Week of September 26-October 2
1867—Maggie L. Walker is born. She would become the most prominent Black businesswoman in the Richmond, Va., area and one of the wealthiest Black women in the nation. She also became the first Black woman to establish a bank in the nation. A social activist, she would help establish the Lilly Black political party in part as a slap at the “Lilly White” political parties of the day.
1907—The People’s Savings Bank is incorporated in Philadelphia by one of the nation’s early Black Congressman George H. White. White had been pretty much forced out of Congress as Jim Crow laws led to the increasing disenfranchisement of Black voters after Reconstruction. After leaving Congress, he turned his attention to Black economic advancement. His bank helped thousands of Blacks buy homes.
1929—Ida Stephens Owens is born. She would become the nation’s first Black female bio-chemist.
1937—Blues great Bessie Smith dies of injuries sustained in an automobile accident near Clarksdale, Miss. Rumors spread that White medics refused to treat her. However, later information did cast doubt on the accuracy of those rumors.
1817—Hiram R. Revels is born free in Fayetteville, N.C. Revels becomes the first Black to serve in the United States Senate shortly after the Civil War.
1876—Edward Mitchell Bannister upsets racist Whites who believe Blacks have no artistic skill by winning a bronze medal for a painting he displayed at the American Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
1950—Gwendolyn Brooks is awarded Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry —“Annie Allen.” She was the first Black so honored. Brooks published her first poem in a children’s magazine, “American Childhood,” when she was 13 years old. By the time she was 16, she had compiled a portfolio of around 75 published poems and had her work critiqued by poet and novelist James Weldon Johnson. At 17, she started submitting her work to “Lights and Shadows,” the poetry column of the Chicago Defender, an African-American newspaper. Her poems, many published while she attended Wilson Junior College, ranged in style from traditional ballads and sonnets to poems using blues rhythms in free verse.
1950—Ralph J. Bunche is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in mediating a conflict between Palestinians and the newly established Jewish state of Israel. Arabs had gone to war arguing the Jewish state had been established on land which rightfully belonged to the Palestinians.
1785—Abolitionist and writer David Walker is born. Walker is best known for his powerful anti-slavery pamphlet “David Walker’s Appeal.” The “Appeal” was published on this same day in 1829.
1833—Reverend Lemuel Haynes dies at 88. He was one of the leading Black veterans of America’s war for independence from England.
1868—The Opelousas Massacre occurs. Racist Whites launch a terror campaign in St. Landry Parrish, La., resulting in the deaths of at least 200 Blacks.
1895—The National Baptist Convention is founded.
1991—Jazz Trumpeter Miles Davis dies in Santa Monica, Calif., of a stroke. He was 65.
1784—First African-American Masonic lodge is established by Prince Hall. Hall headed lodge number 459 and was referred to as the “Worshipful Master.” He would also become a leading figure in the struggle for African-Americans rights during this early period in U.S. history.
1940—The first U.S. merchant ship commanded by a Black captain—Hugh Mulzac—is launched in Wilmington, Del. The ship is named the “Booker T. Washington.”
1962—President John F. Kennedy finally sends federal troops to force the integration of the University of Mississippi.
1975—The nation’s first Black-owned television station—WGPR—begins broadcasting in Detroit.
1979—William Arthur Lewis, economics professor at Princeton University, becomes the first Black to receive a Nobel Prize in Economics.
2001—Mabel Fairbanks dies at 85. She was the first Black woman to be inducted into the Figure Skating Hall of Fame. She coached Olympic greats Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner.
1841—Fannie M. Richards is born. She becomes one of the nation’s early civil rights advocates as well as a prominent educator.
1868—John Mercer Langston (1829-1897) organizes the nation’s first Black law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Largely forgotten today, Langston was a major Black political figure during his day. He was one of the nation’s first African-American lawyers, elected political officials and he influenced Black education throughout the country. The town of Langston, Okla., is named in his honor.
1872—Morgan State College is founded in Maryland.
1937—The NAACP awards the prestigious Spingarn Medal to Walter White for his work against lynching. The light complexioned White had “passed for White” to gather evidence against terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.
1960—Africa’s most populous nation-Nigeria-declares its independence from colonial rule.
1966—The militant Black Panther Party is founded in Oakland, Calif., by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.
1800—Nat Turner is born on this day in South Hampton, Va. The spiritually inspired Turner would organize and carry out one of the deadliest slave revolts in American history. His rebellion led to the deaths of 57 Whites including men, women and children.
1937—Famed attorney Johnnie Cochran is born on this day in Shreveport, La. He was the lead-attorney in the 1995 murder trial which resulted in the not guilty verdict for football legend O.J. Simpson. In addition to Simpson, Cochran was involved in several other high profile cases. He died on March 29, 2005 at the age of 67.
1967—Thurgood Marshall is sworn in as the first Black justice on the United States Supreme Court. President Lyndon Johnson had nominated him in part because of his distinguished career in the NAACP fighting to desegregate American institutions. Marshall had been the lead attorney in the historic Brown v. Board of Education case which led to the desegregation of the nation’s schools.
1986—The U.S. Senate imposes economic sanctions on the then White minority government in South Africa. The sanctions were imposed only after the Senate overrode a veto of the measure by President Ronald Reagan. Reagan had angered Blacks and progressive Whites by favoring a policy he referred to as “constructive engagement” with the racist South African regime. Black majority rule was not achieved in South Africa until 1994.
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