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494
On this date, Pope St. Gelasius I wrote a very influential letter, known as “Duo sunt,” to the Emperor Enanstasius (or Anastasius) and proclaimed that his papal authority was superior to the civil authority of the Emperor. In the letter, Gelasius expressed a distinction between “two powers”, which he called the “holy authority of bishops” (auctoritas sacrata pontificum) and the “royal power” (regalis potestas). This letter established the dualistic principle that would underlie all Western European political thought for almost a millennium. The letter played a significant role in the development of the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, in that it gave political protections to the papacy and the monarchy, who promised not to violate each others’ respective jurisdictions. This doctrine remains in force in international politics, even though most absolute monarchies have been replaced by constitutional monarchies or republics.


1494
On this date, Christopher Columbus discovered and claimed for Spain what is now called Jamaica. Columbus’ probable landing point was Dry Harbour, now called Discovery Bay. St. Ann’s Bay was the “Saint Gloria” of Columbus who first sighted Jamaica at this point. On his discovery he named it “St Iago.”


1825
On this date, Laura Matilda Towne was born. She was an American educator and abolitionist.

From Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Towne studied homeopathic medicine privately and attended the Penn Medical University. She taught in charity schools in various northern towns and cities in the 1850s and ‘60s. Early in 1862 she answered an appeal for volunteers to teach, nurse, and otherwise help former slaves who had been freed in the Union capture of Port Royal and other Sea Islands area of South Carolina. In April of that year she arrived at St. Helena Island, SC.

Soon Towne was teaching school, practicing medicine, and helping to direct the distribution of clothing and other goods in the areas Blacks. In September 1862 Towne established the Penn School, one of the earliest freedman’s schools. Through her, Penn had a detailed curriculum patterned on the (then) tradition of New England system. By 1867 she had devoted herself entirely to the school, which remained for decades the only secondary school available to the Black population of the Sea Islands. From 1870 teacher-training courses were also offered.

The school was supported for a time, and only in part, by the Pennsylvania Freedmen’s Relief Association, later by the Benezet Society of Germantown, Pennsylvania, and later still by various members of Towne’s family. Towne herself lived on her modest inheritance and worked for free. She also served the Sea Islanders as an informal adviser in legal issues, public health, and temperance. She conducted the school until her death at Frogmore, her restored plantation on St. Helena Island, on February 22, 1901. The school was renamed the Penn Normal, Industrial, and Agricultural School a short time later.

The name emphasized the label and vocational training Towne had always resisted. In 1948 Penn became part of the South Carolina public school system.


1845
On this date, Macon Bolling Allen passed the Massachusetts bar in Worcester. The previous year, he was admitted to the bar in Maine thus becoming the first African-American lawyer to pass a state bar and the first Black person permitted to practice law in the United States. Allen was born in Indiana, but after the Civil War, he moved to South Carolina where he was elected a judge in 1873.


1895
Present-day Zimbabwe was proclaimed Rhodesia.


1898
On this date, Septima Poinsette Clark, an educator and civil rights activist in Charleston, S.C.

Septima Poinsette’s mother Victoria was raised in Haiti and her father Peter was a former slave. They shaped and influenced her basic values. Among the most important were a willingness to share one’s gifts, and another to not forget there was something redeeming in everyone. Her education came from those who insisted on performance and hard work with pride.

In 1916, Poinsette received her teaching certificate from Avery Normal Institute in Charleston. Black teachers were barred from teaching in Charleston, so her first three years were on the staff at John’s Island, South Carolina. There she attempted to institute adult literacy classes, through the NAACP, to address some of the educational inequities at John’s Island. In 1919, Poinsette returned to Avery Institute, spearheading a campaign against Charleston’s exclusionary policies, overturning that law one year later.

In 1920, she married Nerie Clark, a Black Navy cook with whom she had two children; Clark’s mother raised one, and the other died at birth. Shortly thereafter she became involved in various civic organizations and continued her education in Columbia. Carrying on the fight for Black teachers throughout the state, Clark received her BA from Benedict College in 1942 and her MA from Hampton Institute in 1945.

Although her activist efforts with the NAACP helped initiate equal pay ruling in that year, she was fired from teaching in Charleston in 1947 because she was a member of the NAACP. Unable to find work Clark relocated to Monteagle, TN, teaching interracial adult education at the Highlander Folk School, where she with another woman formed am adult literacy program, teaching people how to fill out drivers’ license and voter registration forms, and how to sign checks. Guided by her belief that education and Black equality were integral subjects, when she became director Clark devised a curriculum that focused on promoting voter registration and empowering people to solve their issues through social activism. One of her students was Rosa Parks, who helped start the Montgomery Bus boycott.

This was capped with her founding of the first “Citizenship School,” created successfully on John’s Island in 1957. With links to Highlander Folk School constantly being disrupted by the Tennessee legislature and finally resulting in the revocation of its charter, in 1961 the citizenship program was transferred to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLS). By 1970, over 800 citizenship schools, graduated over 100,000 African-Americans. They in turn served as an essential grass-roots base for the civil rights movement throughout the Deep South.

Her autobiography, “Echo in My Soul,” was published in 1962. She was keynote speaker at the first convention of the National Organization of Women (NOW), speaking on “The Need of Women Challenging Male Dominance.” Septima P. Clark received many awards from many sources. She was given the American Book Award for her second biography, “Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement,” in 1987. She died later that year in Charleston.


1902
African American jockey Jimmy Winkfield won his second Kentucky Derby in a row astride Alan-a-Dale winning by a nose over Inventor in a time of 2:08.75. With Winkfield’s wins, African American jockeys had won 15 of 28 Derby races. He competed in his final Derby in 1903, finishing second on a horse named Early. (Note that some sources have noted May 1st and May 2nd for this race, however the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of horse racing’s prestigious Triple Crown, takes place on the first Saturday of May each year has been at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky and has been so since 1875. The first Saturday of 1902 was May 3rd.)


1907
This date marks the birth of Canada Lee (Lionel Cornelius Canegata his name at birth). He was an African-American actor and one of the leading Black actors of the 1940s and 1950s.

His film credits include Alfred Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” and Robert Rosen’s “Body and Soul.” He was known for his dignified presence, a rare image for black screen actors of that time.

Canada Lee was from Harlem, New York City, the son of James and Lydia Lee and a boyhood friend of future congressional representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Lee studied concert piano but ran away from home at the age of 14 and became a jockey at the racetrack in Saratoga, New York.

After four years of that profession he took up prize fighting, compiling a record of 200 wins and 25 loses in the welterweight division. A detached retina ended his boxing career. At age 28, he then began acting through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program, working as a stevedore, or dockworker on the side. In 1936, Lee appeared in the all-Black production of “Macbeth” produced by John Houseman and Orson Welles.

Three years later he appeared in “Mamba’s Daughters,” starring Ethel Waters. He is also famous for his appearance as “Bigger4” in the play “Native Son.” Canada Lee met with difficult times when the Hollywood blacklist began keeping so-called radicals out of work. It is believed that he was kept out of 40 productions by 1952.

Married with one child (a son named Carl), and financially troubled, he persevered. The conservative movie industry would not consider him as “safe.” Canada Lee died from uremic poisoning on May 5th 1952.


1921
Sugar Ray Robinson was born on this date. He was an American professional boxer, six times a world champion: once as a welterweight, from 1946 to 1951, and five times as a middleweight, between 1951 and 1960. He is considered by many authorities to have been the best fighter in history.

Walker Smith, Jr., a.k.a. Sugar Ray Robinson was from Detroit. He began his career as an amateur boxer, fighting first under his own name and then as Ray Robinson, by using the amateur certificate of another boxer of that name which enabled him to qualify for a bout at a young age. As an amateur, he won 89 amateur fights without a defeat. He won Golden Gloves titles as a featherweight in 1939 and as a lightweight in 1940 and, after that, turned professional.

He continued to box under that name as a professional and further became known as Sugar Ray Robinson. Robinson won 40 consecutive professional fights before losing to Jake LaMotta in one of their six battles. On December 20, 1946, he won the welterweight championship by defeating Tommy Bell in a 15-round decision. Holding the title from 1946-1951, Robinson resigned his welterweight title when he won the middleweight championship by a 13-round knockout of LaMotta on February 14, 1951.

As a middleweight, he was five-time, 1951-1960. He lost the 160-pound title to Randy Turpin of England in 1951 and regained it from Turpin later that year. In 1952, he narrowly missed defeating Joey Maxim for the light-heavyweight (175-pound) crown and a few months later retired. Robinson returned to the ring in 1954. He recaptured the middleweight title from Carl (Bobo) Olson in 1955, lost it to and regained it from Gene Fullmer in 1957, and yielded it to Carmen Basilio later that year.

He won, for the last time, the 160-pound middleweight championship by defeating Basilio in a savage fight in 1958 at the age of 38. Paul Pender defeated Robinson to win the title on January 22, 1960, and won their return fight. Robinson continued to fight until late 1965, when he was 45 years old. In 201 professional bouts, he had a record of 175-19-6 record with 109 knockouts from 1940-65. Of his 19 defeats, most of them were when he was past 40. His outstanding ability and flamboyant personality made him a hero of boxing fans throughout the world.

In retirement, he appeared on television and in motion pictures. He formed a youth foundation in 1969. Sugar Ray Robinson died April 12, 1989 in Culver City, Los Angeles, California. He was voted the Associated Press Fighter of the Century in December, 1999.


1924
Patricia Roberts Harris, Howard University Dean and law professor, Secretary of HUD, the first Black female cabinet member, and the first Black ambassador, was born in Mattoon, IL.


1933
On this date, James Brown was born. He was an African-American singer, producer, and entertainer.

The only child of a poor backwoods family, he was born in Barnwell, SC. He was sent to Augusta, GA at age five, to live at an aunt’s brothel. Raised in poverty Augusta, as a child, he picked cotton, danced for spare change, and shined shoes. At 16, he was caught for shoplifting, convicted, and landed in reform school for three years. While there he met Bobby Byrd, leader of a gospel group that performed at the prison. After his release, Brown tried his hand at semi-pro boxing and baseball. A career-ending leg injury inspired him to pursue music full time.

In 1953, Brown joined Byrd’s group, the Gospel Starlighters. Soon they changed their focus to R&B and their name to the Famous Flames; Brown became the focal point of the act. Two years later, they recorded “Please Please Please” at the studio of WIBB radio in Macon, GA. In 1956, it reached #6 on the R&B charts.

Two years later, Brown had his first #1 hit, “Try Me.” It was the best-selling R&B single of 1958. This was followed by “Night Train” (1962), and “Prisoner of Love” (1963). That same year he came out with the album, “James Brown’s ‘Live at the Apollo, Vol. 1.’” In 1965, Brown released “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good).” That was followed with “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (1966), and “Cold Sweat” (1967). In 1968, after the riots and civil unrest the ripped America after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he recorded
“Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud” in response to a new Black pride in America. In 1969, Brown released “Give It Up or Turn it Loose,” “The Popcorn” and “Mother Popcorn.” Brown released “Ain’t It Funky Now (Part 1)” in 1970, and “Get Up I Feel Like Being Like a Sex...”

In 1971, Brown hit #15 with “Hot Pants.” That same year, Brown signed with Polydor Records. One year later, his song “Get On the Good Foot” toped the R&B chart for a month and peaked at #18 in the pop Top Forty. Also at this time, no doubt, partly as a result the very highly successful “Godfather” movie, he began calling himself, “the Godfather of Soul.” In 1974, “The Payback,” the most successful of his albums of the 1970s, was released. In 1980, Brown had an unforgettable cameo role in “The Blues Brothers.” In 1986, “Living in America,” the theme song from
Rocky IV, reached #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Later that year, on January 23rd, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Brown’s life took a disappointing turn in 1988. He was sentenced to a six-year prison term after a year’s worth of arrests on various assault, drug possession, and vehicular charges. He was released on parole in 1991. One year later,
February 25, 1992, Brown received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 34
th annual Grammy Awards and, in 1993, he received another Lifetime Achievement Award at the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Awards, both for a career that will spanned more than five decades. Returning to the recording scene, he continued to influence a new generation of artists including M.C. Hammer, Prince, and many others.

In 2006, Brown was hospitalized with pneumonia at Emory Crawford Long Hospital and died on Christmas Day that same year.


1946
Sportscaster, Greg Gumbel, was born on this date. He became the first African American announcer to call play-by-play of a major sports championship in the United States when he announced Super Bowl XXXV for the CBS network on January 28, 2001. Born in New Orleans, LA he is of Creole ancestry.


1947
Erskine Hawkins & His Orchestra charted with “Hawk’s Boogie,” reaching #2 R&B. The bandleader, composer, and trumpet player from Birmingham, AL, reached the R&B hit list twelve times between 1942 and 1950.


1948
The Shelley House is celebrated on this date for its role in the U.S. Supreme Court landmark case of Shelley v. Kraemer, that strengthened equal protection in housing. The Supreme Court, on this date, ruled that courts cannot enforce segregational housing covenants, which bar persons from owning or occupying property because of their race.

This two-story masonry home built in St. Louis, Missouri in 1906 is one of many pieces of African American heritage. The home was at the center of the issue of restrictive racial covenants in American housing. On that date, the United States Supreme Court rendered its landmark decision in Shelley v. Kraemer, holding, by a vote of 6 to 0 (with three judges not sitting), that racially restrictive covenants cannot be enforced by courts since this would constitute state action denying due process of law in violation of the 14
th Amendment to the Constitution.

In 1930, J. D. Shelley, his wife, and their six children migrated to St. Louis from Mississippi to escape the pervasive racial oppression of the South. For a number of years they lived with relatives and then in rental properties. When they tried to buy a home, they found that many buildings in St. Louis were covered by racially restrictive covenants, by which the building owners agreed not to sell to anyone other than a Caucasian. The Shelleys directly challenged this discriminatory practice by purchasing such a building at 4600 Labadie Avenue from an owner who agreed not to enforce the racial covenant.

Louis D. Kraemer, owner of another property on Labadie covered by restrictive covenants, sued in the St. Louis Circuit (State) Court to enforce the restrictive covenant and prevent the Shelleys from acquiring title to the building. The trial court ruled in the Shelleys’ favor in November of 1945, but when Kraemer appealed, the Missouri Supreme Court, on December 9, 1946, reversed the trial court’s decision and ordered that the racial covenant be enforced. The Shelleys then appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Because the J. D. Shelley family decided to fight for the right to live in the home of their choosing, the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue of restrictive racial covenants in housing in the landmark 1948 case of Shelley v. Kraemer. Although the case did not outlaw covenants (only a state’s enforcement of the practice), in Shelley v. Kraemer the Supreme Court reinforced strongly the 14
th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws, which includes rights to acquire, enjoy, own, and dispose of property. The Shelley case also underscores a black family’s struggle for justice that had a profound effect on American society.

The Shelley case was a heartening signal for African Americans that positive social change could be achieved through law and the courts. The Shelley House is a private residence and is not open to the public.


1950
Muddy Waters, recently signed to Chess Records of Chicago, had his first single for them, the venerable “Rolling Stone.” Though it did not chart, the recording became well known among musicians and made its way across the Atlantic to the blues-hungry British rock ‘n’ rollers of the ‘60s. In fact, one act went so far as to name themselves after the song, as well as a hattip from a certain famous American folk singer.


1952
5-10-15 Hours,” by Ruth Brown became the #1 R&B song on this date.


1959
Florence Greenberg, a Passaic, NJ, housewife who discovered the Shirelles, opened her own Scepter Records in New York and signed the girls after they charted on Decca with “I Met Him ona Sunday.” The Shirelles would go on to have twenty-five more pop hits and twenty R&B charters all on Scepter, which would also become the home of Dionne Warwick and Chuck Jackson.


1963
The Drifters, Sam Cooke, Dionne Warwick, the Crystals, Jerry Butler, Little Esther, Dee Clark, and Solomon Burke performed at Pittsburgh’s Syria Mosque.


1963
Birmingham police chief Eugene “Bull” Connor used his police, police dogs, and high-pressured water hoses in a violent incident against Civil Rights demonstrators, including women and children. This event was filmed and televised. Connor’s actions not only shocked and embarrassed the nation but also encouraged President John F. Kennedy to make civil rights legislation a priority of his administration.

After the televised struggle in Birmingham had resulted in a national uproar over the treatment of black Americans, civil rights leaders knew it was time to bring their message to the nation’s capital. Fulfilling a twenty-year dream of black labor activist A. Philip Randolph, Dr. King and several others organized the March on Washington in August of 1963, a three-day event that stands as arguably the high point of the Civil Rights revolution. At this now-famous march, Dr. King moved the nation to resolute action with his “I Have A Dream” speech.


1964
Frederick O’Neal becames the first Black president of Actors’ Equity Association.


1967
African American students seize the finance building at Northwestern University and demand that African American oriented curriculum and campus reforms be implemented.


1969
Jimi Hendrix was arrested at Toronto International Airport in Toronto, Canada, for possessing heroin. He was later released on $10,000 bail.


1975
Emmy Award nominated actor, Karim Dulé Hill (Dulé pronounced due-LAY), was born in East Brunswick, New Jersey to Jamaican parents, his father an investment banker and his mother an educator, and raised in Sayreville. He is the younger of two sons. He owes his unusual name to an aunt who discovered it during a trip to France and suggested it upon her return before his birth. He began attending dance school, studying tap dance, when he was 3 and got his first break years later when producers of Broadway’s “The Tap Dance Kid” called the school in search of child dancers who could sing and act for the production. As the understudy to Savion Glover in “The Tap Dance Kid,” he went on to perform the lead role in the musical’s national tour working with Harold Nicholas of the famed Nicholas Brothers for the next 16 months. He also later appeared with Gregory Hines and Jimmy Slyde.

More roles followed in the musicals “Shenandoah,” “Little Rascals,” and “Black & Blue,” and during Hill’s senior year of high school, he appeared in his first feature film, “Sugar Hill” (1994), as the young character later played by Wesley Snipes. Hill also was seen in national commercials such as one for Kellogg’s Corn Pops cereal and was cast as one of the “CityKids” (1993), a Saturday-morning series produced by the Jim Henson Company, while he was studying business finance at Seton Hall.

Hill’s next career boost came with his starring role in the original cast of “Bring in Da’ Noise, Bring In Da’ Funk” on Broadway, as he re-teamed with Glover but, as a result, had to abandon his college studies during his junior year. He spent two-and-one-half years on the show and earned favorable notices from casting directors and later starred with Freddie Prinze Jr. in the hit feature film She’s All That (1999). His other television credits include guest-starring shots on “Cosby” (1996), “Smart Guy” (1997), and “New York Undercover” (1994); and appearances in the TV movies “The Ditchdigger’s Daughters” (1997) (TV), “Color of Justice” (1997) (TV), and “Love Songs” (1999) (TV) opposite Louis Gossett Jr. In his television work, he is best known for his roled as Josiah Bartlet’s personal presidential aide Charlie Young on the critically acclaimed “The West Wing” and, as Burton “Gus” Guster in the USA Network comedy/drama, “Psych.” He also has a role in “Holes” as Sam.

Away from the set, Hill enjoys tap-dancing immensely, as well as bowling, paint-ball games, and marathon Monopoly sessions. He rates himself as a Los Angeles Lakers freak. He often travels to Jamaica to see family members.


1979
On this date, Bobby Bonds of the San Francisco Giants hit his 300th home run against Moose Haas in a 6-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. He has 413 stolen bases at the time and becomes the second player, after Willie Mays, to have 300 stolen bases and 300 home runs. He ended his career with 321 home runs and 461 career stolen bases that ranked him 12th in major league history upon his retirement. Bonds died of complications from lung cancer and a brain tumor at age 57 in San Carlos, California.


1980
On this date, at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, San Francisco Giants 1st baseman Willie McCovey hit his 521st and final home run off Scott Sanderson of the Montreal Expos. This home run gave McCovey the distinction, along with Ted Williams (with whom he was tied in home runs) and Rickey Henderson of homering in four different decades. He retired on June 6.


1980
On this date, Texas Ranger pitcher Ferguson Arthur “Fergie” Jenkins defeated the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 for his 100th American League victory. In doing so, became the 4th pitcher to win 100 games in the American League and the National League, behind Cy Young, Jim Bunning, and Gaylord Perry. Jenkins spent 11 years in the National League and 8 years in the American League. He was 169-133 in the National League in 409 games with a winning percentage of .560 and an Earned Run Average (ERA) of 3.20 and 115-93 in the American League in 255 games with a winning percentage of .553 and an ERA of 3.54. This gave him a career of 284-226 with a winning percentage of .557 and an ERA of 3.34.

Jenkins was a three-time All-Star, winner of the 1971 Cy Young Award, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1991, becoming the first Canadian ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. The 1991 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was dedicated to Jenkins; he threw out the ceremonial first pitch to conclude the pregame ceremonies. He was inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame in 2004. He was appointed the commissioner of the now-defunct Canadian Baseball League in 2003. Jenkins has been inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame. On December 17, 1979, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada for being “Canada’s best-known major-league baseball player.”


1980
Larry Graham charted with “One in a Million You,” reaching #1 R&B and #9 pop for his biggest solo hit. Graham had formerly been a member of Sly & the Family Stone and later, Graham Central Station.


1992
On this date, New York Met’s Eddie Murray becomes the 24th Major League player to hit 400 home runs when he helped the Mets beat the Atlanta Braves 7-0.


1993
A former Italian colony, Eritrea was occupied by the British in 1941. In 1952 the United Nations resolved to establish it as an autonomous entity federated with Ethiopia as a compromise between Ethiopian claims for sovereignty and Eritrean aspirations for independence. However, 10 years later the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, decided to annex it, triggering a 32-year armed struggle.

This culminated in independence after an alliance of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) and a coalition of Ethiopian resistance movements defeated Haile Selassie’s communist successor, Mengistu Haile Mariam.

On this date, in a referendum supported by Ethiopia, Eritrea voted almost unanimously for independence, leaving Ethiopia landlocked.

The two countries hardly became good neighbors, with the issues of Ethiopian access to the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab and unequal trade terms souring relations.

In 1998 border disputes around the town of Badme erupted into open hostilities. This conflict ended with a peace deal in June 2000, but not before leaving both sides with tens of thousands of soldiers dead. A security zone separates the two countries. The UN patrolled the zone at one time but pulled out, unable to fulfill its mandate.

The unresolved border issue compounds other pressing problems. These include Eritrea’s inability to provide enough food; two thirds of the population receive food aid. Moreover, economic progress is hampered by the proportion of Eritreans who are in the army rather than the workforce.


1997
Michael Jackson went to visit his concert promoter Marcel Avram. That was nothing unusual except for the fact that Avram was in Stadelheim Prison in Munich, Germany, at the time on charges of tax evasion.


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