Another Shade of Color: Journeys Beyond Imagination Big Larry
Home

The Galleries

The Flavour Palette

From the Analogs
of Gemindii


On the Stoop

Black History

Special Features

About the Artist


Please visit our associate at
Where Black History happens everyday.

1806
Norbert Rillieux, one of the earliest Black chemical engineers in America and Europe and, also, an inventor and Egyptologist, was born in New Orleans, LA on this day. The product of Vincent Rillieux, a wealthy French sugar cane plantation owner, and Constant Vivant, a slave on the plantation, with a superior intellect evident at an early age, Rillieux was given his freedom and, with educational opportunities for black people in the South virtually nil, his father sent him to L’École Centrale in Paris to study engineering.
 
After graduating, Rillieux remained in Paris. At age 24, he was an instructor of applied mechanics at L’École Centrale and wrote a series of papers on steam engines and steam economy.

Rillieux is best known for his second patented invention of the “multiple evaporation process” that revolutionized the sugar and paper industries. The process was widely used throughout Louisiana and the West Indies, dramatically increasing and modernizing sugar production. It will also be used in France and also saved the lives of many who had previously labored in extremely dangerous conditions.

Rillieux returned to the U.S., but as conditions for free Blacks deteriorated prior to the Civil War, he returned to Paris, where he lost all interest in engineering. He spent the next ten years of his life working with the Champollions deciphering hieroglyphics. Eventually, he returned to engineering and the problems of evaporation and sugar machinery when he adapted his process to the refining of the sugar beet, the main source of European sugar. He died in Paris in 1894.

In addition, his process is still widely used in the manufacture of soap, evaporated milk, glue, and gelatin. In 1934, the sugar industry honored Rillieux with a plaque in the Louisiana State Museum.


1825
On this date, Black businessman, politician, and the first Black member of the House of Representatives from Alabama, Benjamin Sterling Turner was born.

Born a slave in Halifax County, North Carolina, he was taken to Alabama at the age of five. Educated secretly, Turner eventually became an entrepreneur and stable owner in Selma. In 1867, he was elected tax collector and, two years later, city councilman. In 1870, Turner won election as a member of the Forty-second Congress. He introduced measures to appropriate $200,000 for construction of a federal building in Selma and a bill for relief for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of that city.

He also got passage of a bill allowing Black civil war soldiers a pension of eight dollars a month. After politics, he returned to farming, confining his political activities to the county level. Benjamin Turner died on March 21, 1894.


1833
On this date, several black leaders in New York City, one of whom was Rev. Christopher Rush, formed the Phoenix Society to promote the education of the city’s African Americans, children and adults alike, through classes, lectures, lending libraries, job centers, and the mutual support needed to pursue these goals. The Society began several programs yet folded later in the decade for lack of funds. Other black mutual aid and literary societies in the city continued to pursue the goals envisioned by the Phoenix Society.


1863
Homer Plessy, a Black businessman and civil rights activist, was born on this date.

From Louisiana, Plessy was the second child of Adolphe Plessy and Rosa Debergue Plessy. His father died when he was five, and his mother Rosa remarried shortly thereafter. Plessy was apprenticed as a shoemaker, the profession of his stepfather and maternal relatives. In 1887, he married Louise Bordenave at St. Augustine Church. In 1890, then state legislator Murphy Foster, (grandfather of Louisiana Governor Mike Foster), wrote the Separate Car law, which called for the segregation of passenger trains traveling within the state of Louisiana.

In 1892, Homer Plessy challenged a two-year-old streetcar law that separated passengers traveling on trains in Louisiana. His action made him a plaintiff and defendant in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Case of Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896. The year he challenged segregation, the Citizens’ Committee, a group of influential African American civic and business leaders, chose Homer Plessy to board the white car of the East Louisiana Railway leaving from New Orleans and traveling to Covington. The Citizens’ Committee’s strategy was to purposely break the Separate Car law in order for a case to go before the state supreme court.

The case eventually made its way to the United States Supreme Court and ruled against Plessy. The Supreme Court upheld the statute of “Separate but Equal” and unfortunately this landmark decision eventually was used to justify segregation in education, public accommodations, and transportation. After the case, Plessy drifted into anonymity, later becoming a life insurance collector with People’s Life Insurance Company. Plessy died on March 1, 1925 and is buried in his mother’s family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery.


1865
Aaron Anderson won the Navy’s Medal of Honor for his heroic actions aboard the USS Wyandank during the Civil War.


1867
Ida Rebecca Cummings was born on this date. She was an African-American educator, organization leader, and clubwoman.

From Baltimore, Maryland, her father was a hotel chef and catering business owner; her mother operated a boarding house at their home. Cummings was raised in an environment that stressed learning, Black unity, and community service. The family church, Metropolitan Methodist, was a station stop with Underground Railroad and offered literacy classes before the city allowed Black public schools. This atmosphere was a large part of the children’s place of academia in their early years. The Oblate Sisters of providence, an order of Black nuns, were Cummings’s first teachers.

She later attended Hampton Institute and Morgan State College; where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1922. Cummings began teaching primary school in 1900, moving to specialized courses in her home city and Chicago. Affectionately called “Miss Ida” by her students, Cummings taught for thirty-seven years. While teaching, she participated in organizations that worked to improve housing, health care, and education for poor children. In 1904, she and other members of the Colored YMCA established the Colored Empty Stocking and Fresh Air Circle.

They provided Christmas stockings to children who would otherwise have no gifts. The organization also aided in a healthier environment for these children by paying for boarding for them in rural homes during the summer. From 1912 to 1914, Cummings was secretary of the National Association of Colored Women and chair of the planning committee for its annual convention. She was a trustee of Bennett College, the first woman trustee of Morgan State College, and served as president of the Republican Woman’s League. Ida Cummings died in November 1958.


1885
Inventor William Cosgrove patented an automatic stop plug for gas and oil pipes.


1886
In what became known as the Carrollton Massacre, while attending a trial at the Carrollton, Mississippi courthouse on this date, twenty three blacks, including two brothers, whose suit against Jim Liddell, Jr. of Greenwood was to have been heard in circuit court that day, were killed by white supremacists. They either died that day or later died of their wounds. An argument several days earlier led to the bloodshed.


1891
The school was established as the West Virginia Colored Institute was established on this date under the second Morrill Act which provided for land-grant institutions for black students in the 17 states that had segregated schools. Booker T. Washington, noted African American educator and statesman, was instrumental in having the institution located in the Kanawha Valley. Dr. Washington visited the campus often and spoke at its first commencement exercise.

From 1891 through 1915, the school provided the equivalent of a high school education, with vocational training and teacher preparation for segregated public schools. Renamed in 1915 as West Virginia Collegiate Institute it began to offer college degrees. It became
West Virginia State College in 1929.


1896
On this date, Charles B. Brooks of Newark, New Jersey patented improvements to street sweeper trucks that he patented on March 17, 1896. His truck had revolving brushes attached to the front fender and the brushes were interchangeable with scrapers that could be used in winter for snow removal. Prior to Brooks’ truck, streets were commonly cleaned by walking workers, picking up by hand or broom, or by horse-drawn machines. Brooks’ truck had brushes attached to the front fender that pushed trash to the curb.

Charles Brook also designed an improved refuse receptacle for storing the collected garbage and litter and a wheel drive for the automatic turning of the brushes and for powering a lifting mechanism for the scrapers.


1898
Blanche Kelso Bruce, a slave born into slavery near Farmville, Prince Edward County, VA who became a successful plantation owner and a Republican Senator from Mississippi, the second African American to serve in the United States Senate and the first to be elected to a full term, died on this date in Washington, DC at the age of 57.


1896
On this date, Charles B. Brooks of Newark, New Jersey patented improvements to street sweeper trucks. His truck had revolving brushes attached to the front fender and the brushes were interchangeable with scrapers that could be used in winter for snow removal. Prior to Brooks’ truck, streets were commonly cleaned by walking workers, picking up by hand or broom, or by horse-drawn machines. Brooks’ truck had brushes attached to the front fender that pushed trash to the curb.

Charles Brook also designed an improved refuse receptacle for storing the collected garbage and litter and a wheel drive for the automatic turning of the brushes and for powering a lifting mechanism for the scrapers.


1898
Blanche Kelso Bruce, a slave born into slavery near Farmville, Prince Edward County, VA who became a successful plantation owner and a Republican Senator from Mississippi, the second African American to serve in the United States Senate and the first to be elected to a full term, died on this date in Washington, DC at the age of 57.


1912
Bayard Rustin was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania. He became a civil rights leader and peace activist. He joined Martin Luther King, Jr. in organizing the bus boycott that established King as a national figure. For the next 10 years, he moved back and forth between the world of the civil rights movement and the world of peace activism. He became instrumental in helping A. Philip Randolph plan the 1963 March on Washington. But due to his youthful ties to the Communist Party, a wartime imprisonment, and an arrest in California on public morals charges, Rustin was obligated to limit his public exposure to avoid problems for King and others whom Southern white leaders (and the FBI) were attempting to destroy.


1919
Nat King Cole was born Nathaniel Adams Cole in Montgomery, AL. He formed his own band in Chicago while still in high school. In 1936 he started his musical career in a band with his brother Eddie and joined the revue “Shuffle Along,” as a pianist. Nat formed a trio, the King Cole Trio, in 1939, and while playing the piano in a California night club, a patron insisted he sing Sweet Lorraine. He did, and from then on, was considered a singer who played the piano. His recording career began in 1943, with his composition, Straighten Up and Fly Right. With this, he became an even more popular as a balladeer.

In 1948, he recorded Nature Boy which sold a million copies for his first gold record. Mona Lisa and Too Young also earned gold records for him. The first Black to host a coast-to-coast television show, Nat dropped it because of a lack of sponsors. He appeared in several movies, including St. Louis Blues, Night of the Quarter Moon, and Blue Gardenia. At the time of his death, Nat King Cole had to his credit over 55 million records sold. Cole will also have the distinction of being the first African American to host a network television variety show (1956-1957), a pioneer in breaking down racial barriers in Las Vegas. He will also help found the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences which will honor him with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1989. He died of cancer in 1965.


1930
Musician and lead trombonist and the third leader of the Count Basie Orchestra, Grover Mitchell, was born on this date.


1933
Myrlie Beasley was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi. She became the wife of civil rights activist Medgar Evers in 1951 and worked with him in order to combat discrimination and segregation in Mississippi. Together, they opened and managed the first NAACP Mississippi State Office. Her husband was assassinated in 1963, by white supremacist, Byron de la Beckwith.  She later moved to California where she graduated from Pomona College. She worked in the corporate world as Director for Consumer Affairs at the Atlantic Richfield Company and in government as a Commissioner of the Los Angeles, California, Board of Public Works. She became the first African American woman to serve on that board. She became the author of the book, “For Us, the Living,” and the recipient of numerous honorary degrees. She later became Mrs. Myrlie Evers-Williams and was elected vice-chairperson of the NAACP in 1994, and in 1995 became the first woman chairperson. In 1998, she was succeeded by Julian Bond as Chair of the NAACP.


1944
Cito Gaston was born on this date in San Antonio, TX. He was the first Black to manage a Major League Baseball team to World Series pennant. On October 25, 1992, he managed the Toronto Blue Jays to a victory of the Atlanta Brave to win the series. The victory capped a 10-year run during which the Blue Jays compiled the best win/loss record in Major League Baseball. He played 11 seasons in the Major Leagues with the San Diego Padres. He joined the Toronto Blue Jays and, in 1989, was promoted from hitting instructor to manager. Gaston won three division crowns in the four years as manager and piloted the Blue Jays past the Atlanta Braves to win the World Series. His tenure as manager with the team ended in September, 1997. Gaston is retired and currently in Florida.


1946
Jackie Roosevelt Robinson made his professional debut as a member of the Montreal Royals in the Daytona Beach ballpark that now bears his name. One year later, Robinson would break Major League Baseball’s color barrier and earn the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson batted .311 in ten Major League seasons and was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player. Robinson was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, 16 years after his historic debut in Daytona Beach.


1961
South Africa left the Commonwealth and became an independent republic.


1970
The United States casts its first veto in the U.N. Security Council. The U.S. killed a resolution that would have condemned Britain for failure to use force to overthrow the white-ruled government of Rhodesia.


1970
Jacob Lawrence became the first artist to receive the Spingarn Medal in 1970 for “eminence among American painter”


1992
White South Africans overwhelmingly backed a mandate for political reforms to end apartheid and create a power-sharing multi-racial government.


1999
Maurice Ashley, an immigrant from Jamaica, living in Brooklyn, became the first Black grandmaster in modern chess history on this date. He was 14 and living in Brooklyn, when he feel in love with the game of chess after reading a book about Paul Morphy, a 19th -century Louisianan who was America’s first great chess player. Ever since, Ashley has focused his life on the game. As a student at Brooklyn Technical High School, he joined the Black Bear School of Chess. From 1991 to 1997, Ashley was the chess director of the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, at which he led teams to three national championships. On March 17, 1999 he became the latest of the world’s 470 grandmasters, and the first black person to reach the game’s highest rank as a result of his play in a tournament sponsored by the Manhattan Chess Club. The rank is conferred by the International Chess Federation to players who amass a set number of points in 24 official games played within a seven-year period. Of the federation’s 85,000 members, 45 are grandmasters, including 10 in the New York City area. Before winning his last points, Ashley’s rank was international master, one step below grandmaster.


2000
More than 300 members of a religious sect, led by Joseph Kibweteere, also known as “The Prophet” of “The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God,” oversaw a mass murder/suicide of poisoning and fire in a makeshift church in southwestern Uganda, the Kanungu District. The murder/suicide included Kibweteere.


Back to On this date in Black History

Bibliography

Black History Special Features