Week of Dec. 14-20, 2015
1799—The first President of the United States George Washington dies. In his will the “founding father” stipulated that his slaves shall be freed upon the death of his wife Martha. Washington was a wealthy Virginian who supported slavery but did not want to see it expanded. In this regard, he signed the notorious Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 but also signed legislation barring the expansion of slavery into the Northwest Territories. Upon her death, Martha Washington also freed the slaves she owned. One Washington slave is known to have escaped and was never recaptured. His name was Ona Judge Staines.
1915—Jack Johnson, perhaps the most controversial Black boxer in American history, wins the heavy weight championship. He fought at least 114 matches winning most of them. One biographer described Johnson as a man who “lived life his way.” But his outspokenness and affairs with White women ran him afoul of the racist authorities of the day. He was jailed for nearly a year in 1913 on trumped up charges. He fought his last match in 1928. After boxing he became a sensation on Broadway in the play “Great White Hope.” Born in Galveston, Texas, Johnson (full name Arthur John Johnson) died in Raleigh, N.C., as a result of an automobile accident. For reasons which remain unclear, President Obama has delayed granting Johnson a pardon on his 1913 conviction even though the measure has little opposition.