance. Bookmark this page and check daily to quickly expand your knowledge. Suggest entries for Today in “Hidden” History by clicking the Contact Us link.

June 24
DateTypeEvent
1884John R. Lynch, former congressman from Mississippi, is elected temporary chairman of the Republican Party Convention, thereby becoming the first African American to preside over deliberations of a national political party.Lynch (September 10, 1847 – November 2, 1939) was a Black Republican politician, writer, attorney and military officer. Born into slavery in Louisiana, he became free in 1863 under the Emancipation Proclamation. After serving for several years in the state legislature, in 1873 Lynch was elected as the first African-American Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives; he was the first Black man to hold this position in the country. During Reconstruction after the American Civil War, he was among the first generation of African Americans from the South elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving from 1873 to 1877 and again in the 1880s. Faced with increasing restrictions in Mississippi, Lynch studied law, passed the bar, and returned to Washington, DC to set up a practice.After Democrats regained power in the state legislature following Reconstruction, in 1890 they disenfranchised most Blacks in the state (who were a majority of the population) by a new constitution that raised barriers to voter registration. Seeing the effects of disenfranchisement, Lynch left the state and returned to Washington, DC to practice law. He served in the United States Army during the Spanish–American War and for a decade into the early 1900s, achieving the rank of major. After retiring, Lynch moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he lived for more than two decades. After his military service, Lynch was active in law and real estate in Chicago.Beginning in 1877, when Reconstruction ended with the federal government withdrawing its troops from the South, Lynch wrote and published four books: these analyzed the political situation in the South during and after Reconstruction. He is best known for his book, The Facts of Reconstruction (1913). It is available online at the Gutenberg Project. In it, he argued against the prevailing view of the Dunning School, conservative white historians who downplayed African-American contributions and the achievements of the Reconstruction era. Lynch emphasized how significant was the ratification of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which granted full citizenship to all persons without restriction of race or color, and suffrage to minority males. Learn more.
1936Mary Mcleod Bethune is named the Director of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration, the first African American women to receive a major appointment in the federal government. Bethune (July 10, 1875 – May 18, 1955) was an American educator, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian, womanist, and civil rights activist. Bethune founded the National Council for Negro Women in 1935, established the organization's flagship journal Aframerican Women's Journal, and resided as president or leader for myriad African American women's organizations including the National Association for Colored Women and the National Youth Administration's Negro Division. She also was appointed as a national adviser to president Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom she worked with to create the Federal Council on colored Affairs, also known as the Black Cabinet. She is well known for starting a private school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Florida; it later continued to develop as Bethune-Cookman University. Bethune was the sole African American woman officially a part of the US delegation that created the United Nations charter, and she held a leadership position for the American Women's Voluntary Services founded by Alice Throckmorton McLean. For her lifetime of activism, she was deemed "acknowledged First Lady of Negro America" by Ebony magazine in July 1949 and was known by the Black Press as the "Female Booker T. Washington". She was known as "The First Lady of The Struggle" because of her commitment to gain better lives for African Americans. Learn more
1943The Battle of Bamber Bridge, an outbreak of racial violence between Black and white American servicemen, takes place in the British village of Bamber Bridge, Lancashire. During WWII the US Armed Forces were racially segregated. Bamber Bridge hosted the Black 1511th US Quartermaster Truck regiment at one base and the white 234th US Military Police Company at a separate base. All but one of the officers of the Black regiment were white and the regiment was used as a “dumping ground” for less competent white officers. When the white US commanders had demanded a colour bar in the town, the people of Bamber Bridge supported the Black troops and all three pubs in the town posted "Black Troops Only" signs.On the day of the incident, racial tensions were elevated due to race riots in Detroit earlier in the week, which had led to 34 deaths, including 25 black casualties. The Bamber Bridge incident was triggered when white MPs attempted to arrest several African American soldiers at the Ye Old Hob Inn public house in Bamber Bridge. After the arrival of more military police armed with machine guns, Black soldiers armed themselves with rifles from their base armoury. Both sides exchanged fire through the night. One Black soldier was killed and several MPs and soldiers injured. Although a court martial convicted 32 African American soldiers of mutiny and related crimes, the true cause of the incident was poor leadership and racist attitudes among the MPs. Learn more.

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