1967—President Lyndon B. Johnson nominates former NAACP Chief Counsel Thurgood Marshall to be the first Black justice on the United States Supreme Court. He said of his decision, it “was the right thing to do, the right time to do it.” Marshall had been a towering figure in the legal battles against segregation including lead counsel in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case. The Senate would confirm the nomination Aug. 30. An aside: Marshall’s original name was Thoroughgood but he shortened it to Thurgood.
1811—White anti-slavery activist Harriet Beecher Stowe is born. Stowe was the author of one of the best selling books of 1852—“Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The book addressed the brutality of slavery and featured the character of “Uncle Tom”—a slave who, perhaps unfairly, came to symbolize the accommodating Black person who showed complete deference to Whites. The book was such an indictment of slavery that when President Abraham Lincoln met Stowe he remarked, “You’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great [civil] war.”
1970—Cheryl Adrienne Brown wins the Miss Iowa pageant and becomes the first African-American to compete in the Miss America beauty pageant.
1864—Gen. Ulysses S. Grant outfoxed Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee by switching an attack strategy from Cold Harbor to Petersburg, Va. The assault, spearheaded by Gen. Charles Paine, knocked a mile-wide hole in Lee’s defenses and resulted in the capture of hundreds of rebel soldiers and helped speed up the end of the Civil War. Several Black regiments were involved in the assault and siege. Grant would later become the 18th president of the United States and use his office to deal a series of crushing blows to the rapidly growing forces of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1870s.
1877—Henry O. Flippea becomes the first Black graduate of the U.S. military academy at West Point.
1921—Bessie Coleman becomes the first woman of any race to obtain an international pilot’s license. But she had to leave the United States and study in France in order to accomplish her goal. She was barred from U.S. flight schools because of her race and her sex. Born in a small town called Atlanta, Texas, Coleman would move to Chicago where she was influenced by several prominent Blacks including Robert S. Abbott, publisher of the Chicago Defender. When she returned to the U.S. from France, Hollywood wanted to do a movie about her amazing feat. She walked off the set because she felt the film actually degraded Blacks. Coleman died in a plane accident April 30, 1926.