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1750
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.



1800
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.”



1862
General Hunter of the Union Army issues a proclamation freeing the slaves of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. A displeased President Lincoln annuls this act. Lincoln stated, “General Hunter is an honest man... He proclaimed all men free within certain states. I repudiated the proclamation.”


1867
Sojourner Truth delivers a speech to the First Annual Meeting of the American Equal Rights Association, championing for the rights of all people.


1870
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 1850).

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 garrisons.

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 in California 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 Pico Mansion) 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 Pico Mansion 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.”



1897
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 Medical School. 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 undertakings.

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.



1899
John Albert Burr patents one of the first rotary-blade lawn mowers. Patent #624,749.


1901
Norman “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.



1919
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.


1920
Edward H. Jones was born on this date. He was an African-American businessman and activist.

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. Paul’s Baptist 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 grade.

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.



1929
Novelist Paule Marshall, noted for “Brown Girl, Brownstones”, is born in Brooklyn, NY.


1936
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.


1939
Ralph 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.

Boston 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.



1952

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.


1960
Nigeria becomes a member of the British Commonwealth.


1963
Arthur Wergs Mitchell, the first Black Democratic Congressman, died on this date.


1970
“Purlie,” a play based on Ossie Davis’ “Purlie Victorious,” opened on this date.


1974
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 process.


1977
Mabel Murphy Smythe is confirmed as Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon.


1987
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 of 78.


1987
Eddie Murray, of the Baltimore Orioles, is the first baseball player to hit home runs as a switch hitter in 2 consecutive games.


1994
South Africa’s newly elected parliament chooses Nelson Mandela to be the country’s first black president.


1995
Kinshasa, capital of Zaire, is placed under quarantine after an outbreak of the Ebola virus.


1996
Ernie E. Barnes, Jr., an internationally acclaimed painter, is presented the famed “Treasure of Los Angeles” award. He is a native of Durham, NC.


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