Week of June 15-21
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.