Hidden History

This table shows the full list of our continuously-expanding “Today in “Hidden” History” entries, organized by month, day, and year (i.e., entries that occurred on January 1 will appear in succession, from earliest to latest year, following by entries that occurred on January 2, etc.). We invite readers to submit suggestions for entries by clicking our Contact Us link.

DateTypeEvent
February 26, 1844Birthday of James E. O’Hara, educator, Howard University law school graduate, practicing attorney admitted to the North Carolina bar, member of the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1868-1869, and only African American member of Congress in 1883, during the 48th Congress. O’Hara  was born a free man in New York City to an Irish American father and West Indian mother, settling in North Carolina as a young man. He served two terms in congress before losing re-election in 1886.  He died on September 15, 1905 in New Bern, North Carolina at age 61. Learn more
February 26, 1926Theodore “Tiger” Flowers, nicknamed the “Georgia Deacon,” becomes the first Black middleweight boxing champion. Learn more.
February 26, 1928Birthday of American pianist, singer-songwriter, and pioneering rock-and-roller, Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr., whose music sold more than 65 million records. Though little known today, music historians cite his 1949 recording of “The Fat Man” as the first true rock song; it was also the first recording to sell over 1M copies. Elvis Presley called Domino “the real king of rock and roll”. Domino also set the pattern for later rock and pop acts by writing his own music, rather than merely covering songs written by other composers. Learn more.
February 27, 1902Birthday of renowned contralto opera singer Marian Anderson, an important figure in the struggle against racial prejudice. She was at the center of an international news story in 1939, when the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused to allow Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the Lincoln Memorial steps in the capital. She sang before an integrated crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. Learn more.
February 27, 1988Figure skater Debi Thomas takes the bronze medal at the Winter Olympics, becoming the first black athlete to win medal at a Winter Olympics. Thomas was the 1986 World Champion and a two-time US National Champion. Learn more.
February 28, 1708One of the first recorded revolts by enslaved people in America erupts in Newton, Long Island, NY, resulting in the deaths of seven white people. Following the rebellion, a Black woman is burned alive and one Native American man and two Black men are hanged.
February 28, 1895Bluefield Colored Institute is founded in Bluefield, West Virginia, as a “high graded school” for African American youth in the surrounding area. It is known today as Bluefield State College and is a part of West Virginia's public education system. Despite tenuous funding, hostility from the state, and distance from northern cities, the college was heavily involved in the explosion of Black American culture known as the "Harlem Renaissance” of the 1920s and 1930s. Langston Hughes read poetry, John Hope Franklin taught Negro History, and heavyweight champion Joe Louis boxed exhibitions on campus. Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Dizzie Gillespie, and Count Basie entertained at campus events. Bluefield State's "Big Blue" football team twice won national Negro College Athletic Association championships in the late 1920s. Bluefield was one of the first historically Black colleges/universities (HBCU) to become and remain predominantly white. Learn more.
February 28, 1910After a reported verbal altercation between an unidentifiable African American man and three white men on the evening of February 26, an armed white mob formed and began shooting at and vandalizing the storefronts of the primarily black business district in Eldorado, AR. The violence ended on February 28, upon deployment of the local National Guard unit. Following the violence a significant percentage of Eldorado’s Black population left the area. Learn more.
March 1, 1843African American Union Army soldier Robert Alexander Pinn is born. Pinn received the Medal of Honor, America's highest military decoration, for his actions at the Battle of Chaffin's Farm during the American Civil War. In 1973, the Ohio National Guard named its new armory in Stow, Ohio, in his honor. In 1998, the shooting facility at the University of Akron was renamed the Robert A. Pinn Shooting Range in his honor. The range, used by the university's ROTC component and NCAA rifle team, is one of the premier shooting facilities in the state of Ohio. Learn more.
March 1, 1875Congress passed and President Grant signed into law a Civil Rights Bill that banned discrimination in places of public accommodation. The Supreme Court overturned the law in 1883. Learn more.
March 1, 1914Writer and scholar Ralph Ellison is born. He is best known for his renowned, award-winning 1952 novel Invisible Man, a seminal work on marginalization from an African American protagonist's perspective. Ellison chronicled the "Invisible Man" as educated and self-aware, with a broad intellectual curiosity; invisible, but not insubstantial. Ellison's unfinished novel Juneteenth was published posthumously in 1999. Learn more.
March 1, 1927Noted American singer, actor, producer, and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte (full name Harold George Belafonte, Jr.) is born in New York City. He is a key figure in the folk music scene of the 1950s, especially known for popularizing the Caribbean folk songs known as calypsos. He is equally renowned for his conscientious involvement in the civil rights movement and other social causes. Learn more.
March 1, 1971The US Defense Department curtails domestic electronic surveillance after disclosure of a "civil disturbance information collection plan" that spied on and gathered information about civil rights groups. Heavy government surveillance of peaceful, law-abiding Black Americans and civil rights groups continues to this day. Learn more here and here.
March 2, 1955Nine months before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her bus seat and triggered the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott, 15-year old high school student Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. Colvin was arrested, charged with disturbing the peace, as well as assault and violating the segregation law. After her arrest, Claudette Colvin was one of the plaintiffs of the historic court case Browder v. Gayle, which ruled that segregation was illegal. The Supreme Court’s subsequent affirmation of the ruling officially led to the end of segregation. In the interim, Colvin’s actions inspired planning of Parks’s action and the bus boycott later that same year. Learn more.
March 3, 1821Inventor, tradesman, entrepreneur, and abolitionist Thomas L. Jennings becomes the first African American awarded a patent for his invention of modern dry cleaning. Through his invention and business acumen, Jennings built a substantial fortune which he invested in the US Abolitionist movement. Learn more.
March 3, 1836U.S. Representative Jefferson Franklin Long is born. Long was the second African American sworn into the US House of Representatives, the first African-American congressman from Georgia, and the first African-American Representative to speak on the floor of the U.S. House (opposing the Amnesty Bill that exempted former Confederates serving in the House from swearing allegiance to the Constitution). He remained the only African American to represent Georgia until Andrew Young was elected in 1972. Enslaved from birth, Long secretly taught himself to read and write (which was illegal and thus mortally dangerous for enslaved people) while setting type for a newspaper. Learn more.
March 3, 1913American composer, pianist, arranger, and teacher, Margaret Allison Bonds is born. One of the first Black composers and performers to gain recognition in the United States, she is best remembered today for her popular arrangements of African-American spirituals and frequent collaborations with Langston Hughes. Learn more.
March 3, 1991In one of the earliest instances of a widely-distributed, uninvolved bystander-captured video of extreme police brutality against an unarmed African American, author and activist Rodney King was savagely beaten by four Los Angeles police officers as he lay prone on the ground after having surrendered. The video footage sparked worldwide outrage and condemnations of the officers and the LAPD. Nonetheless, in 1992 a jury acquitted three of the four officers, and failed to reach a verdict on the fourth. Outrage over the officers’ escape from justice despite the widely-viewed video evidence and related longer-term frustrations with LAPD brutality toward the Black population, triggered 6-days of riots in Los Angeles. The federal government subsequently indicted and tried the four officers for federal civil rights violations, securing guilty verdicts and prison terms for two of the officers. In a separate civil lawsuit, a jury found the city of Los Angeles liable for the abuse and brutality inflicted on Mr. King. Learn more.
March 4, 1867Ida Gray (also known as Ida Gray Nelson and Ida Rollins) is born. The first African-American woman to become a dentist in the United States, Dr. Gray became interested in dentistry when she went to work in the offices of Jonathan Taft, an early advocate for women to learn dentistry. After her apprenticeship in his office, Gray passed the entrance examinations and then attended the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. When she graduated, it was widely published that she was the first African American dentist in the United States and she was promoted as a role model for women to follow. Gray practiced in Ohio before settling in Chicago, where she remained until her death. The School of Dentistry at the University of Michigan gives an annual diversity award in Dr. Gray’s name. Learn more.
March 4, 1877African-American inventor, businessman, and community leader Garrett Morgan is born. His most notable inventions were a the sewing machine zigzag stitch attachment, the three-color traffic signal (still in use today), and an early type of gas mask that was notably used in a 1916 tunnel construction disaster rescue. Morgan also discovered and developed a chemical hair-processing and straightening solution. He created a successful company based on his hair product inventions along with a complete line of hair-care products, and became involved in the civic and political advancement of African-Americans. Learn more.
March 4, 1916Homer E. Harris Jr., M.D., a groundbreaking African American athlete, is born. He became the first Black captain of Seattle's Garfield High School football team. He played college football for the University of Iowa, becoming the team's Most Valuable Player and the first Black player to captain a Big Ten team in 1937. He was named All-Big Ten three years in a row. Because the National Football League (NFL) was whites-only at that time, a pro-career was closed to him, despite his proven, superior skills. Instead, Harris went to medical school and became a dermatologist. He served as head coach of the North Carolina A&T football team in 1940. Dr. Harris was inducted into the Hawkeyes' Hall of Fame in 2002, and had a Seattle park named after him the same year.
March 5, 1770Crispus Attucks, who had previously escaped enslavement, is the first of five Americans to fall in the Boston Massacre. Learn more.
March 5, 1920Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly, an American bishop of the United Methodist Church, is born. Bishop Kelly was only the second woman, and the first African American woman, to become a bishop in any major Christian denomination in the world. Learn more.
March 5, 1997Desi Arnaz Giles, a Black actor, receives death threats after portraying Jesus in the Park Theater Performing Arts Center's annual production of the "Passion Play" in Union City, NJ. Learn more.
March 6, 1857The U.S. Supreme Court issues its universally reviled 7–2 decision in Dred Scott v. Sanford (Dred Scott Decision). The case was brought by Dred Scott on behalf of himself, his wife, and their two daughters, who as enslaved people had been taken him from Missouri, which was a slave-holding state, into Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory, the laws of which forbade slavery and further provided that enslaved people became free after entering those jurisdictions. When Scott and his family were brought back to Missouri, Scott sued in court for their freedom and claimed that because they had been taken into "free" U.S. territory, they had automatically been freed and were legally no longer enslaved.In the majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roger Taney, the Court ruled that black people "are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word 'citizens' in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of the United States." Taney’s opinion included an extended survey of American state and local laws from the time of the Constitution's drafting in 1787 that purported to show that a "perpetual and impassable barrier was intended to be erected between the white race and the one which they had reduced to slavery." Because the Court ruled that Scott was not an American citizen, he was also not a citizen of any state and, accordingly, could never establish the "diversity of citizenship" that Article III of the US Constitution requires for a US federal court to be able to exercise jurisdiction over a case. After ruling on those issues surrounding Scott, Taney continued further and struck down the entire Missouri Compromise as a limitation on slavery that exceeded the US Congress's constitutional powers.The decision is universally recognized as the worst Supreme Court decision of all time. The Court's rulings in Dred Scott were voided by the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolished slavery except as punishment for a crime, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship for "all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof."
March 7, 1539Moroccan explorer Estevanico ("Little Stephen") (modern spelling Estebanico), or as Esteban de Dorantes, sets out to explore what is now the southwestern United States. Though the first non-Native American to explore areas of the American South and West (preceding Coronado, who is widely credited in popular historical accounts), de Dorantes’s achievements in the 16th century largely remain unknown and undervalued due to his race and his status as an enslaved person. He was among the only four survivors of about 600 men that went on a Spanish (conquistador) expedition to present-day Florida in the United States of America and widely believed to be the first African to have reached the present-day USA. Learn more.
March 7, 1759Agrippa Hull a free African-American patriot is born. An important patriot of the Revolutionary War, Hull’s relative obscurity in history is an illustration of the erasure of Black accomplishment in popular narratives. Hull was assigned by George Washington to served as an orderly to Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish military officer, engineer and nobleman, for five years during the American Revolutionary War. He served for a total of six years and two months. After the war, he received a veteran's pension. It was signed by George Washington, and he treasured it for the rest of his life. Born free in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1759 in the middle of the Seven Years' War, Hull became the most significant black landowner in Stockbridge, where he lived after the Revolutionary War. He lived to the age of eighty-nine. Learn more.
March 7, 1942The first cadets graduate from the flight school at the Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). They were the first Black pilots in commissioned for US military service. Previously, African Americans had been denied flight service in the military specifically on account of racist discrimination. Learn more.
March 7, 1965African American voting rights activists conduct the first (of three) Selma to Montgomery protest marches in March 1965. This first march is met with violent suppression and the date becomes known worldwide as “Bloody Sunday”.The Selma to Montgomery marches were a series of marches along the 54-mile (87 km) highway from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery, the marches were organized by nonviolent activists to demonstrate the desire of African-American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of violent segregationist repression. The marches were part of a broader voting rights movement underway in Selma and throughout the American South. By highlighting racial injustice, they contributed to passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the civil rights movement.The Selma to Montgomery marches were preceded earlier in the year by several local and regional marches protesting the denial of voting rights. Local and state officials sought to fiercely repress the peaceful marches were fiercely suppressed, with approximately 3,000 people arrested by the end of February. On February 26, 1965, activist and deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson died after being shot several days earlier by state trooper James Bonard Fowler, during a peaceful march in nearby Marion, Alabama.To defuse and refocus the community's outrage, James Bevel, who was directing SCLC's Selma voting rights movement, called for a march of dramatic length, from Selma to the state capital of Montgomery. The first march took place on March 7, 1965, organized locally by Bevel, Amelia Boynton, and others. State troopers and county possemen attacked the unarmed marchers with billy clubs and tear gas after they passed over the county line, and the event became known as Bloody Sunday. Law enforcement beat Boynton unconscious, and the media publicized worldwide a picture of her lying wounded on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Learn more.
March 8, 1825Alexander Thomas Augusta, a surgeon, veteran of the American Civil War, and the first Black professor of medicine in the United States, is born. After gaining his medical education in Toronto in the Province of Canada, from 1850 to 1856, he set up a practice there. He returned to the United States shortly before the start of the American Civil War. Augusta offered his services to the United States Army and in 1863, he was commissioned as major and the Army's first African-American physician; he became the first black hospital administrator in U.S. history while serving in the army. He left the army in 1866 at the rank of brevetlieutenant colonel. Learn more.
March 8, 1921Marjorie Edwina Pitter King, the first African American woman to serve as a Washington State legislator and was one of the state's earliest African American businesswomen, is born. For nearly 50 years she owned and operated M and M Accounting and Tax Services. Pitter King also served as Chair of the 37th District Democratic Party, Vice President of the King County Democratic Party, and Treasurer of the Washington State Federation of Democratic Women, Inc. She provided leadership in drafting the National Democratic Party Platform, while attending the 1972 Democratic National Convention. Learn more.
March 8, 1929Walter R. Hundley, minister, sociologist, civil rights worker, and administrator who served in a number of important offices in Seattle government, is born. Learn more.
March 8, 1945Phyllis Mae Dailey, a registered nurse, is inducted as an ensign into the United States Navy Nurse Corps. She graduated from the Lincoln School of Nursing in New York City and studied public health at Teacher's College, Columbia University. Before joining the Navy, she was denied entrance by the U.S. Air Force. Dailey was the first African American sworn in as a Navy nurse, following changes in Navy recruitment and admittance procedures that had previously excluded black women from joining the Nurse Corps.First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a well known proponent for the change, had put pressure on the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), and SPARS (the women’s component of the Coast Guard) — all subsets of the Navy — to do the same. The SPARS would finally be integrated in October 1944, and the WAVES in December 1944. The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (later fully incorporated and called the Women’s Army Corps) accepted African Americans beginning in January 1941, but capped the number who could serve to around 10% of the corps.Under pressure from several directions, the Navy ended exclusion based on race in January 1945. Due to the Navy Nurse Corps being one of the last units to accept African Americans, it had the smallest representation of black women. By August 1945, when the war ended, there were just four active duty African American nurses in the Navy Nurse Corps, versus more than 6,000 that had served with the Women’s Army Corps during the war.
March 9, 1841The U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in United States v. Schooner Amistad, affirming the lower federal district court’s earlier ruling that the captive Mende Africans aboard the Schooner La Amistad were free people when they fought to escape their kidnapping and illegal confinement, entitled to take whatever legal measures necessary to secure their freedom, including the use of force, and authorizing their release. Learn more.
March 9, 1911White firemen on various lines of the Cincinnati, New Orleans, and Texas Pacific Railroad went on strike and violently rioted in Somerset, KY, after the company refused to honor their demand that all Black firemen be fired within 90 days. Previously, the railroad and the white firemen had agreed that one of the three lines between Nashville and Oakland would employ Black firemen, none of whom could be promoted to engineers. In the ensuing riot violence, eight Black firemen and two deputy sheriffs were killed and locomotive cab windows were shot out of passing trains. Learn more.
March 9, 1965African American voting rights activists conduct the second (of three) Selma to Montgomery protest marches in March 1965. The immediately-preceding prior march, on March 7, had ended when state troopers and county possemen violently attacked the nonviolent marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in an event now known as Bloody Sunday. In sharp contrast, second march ended peacefully and has come to be known as Turnaround Tuesday. It is so named because when troopers, police, and marchers confronted each other at the county end of the bridge, the troopers stepped aside to let them pass, but Martin Luther King, Jr., them led the marchers back to the church Selma church from which the March had originated. However, that evening three white Unitarian Universalist ministers in Selma for the march were attacked on the street and beaten with clubs by four KKK members. The worst injured was Reverend James Reeb from Boston. Fearing that Selma's public hospital would refuse to treat Reeb, activists took him to Birmingham's University Hospital, two hours away. Reeb died on Thursday, March 11 at University Hospital, with his wife by his side.The Selma to Montgomery marches were a series of marches along the 54-mile (87 km) highway from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery.  The marches were organized by nonviolent activists to demonstrate the desire of African-American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of violent segregationist repression. The marches were part of a broader voting rights movement underway in Selma and throughout the American South. By highlighting racial injustice, they contributed to passage that year of the Voting Rights Act, a landmark federal achievement of the civil rights movement. The Selma to Montgomery marches were preceded earlier in the year by several local and regional marches protesting the denial of voting rights. Local and state officials sought to fiercely repress the peaceful marches, with approximately 3,000 people arrested by the end of February. The February 18 murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson by a state trooper directly precipitated planning for the Selma to Montgomery marches. Learn more.
March 10, 1849Educator, writer, and activist Hallie Quinn Brown is born to parents who had been enslaved. Brown's family moved to Canada in 1864 and then to Ohio in 1870. She graduated from Wilberforce University, Ohio, with the degree of Bachelor of Science in 1873 and a Master of Science degree in 1887, being the first woman to do so. Brown taught in schools in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Dayton, Ohio, and later at the Tuskegee Institute.In 1893, Brown presented a paper at the World's Congress of Representative Women in Chicago. Four other African American women also presented at the conference: Anna Julia Cooper, Fannie Barrier Williams, Fanny Jackson Coppin, and Sarah Jane Woodson Early. Brown was a founder of the Colored Woman's League of Washington, D.C., which in 1894 merged into the National Association of Colored Women. She was president of the Ohio State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs from 1905 until 1912, and of the National Association of Colored Women from 1920 until 1924. She spoke at the Republican National Convention in 1924 and later directed campaign work among African-American women for President Calvin Coolidge. Brown was inducted as an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta.
March 11, 1895The 2-day “New Orleans Dockworkers Massacre,” an attack against black, non-union dockworkers by unionized white workers begins. The mob killed six black workers. The incident had its roots in both economic pressure and racial hatred. The men killed in the massacre were Henry James, Jules Calise Carrebe, Leonard Mallard, William Campbell, and two unknown men. Learn more.
March 11, 1911Civil rights activist, attorney, judge, and the first black American to serve as an Ambassador, Edward Dudley is born in South Boston, VA. Dudley earned a Bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith College in Charlotte, NC in 1932, and a law degree from St. John’s University in New York City in 1941. In 1942 he was appointed to the New York Attorney General’s Office, where he served until he was recruited the following year by Thurgood Marshall, the Chief Legal Counsel of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to become a Special Assistant Counsel. In 1945, Dudley became the Legal Counsel to the Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 1948, President Harry Truman sent Dudley to Liberia as U.S. Envoy and Minister, elevating Dudley to the rank of Ambassador in May of 1949. In 1955 Dudley was named a judge in the New York state domestic relations court. Ambassador Dudley was elected to the New York Supreme Court in 1965. Learn more.
March 11, 1926American religious leader and pioneering civil rights activist Ralph David Abernathy is born. The son of a successful farmer, Abernathy was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1948 and graduated with a B.S. degree from Alabama State University in 1950. His interest then shifted from mathematics to sociology, and he earned an M.A. degree in the latter from Atlanta University in 1951. That same year Abernathy became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL.Shortly thereafter, Rev. Abernathy met and became Dr. Martin Luther King’s chief aide and closest associate. In 1955–56, King and Abernathy organized a boycott by black citizens of the Montgomery bus system that forced the system’s racial desegregation in 1956. This nonviolent boycott marked the beginning of the civil rights movement of the following two decades. Abernathy and King subsequently co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), respectively serving as secretary-treasurer and president. Learn more.
March 11, 1959Lorraine Hansberry’s landmark play, A Raisin in the Sun, premieres on Broadway. It is the first play written by a Black woman to be produced on Broadway, as well as the first with a Black director, Mr. Lloyd Richards, and featuring a cast in which all but one character is Black. The production would be nominated for four Tony Awards: Best Play – written by Lorraine Hansberry; produced by Philip Rose, David J. Cogan; Best Actor in Play – Sidney Poitier; Best Actress in a Play – Claudia McNeil; and Best Direction of a Play – Lloyd Richards. Publications such as The Independent and Time Out have listed it among the best plays ever written. Learn more.
March 11, 1965While participating in the Selma to Montgomery marches actions in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, ally James Reeb is murdered by white segregationists, dying of head injuries in the hospital two days after being severely beaten (on the evening of March 9, 1965, following the 2nd Selma to Montgomery protest March earlier that day). Reeb was a 38-year old American Unitarian Universalistminister, pastor, and activist during the civil rights movement in Washington, D.C. and Boston, Massachusetts. Three men were tried for Reeb's murder but were acquitted by an all-white jury. His murder remains officially unsolved. Learn more.
March 12, 1895The 2-day “New Orleans Dockworkers Massacre,” an attack against black, non-union dockworkers by unionized white workers finally ends after Governor Murphy calls in the state militia. The mob killed six black workers. The incident had its roots in both economic pressure and racial hatred. The men killed in the massacre were Henry James, Jules Calise Carrebe, Leonard Mallard, William Campbell, and two unknown men. Learn more.
March 12, 1932Andrew Jackson Young Jr., an American politician, diplomat, and activist, is born. Beginning his career as a pastor, Young was an early leader in the civil rights movement, serving as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and a close confidant to Martin Luther King Jr. Young later became active in politics, serving as a U.S. Congressman from Georgia, United States Ambassador to the United Nations in the Carter Administration, and 55th Mayor of Atlanta. Since leaving office, Young has founded or served in many organizations working on issues of public policy and political lobbying. Learn more.
March 13, 1773Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, a free African American (born around the year 1750 in Haiti), establishes the settlement that is now known as Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, Point du Sable is recognized as it’s founder and his name is honored around the city on a bridge, museum, park and in other areas.   Point du Sable was a wealthy trader and landowner.  He later moved to St. Charles, Missouri and it was there that he died on August 28,1818. Learn more.
March 13, 1932Founded by William A. Scott II, the Atlanta Daily World, the first Black daily newspaper, begins publication. Scott was a Morehouse graduate who later worked as the only black clerk on the Jacksonville to Washington, D.C., rail line, then in 1927 published a Jacksonville business directory to help blacks find each other. A year later, Scott, who was only 26 at the time, began publishing a similar directory for Atlanta. The paper became a semi-weekly in May 1930, triweekly in April 1931, and became a daily and added "Daily" to its title on March 13, 1932. In 1931, Scott also began publishing the Chattanooga Tribune and Memphis World, and by doing so, founded the first chain of Black newspapers, a chain that would eventually grow, at its peak, to fifty publications. Learn more.
March 13, 1964Malcolm X announces his split from Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam. Learn more.
March 13, 2020Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African-American woman and decorated Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), is shot and killed in her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment on March 13, 2020, when white plainclothes officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) force entry into the apartment unannounced. Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, was inside the apartment with her when the officers knocked on the door and then forced entry. Walker thought the officers were intruders and fired a warning shot at them. According to officials, it hit Mattingly in the leg; in return, the officers blindly fired 32 shots during two "flurries" or waves of shots separated by one minute and eight seconds. Walker was unhurt but Taylor was hit by six bullets and died. The shooting of Taylor by police officers led to numerous protests across the United States against police brutality and racism, especially in the aftermath of the subsequent police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and a grand jury’s failure to indict the officers for Taylor’s death. Learn more.
March 14, 1821The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, or the AME Zion Church or AMEZ, a historically African-American Christian denomination based in the United States, is officially formed in New York City. However, it had operated for a number of years before then. The origins of the church can be traced to the John Street Methodist Church of New York City. Following acts of overt discrimination (such as black parishioners being forced to leave worship), many black Christians left to form their own churches. The first church founded by the AME Zion Church was built in 1800 and was named Zion; one of the founders was William Hamilton, a prominent orator and abolitionist. These early black churches still belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church denomination, although the congregations were independent. The fledgling Zion church grew, and soon multiple churches developed from the original congregation. In 1820, six of the churches met to ordain James Varick as an elder, and in 1821 he was made the first General Superintendent of the AME Zion Church. A debate raged in the white-dominated Methodist church over accepting black ministers. The debate ended on July 30, 1822, when James Varick was ordained as the first bishop of the AME Zion church, a newly independent denomination.
March 14, 1977Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, called "the spirit of the civil rights movement,” dies. Born a sharecropper, she worked from the age of six as a timekeeper on a cotton plantation. Later, she became involved in the Black Freedom Struggle and eventually moved on to become a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Because African Americans were excluded from the Mississippi Democratic Party, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was formed, with Fannie Lou Hamer as a founding member and vice president. She also lectured extensively, and was known for a signature line she often used, "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired." She was known as a powerful speaker, and her singing voice lent another power to civil rights meetings. Suffering from breast cancer, diabetes, and heart problems, Fannie Lou Hamer died in Mississippi. Learn more.
March 15, 1815William Wells Brown, a prominent African-American abolitionist lecturer, novelist, playwright, and historian in the United States, is (estimated to have been) born into slavery in Montgomery County, Kentucky, near the town of Mount Sterling. Brown escaped to Ohio in 1834 at the age of 19. He settled in Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked for abolitionist causes and became a prolific writer. While working for abolition, Brown also supported causes including: temperance, women's suffrage, pacifism, prison reform, and an anti-tobacco movement. His novel Clotel (1853), considered the first novel written by an African American, was published in London, England, where he resided at the time; it was later published in the United States. Brown was an African-American pioneer in several different literary genres, including travel writing, fiction, and drama. In 1858 he became the first published African-American playwright, and often read from this work on the lecture circuit. Following the Civil War, in 1867 he published what is considered the first history of African Americans in the Revolutionary War. He was among the first writers inducted to the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame, established in 2013. A public school was named for him in Lexington, Kentucky. Learn more.
March 15, 1842Robert Carlos De Large is born in Aiken, South Carolina, the mixed-race son of a Haitian free woman of color and a Sephardi Jewish father; some scholars suggest both parents were of mixed race. De Large graduated high school and became a tailor and farmer. As a young man, De Large became a member of the Brown Fellowship Society of Charleston, made up of people of color who had been free before the war. They were among the elite African Americans in the city who were skilled artisans and led the people of color. De Large was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina, serving 1871 to 1873. He was earlier a delegate to the 1868 state constitutional convention and elected in 1868 to the South Carolina House of Representatives for one term. Learn more.
March 15, 1947Lt. Commander John W. Lee Jr. becomes the first Black commissioned Navy officer. The late Navy man made it his personal mission to aid other qualified Black servicemen in his branch to get the same opportunities he did. Lee was born February 13, 1924 and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, entering the Navy during WWII. After boot camp, he was admitted into the V-12 Officer Candidate Program at Indianapolis’ DePauw University and graduated as an Ensign. Lee believed other Black Navy men could have become officers and worked behind the scenes to move things into that direction. Lee also served in WWII and the Korean War. In 1960, Lee became the commanding officer of the Oceanographic Detachment Two division. Before his retirement in 1966, Lee served on the NATO staff in Paris and left the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Afterwards, he worked two years for Indianapolis’ Naval Avionics Center. Learn more.
March 16, 1827Freedom's Journal, the first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States, is founded by Rev. John Wilk and other free black men in New York City, published weekly starting with the 16 March 1827 issue. Freedom's Journal was superseded in 1829 by The Rights of All, published between 1829 and 1830 by Samuel Cornish, the former senior editor of the Journal. Learn more.
March 16, 1846Physician, organization founder, and social reformer Rebecca J. Cole is born. In 1867, she became the second African-American woman to become a doctor in the United States (after Rebecca Lee Crumpler's achievement three years earlier). Throughout her life, Dr Cole overcame racial and gender barriers to medical education by training in all-female institutions run by women who had been part of the first generation of female physicians graduating mid-century. Learn more.
March 17, 1806Mixed race inventor Norbert Rillieux is born. Rillieux is widely considered one of the earliest chemical engineers and is noted for his pioneering invention of the multiple-effect evaporator. This invention was an important development in the growth of the sugar industry. Rillieux was born into a prominent Creole family in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Vincent Rillieux, a white plantation owner and inventor, and Constance Vivant, a free person of color. Learn more.
March 17, 1896African American inventor Charles B. Brooks receives US Patent #556,711 for his street sweeper design. Unlike other sweepers at that time (1890s), Brooks’ sweeper was the first self-propelled street sweeping truck. His design had revolving brushes attached to the front fender, and the brushes were interchangeable so that when snow fell, scrapers could be attached for snow removal. Learn more.
March 17, 1912Civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin is born. A key advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Rustin is credited with introducing King to and expanding his knowledge of non-violence. Rustin was instrumental in organizing the Montgomery bus boycot and the March on Washington, among other historic actions. A Quaker, Rustin studied Gandhian non-violence in India in 1948, and helped organize independence movements in Africa in the early 1950s. A gay man, Rustin was suffered arrest and conviction on charges related to homosexual activity. Rustin was likewise persecuted for his status as a conscientious objector and spent two years in prison during WWII as a result. While Rustin’s homosexuality and former affiliation with the Communist Party led some to question King’s relationship with him, King recognized the importance of Rustin’s skills and dedication to the movement. In a 1960 letter, King told a colleague: “We are thoroughly committed to the method of nonviolence in our struggle and we are convinced that Bayard’s expertness and commitment in this area will be of inestimable value”. Learn more.
March 18, 1933Unita Zelma Blackwell, American civil rights activist who was the first African-American woman to be elected mayor in the U.S. state of Mississippi, is born. Blackwell was a project director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and helped organize voter drives for African Americans across Mississippi. She was also a founder of the US China Peoples Friendship Association, a group dedicated to promoting cultural exchange between the United States and China. Learn more.
March 19, 1883African American inventor Jan Ernst Matzeliger is issued US Patent # 274,307, for his invention of the automatic shoe lasting machine. The machine substantially automated the production of shoes, cutting the cost by over half and creating the mass produced shoe industry. Learn more.
March 19, 1891Earl Warren, who served as Chief Justice of the United States from 1953 to 1969, is born. The "Warren Court" presided over major advances in American constitutional jurisprudence, especially in regard to civil rights. Warren wrote the majority opinions in landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), Miranda v. Arizona (1966), and Loving v. Virginia (1967). Learn more.
March 20, 1852Martin Robison Delany, an African-American abolitionist, journalist, physician, soldier, and writer, and arguably the first proponent of black nationalism, publishes his book, The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered. It is considered the first statement of the Black nationalist position. Delany wrote, "The claims of no people, according to established policy and usage, are respected by any nation, until they are presented in a national capacity." He added: "We are a nation within a nation; as the Poles in Russia, the Hungarians in Austria, the Welsh, Irish, and Scotch in the British dominions." Learn more.
March 20, 1910Boston-based African American artist Allan Rohan Crite is born. Crite won several honors, including the 350th Harvard University Anniversary Medal. Crite sought to depict the life of African-Americans living in Boston in a new and different way: as ordinary citizens or the "middle class" rather than stereotypical jazz musicians or sharecroppers. Through his art, he intended to tell the story of African Americans as part of the fabric of American society and its reality. By using representational style rather than modernism, Crite felt that he could more adequately "report" and capture the reality that African Americans were part of but often unaccounted for. Crite explained his body of work as having a common theme: “I've only done one piece of work in my whole life and I am still at it. I wanted to paint people of color as normal humans. I tell the story of man through the black figure.” [Image of Crite’s painting, Douglass Square, Boston. Oil. 20" x 24". 1936. Commissioned by the Federal Arts Project]. Learn more.
March 20, 1950Ralph Johnson Bunche, PhD, an American political scientist, academic, and diplomat, receives the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his late 1940s mediation in Israel. Dr. Bunche was the first African American to be so honored.Dr Bunche graduated graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa in 1927 as the valedictorian of his class from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He earned a doctorate in political science from Harvard University in 1934, the first African American to gain a PhD in political science from an American university. He published his first book, World View of Race, in 1936. From 1928 to 1950, Dr Bunche served as chair of the Department of Political Science at Howard University, where he also taught generations of students. Dr Bunche was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1950, the first Black member to be inducted into the Society since its founding in 1743. Dr Bunche was involved in the formation and administration of the United Nations and played a major role in numerous peacekeeping operations sponsored by the UN. In 1963, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President John F. Kennedy. Learn more.
March 21, 1861Unintentionally and preemptively exposing later, persisting revisionist lies about the reason for the Civil War, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens delivers the “Cornerstone Speech” in Savannah, Georgia, laying out the rationale for secession and identifying slavery as the “immediate cause” of secession.  Stephens declared that Thomas Jefferson’s and other founding fathers’ ambivalence about slavery, was misplaced and unwarranted, and that servitude and subordination to the white race was the “natural and normal condition” of blacks in the South. Learn more.
March 21, 1938Lois Jean Barron White, the first African American President of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is born in Nashville, Tennessee. White earned a B.A. in Music at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee in 1960 and received further training at Indiana University. She then taught music at Mills College in Birmingham, Alabama from 1960 to 1962. In 1963 she became a member of the Community Orchestra of Atlanta; in 1967 she joined Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra in Knoxville, Tennessee, serving primarily as a principal flutist. She retired in 1991 after 24 years with the Orchestra. In 1989 White became the first African American elected Tennessee State PTA President. Six years later, in 1995, she was elected president of the National PTA. As president she led nearly 6.5 million parents, teachers, school administrators, and other children’s advocates in teaching parenting skills, supporting public education, and advocating for legislation at the national level that would positively affect children’s lives. White worked to address the problems of urban families, a population previously neglected by PTA efforts. Under her leadership the PTA developed programs that encouraged inner city children to stay and succeed in school. She also led the effort to bring PTA to inner city neighborhoods in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia and other major cities where the organization had not previously existed. Learn more.
March 21, 1965The third and final Selma to Montgomery voting rights March begins as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, leads close to 8,000 people from the starting point at Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church in Selma, commencing the trek to Montgomery. The March would continue over the next four days, completing on March 25. Most of the participants were black, but some were white and some were Asian and Latino. Spiritual leaders of multiple races, religions, and creeds marched abreast with Dr. King, including Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos, Rabbis Abraham Joshua Heschel and Maurice Davis, and at least one nun, all of whom were depicted in a photo that has become famous. The Dutch Catholic priest Henri Nouwen joined the march on March 24. Learn more.
March 22, 1965Day 2 of the 5-day, 54-mile Selma to Montgomery March, taking place March 21-25. This third and final Selma voting rights march followed the earlier March 7, “Bloody Sunday” march, and the March 9, “Turnaround Tuesday” march.On the preceding day (March 21), approximately 8,000 marchers walked along Highway-80 from Selma to Lowndes County. In 1965, the road to Montgomery was four lanes wide going east from Selma, then narrowed to two lanes through Lowndes County, and widened to four lanes again at the Montgomery county border. Under the terms of a court order, the march was limited to no more than 300 participants for the two days they were on the two-lane portion of Highway-80. At the end of the first day (March 21), most of the marchers returned to Selma by bus and car, leaving 300 to camp overnight and take up the journey the next day.On March 22 and 23, 300 protesters marched through chilling rain across Lowndes County, camping at three sites in muddy fields. At the time of the march, the population of Lowndes County was 81% black and 19% white, but not a single black was registered to vote. There were 2,240 whites registered to vote in Lowndes County, a figure that represented 118% of the adult white population (in many Southern counties of that era it was common practice to retain white voters on the rolls after they died or moved away). Learn more.
March 23, 1965Day 3 of the 5-day, 54-mile Selma to Montgomery March, taking place March 21-25. This third and final Selma voting rights march followed the earlier March 7, “Bloody Sunday” march, and the March 9, “Turnaround Tuesday” march.On the preceding day (March 21), approximately 8,000 marchers walked along Highway-80 from Selma to Lowndes County. In 1965, the road to Montgomery was four lanes wide going east from Selma, then narrowed to two lanes through Lowndes County, and widened to four lanes again at the Montgomery county border. Under the terms of a court order, the march was limited to no more than 300 participants for the two days they were on the two-lane portion of Highway-80. At the end of the first day (March 21), most of the marchers returned to Selma by bus and car, leaving 300 to camp overnight and take up the journey the next two days. On March 22 and 23, 300 protesters marched through chilling rain across Lowndes County, camping at three sites in muddy fields. At the time of the march, the population of Lowndes County was 81% black and 19% white, but not a single black was registered to vote. There were 2,240 whites registered to vote in Lowndes County, a figure that represented 118% of the adult white population (in many Southern counties of that era it was common practice to retain white voters on the rolls after they died or moved away). Learn more.
March 23, 2007Barrington Irving departs Miami, FL, beginning his successful solo flight around the world. After stopping in various countries in Europe and Asia, Irving returned to Miami on the 27th of June. In so doing, Irving became the first African American to fly solo around the world as well as the youngest person to complete the feat. He made his flight at the age of 23. Irving was born in Kingston, Jamaica on November 11th, 1983. He was the oldest of three brothers. When Irving was six years old, his family relocated to inner-city Miami, Florida. Learn more.
March 24, 1884Zoë Dusanne, a pioneering art dealer and collector who opened Seattle’s first professional modern-art gallery, is born. Described by those who knew her as exotic, flamboyant, and colorful, Dushanne opened the Zoë Dusanne Gallery in 1950, and worked tirelessly to both introduce modern art to a northwest audience and to promote northwest art and artists to a larger international art community. Learn more.
March 24, 1912African American civil rights and women's rights activist Dorothy Irene Height is born. Height focused on the issues of African American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness. Height is credited as the first leader in the civil rights movement to recognize inequality for women and African Americans as problems that should be considered as a whole. She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years. Learn more.
March 24, 1965Day 4 of the 5-day, 54-mile Selma to Montgomery March, taking place March 21-25. This third and final Selma voting rights march followed the earlier March 7, “Bloody Sunday” march, and the March 9, “Turnaround Tuesday” march. On the preceding day (March 21), approximately 8,000 marchers walked along Highway-80 from Selma to Lowndes County. On days 2 and 3, the march was limited by court order to 300 participants owing to Highway-80 having just 2 lanes through Lowndes County. On the morning of March 24 (day 4), the march crossed into Montgomery County and the highway widened again to four lanes. All day as the march approached the city, additional marchers were ferried by bus and car to join the line. By evening, several thousand marchers had reached the final campsite at the City of St. Jude, a complex on the outskirts of Montgomery. That night on a makeshift stage, a "Stars for Freedom" rally was held, with singers Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Peter, Paul and Mary, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joan Baez, Nina Simone, and The Chad Mitchell Trio all performing. Thousands more people continued to join the march. Learn more
March 25, 1924Prolific neoclassical music composer Julia Amanda Perry is born in Lexington Kentucky. Her father, Dr. Abe Perry, was a doctor and amateur pianist, who once accompanied the tenor Roland Hayes on tour. Her mother, America Perry, encouraged her children’s musical endeavors; both Julia and her sisters studied violin from a young age, Julia switched to the piano after two years of violin. Perry graduated Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey with a bachelors and masters in music. She continued her musical training at the Julliard School of Music and she also spent summers at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts. Perry received two Guggenheim fellowships to study in Florence, Italy under the tutelage of Lugia Dallapiccola and in Paris, France with Nadia Boulanger. Her works are performed by major orchestras and she won awards and accolades from the National Association of Negro Musicians, the Boulanger Grand Prix, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters, among others. During her life, Perry completed 12 symphonies, two concertos, and three operas, in addition to numerous smaller pieces. Learn more.
March 25, 1931In a gross miscarriage of justice typical of that era and especially in that region, the “Scottsboro Boys” — nine African American teenagers, ages 12-18 — are falsely accused, arrested, and charged with raping two white women. The arrests set off a cascading set of injustices. It is commonly cited as an example of a miscarriage of justice in the United States legal system. The case was first heard in Scottsboro, Alabama, in three rushed trials, in which the defendants received poor legal representation. All but 13-year-old Roy Wright were convicted of rape and sentenced to death (the common sentence in Alabama at the time for black men convicted of raping white women), even though there was no medical evidence to suggest that they had committed such a crime. The cases were twice appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which led to landmark decisions on the conduct of trials. In Powell v. Alabama (1932), it ordered new trials. During the retrials, one of the alleged victims admitted to fabricating the rape story and asserted that none of the Scottsboro Boys touched either of the white women. The jury found the defendants guilty, but the judge set aside the verdict and granted a new trial. The judge was replaced and the case tried under a judge who ruled frequently against the defense, and the third jury returned a guilty verdict. The case was sent to the US Supreme Court on appeal. It ruled that African-Americans had to be included on juries, and ordered retrials. Charges were finally dropped for four of the nine defendants. Sentences for the rest ranged from 75 years to death. All but two served prison sentences; all were released or escaped by 1946. Two escaped, were later charged with other crimes, convicted, and sent back to prison. Learn more.
March 25, 1965Day 5 of the 5-day, 54-mile Selma to Montgomery March, taking place March 21-25. This third and final Selma voting rights march followed the earlier March 7, “Bloody Sunday” march, and the March 9, “Turnaround Tuesday” march. On Thursday, March 25, 25,000 people marched from the previous night campsite at the Town of St. Jude complex on the outskirts of Montgomery to the steps of the State Capitol Building in Montgomery where King delivered the speech "How Long, Not Long". He said: “The end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. ... I know you are asking today, How long will it take? I come to say to you this afternoon however difficult the moment, however frustrating the hour, it will not be long.” After delivering the speech, King and the marchers approached the entrance to the capitol with a petition for Governor Wallace. A line of state troopers blocked the door. One announced that the governor was not in. Undeterred, the marchers remained at the entrance until one of Wallace's secretaries appeared and took the petition. The three Selma to Montgomery marches had a powerful effect in Washington. After witnessing the police violent attacks on the “Bloody Sunday” marchers, President Johnson presented a voting rights bill to a joint session of Congress in a televised speech on March 15. It was considered to be a watershed moment for the civil rights movement. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Johnson on August 6, 1965, and prohibited most of the unfair practices used to prevent blacks from registering to vote, and provided for federal registrars to go to Alabama and other states with a history of voting-related discrimination to ensure that the law was implemented by overseeing registration and elections.
March 25, 1965Civil rights ally and activist Viola Liuzzo is martyred by the Ku Klux Klan(KKK). Liuzzo, a 39-year old mother of five and later-in-life college student, heeded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1965 call and traveled from Detroit, Michigan, to Selma, Alabama, in the wake of the Bloody Sunday attempt to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. While returning from shuttling fellow activists to the Montgomery airport after the third Selma to Montgomery march, she was shot and killed from a pursuing car containing KKK members Collie Wilkins, William Eaton, Eugene Thomas, and Gary Thomas Rowe, the latter of whom was actually an undercover informant working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Rowe testified that Wilkins had fired two shots into Liuzzo on the order of Thomas, and was placed in the witness protection program by the FBI. To deflect attention from having employed Rowe as an informant, the FBI falsely claimed Liuzzo was a heroin-addicted member of the Communist Party who had abandoned her children to have sexual relationships with African-Americans involved in the Civil Rights Movement. In addition to other honors, Liuzzo's name is today inscribed on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, created by Maya Lin. Learn more.
March 26, 1872African-American inventor Thomas J Martin is granted a patent for his version of the fire extinguisher. Martin’s invention, listed in the U. S. Patent Office in Washington, DC under patent number 125,063, improved upon an earlier model of the fire extinguisher. Learn more.
March 26, 1932American nuclear chemist James Andrew Harris is born. Harris was involved in the discovery of elements 104 and 105 (rutherfordium and dubnium, respectively). Harris spent most of his scientific career working in the in the Heavy Isotopes Production Group of the Nuclear Chemistry department of the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at the University of California-Berkeley. It was there that he designed and purified the targets that were used to discover elements 104 and 105. In 1977, Harris was promoted to Head of Engineering and Technical Services Division at Lawrence. Harris retired from the lab in 1988. Learn more.
March 26, 1944A group of white men brutally lynched Rev. Isaac Simmons, a Black minister and farmer, so they could steal his land in Amite County, Mississippi. Members of his family, some of whom witnessed his murder, fled the state, fearing for their lives. The white men responsible for lynching him successfully stole the Simmons’s land, and were never convicted for their crimes. Rev. Simmons was one of at least 14 Black people lynched in Amite County, Mississippi between 1865 and 1950, and one of over 6,500 Black women, men, and children who were victims of racial terror lynching in the U.S. between 1865-1950. Learn more.
March 27, 1876Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton is born. An African American jockey in Thoroughbred horse racing, Clayton was one of the all-time great riders, holding the record as the youngest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby. In 1890 at just fourteen-years-old, Clayton began his professional riding career and was Immediately successful. At Morris Park Racetrack in The Bronx, New York, Clayton won the important Champagne Stakes. On May 11, 1892, he rode to victory in the Kentucky Derby which at age fifteen made him the youngest jockey in history to ever win the Derby. Clayton followed up his Derby success with victories in the Clark Handicap and the Travers Stakes. At Monmouth Park in New Jersey Clayton won the 1893 Monmouth Handicap and went on to win the fall riding title at Churchill Downs. One of the leading money winners on the East Coast racing circuit during the 1890s, he won races from New York to California. In 1895, he won 144 races and finished in the money sixty percent of the time. By the start of the 20th century, racism forced the complete elimination of African-American jockeys, who had dominated racing and who had played a major role in bringing Thoroughbred racing to the forefront of American sport. Since 1909, no African-American jockey has ridden a winner in any major American Graded stakes race. No longer permitted to make a living in horse racing, Clayton spent his final years working as a hotel bellhop in California, where he died at age 40 of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis in 1917. Learn more.
March 27, 1908Alabama Representative James Thomas Heflin shoots Louis Lundy, a Black man, claiming that Lundy cursed in front of a white woman while riding on a Washington, D.C. streetcar. The congressman claimed that Mr. Lundy’s alleged cursing was “raising a disturbance,” and received an outpouring of support from the white public and his fellow representatives after shooting Mr. Lundy through his neck. Heflin was never held accountable for shooting Mr. Lundy.
March 27, 1924Popular twentieth century African-American Jazz singing virtuoso Sarah Vaughn is born. She was recognized for her beautiful voice and often nicknamed ‘Sassy’, ‘Sailor’ and ‘The Divine One’ for her salty speech. Moreover, she won a Grammy Award and was awarded the “highest honor in jazz” by The National Endowment for the Arts. Learn more.
March 27, 1934American ballet dancer, choreographer, and ballet companies founder and director Arthur Mitchell is born. In 1955, he was the first African-American dancer with the New York City Ballet, where he was promoted to principal dancer the following year and danced in major roles until 1966. He then founded ballet companies in Spoleto, Washington, D.C., and Brazil. In 1969, he founded a training school and the first African-American classical ballet company, Dance Theatre of Harlem. Among other awards, Mitchell was recognized as a MacArthur Fellow, inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame, and received the United States National Medal of Arts and a Fletcher Foundation fellowship. Learn more.
March 28, 1925Award winning sculptor and teacher Edward N. Wilson, Jr., is born. His work was featured in the landmark 1976 exhibition Two Centuries of Black American Art. Mr. Wilson produced some two dozen sculptures, working variously in bronze, aluminum and red hickory. He became chairman of the department of art and art history at the State University of New York in Birmingham, NY, in 1964. Among his acclaimed works are a memorial to John F. Kennedy, a piece titled “Falling Man,” “Second Genesis,” “Jazz Musicians,” “Middle Passage,” subtly depicting the horrors of slave ships, and a memorial to Ralph Ellison, the author of “The Invisible Man,” that stands at the Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City. In their book, “A History of African-American Artists” (Random House, 1992), Romare Bearden and Harry Henderson devoted a chapter to Mr. Wilson, ranking him as a significant artist. Learn more.
March 28, 195822-year-old Black man named Jeremiah Reeves is executed by the state of Alabama after police tortured him until he gave a false confession as a 16-year-old child. In July 1951, Jeremiah, who was a 16-year-old high school student at the time, and Mabel Ann Crowder, a white woman, were discovered having sex in her home. Though it was known to be a consensual relationship, Ms. Crowder claimed she was raped and Jeremiah was immediately arrested and taken to Kilby Prison for “questioning.” Police strapped the frightened boy into the electric chair and told him that he would be electrocuted unless he admitted to having committed all of the rapes white women had reported that summer. Under this terrifying pressure, he falsely confessed to the charges in fear. Though he soon recanted and insisted he was innocent, Jeremiah was convicted and sentenced to death after a two-day trial during which the all-white jury deliberated for less than 30 minutes. On April 6, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at an Easter rally in Montgomery, Alabama and decried Jeremiah Reeves’s wrongful conviction and execution, which had been carried out a little over a week before. Afterward, a group of 39 local white ministers released a statement decrying the activists’ “exaggerated emphasis on wrongs and grievances.” Learn more.
March 28, 1968A peaceful protest march in Memphis, TN led by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and Reverend James Lawson in support of striking city sanitation workers, is interrupted by violence and unprovoked murder by police. City officials estimated that 22,000 students skipped school to participate in the march. Dr. King arrived late to find a massive crowd on the brink of chaos, causing Lawson and King to call off the demonstration as violence erupted. After peacefully marching for several blocks, singing "We Shall Overcome", armed men with iron pipes and bricks, and carrying signs, began smashing windows and looting along the stores. Police immediately reacted to the riot, moving into the crowd with nightsticks, mace, teargas, and gunfire. They arrested 280 individuals and 60 were reported injured, most of them black. Lawson told the demonstration participants to return to Clayborn Temple. The police followed the crowd back to the church where they released tear gas and clubbed people. In the midst of the chaos, a police shot and killed sixteen-year-old Larry Payne. Witnesses said Payne had his hands raised as the officer pressed a shotgun to Payne's stomach and fired it. Five days later, on April 3, 1968, Dr King returned to Memphis and gave the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech a day before his assassination. Learn more.
March 29, 1931Gloria Davy, a rich-voiced (lirico-spinto) soprano who “sang for the sheer joy of singing” and had a four decade career as a concert singer is born. Early in her career she replaced Leontyne Price as Bess in the 1954 international tour of Porgy and Bess. In 1958 Davy broke color barriers when she was chosen for the lead in Aida with the Metropolitan Opera. After moving to Europe she gained international recognition for singing, acting, and teaching. Learn more.
March 29, 1964Several white churches in Jackson, Mississippi barred three Black men—including one minister—from attending Easter Sunday services, forcibly removing them from church or blocking their entrance. Two of the Black men and seven white clergymen who had accompanied them were arrested and jailed after the churches turned them away; their bonds were set at $1,000 each. The day after their arrests, a judge convicted all nine men of “disturbing public worship” and sentenced them each to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Learn more.
March 30, 1870The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments, is certified as duly ratified and part of the Constitution. The Amendment prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." In actual practice, the courts would for the next 3/4 century interpret the amendment so narrowly and so peculiarly as to be nearly meaningless; the interpretations deviated so severely from the plain, clear language of the Amendment that there was no pretense of enforcement. It was not until the second half of the late 20th century that courts began to enforce the plain meaning of the amendment, especially after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Learn more.
March 30, 1908In an all too common incident of the Jim Crow era, a 22 year old Black man named Green Cottenham is arrested and charged with “vagrancy” in Shelby County, Alabama. An offense created at the end of Reconstruction and disproportionately enforced against Black citizens, vagrancy was defined as an inability to prove employment when demanded by a white person. Cottenham was quickly found guilty in a brief appearance before the county judge without a lawyer, and received a sentence of 30 days of hard labor. He was also assessed fees payable to nearly everyone involved in the process, from the sheriff, to the deputy, to the court clerk, to the witnesses. Due to his inability to pay these fees, Mr. Cottenham’s sentence would actually last nearly a year. For that year, Cottenham was leased by Shelby County to the railroad and forced to labor as a coal miner under deadly conditions. The railroad paid the county $12/month for Cottenham’s labor, the proceeds of which were allocated to pay the rigged fees the County assessed on Cottenham. This convict leasing system re-enslaved countless Black people for generations after Emancipation. Learn more.
March 31, 1856Henry Ossian Flipper, an American soldier, engineer, former slave, the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, and author who wrote about scientific topics and his life experiences, is born. After his commissioning, Flipper was assigned to one of the all-black regiments in the U.S. Army, which were historically led by white officers. Assigned to 'A' Troop, he became the first nonwhite officer to lead buffalo soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. Flipper served with competency and distinction during the Apache Wars and the Victorio Campaign. Nonetheless, his military career was cut short by racism. Eventually, he was set up, court-martialed, and dismissed from the U.S. Army. Subsequently, Flipper built a successful career as a civil engineer, advisor to a US Senator, and assistant to the US Secretary of the Interior. In 1994, Flipper’s court-martial was reviewed, found to be unjust, and Flipper was posthumously pardoned. Learn more.
March 31, 1914A white lynch mob in Wagoner County, Oklahoma, seized a 17-year-old Black teenaged girl named Marie Scott from the local jail, dragged her screaming from her cell, and hanged her from a nearby telephone pole. Days before, a young white man named Lemuel Pierce was stabbed to death while he and several other white men were in the city's "colored section"; Marie was accused of being involved. The Associated Press wire report and accounts published by Northern papers explained that the group of white men had ventured into the Black residential area to sexually assault Black women and attempted to rape Marie Scott. Learn more.
April 1, 1875The United States Supreme Court finished hearing arguments in United States v. Cruikshank, a case that asked whether the federal government had the power to punish white men convicted of slaughtering dozens of Black people in Louisiana. Two years earlier, on Easter Sunday, April 13, 1873, hundreds of white men clashed with formerly enslaved Black men at the Grant Parish courthouse in Colfax, Louisiana. It is estimated that nearly 150 Black people died in the ensuing Coalfax Massacre - many murdered in cold blood after surrendering. Only three white men died. After the massacre, the federal government indicted over 100 members of the white mob under the Enforcement Act of 1870, a law was specifically enacted during Reconstruction to protect newly freed Black voters from the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist terrorists. Only three members of the mob were convicted, and they appealed. Nearly one year after hearing arguments, the Supreme Court issued a ruling reversing the criminal convictions of the three white men and holding that that the Bill of Rights did not apply to private actors or to state governments despite the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Cruikshank decision severely limited the federal government's authority to legally enforce Black civil rights and protect Black citizens from racial terror at the hands of mobs intent on enhancing white racial dominance. Learn more.
April 1, 1899Serial African American entrepreneur and successful businessman John Merrick establishes the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (“NC Mutual”, successor to the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Society which he had co-founded the year prior). Born into slavery in Clinton, North Carolina, Merrick founded various companies in the Raleigh, North Carolina and Durham, North Carolina areas. Portions of his wealth were channeled back into the black community through philanthropy. His business acumen and social consciousness made him one of the most influential members of the African-American community in his lifetime. Merrick gained his first business success by founding a chain of barbershops catering to wealthy white men. Merrick parlayed his wealth from the barber business into other ventures that served the Black community, including NC Mutual (thr oldest and largest Black-owned life insurance company), the Mechanics and Farmers Bank (the first bank in Durham owned and controlled by African Americans), and Bull City Drug Company (a much-needed African American drug store in Durham). Learn more.
April 1, 1942Samuel Ray “Chip” Delany Jr., an award-winning African American gay writer, editor, professor, and literary critic, is born. He is the first major African American science fiction writer as well as one of the most influential writers of this genre in the United States. He transformed the field in the 1960s and 1970s with daring and visionary novels. He has published over 40 works. Much of his fiction combines mythology, linguistics, deconstructed gender politics, and a frank treatment of sex. Delany’s best known work, Dhalgren (1975), was based on burned out inner cities and explores the life of a black man considered a sexual predator. It sold over a million copies. Since the 1980s, he has focused more on non-fiction. Delany’s memoir, The Motion of Light In Water, was published in 1988. Delany received four Nebula Awards for science fiction: Babel-17, The Einstein Intersection, and two of his short stories. Hugo Awards went to the novella “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” and his autobiography. He earned the Stonewall Book Award in 2007 for his novel, Dark Reflections. In 2002, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Two lifetime achievement awards have been bestowed upon him: the Bill Whitehead Award for Gay Literature in 1993 and the J. Lloyd Eaton Award in 2010. Learn more.
April 2, 1918Renowned African-Americccan artist Charles Wilbert White, Jr. is born. White was known for his chronicling of African American related subjects in paintings, drawings, lithographs, and murals. Among White's most noted works are:  The Contribution of the Negro to American Democracy , a mural at Hampton University (pictured); J'Accuse, a series of charcoal drawings depicting a variety of African-Americans from all ages and walks of life; the Wanted posters, a series of paintings based on old runaway slave posters; and Homage to Langston Hughes. An early activist, as a teenager, White volunteered his talents and became the house artist at the National Negro Congress in Chicago. Later, in a union with fellow black artists, White was arrested while picketing. White won a grant during the seventh grade to attend Saturday art classes at the Art Institute of Chicago. After reading Alain Locke's book The New Negro: An Interpretation, a critique of the Harlem Renaissance, White's social views changed. He learned after reading Locke's text about important African American figures in American history, and questioned his teachers on why they were not taught to students in school, causing some to label him a "rebel problematic child". White did not graduate from high school, having lost a year due to his refusal to attend class after being disillusioned with the teaching system. While he was encouraged by his art teachers to submit his art works and won various scholarships, these would later be taken away from him as an "error" and given to whites instead. He was admitted to two art schools, each then pulled his acceptance because of his race. White ultimately received a full scholarship to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Learn more.
April 2, 1982Lenell Geter, an aerospace engineer employed by military defense contractor E-Systems, Inc. in Greenville, TX, is falsely convicted of armed robbery of $615 from a Kentucky Fried Chicken (“KFC”) restaurant in Balch Springs, TX and sentenced to life in prison by an all white jury in an expedited trial, despite the testimony of nine co-workers and his supervisor that he was at work 50 miles away from the KFC at the time of the robbery. Following his conviction, Geter’s legal representation was taken over by the NAACP. There was a great deal of public attention and media focus on Geter’s case, including a feature episode of “60 Minutes.” His new attorneys succeeded in showing that some of the police testimony at trial was false and introduced additional evidence that he couldn’t have committed the crime. Geter’s conviction was overturned and, in December 1983, he was released from prison (after having served over 16 months) while awaiting his new trial, which was scheduled to begin on April 9, 1984. Instead of being retried, Geter's indictment was dismissed on March 26, 1984. Geter’s experience of being wrongly convicted is more common than his exoneration approximately 2 years after conviction. Learn more.
April 3, 1944The United States Supreme Court issues a landmark ruling on voting rights in Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944). The decision overturns the Texas state law that authorized political parties to set their internal rules, including the use of whites-only primaries. The court ruled it was unconstitutional for the state to delegate its authority over elections to parties in order to allow discrimination to be practiced. This ruling affected all other states where the parties used the white primary rule. The Democratic Party had effectively excluded minority voter participation by this means, another device for legal disenfranchisement of Blacks across the South beginning in the late 19th century. Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first African American justice on the Supreme Court, led the case as executive director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and stated that it was his most important case. Learn more.
April 3, 1964Malcolm X delivers his “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech in Cleveland, Ohio. In it, he explains his departure from/break with The Nation of Islam and his reason for establishing a separation between his religion and his politics. He also makes clear that those politics are still rooted in black nationalism and that his opposition to the non-violent approach of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King is based on his belief that their efforts will delay and possibly deny forever complete black liberation. Learn more.
April 3, 1968Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, delivers his last public address, popularly known as the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, at the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee. The speech primarily concerns the Memphis Sanitation Strike. King calls for unity, economic actions, boycotts, and nonviolent protest, while challenging the United States to live up to its ideals. At the end of the speech, he discusses the possibility of an untimely death. On the following day, King is assassinated. Learn more.
April 4, 1913Exceptionally innovative and influential African American blues musician Muddy Waters (originally named McKinley Morganfield) is born. He is deemed the “father of modern Chicago blues” and influenced the 1960s generation of England which resulted in the appearance of British blues. Learn more.
April 4, 1928Prolific American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou (original name Marguerite Annie Johnson) is born. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of 17 and brought her international recognition and acclaim. Learn more.
April 4, 1968Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, TN. Learn more.
April 4, 2015Walter Scott is fatally shot in North Charleston, South Carolina, by Michael Slager, a North Charleston police officer. Slager had stopped Scott for a non-functioning brake light. Slager was charged with murder after a video surfaced showing him shooting Scott from behind while Scott was fleeing, which contradicted Slager's report of the incident. Learn more.
April 5, 1839American politician, publisher, businessman, and naval pilot Robert Smalls is born into slavery in Beaufort, South Carolina. Smalls gained renown by freeing himself, his crew, and their families during the American Civil War by commandeering a Confederate transport ship, CSS Planter, in Charleston harbor, on May 13, 1862, and sailing it from Confederate-controlled waters of the harbor to the U.S. blockade that surrounded it. He then piloted the ship to the Union-controlled enclave in Beaufort-Port Royal-Hilton Head area, where it became a Union warship. His example and persuasion helped convince President Abraham Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the Union Army. After the American Civil War Smalls returned to Beaufort and became a politician, winning election as a Republican to the South Carolina Legislature and the United States House of Representatives during the Reconstruction era. Smalls authored state legislation providing for South Carolina to have the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States. He founded the Republican Party of South Carolina. Smalls was the last Republican to represent South Carolina's 5th congressional district until 2011. Learn more.
April 5, 1856African American leader, orator and educator, Booker T. Washington is born into slavery in Hale’s Ford, Virginia. Washington would become one of  America’s most recognized African American leaders by the beginning of the twentieth century. Washington worked his way through Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia (now Hampton University).  He also studied at Wayland Seminary (now Virginia Union University).  On July 4, 1881 Booker T. Washington founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute (now Tuskegee University) located in Tuskegee, Alabama. Learn more.
April 5, 1880In the early hours of the morning, Cadet Johnson Whittaker, one of the first Black students in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was brutally beaten by white cadets while sleeping in his barracks. Three white cadets ambushed Cadet Whittaker, slashed his head and ears, burned his Bible, threatened his life and then left him in his underwear, tied to the bed and bleeding profusely. West Point opened an investigation into Whittaker, declined to hold his white attackers accountable, and charged and convicted Cadet Whittaker of staging the attack to get out of his final exams. After two years in prison, the court martial was overturned by order of US President Chester A. Arthur, but West Point then reinstated Whittaker’s expulsion by claiming he had failed one of his exams. Learn more.
April 5, 1938Prominent educator Walter Eugene Massey is born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  His father, Almar, was a steelworker and his mother, Essie, a teacher.  Massey had an exceptional mind, even at an early age.  By the time he finished 10th grade, his skills in mathematics were strong enough to earn him a college scholarship.  Massey enrolled at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated with a BS in math and physics in 1958. While working on his master’s and doctorate degrees at Washington University in St. Louis, Massey conducted research on the quantum of liquids and solids.  He received a PhD in 1966.  Massey began his teaching career as an associate professor at the University of Illinois then moved to Brown University in 1970, becoming a full professor five years later. Massey became the first African American president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as a director of the National Science Foundation, where he promoted more opportunities for minority students in math, science, and engineering programs at predominately white institutions. Massey also served as chair of the board of directors of Bank of America, chair of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board in 1997, and member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Learn more.
April 6, 1798African American mountain man, fur trader, pioneer, and explorer James Pierson Beckwourth is born. He was famously known as "Bloody Arm" because of his skill as a fighter. Born into slavery in Virginia, he was freed by his white father (and master), and as a young man moved to the American West, first making connections with fur traders in St. Louis, Missouri. As a fur trapper, he lived with the Crow Nation for years. He is credited with the discovery of Beckwourth Pass, through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, between present-day Reno, Nevada, and Portola, California, during the California Gold Rush years. He improved the Beckwourth Trail, enabling thousands of settlers to arrive in central California. Beckwourth narrated his life story in a book published in New York City and London in 1856 as The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth: Mountaineer, Scout and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians. A translation was published in France in 1860. Learn more.
April 6, 1909Matthew Alexander Henson is the first member of the first expedition to reach the geographic North Pole. Henson collaborated with Robert Peary on seven voyages to the Arctic over a period of nearly 23 years, spending a total of 18 years on expeditions together. Henson achieved a degree of fame as a result of participating in the expedition, and in 1912 he published a memoir titled A Negro Explorer at the North Pole. As he approached old age, his exploits received renewed attention. In 1937 he was the first African American to be made a life member of The Explorers Club; in 1948 he was elevated to the club's highest level of membership. In 1944 Henson was awarded the Peary Polar Expedition Medal, and he was received at the White House by Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. In 1988 he and his wife were re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery. In 2000 Henson was posthumously awarded the Hubbard Medal by the National Geographic Society. Learn more.
April 7, 1712The first revolt against slavery in New York City takes place. Between twenty-five and fifty enslaved Blacks congregated at midnight. With guns, swords and knives in hand, they first set fire to an outhouse then fired shots at several white slave owners, who had raced to scene to fight the fire. By the end of the night, nine whites were killed and six whites were injured. The next day the governor of New York ordered the New York and Westchester militias to “drive the island.” With the exception of six rebels who committed suicide before they were apprehended, all of the rebels were captured and tortured, most to death, with ferocity ranging from being burned alive to being broken at the wheel. Learn more.
April 7, 1872Newspaper editor, Boston real estate businessman, and African-American civil rights activist William Monroe Trotter (sometimes just Monroe Trotter) is born. Trotter earned his graduate and post-graduate degrees at Harvard University, and was the first man of color to earn a Phi Beta Kappa key there. Seeing an increase in segregation in northern facilities, he began to engage in a life of activism, to which he devoted his assets. Trotter was an early opponent of Booker T. Washington’s accommodationist policies, and in 1901 founded the Boston Guardian, an independent African-American newspaper he used to express that opposition. He joined with W. E. B. Du Bois in founding the Niagara Movement in 1905, a forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). His protest activities were sometimes seen to be at cross purposes to those of the NAACP. In 1914, he had a highly publicized meeting with President Woodrow Wilson, in which he protested Wilson's introduction of segregation into the federal workplace. In Boston, Trotter succeeded in shutting down productions of The Clansman in 1910, but he was unsuccessful in 1915 with screenings of the movie The Birth of a Nation, which also portrayed the Ku Klux Klan in favorable terms. In 1921, in an alliance with Roman Catholics, he got a revival screening of The Birth of a Nation banned. He died on his 62nd birthday. Learn more.
April 7, 1885Granville T. Woods, a leading inventor of the 19th and early 20th centuries, patents an apparatus for transmission of messages by using electricity. Woods’s Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph enabled communications from moving trains, completely changing the operation of the railway system. The invention dramatically improved the safety and reliability of America’s transportation system, saving perhaps thousands of lives, by allowing trains to communicate with each other while moving on the rails.  Woods sold his telegraphony invention which was a system in which a telegraph station could use a single wire to send messages by voice and telegraph to American Bell Telephone Company. Learn more.
April 7, 1915Eleanora Fagan, known professionally as Billie Holiday, is born. An American jazz and swing music singer nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and music partner Lester Young, Holiday had an innovative influence on jazz music and popsinging. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She was known for her vocal delivery and improvisational skills. Learn more.
April 8, 1872Playwright and educator Ruth Ada Gaines-Shelton is born in Glasgow, Missouri. Gaines-Shelton was raised by her father, a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. She graduated from Wilberforce University in 1895 and went on to teach school in Montgomery, Missouri. Ruth Gaines-Shelton plays were part of the Harlem Renaissance. She is best known for her allegorical comedy The Church Fight, written in 1925. Unique and innovative for its era, The Church Fight does not deal with the relationship between different racial communities, but rather is totally centered around the black experience, written for a black audience. Many of Gaines-Shelton's plays were written for her own church and women's clubs. Not all of her plays have survived with many of her manuscripts lost and unpublished. Learn more.
April 8, 1920American jazz singer Carmen Mercedes McRae is born. She is considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century and is remembered for her behind-the-beat phrasing and ironic interpretation of lyrics. McRae was born in Harlem, New York City, United States. Her father, Osmond, and mother, Evadne (Gayle) McRae, were immigrants from Jamaica. She began studying piano when she was eight, and the music of jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington filled her home. When she was 17 years old, she met singer Billie Holiday. As a teenager McRae came to the attention of Teddy Wilson and his wife, the composer Irene Kitchings. One of McRae's early songs, "Dream of Life", was, through their influence, recorded in 1939 by Wilson’s long-time collaborator Billie Holiday. McRae considered Holiday to be her primary influence. Learn more.
April 8, 1960The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the principal channel of student commitment in the United States to the civil rights movement during the 1960s, is formed. Emerging from the student-led sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee, the SNCC sought to coordinate and assist direct-action challenges to the civic segregation and political exclusion of African Americans. From 1962, with the support of the Voter Education Project, SNCC committed to the registration and mobilization of black voters in the Deep South. Affiliates such as the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in Alabama increased dramatically the pressure on federal and state government to enforce constitutional protections. Learn more.
April 9, 1775Free Blacks fight with the Minutemen in the opening skirmishes of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord. Learn more.
April 9, 1887Florence Beatrice Price (née Smith) is born. A classical composer, pianist, organist and music teacher, Price is noted as the first African-American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra. In 1932, Price submitted compositions for the Wanamaker Foundation Awards. Price won first prize with her Symphony in E minor, and third for her Piano Sonata. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frederick Stock, premiered the Symphony on June 15, 1933, making Price’s piece the first composition by an African-American woman to be played by a major orchestra. A number of Price's other orchestral works were played by the WPA Symphony Orchestra of Detroit, the Chicago Women’s Symphony, and the Women's Symphony Orchestra of Chicago. Price wrote other extended works for orchestra, chamber works, art songs, works for violin, organ anthems, piano pieces, spiritual arrangements, four symphonies, three piano concertos, and a violin concerto. Some of her more popular works are: "Three Little Negro Dances," "Songs to the Dark Virgin", "My Soul's Been Anchored in the Lord" for piano or orchestra and voice, and "Moon Bridge". Price made considerable use of characteristic African-American melodies and rhythms in many of her works. Her Concert Overture on Negro Spirituals, Symphony in E minor, and Negro Folksongs in Counterpoint for string quartet, all serve as excellent examples of her idiomatic work. Price was inducted into the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in 1940 for her work as a composer. In 1949, Price published two of her spiritual arrangements, "I Am Bound for the Kingdom," and "I'm Workin’ on My Buildin'", and dedicated them to Marian Anderson, who performed them on a regular basis. Learn more.
April 9, 1898Paul Leroy Robeson is born. An American bass baritone concert artist and stage and film actor, Robeson became famous both for his cultural accomplishments and for his political activism. Educated at Rutgers College and Columbia University, he was a star athlete in his youth. Robeson also studied Swahili and phonetics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 1934. His political activities began with his involvement with unemployed workers and anti-imperialist students whom he met in Britain and continued with support for the Republican cause in the Spanish Civil War and his opposition to fascism. In the United States he became active in the Civil Rights Movement and other social justice campaigns. Learn more.
April 9, 1939Marian Anderson gives a concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC before a crowd of 75,000 people in attendance and millions more listening over the radio. The greatest opera singer of her day, lauded by European nobility and called by great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini a voice heard “once in a hundred years,”Anderson had previously been denied rental of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall and all the local public school auditoriums owing to their whites-only policies. Sixteen years after the Lincoln Memorial concert, Ms. Anderson performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1955, becoming the first Black artist to do so. Throughout her career, Ms. Anderson continued to perform all over the world while also lending her talent to the struggle against racial injustice. The granddaughter of Black people once enslaved in Virginia, she sang at the March on Washington in 1963, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom that same year. Learn more.
April 10, 1822African-American poet, abolitionist, and political activist James Monroe Whitfield is born. A notable writer and activist in abolitionism and African emigration during the antebellum era, he published the book "America and other poems" in 1853, which is still in print. Learn more.
April 10, 1956While performing before an all-white audience of 4,000 at the Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama, African American singer and pianist Nat King Cole is attacked and knocked down by a group of white men. Before the attack, a drunk man near the front row jeered at Mr. Cole, "Negro, go home." Outside the arena, police later found a car containing rifles, a blackjack, and brass knuckles. Learn more.
April 11, 1899Percy Lavon Julian, PhD, research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants, is born. Dr. Julian was the first to synthesize the natural product physostigmine and was a pioneer in the industrial large-scale chemical synthesis of the human hormones progesterone and testosterone from plant sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol. His work laid the foundation for the steroid drug industry's production of cortisone, other corticosteroids, and birth control pills. He later started his own company to synthesize steroid intermediates from the wild Mexican yam. His work helped greatly reduce the cost of steroid intermediates to large multinational pharmaceutical companies, helping to significantly expand the use of several important drugs. Julian received more than 130 chemical patents. He was the first African-American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences, and the second African-American scientist inducted (after David Blackwell) from any field. Learn more.
April 11, 1913Recently inaugurated President Woodrow Wilson receives Postmaster General Albert Burleson's plan to segregate the Railway Mail Service. Burleson reported that he found it “intolerable” that white and Black employees had to work together and share drinking glasses and washrooms. This sentiment was shared by others in Wilson's administration; William McAdoo, Secretary of the Treasury, argued that segregation was necessary “to remove the causes of complaint and irritation where white women have been forced unnecessarily to sit at desks with colored men.”By the end of 1913, Black employees in several federal departments had been relegated to separate or screened-off work areas and segregated lavatories and lunchrooms. In addition to physical separation from white workers, Black employees were appointed to menial positions or reassigned to divisions slated for elimination. The government also began requiring photographs on civil service applications, to better enable racial screening. Meanwhile, segregation in federal employment was seen as a significant blow to Black Americans' rights and seemed to signify official Presidential approval of Jim Crow policies in the South. Wilson's aggressive segregation of the federal government was an extreme betrayal of African Americans, many of whom had split from the Republican Party to back Democratic Party-candidate Wilson in the 1912 election based on his repeated campaign assurances to Black leaders. Learn more here, here, and here.
April 12, 1825Reverend Richard Harvey Cain is born. Cain was a  minister, abolitionist, and United States Representative from South Carolina from 1873–1875 and 1877-1879. After the Civil War, he was appointed by Bishop Daniel Payne as a missionaryof the African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. He also was one of the founders of Lincolnville, South Carolina. Learn more.
April 12, 1864Rebel troops commanded by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest commit the Fort Pillow Massacre, murdering several hundred Union soldiers, the vast majority of whom were Black, after they had already surrendered. Forrest, who after the war become the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, initially described a river as “dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for 200 yards,” and his field commander bragged that his men had taught “the mongrel garrison” a memorable lesson; later, Forrest and his staff later either denied there was a massacre or blamed it on the garrison itself. The Fort Pillow affair became a target of Southern revisionists, and many reference works balk at deeming the battle a massacre. But recent accounts drawn from primary sources conclude emphatically that a massacre did indeed transpire, and that Forrest’s field officers did little to stop it, for which Forrest himself bears the ultimate responsibility. Learn more here and here.
April 15, 1889Birthday of A. Philip Randolph, early civil rights leader and labor organizer. Among his many accomplishments, Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (the first recognized Black labor union), convinced FDR to ban racial discriminatory hiring among defense contractors, and convinced President Truman to end segregation in the military. Learn more.
April 23, 1856Prolific inventor Granville Tailer Woods, who held more than 60 patents in the U.S., is born. He was the first African American mechanical and electrical engineer after the Civil War. Self-taught, he concentrated most of his work on trains and streetcars. One of his notable inventions was a device he called the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph, a variation of induction telegraph which relied on ambient static electricity from existing telegraph lines to send messages between train stations and moving trains. His work assured a safer and better public transportation system for the cities of the United States. Woods was described as an articulate and well-spoken man, as meticulous and stylish in his choice of clothing, and as a man who preferred to dress in black. At times, he would refer to himself as an immigrant from Australia, in the belief that he would be given more respect if people thought he was from a foreign country, as opposed to being an African American. Black newspapers of the day expressed pride in his achievements, saying he was "the greatest of Negro inventors". In 1887, Woods patented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph which allowed communications between train stations from moving trains by creating a magnetic field around a coiled wire under the train. Woods caught smallpox prior to patenting the technology and Lucius Phelps patented it in 1884. In 1887, Woods used notes, sketches and a working model of the invention to secure the patent. The invention was so successful that Woods began the Woods Electric Company in Cincinnati, Ohio to market and sell his patents. However, the company quickly became devoted to invention creation until it dissolved in 1893. Thomas Edison later filed a claim to the ownership of this patent, stating that he had first created a similar telegraph and that he was entitled to the patent for the device, and Woods often had difficulties in enjoying his success as other inventors made claims to his devices. Woods was twice successful in defending himself, proving that there were no other devices upon which he could have depended or relied upon to make his device. After Thomas Edison's second defeat, he decided to offer Granville Woods a position with the Edison Company, but Granville declined. Learn more.
May 8, 1925The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first successful black trade union, is organized by A. Philip Randolph. Learn more.
May 17, 1893Frederick McKinley Jones an American inventor, entrepreneur, winner of the National Medal of Technology, and an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame is born to a white father and Black mother. Deserted and orphaned as a child, Jones got a job first as a cleaning boy at age 11 and by age 14 he was working as an automobile mechanic. He boosted his natural mechanical ability and inventive mind with independent reading and study. After service with the U.S. Army in World War I, Jones taught himself electronics. His innovations in refrigeration brought great improvement to the long-haul transportation of perishable goods. He co-founded Thermo King. During his life, Jones was awarded 61 patents. Forty were for refrigeration equipment, while others went for portable X-ray machines, sound equipment, and gasoline engines. Learn more.
September 4, 1816The African Methodist Episcopal Church is organized at the first independent black denomination in the United States. Learn more.

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