1872—Activist and fiery journalist William Monroe Trotter is born on this day in Boston, Mass. A close friend of W.E.B. Du Bois, Trotter was one of the most militant Black leaders of the late 1800s and early 1900s. He helped found the Niagara Movement, which led to the establishment of the NAACP but then refused to join, claiming the group was too moderate and elitist. He was also a leading opponent of the accommodating policies of Booker T. Washington. Trotter’s primary vehicle of expression was his newspaper—the Boston Guardian.
1818—Military leader Andrew Jackson (later president) leads the defeat of a force of Indians and Blacks at the Battle of Suwanee, bringing an end to the First Seminole War. The Seminoles had been the target of a government military campaign because they possessed lands, which Whites in Florida greatly desired, and because they had provided safe haven for escaped slaves. Indeed, Blacks such as John Horse would become major Seminole leaders. It would take at least two more major military campaigns before the Seminoles and their Black allies lost possession of those lands.
1977—Alex Haley, author of “Roots,” is awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
1910—The National Urban League is formed in New York City. It was born out of a merger of the National League for the Protection of Colored Women, National League on Urban Conditions among Negroes and remnants of the Niagara Movement which had earlier help found the NAACP. Among the leading organizers were Ruth Standish Baldwin and George Edmund Haynes. The organization was founded in part to be more focused on economic issues affecting Blacks than the NAACP. Today, it is generally considered the nation’s second most powerful civil rights organization after the NAACP.
1971—Walter Fauntroy becomes the first elected Congressional representative from the predominantly Black District of Columbia since Reconstruction. However, Fauntroy did not have voting rights. Indeed, down to this day, the Congressional Representative from Washington, D.C., is still not allowed to vote on major legislation. This bar was once common among capitol cities. But today, America stands virtually alone among major nations in barring the residents of its capitol city from having a voting representative in its national legislature. Critics argue that the bar continues because the city is majority African-American.
1978—Max Robinson becomes the first African-American anchor of a major network television news program when he begins co-anchoring ABC nightly news from Chicago. The Richmond, Va., native died of AIDS in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 20, 1988.