Week of July 16-22
1862—Crusading journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett is born in Holly Springs, Miss. Wells-Barnett was a true militant activist. Her editorials so angered Whites in the Memphis, Tenn., area that a mob burned down the building which housed her newspaper. She was also one of the original founders of the NAACP and in 1884 she committed a “Rosa Parks” type act when she refused an order to give up her seat on a train to a White man. It took the conductor and two other men to remove her from the seat and throw her off the train.
1882—Violette A. Johnson is born. She would become the first Black female attorney allowed to practice before the United States Supreme Court.
1794—Former slave and Min. Richard Allen officially dedicated the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, Pa. The church was the first all-Black denomination not affiliated with a larger White congregation. The incident leading to the dedication took place in 1787 when Allen, Absalom Jones and several other Blacks were thrown out of Philadelphia’s St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church when they attempted to pray along-side Whites. The AME Church would go on to become one of the largest Black religious denominations in America.
1862—As the Southern, pro-slavery rebels prove more difficult in battle than expected, Congress passes a law giving President Abraham Lincoln the authority to begin recruiting free Blacks and recently freed slaves into military service during the Civil War.
1911—Frank M. Snowden is born in York County, Va. The Harvard educated Snowden would become a prominent professor at Washington, D.C.’s, Howard University and a leading authority on Blacks in ancient history. His major works include “Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman Experience” and “Before Color Prejudice: The Ancient View of Blacks.” Snowden documented that “Ethiopians pioneered religion” and played a major role in the development of the greatness of ancient Egypt. Snowden also showed that Blacks influenced the development of both ancient Greek and Roman societies working in capacities ranging from musicians to scholars. Snowden died in February 2007 at the age of 95.
1942—Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali is born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Ky. Ali would join the Nation of Islam and become a major opponent of the U.S. war in Vietnam. He would later split with Malcolm X when Malcolm broke away from the Nation of Islam.
1944—The so-called Port of Chicago Mutiny takes place. In the middle of America’s involvement in World War II, an ammunitions depot at Port Chicago, Calif., explodes killing 320 men—most of them Black. It was the worse stateside disaster in U.S. military history. However, when 258 surviving Black soldiers refused to return to work until they received certain safety guarantees, their refusal was labeled a mutiny by military authorities. Fifty of the soldiers were convicted of mutiny and jailed. However, after the war, President Harry S. Truman commuted their sentences.