The First African Baptist Church, originally named the Ethiopian Church
of Jesus Christ, was organized in Savannah, Georgia,
with Andrew Bryan ordained as its pastor. It is the first African American
Baptist church in the United States,
as well as the first Baptist church, Black or white, in Savannah.
William Reuben (W.R.) Pettiford is born. He will become the pastor
of the Sixteenth Street
in Birmingham, Alabama. As a leader in the community, he
will also become a businessman, founding the Alabama Penny Savings Bank on
October 15, 1890. The Alabama Penny Savings Bank will be Alabama’s first African American-owned bank
and the first of three banks in the nation, owned and operated by African
Americans in the early 1900s. (Note: The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is
also known for the bombing during the Civil Rights movement, on September 15,
1963, that killed four little girls.)
The Florida constitutional convention with eighteen
African Americans and twenty-seven whites meet in Tallahassee.
The birth of Dr. Austin Maurice Curtis, Sr. celebrated on this date. He was an
From Raleigh, North Carolina, he was a prominent turn of
the century physician and protégé of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams. His first
internship took place at Chicago’s Provident Hospital, in 1891. He was also the first
Black surgeon on staff of Cook
(a non-segregated hospital) in 1896.
Curtis was a professor of Surgery, Howard University for 25 years and Chief Surgeon,
Freedmen’s Hospital from 1898-1938 He died in 1939.
Hiram R. Revels was chosen by the Mississippi. Although he was challenged by
the Senate, Revels took his seat one month later, he became the first African American
U.S. Senator. Perhaps the greatest irony of the election was that he was chosen
to fill the unexpired term of Confederate President Jefferson Davis—the man who
was the nominal head of the Southern effort to perpetuate slavery. His term
ended on March 3, 1871.
Eva Jessye was born on this date. She was an African-American singer, composer,
choral director and actress.
She was one of the few musical phenomenons of the twentieth
century. Born Eva Alberta Jessye in Coffeyville,
Kansas near Oklahoma, her father supported the family as
a chicken picker. She was an avid reader who sang as a child, writing her first
poem at the age of seven; winning a contest at thirteen. Jessye studied choral
music and music theory at the now defunct Western
University in Quindaro, Kansas,
graduating in 1914.
She also received a degree from Langston
University. She taught at
an elementary school in Taft, Oklahoma
and spent classroom time in Haskell and Muskogee
as well. In 1926, Jessye moved to New
York to pursue a career in music and theater, getting
her first break at the Capitol Theater playing with Major Bowles. It was here
that she met and became a protégé of Black Classic composer Will Marion Cook.
An expert in harmonics, Jessye’s literary and musical accomplishment spanned
over 75 years. She was world renowned as a poet and composer. In 1935, she was
appointed the original choral conductor of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess and is regarded as the
unofficial guardian of the musical score. Jessye’s authentic touches to the
piece deepened it cultural flavor of the black experience for the fine
translation by Gershwin. She was featured in the 1944 first annual I Am an American Day initiated by the
(then) mayor of New York City.
She also worked in King Vidor’s Hallelujah.
The Eva Jessye choir performed in concert at major universities and colleges
for more than forty years. In 1963, Jessye directed the official choir for the
historic March on Washington.
The Afro-American Studies Department at the University of Michigan
awarded her a Degree in Determination in 1976. In 1987, after receiving an
honorary Doctor or Art from Eastern Michigan University at the age of
ninety-two, she wrote, “You see I am still cuttin’ cane and choppin’
cotton-with might and main-with wide acclaim!”
During her lifetime she shared her wisdom and talents. Her resonant voice,
twinkle in her eye, and alertness and depth of mind spoke of her greatness. Eva
Jessye died on February 21st 1992.
On this date, George Henry White, Congressman of North Carolina (1897-1901), introduced into the House
of Representatives the first bill designed to make lynching a federal offense. White
was sparked into action by the upsurge in the lynching of Blacks after the
Civil War as defeated Confederate soldiers and other whites attempted to put
the recently freed Blacks “back in their place.” However, the bill died in
committee. Congress never made lynching a federal crime even though most local
jurisdictions throughout the South did little to stop the lynching of Blacks. The year before White introduced his
bill, 87 Negroes and twelve white men had been lynched. During the decade
before 1890 to 1900 1,127 mob murders by hanging, burning, shooting, or beating
were recorded. In 1900 alone, 105 Blacks were lynched.
The popular Black
Greek letter sorority Zeta Phi Beta was founded on
this day in 1920 on the campus of Howard
University in Washington, D.C.
The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, originally founded in 1913, was
incorporated on this date.
Hall of Famer, Josh Gibson, perhaps the greatest player to ever play the game of baseball, died
on this day. The bulk of his career was spent in the old Negro Baseball Leagues
and he was never allowed to play in then-segregated Major League Baseball.
Baseball historians consider Gibson the best catcher and power hitter in
baseball history. He recorded an astounding 800 homeruns during his 17-year
The National Negro Network is formed by W. Leonard Evans. Some 40 radio stations are charter
members of the network.
leader Amilcar Cabral joins the
ancestors after being assassinated in Conakry,
Portuguese agents. He had founded the PAIGC (African Party for the Independence
of Guinea and Cape Verde),
the organization that fought Portuguese colonial rule and eventually led to the
independence of Guinea-Bissau
and Cape Verde.
Cabral is considered one of Africa’s most
important independentist leaders.
Clifford Alexander, Jr. is sworn in as the first African
American Secretary of the Army.
issue of “American Visions” magazine hit the newsstands
nationwide. The magazine was dedicated to exposing its readers to African
American contributions to history, literature, music, and the arts.
The United States
observed the first federal holiday in honor of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was signed into law as a federal holiday in 1983. King
was born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta.
King attended Morehouse
College and was so
influenced by Morehouse President D. Benjamin Mays, he decided to study for the
ministry and graduated in 1948. King later graduated from Crozer Theological
Seminary in Chester, PA,
and earned a doctor of philosophy degree from Boston University
in 1955. Through his advocacy of non-violence, beginning with the Montgomery bus boycott and world renowned civil rights
leader led a group of Atlanta
ministers to form the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). His
life’s work made an indelible mark in world history. In 1964 Dr. King became
the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. On April 4, 1968, while
supporting a strike of Black garbage men in Memphis, TN,
King was assassinated. Buried in the Martin Luther King, Jr. historic site in Atlanta, King, in 1983,
became the first Black American honored by a national holiday–the third Monday
E. McNair, a PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology was the first
black astronaut killed during a space mission, when the space shuttle
“Challenger” met with disaster.
South African Bishop, Desmond Tutu, won the Martin Luther King, Jr. Non-Violent Peace Prize on this date.
Maya Angelou, esteemed poet and activist, read her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” during the inauguration ceremony of
President Bill Clinton on this date.
On this day,
former major league outfielder, Curt Flood, who challenged baseball’s reserve system and made possible today’s
megasalaries, dies at age 59.
Cheryl Mills, White House deputy counsel, became the first Black person to argue an
impeachment case before the United States Senate. Mills defended President Bill
Clinton against a highly politicized Republican attempt to oust him.
General Colin Luther Powell was sworn in by President George W. Bush
as the first Black Secretary of State. Powell had a distinguished military
career but saw his reputation sullied by his support of President Bush’s
unpopular war in Iraq.
The United States
Senate confirmed Rod Paige as the Secretary
of Education on this date.
The first African-American secretary of education is from Monticello,
and is the son of public school educators. He served for a decade as Dean of
the College of Education at Texas Southern University.
He also established the university’s Center for Excellence in Urban Education,
a research facility that concentrates on issues related to instruction and
management in urban school systems.
On this date, at 12:05 PM on the West
Front of the Capitol in Washington,
Hussein Obama, II took the oath of office for the President of the United
Stated of America. In duing so, he became the 44th President of the United States. He
also became the first non-White and first African American to become the
President of the United
this date, the day that Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated as the 44th
and first African American President of the United States, the name of Eric Himpton Holder, Jr. was formally nominated for the Office Attorney
General. In taking office Holder would become the first African American to
serve in that office.
On this date legendary R&B Singer, Etta James, died at a
hospital in Riverside, California at the age of 73 after suffering from
leukemia. The Grammy-winning wedding favorite “At Last” singer had been
declared terminally ill two weeks before her death; in 2009, she was diagnosed
with Alzheimer’s disease and had been hospitalized in 2010 because of a
dangerous staph infection and hospitalized again in May with a blood infection.
Her assertive, earthy voice also lit up such hits as “The Wallflower,”
“Something’s Got a Hold on Me.”