Prince Hall, founder of the first African American Masonic lodge and one of the
nation’s most influential Blacks during the 1700s, and others petitioned the Massachusetts legislative for funds to return to Africa. The plan is the first recorded effort by African
Americans to return to their homeland. Although Hall had become a reasonably
wealthy free Black man, the petition also reflected his growing frustration
with the slow progress of Blacks in America.
Benjamin Lundy was born on
this date. He was an American abolitionist and news publisher.
From Sussex County, New Jersey he was raised
a Quaker. Lundy was working as a saddle maker in Wheeling, Vermont,
when he first became troubled about the morality of the slave trade. In 1815 he
created the Union Humane Society. In 1821, he began publishing the anti-slavery
newspaper, Genius of Universal Emancipation. In 1829, Lundy brought on William
Lloyd Garrison as co-editor before he moved to Boston and began the Liberator.
In 1835, Lundy created another newspaper in Pennsylvania, The National Enquirer. Other
ways his abolition took roots were havens for freedom. He traveled extensively
searching for suitable places where runaway slaves could settle. In 1839
Benjamin Lundy moved to Illinois,
restoring his first newspaper, which he published until his death on August 22,
A major insurrection of slaves on Trinidad occurs.
Weekly Advocate, the second major Black newspaper, was established in New York by Samuel Ennalls
and Philip A. Bell.
Selena Sloan Butler was born on
this date. She was an African-American educator and community leader.
From Thomasville, Georgia, she spent her childhood
years with her mother and older sister. Her father offered support but did not
reside with the family. After receiving an elementary education from
missionaries, she enrolled in Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College).
After receiving her diploma in 1888, she taught English and elocution in Georgia and Florida. In 1893 she married Henry
Rutherford Butler. They moved to Massachusetts
the following year, and she studied at the Emerson School of Oratory while he
pursued medical studies at Harvard.
He later set up practice in Atlanta and became a
partner in Georgia’s
first African American-owned drugstore. Butler’s
interest in education intensified following the birth of her son (Henry Jr.) in
1899. Her community lacked a kindergarten for African American children, so she
created one in her living room. During her son’s enrollment at a local public
school, she formed the nation’s first African American parent-teacher
association. Its success led her to create the statewide Georgia Colored
Parent-Teacher Association in 1920 and the National Colored Congress of Parents
and Teachers (NCCPT) in 1926.
The national group worked closely with its white counterpart, the National
Congress of Parents and Teachers (commonly called the National PTA). When the
two groups merged in 1970, Butler
along with Alice McLellan Birney and Phoebe Apperson Hearst were recognized as
one of the founders of the National PTA. In 1929 (then) President Herbert
Hoover appointed Butler
to the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection. She also was
involved with the National Association of Colored Women, the Georgia Federation
of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Georgia Commission on Interracial Cooperation,
and several other social organizations. Following her husband’s death in 1931, Butler moved to England with her son and worked with
the Nursery School Association.
They later lived in Arizona, where she
organized a Grey Lady Corps at the hospital in which Henry Jr. practiced until
he married and moved to California.
After a few years living in Atlanta, she joined
her son and his wife in Los Angeles.
She died of congestive heart failure in October 1964. The Atlanta school where she developed the first
African American parent-teacher association was renamed in honor of her
husband, and the adjacent park was renamed in her honor. Slena Sloan Butler’s
portrait hangs in Georgia’s
G. Ish, Jr., educator and insurance executive, was born in Little
Rock, AR. Ish was president of the Arkansas State Agricultural,
Mechanical and Normal College in Pine
Bluff (1915-21). At the time of his death, he was
vice-chairman of the board of Supreme Life Insurance Co.
Cyril Lional Robert James was born on this date. He was a black activist, writer, publisher,
Marxist social critic, and activist who deeply influenced the intellectual
underpinnings of West Indian and African movements for independence.
The son of a schoolteacher from colonial Tunapuna, Trinidad,
he was influenced by his mother who was an avid reader. James was a gifted
child who, at the age of six or nine, won a scholarship to Queens Royal
College, in Port
of Spain, Trinidad. He graduated
in 1918. After college, James worked as a school teacher and as a cricket
reporter. During this time he also wrote two novels, La Divina Pastora (1927) and Triumph
(1929). With an interest in politics, he wrote a biography of the Trinidadian
labor leader, Arthur Cipriani. This book, Life
of Captain Cipriani was published in 1929.
In 1932, he immigrated to England
where he reported cricket matches for the Manchester Guardian. Politically,
James was a strong supporter of West Indian independence. To this, he applied
Leon Trotsky’s views about a worldwide workers’ revolution. The result, in
part, was The Life of Captain Cipriani:
An Account of British Government in the West Indies (1932), in which he
called for Caribbean independence. A pamphlet
that he wrote, The Case for West Indian
Self-Government, was published in 1933. James moved to London and, during this period, he became
involved in socialist politics, gravitating toward a faction of anti-Stalinist
Marxists where he studied Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Leon Trotsky. He
initially joined the Independent Labor Party (ILP) and became chairman of its
Finchley branch. He also wrote for left-wing journals such as the New Leader
and Controversy. When James became a Marxist, he left the ILP and formed the
Revolutionary Socialist League. As a follower of Trotsky, James was highly
critical of the government of Joseph Stalin and the British Communist Party. In
1936 James published Minty Alley. The
novel was based on his childhood in Trinidad. He also wrote a play about
Toussaint L’ouverture, the leader of the Haitian revolution and, in 1936, Paul
Robeson played the leading role at its production at the Westminster Theatre.
James published several books on politics including Abyssinia and the Imperialists (1936), World Revolution 1917-1936 (1937). This historical account was
highly critical of Stalin’s 1924 pronouncement, “Socialism in One Country” and
provided support for the ideas of Leon Trotsky. His study of the Haitian
revolution, The Black Jacobins, was
published in 1938. James moved to the America in 1938. There he lectured on
political issues and continued to publish books about politics including Dialectical Materialism and the Fate of
Humanity (1947), Notes on Dialectics
(1948), The Revolutionary Answer to the
Negro Problem in the USA (1948), State
Capitalism and World Revolution (1950), and The Class Struggle (1950).
James also wrote at length about the work of Walt Whitman and Herman
Melville. While in America, his Marxist writings of James upset Joseph McCarthy
and fellow right-wingers and he was eventually deported. James lived for a
while in Africa, but, in 1958, returned to the West Indies. Influenced by the
events of the Hungarian Up-Rising in 1956, his book Facing Reality (1958) revealed disillusionment with both Communism
and Trotskyism. Soon after, he worked on a biography of George Padmore and
parts of the book appeared in The Nation Journal.
He influenced Padmore, pan-Africanist, and African leader Kwame Nkrumah. In
1963, James published Beyond a Boundary.
This was a combination autobiography and an analysis of sport and politics.
Other books by James include Radical
America (1970), Nkrumah and the Ghana
Revolution (1977), and three volumes of his collected works appeared as The Future in the Present (1977), Spheres of Existence (1980), and At the Rendezvous of Victory (1984). Over
time, he played a major intellectual role in the Black Power movement of the
1960s. For a time in the 1970s he taught at Federal City College in Washington,
Cyril Lional Robert James moved back to London where he died in May 31,
William Claytor was born on this date. He was an African-American mathematician and
Born in Norfolk, Virginia William Waldron Schiefflin Claytor earned his A.B.
and M.A. from Howard University. He went on to earn his Ph.D. from the
University of Pennsylvania in 1933. Claytor was a brilliant student. While at
Penn, he won a Harrison Scholarship in Mathematics in his second year, and took
the most prestigious award offered at Penn at that time, a Harrison Fellowship
in Mathematics, in his third and final year of graduate studies. Claytor’s
dissertation delighted the Penn faculty, for it provided a significant advance
in the theory of Peano continua — a branch of point-set topology. He was the
third African American to earn a Ph.D. in Mathematics.
In 1937, he was awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship and pursued post-doctoral
studies at the University of Michigan where Claytor had great promise as a
researcher in mathematics. However, when a position opened U. Michigan would
not offer it to him; the student newspaper took up the issue with no change.
Around this time, R. L. Moore was one of the dominant figures of Mathematics in
the U.S. Even as late as the 1960s and 70s he was such a racist he even
prohibited Blacks from attending his classes.
In the 1930s and 1940s the math was filled with racist mathematicians. Moore’s
field of Mathematics was Topology, as was Claytor’s. Dr. Claytor did make
presentations at meetings of the American Mathematical Society, yet was never
allowed to stay in the hotel where the meetings were held. Instead local Blacks
had to find him lodging. For years afterwards, many tried to get Claytor to
participate in meetings of the American Mathematics Society, but had grown
bitter. During World War II, Claytor served in the Army where he taught
Anti-Aircraft Artillery. It was here in 1941 that Claytor first met David
Blackwell at Chanute Field, about near Urbana, Illinois. The impression
Blackwell formed about Claytor’s mathematical genius was immense and in 1947,
the year that he became Chairman of the Mathematics Department at Howard
University, Claytor was brought to Howard.
Soon after Claytor, met and married Dr. Mae Pullins, a lover of Mathematics
though her Ph.D. was in Psychology. Claytor remained at Howard until his
retirement in 1965. Two years later William Claytor died (1967). In 1980, the
National Association of Mathematicians instituted the Claytor Lecture; a
lecture series in honor of W. W. Schieffelin Claytor. With 18 to 21 teaching
hours per week, and, later, as Chair of the Department of Mathematics at Howard
University, Dr. Claytor worked for years as a researcher publishing but two
papers: Topological Immersion of Peanian
Continua in a Spherical surface, Annals of Mathematics 35 (1934), 809-835. Peanian Continua Not Embeddable in a
Spherical Surface, Annals of Mathematics 38 (1937), 631-636.
Slim Gaillard, was born
on this date. He was an African-American singer, guitarist, pianist, vibist,
tenor saxophonist, and composer.
He made a name for himself as one half of the famous Slim & Slam, with
bassist Slam Stewart. From Detroit, Gaillard emerged in a big way in the mid
1930s as part of a variety act, tap dancing as he played his guitar. From
1938-‘43, he did the Slim & Slam act with Stewart, heard on a WNEW radio
show. Gaillard’s routines centered around humor, alliteration and much
wordplay, as he entertained on such subjects as food, machinery and nonsense.
By the mid ‘40s he was working in Los Angeles and was appearing in films such
as Hellzapoppin! and Star Spangled Rhythm both in 1942. He would later appear
on TV, starring in Roots-The Next Generation, among others. By 1982 he had made
a successful revival tour in England. This led to many appearances at jazz
festivals, clubs and concerts during the 1980s. Gaillard died in London on Feb.
One of the most momentous events in Black sports history took place on
this day. Andrew Rube
Foster organized the first professional Black
baseball league—the Negro
National League. He is generally considered the “Father of
Black Baseball.” Foster is also considered one of the best pitchers to ever
throw a baseball. But he is not remembered for his arm. It was his leadership
and management style that set the standard for all Black baseball leagues to
follow. Foster was born in September 1879 and died in December 1930.
The affluent Black town of Rosewood, FL was destroyed when Blacks were
attacked by mobs of Whites beginning. A nearly three-year build up of violence
led to the massacre in which at least eight (some witnesses estimated to be 40
to 80) person were killed.
World heavy weight boxing champion, Floyd Patterson, is born in Waco, North Carolina. He will become a boxer, winning a gold
medal in the 1952 Summer Olympic Games in the middleweight class. He will
become the first gold medalist to win a world professional title. As a
professional, he will go on to defend his title 64 times and win 40 bouts
This date celebrates the birth of Grace Ann Bumbry in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a famed African-American opera singer,
who has performed as both a soprano and a mezzo-soprano.
She grew up at 1703 Goode Avenue in the city. She joined the Union
Memorial Methodist Church’s choir at eleven, and sang at Sumner High School.
She studied music at Boston University, Northwestern University, and the Music
Academy of the West. While at Northwestern she became the student and protégé
of Lotte Lehmann, a famous German-born opera diva.
She was a 1954 winner on the “Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts” show. After
her concert debut in London in 1959, Bumbry made her operatic debut with the
Paris Opera the next year in 1960 as Amneris in Verdi’s Aïda. In 1961, Richard Wagner’s grandson featured her in the role
of Venus in Wagner’s Tannhäuser at
Bayreuth, Germany’s Wagner Festival. The first person of African descent to
sing there, Bumbry was an international sensation and won the Wagner Medal.
She made her United States debut in the same role at the Chicago Lyric Opera in
1963. She also has played leading roles in Verdi’s MacBeth, Strauss’s Salome,
and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Bumbry
has also performed as a concert artist and her voice has been praised for its
wide range and rich color.
A mezzo-soprano who also successfully sang the soprano repertoire,
Grace Bumbry recorded on four labels and sang in concerts world wide. Her
honors include induction into the St. Louis Walk of Fame, the UNESCO Award, the
Distinguished Alumna Award from the Academy of Music of the West, Italy’s
Premio Giuseppe Verdi, and being named Commandeur des Arts et Lettres by the
Dr. Ralph J.
Bunche is appointed the first African American official
in the U.S. State Department.
Archie A. Alexander, architectural engineer and former governor of the Virgin Islands,
died on this day at the age of 69. He had been appointed governor of the Virgin
Islands by President Eisenhower in 1954. This coachman’s son earned an
engineering degree from the State University of Iowa, where he also played
football. He later became co-owner of the construction firm Alexander and
Repass, with offices in New York and Washington, D.C. In 1928 he was awarded
the NAACP's Spingarn Medal for being an outstanding African-American
Dr. Melvin H.
Evans is inaugurated as the first elected
governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands. William Henry Hastie was their first Black
Governor, however the people could not elect their own governor until 1968.
America’s leading political organization—the Congressional Black Caucus—was organized on this day to provide awareness and alliances
across racial, political, and social lines. However, the
official founding is February 2, 1970. It is composed of Black members of the
U.S. Congress. Originally, it was called a “Democratic Select Committee.” But
it was named the Congressional Black Caucus in February 1971 on a motion by New
York Rep. Charles Rangel. There were 13 founding members. Today the CBC has 42
William H. Gray is elected chairman of the House Budget
Committee, the highest congressional post, to date, held by an African
Leontyne Price makes her farewell appearance with the Metropolitan Opera singing the
title role of Aida.
David Robinson blocks an N.C.A.A. record 14 shots while playing for the U.S. Naval
Fashion designer Patrick
Kelly, a 35-year old native of Vicksburg,
Mississippi, died in Paris. The clothing Kelly designed was worn by the
Princess of Wales, Jane Seymour, the late Bette Davis, Grace Jones and Madonna.
Two months away from the 25th anniversary of the Civil Rights
march on Selma, Alabama, 1,500
African American students boycott classes to express concern over the dismissal
of Norward Rousell, the city’s first African American superintendent.
On this date two black head coaches competed for the first time in a
National Football league (NFL) playoff game. The Indianapolis Colts’ Tony Dungy and the New York Jets’ Herman Edwards brought
their teams to New York where the Jets won 41 to 0. Longtime friends, Dungy and
Edwards were the only black head coaches in the league. Edwards spent five
seasons as Dungy’s top assistant in Tampa before becoming New York’s coach in
2001. The student came out on top of the mentor because his offense was
unstoppable, his defense stingy and his special teams dominant.