The South Carolina Gazette reports that Caesar, a South
Carolina slave, has been granted his freedom and a
life time annuity in exchange for his cures for poison and rattlesnake bite.
Caesar and the famous James Derham of New Orleans
are two of the earliest known African American medical practitioners.
This date marks the birth of John
Brown. He was white American abolitionist whose attempt to end slavery by
force greatly increased anxiety between North and South in the period before
the American Civil War.
Called Old Brown of Osawatomie, John Brown was from Torrington, Connecticut.
His family moved to Ohio
when he was five years old. His father became actively hostile to the
institution of slavery and so young Brown, early in life acquired the hatred of
slavery that marked his subsequent career. While living in Pennsylvania in 1834, Brown initiated a
project among sympathetic abolitionists to educate young blacks. The next 20
years of his life were largely dedicated to this and similar abolitionist ventures,
entailing many sacrifices for himself and his large family.
In 1855, he followed five of his sons to Kansas Territory,
then a center of struggle between the antislavery and pro- slavery forces.
Under Brown’s leadership, his sons became active participants in the fight
against pro-slavery terrorists from Missouri,
whose activities led to the murder of a number of abolitionists at Lawrence, Kansas.
Brown and his sons avenged this crime, on May 24, 1856, at Pottawatomie Creek
by killing five pro-slavery adherents. This act, as well as his success in
withstanding a large party of attacking Missourians at Osawatomie in August,
made him nationally famous as an irreconcilable foe of slavery.
Aided by increased financial support from abolitionists in the northeastern
states, Brown began in 1857 to formulate a plan, which he had long entertained,
to free the slaves by armed force. He secretly recruited a small band of
supporters for this project, which included the establishment of a refuge for
fugitive slaves in the mountains of Virginia.
After several setbacks, he finally launched the venture on October 16, 1859,
with 18 men (including several of his sons), seizing the United States arsenal and armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia,
and winning control of the town. After his initial success, he made no attempt
at offensive action, but instead occupied defensive positions within the area.
The band was surrounded by the local militia, which was reinforced on October
17 by a company of U.S. Marines under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee. Ten
of Brown’s men, including two of his sons, were killed and he was wounded and
forced to surrender. He was arrested and charged with various crimes, including
treason and murder. He distinguished himself during his trial, which took place
before a Virginia
court, by his eloquent defense of his efforts in behalf of the slaves.
Convicted, he was hanged in Charlestown, Virginia (now West
Virginia) on December 16, 1859.
For many years after his death, Brown was generally regarded as a martyr to the
cause of human freedom. He became the subject of a famous song, known generally
by the first line as “John Brown’s body lies a-mould’ ring in the grave.”
General Hunter of the Union Army issues a proclamation freeing the
slaves of Georgia, Florida and South
Carolina. A displeased President Lincoln annuls this
stated, “General Hunter is an honest man... He proclaimed all men free within
certain states. I repudiated the proclamation.”
Truth delivers a speech to the First Annual Meeting of the American Equal
Rights Association, championing for the rights of all people.
The construction of the
Pico House is celebrated on this date. This was one of the many municipalities
built and maintained by Blacks as southern California emerged as a state (founded in
The city of Los Angeles
has a deep story in Black America. The historic park, “Pueblo
de Los Angeles”
and “The Pico House,” are landmarks honoring that history, dating back to the
17th century. When the Spanish authorities in Mexico began to recruit settlers for a new
farming community in Alta, California, they concentrated their efforts
on a poor area in Sinaloa. The purpose of the new colony was to heighten the
Spanish presence in the area and to raise food for the nearby military
The offer of free land sounded good to the population of the village of Rosario,
and a group of 44 settlers arrived in the area late in the summer of 1781.
Census figures show that two-thirds of Rosario’s
population then was listed as mulattoes. According to a 1988 study by the
curator of history at the Los Angeles
Afro-American Museum, 26 of these first settlers were either black or of mixed
ancestry. Over time, the racial identification dwindled away. When California became a state, Los Angeles had a population of 1,598. Many
descendants of the original settlers were among those who had become prominent
in the city and acquired vast land grants.
Pio de Jesus Pico (1801-1894), the last Mexican governor of California, was the grandson of a mulatto
settler. In photographs, Pico is shown to be dark with broad features that
suggest his Afro-Spanish origins. His ancestry was African, Native American,
Hispanic, and European. He rose from poverty to become one of the richest men
and for a time held the highest political office in Mexican California. He was
part of the government of Mexican California from about 1828, until California became a
state in 1850. In the 1830s and 1840s, he was a revolutionary, dedicated to
changing the departmental government to meet the desire of many Californians
for republican rule. This meant frequent clashes with the representatives of
the supreme government in Mexico.
This led to his position as governor from 1845 until the Americans took over in
1846. He fled to Mexico
to prevent the conquering Americans from capturing him and taking him prisoner.
Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Pico became a private citizen, a
successful businessman, and served on the Los Angeles City Council. One of Los Angeles major
thoroughfares, Pico Boulevard,
is named for him. He built and owned Los Angeles’
first major hotel, the Pico House in 1870, located in the El Pueblo de Los Angeles (Olvera St).
Around 1850, Pio Pico bought the Rancho Paso de Bartolo Viejo from the heirs of
Juan Crispin Perez. El Ranchito (Pio
was a gathering place for his neighbors as well as business acquaintances
traveling the large distances between settlements. Pio Pico Mansion is a small adobe home, but
during the 1850s and 1860s it was more than twice as large and said to have
been very impressive.
Unpredictable weather, bad luck in business, and the unethical actions of other
businessmen conspired to deplete his assets. Pico was left with little more
than his home at El Ranchito. Pico’s land holdings were sold off to pay for his
business debts, including El Ranchito. The involvement of the local community
saved the adobe and led to its restoration. In 1917, the property was deeded to
the State of California for safekeeping, and
in 1927, made Pio
became one of the earliest state historic parks. Because of restoration and
remodeling, the adobe house does not look the way it did when Pico lived there.
The 1987 Whittier
earthquake limited public access to Pico’s home. Using current construction
techniques, Pico’s adobe home has recently been “structurally stabilized.”
Rudolph Fisher was born in Washington,
DC on this date. He was an
African-American physician, roentgen logy specialist, novelist, short story
writer, dramatist, musician, and orator.
Brought up in Providence, Rhode Island, his parents, John Wesley
Fisher, a clergyman, and Glendora Williamson Fisher had three children. In
1915, Rudolph graduated from Providence’s Classical High School
and Brown University with a BA, majoring in
English and biology. In 1920, he received an MA from Brown. During this time at
Brown, Rudolph’s public speaking skills won him the first Caesar Misch Premium
(in German) in his freshman year; first prize in the Carpenter Prize speaking
Contest in his sophomore year; the Dunn Premium in his junior year; and he
delivered one of the three orations at his commencement program.
Representing Brown, in 1917, he won first prize at an intercollegiate public
speaking contest at Harvard. In 1924, Fisher graduated from the Howard University
Fisher married Jane Ryder, a graduate of Miner’s Teachers College and a
grade-school teacher, while in Washington
that same year. Their only son, Hugh, was born in 1926.
Fisher wittily gave his son the nickname, “the new Negro.” Though most noted
for his literary works he was an accomplished musician, arranging a number of
songs for Paul Robeson’s first New
York concert. Fisher is considered one of the major
or key literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Along with Langston Hughes,
Countee Cullen, Zora Hurston, and Wallace Thurman made up the core of the young
writers who launched the Renaissance movement. This truly Renaissance man short
life (he lived for 37 years) was filled with academic, oratorical, and literary
He was an active and dominant part of the African-American literary bohemia
that dominated Black literature in the 1920s and early 1930s. He died on
December 26, 1934.
Albert Burr patents one of the first rotary-blade
lawn mowers. Patent #624,749.
“Turkey” Stearnes was born on this date in Nashville, TN.
He was an African-American baseball player in the Negro Leagues.
A fleet-footed power hitter with an unusual batting style, Stearnes
demonstrated his hitting prowess early. When he was 20, he entered professional
baseball with the Montgomery Grey Sox of the Negro Southern League in 1921. A
fleet-footed power hitter, his unusual batting style gave him his nickname.
Stearnes demonstrated his hitting prowess early and was signed by the Detroit
Stars of the Negro National League in 1923. Through the 1920s, Stearnes
compiled a .360+ batting average with the Stars, winning the league batting
title four times. But Stearnes’ success did not solely rest on his hitting. He
was an excellent outfielder with exceptional range and a strong arm.
In 1932, Stearnes joined the Chicago American Giants where his performance
earned him appearances in four East-West All-Star games, including the
inaugural all-star game in 1933. Leaving the windy city in 1936 to play with
the Philadelphia Stars, Stearnes turned posted a .350+ season batting average.
Again with the Detroit Stars in 1937, he earned another All-Star game
appearance and hit for an incredible .383 average.
Former teammate Jimmie Crutchfield described Stearnes as “quick-jerky sort of
guy who could hit the ball a mile. Turkey had a batting stance that
you’d swear couldn’t let anybody hit a baseball at all. He’d stand up there
looking like he was off balance. But, it was natural for him and you couldn’t
criticize him for it when he was hitting everything thrown at him!”
Stearnes finished his career with various teams during the 1938-40 seasons.
Some included, the Nashville Elite Giants, Montgomery Grey Sox, Memphis Red
Sox, Detroit Stars, New York Lincoln Giants, Kansas City Monarchs, Cole’s
American Giants, Philadelphia Stars, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Black
Sox, and Toledo Cubs.
Norman Stearnes died on September 4, 1979 in Detroit, Michigan.
James Reese Europe joins the ancestors after being stabbed to death by a
crazed band member (his drummer) after a concert at Mechanics Hall in Boston. Europe
was one of the preeminent jazz bandleaders of the early 20th century,
beginning with his association with the team of J. Rosamond Johnson and Bob Cole in The Shoo Fly Regiment in 1906.
Founder of the Clef Club, Europe joined the 15th
and, later, 369th Infantry Regiments. The military band he formed
during World War I was one of the most popular in all of Europe.
H. Jones was born on this date. He was an African-American businessman and
Born in Gastonia, NC, he grew up greatly admiring his family,
particularly his grandfather James Hoffman, a stonemason, and his mother Nettie
who raised her family alone after his father left in 1925. He also took pride
in the accomplishments of his brother Jimmy who started a Boy Scout Troop for
Black youths in North Carolina
when the BSA was segregated.
Jones graduated from Highland H.S. and was a member of their State Championship
debating team. In that title match, procedural errors caused neither Highland nor Fayetteville
to accept the winner’s cup.
Jones was a Sunday School superintendent and clerk at St.
Church, then joined the
Army Air Corps in 1940. It was during this time from a farmhouse near Tuskegee, AL,
he helped put in place the administration of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the
Tuskegee Airmen. When he left the military in 1945, he had become the first
Black man to achieve the non-commissioned rank of warrant officer, junior
After serving his country, Jones graduated from Temple University
and soon became the first Black Internal Revenue Service agent for the eastern
district of Pennsylvania. From there (in 1961) he was the first Black salesman
for Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) and two years later was the first Black in
management at Acme Markets. It was here that he was their credit manager for
258 stores in the mid-Atlantic region. In 1967, he went to Africa as a business
manager of Nkumbi International College
in Tanzania, overseeing the
institute’s project to supply secondary education for political refugees from South Africa, Angola, and other countries.
Throughout his travels, Jones enjoyed learning to sing hymns in the dialects of
whatever country he was in, a natural return to his childhood love of music.
Jones was in his late 50s when he courted his wife Lorna with verse, flowers,
and tender songs from the 1920s and ‘30s. They were married in 1980 and she
relocated to Philadelphia, but they moved to Minneapolis in 1982 to
care for her mother.
Away from his career, Jones devoted his life to breaking employment barriers
for Blacks in civilian and military life. After suffering from Alzheimer’s
disease for several years Edward Jones died on April 22, 2002.
Marshall, noted for “Brown Girl, Brownstones”, is born in Brooklyn, NY.
After an eight month occupation, Italy annexes Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). Italy’s
dictator Benito Mussolini announces
in front of 400,000 people at the Piazza Venezia in Rome
that, by controlling Abyssinia, Eritrea, and Somaliland, Italy
now has its own Empire. This is the beginning of a five year occupation, which
will end in 1941.
Harold Boston was born on this date in Laurel MS. He is an African-American athlete,
humanitarian, and businessman.
He was the youngest of ten children. Ralph Boston earned a gold medal in the
1960 Rome Olympics, silver in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and a bronze in the 1968
Mexico City Olympics. His specialty was the long jump, for which he set a
world’s record in 1960. From 1960 to 1967, Boston was ranked number one in the world in
that event. He also was selected as “World Athlete of the Year” and as the
“North American Athlete of the Year.”
He was elected into the Helms Hall of Fame in Los Angeles
and was the first African-American to be inducted into Mississippi’s Sports Hall of Fame. Boston’s life in corporate
and civic life mirrors his Olympic career. After leaving Olympic sports
competition in 1968, he earned his master’s degree from the University of Tennessee.
He served as a consultant to the U.S.
Olympic team and as a sportscaster for ESPN before becoming a general partner
in a Knoxville, Tennessee TV station.
currently is director of customer relations for Ericsson, Inc. In 1985, Boston received the NCAA
Silver Anniversary Award for college athletes who have gone on to become
successful in other areas. He also has been inducted into the U.S. Track and
Field Hall of Fame and the Olympic Hall of Fame, and recently was elected to
the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame.
Canada Lee, boxer, radio host,
and actor, died in New York City (England according to the Munirah
Chronicle edited by Brother Mosi Hoj) at the age of 45. Second only to the
legendary Paul Robeson, Lee was the leading serious (non-comedic) Black actor
of the 1940s. He had become an actor in 1933 after a professional boxing match
left him blind in one eye. He was able to be cast in non-traditional roles for
African Americans at a time when most were cast in stereotypical parts. He gave
impressive performances in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller “Lifeboat” (1944), John
Garfield’s boxing classic “Body and Soul” (1947), where gave a sensitive
performance as a dying boxer, and, as a small-town minister in the 1951 adaptation
of Alan Paton’s “Cry, The Beloved Country.” He was best known for his portrayal of “Bigger Thomas” in the play “Native
Son” in 1940 and 1941.
However, like Robeson, Lee’s film career came to an end during the
McCarthy Era when a host of Black and white stars, who were also social
activists, were labeled communists. The House Committee on Un-American
Activities and the FBI blacklisted for his outspoken views on the stereotyping
of African Americans in Hollywood and Broadway and he and others were denied jobs.
Nigeria becomes a member of the British
Arthur Wergs Mitchell, the first Black Democratic Congressman, died on this
“Purlie,” a play based on Ossie Davis’ “Purlie Victorious,” opened on this date.
The House Judiciary
Committee formally opens
its impeachment hearings against President Richard M. Nixon in the Watergate controversy with representatives
John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Barbara Jordan (D-Tex.) among members of the committee. Jordan, in particular,
distinguishes herself as an eloquent and incisive contributor to the hearings
Mabel Murphy Smythe is confirmed as Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo, leader of the banned Action Group and leader of the
Yorubas of western Nigeria
and first premier of the defunct Western Region, joins the ancestors at the age
Eddie Murray, of the Baltimore Orioles, is the first baseball player
to hit home runs as a switch hitter in 2 consecutive games.
South Africa’s newly elected parliament chooses Nelson Mandela to be the country’s first black president.
Kinshasa, capital of Zaire,
is placed under quarantine after an outbreak of the Ebola virus.
E. Barnes, Jr., an internationally acclaimed painter, is presented the
famed “Treasure of Los Angeles” award. He is a native of Durham, NC.