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1503
Christopher Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands.


1652
John Johnson, a free African American, was granted 550 acres in Northampton County, Virginia, for importing eleven persons to work as indentured servants.


1654
Oliver Le Jeune, the first known black slave in Canada, recorded in 1628 died on this date. He had been captured in Africa as a child, at six years of age, and was transported to Canada by English invader, David Kirke. He was sold to a Canadian resident when Kirke left in 1629. Baptized in 1633, he was given the last name of one of his owners, who was a priest.


1655
Jamaica was captured by an English force of sailors and soldiers led by Admiral Penn and General Venables, who had failed to take Santo Domingo and sailed on to Jamaica.


1748
Slave trader John Newton underwent a dramatic conversion to Christianity during a storm at sea. Years later, Newton penned an impressive number of hymns, among them the eternal “Amazing Grace.” The “wretch ... who ... once was lost, but now ... found, was blind but now ... see” was none other than ol’ John himself. It is purported that, although his seafaring days were long gone, he was still involved in the slave trade when he wrote “Amazing Grace.” Another of his famous hymns, “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” was supposedly written aboard a slave ship while awaiting a cargo of slaves off the Guinea coast.


1775
Lemuel Haynes, Epheram Blackman, and Primas Black, in the first aggressive action of American forces against the British, helped capture the strategically located Fort Ticonderoga as members of Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys.


1800
In an attempt to curb the foreign slave trade, the United States government passed a series of laws which harshly punish its citizens who voluntarily served on slave ships.


1815
This date marks the birth of Henry Walton Bibb. He was a black author, editor, abolitionist, and advocate of emigration from the United States.

Born a slave on a Kentucky plantation
in Shelby County, Bibb was the oldest son of Mildred Jackson. Unlike many slaves who never knew their father, he was told that he was the son of state senator James Bibb. His six brothers were sold one by one until the entire family was scattered. In 1833, he met and married a mulatto slave named Malinda, with whom he had one daughter, Mary Frances. For the sake of eventually saving his family, Bibb attempted to escape slavery several times.

He eventually escaped to Canada, returned to get his first wife, but was recaptured in Cincinnati. He escaped again, was recaptured again, and sold into slavery in New Orleans. He was removed to Arkansas, where he will escape yet again in 1842, this time for good. He made his way to Detroit, Michigan and began working as an abolitionist; though he tried several times he never found his wife and daughter. He was recaptured in Cincinnati, escape again, recaptured again, and sold into slavery in New Orleans. In 1850, he published one of the best-known slave narratives, his autobiography, “Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave.” This narrative of his life was be so suspenseful that an investigation was conducted that substantiated Bibb’s account. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 soon passed, and Bibb, along with others, openly stated that he preferred death to re-enslavemen. He fled with his second wife, Mary Miles Bibb, to Canada. One year later he started the “Voice of the Fugitive,” the fist Black newspaper in Canada.

This paper became a central emigration advocate. At the same time, Bibb became involved in the Ontario community. Two years before his death, as a direct result of his work as a writer and orator, he was reunited with three of his brothers who had escaped from bondage and come to Canada. He also
founded the Refugees’ Home Colony for escaped slaves with Josiah Henson. Henry Bibb died in 1854 at the age of 39.


1819
The birth of Justin Holland is celebrated on this date. He was a Black classical musician.

Born in Norfolk County, Virginia his father, Exum Holland, was a farmer who noticed his son’s talent for music at an early age. There was little opportunity for educating his talent, however. But in 1833, he went to Boston and met Senor Mariano Perez and began the study of the guitar. Another of his music teachers was Simon Knable, a member of Ned Kendall’s Brass Band, who taught Holland the theory and the art of arranging. At this time, Holland also undertook the study of flute with a Scotsman named Pollock.

In 1841, he entered Oberlin College in Ohio for another two years of musical study. After some travel involving a trip to Mexico to further his language skills, he returned to Ohio, married, and settled in Cleveland. He was perhaps the first Black man to make an important contribution to the classic guitar. “Holland’s Method,” published in 1876, stands as one of the finest mixture of guitar pedagogy to appear in America in the 19th century.

Justin Holland died in 1887.


1837
Pinckney Benton Steward (P.B.S.) Pinchback
was born near Macon, Georgia to a white plantation owner and a free Black woman.

Pinchback began supporting his family at 12 after his father died. The family had moved to Cincinnati, where Pinchback found work as a cabin boy. When the Civil War broke out, he went to New Orleans, and in 1863, was able to join the Union National Guard. He recruited and commanded an entire company in a month, “Corps d’Afrique,” a cavalry unit from Louisiana. Racism prevailed, though; he was treated cruelly in the New Orleans area and he was not given his officer’s commission because he was Black. He ultimately resigned his commission in 1863 after unsuccessful demands that African American officers and enlisted men be treated the same as white military personnel.

After the war, Pinchback entered politics in Louisiana. In 1868, he was elected to the Louisiana legislature as a Senator. In 1871, he was elected President Pro Temp of the Louisiana Senate and became Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana in 1872 after the death of Oscar Dunn. There, he will serve briefly for 43 days as the appointed Governor. In 1872, when Governor Henry Clay Warmoth was impeached, Pinchback, who had been lieutenant governor, succeeded him, serving for over a year, and thus became the first Black governor in America.

He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1873, but never seated by that body, due to supposed election irregularities. After the end of Reconstruction, in his political career, Pinchback used his resources to work as an advocate for African Americans as Southern Democrats endeavored to take away the civil rights gained by Blacks after the Civil War. Pinchback earned a law degree from Straight University in New Orleans and was admitted to the Louisiana Bar in 1886. He also played a significant role in the establishment of Southern University and published the newspaper “The Louisianan,” using it as a venue to help influence public opinion.

He moved to Washington, D.C. at the age of 60 and, in 1890, organized the American Citizens Equal Rights Association, traveling extensively throughout the country forming local branches. He also became the leader of the precursor to the Associated Negro Press, the Convention of Colored Newspaper Men. Pinchback died in 1921.


1854
Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, “The Black Swan,” sang before Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. She was the first Black to appear in a command performance before royalty.


1854
A Black code in North Carolina was established on this date. It stated that the punishment for a White criminal might be imprisonment, but the court can sentence a free Black criminal to both a whipping and imprisonment.


1865
On this date, after the abolition of slavery in the United States, William Lloyd Garrison resigned as president of the American Anti-Slavery Society on this date and proposed a resolution to declare victory in the struggle against slavery and dissolve the Society. The resolution prompted sharp debate, however, by critics — led by his long-time ally Wendell Phillips — who argued that the mission of the AAS was not fully completed until black Southerners gained full political and civil equality. Garrison maintained that while complete civil equality was vitally important, the special task of the AAS was at an end, and that the new task would best be handled by new organizations and new leadership. With his long-time allies deeply divided, however, he was unable to muster the support he needed to carry the resolution, and the motion was defeated 118–48. Garrison went through with his resignation, declining an offer to continue as President, and Wendell Phillips assumed the Presidency of the AAS.


1876
The American Centennial Exposition opens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Included are works by four African American artists, among them Edmonia Lewis’ “The Dying Cleopatra” and Edward Bannister’s “Under the Oaks.” Bannister’s painting will win the bronze medal, a distinct and controversial achievement for the renowned painter.


1919
On this date, a race riot occurred in Charleston, South Carolina. Martial law was imposed in Charleston, where men of the U.S. Navy led the riot, in which Isaac Doctor, William Brown, and James Talbot, all black men, were killed. Five white men and eighteen black men were injured in the riot. A Naval investigation found that four U.S. sailors and one civilian—all white men—were responsible for the outbreak of violence. This riot was one of 1919 that James Weldon Johnson described as the “Red Summer of 1919.”


1935
On this date, rhythm and blues and rock and roll singer, songwriter and pianist Larry Williams was born in New Orleans, LA.

Williams is best known for writing and recording some rock and roll classics from 1957 to 1959 for Specialty Records, including “Bony Moronie”, “Short Fat Fannie”, “Bad Boy”, “Dizzy Miss Lizzie” and “She Said Yeah,” which were later covered by British Invasion groups and other artists. John Lennon, in particular, was a fan of Williams, recording several of his songs over the course of his career. “Bony Maronie” is listed as one of the Top 500 songs that shaped Rock and Roll.

Williams lived a life mixed with tremendous success and violence-fueled drug addiction. He was a long-time friend of Little Richard.

On January 7, 1980, Williams was found dead from a gunshot wound to his head in his Los Angeles, California home. He was 44 years old. The death was deemed suicide, though there was much speculation otherwise. No suspects were ever arrested or charged.


1936
This date marks the birth of Jayne Cortez. She is an African-American Poet, musician, activist, and entrepreneur.

Cortez was born in Fort Huachuca, AZ and raised in
the Watts section of Los Angeles. From an early age, Cortez was heavily influenced by jazz artists from the Los Angeles area. After graduating from an arts high school, Cortez enrolled in college, but was forced to drop out due to financial problems. In 1954, at the age of 18, Cortez married jazz musician Ornette Coleman. The two had a son, Denardo Coleman, two years later. After divorcing him in 1960, she studied drama and poetry and became an active participant in the civil rights movement in Mississippi, registering African Americans to vote in that state as a worker for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

She then became a poet and performance artist that integrated the rhythms and foundations of jazz into her written works. She traveled to Europe and Africa, organized writing workshops in the Watts community, founded the Watts Repertory Theater, and became artistic director from 1964 through 1970.

Cortez moved in New York City in 1967, where, in 1972 she established her own publishing company, the Bola Press. During this time, she became a writer-in-residence at Rutgers University from 1977 to 1983. She was known for her collections of poetry “Pisstained Stairs and Monkey Man’s Wares,” “Festivals and Funerals,” “Coagulations: New and Selected Poems,” and “Somewhere in Advance of Nowhere.” She also became known for her poetry reading recordings with jazz musicians “There It Is,” “Maintain Control,” and “Taking the Blues Back Home: Poetry and Music.”

Cortez has written ten books of poetry. Her work has been highly praised by Black contemporary artists such as Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka. Cortez has taught and presented throughout the world over, her work has been translated into 28 different languages, and she has been published in well-known journals such as Presence Africaine, Black Scholar, Daughters of Africa and Mother Jones. Cortez received the Langston Hughes Award for excellence in the arts and letters, the American Book Award, and the International African Festival Award, among others. Cortez also serves as the president of the Organization of Women Writers of Africa, which she founded in 1991 with Ama Ata Aidoo of Ghana.

With her band, the Firespitters, Cortez has recorded nine albums. The group’s eight members, including Cortez’s son, create a unique sound of jazz/funk beats which accompany Cortez’ spoken word poems. Many of Cortez’s poems embrace the values of the Black Arts Movement of the 60’s and 70’s. Her excrescent language and her ability to push the acceptable limits of expression to address issues of race, sex, and homophobia place her in a category that few other women occupy. Some of her material include: Coagulations: New and Selected Poems (1984), and her most recent being Jazz Fan Looks Back (2002.). She cites poets Christopher Okigbo and Henry Dumas, teenager Claude Reece Jr., dancer and singer Josephine Baker, jazz musician Duke Ellington, the students in Soweto, and all the silent masses of Black people who add to the racial conundrum that is the United States as points of her inspiration.

Poet, musician, activist, and entrepreneur Jayne Cortez is an accomplished woman who uses her work to address social problems in the U.S. and around the world. Over the last 30 years, she has contributed greatly to the struggle for racial and gender equality.


1943
Judith Ann Jamison was born on this date. She was an African-American modern dancer, dance director, and is an educator and author.

From Philadelphia, PA, Jamison
began her dancing career at the age of six. She received her initial ballet training in her home town, with Marion Cuyjet, and left her studies at Fisk University to make her own career in dance.

She also studied dance and ballet at the Philadelphia Dance Academy, now the University of the Arts, where she later became a visiting distinguished professor. Discovered by Agnes de Mille, Jamison made her New York City debut with the American Ballet Theater. In 1965 Alvin Ailey recruited her for his dance company in Chicago, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Her height (5 feet 10 inches) and elegant, striking presence helped make her an immediate success with the company. She made her debut with the theatre dancing in Talley Beaty’s Congo Tango Palace.

Jamison went on to create roles in many of Ailey’s best-known ballets and became the troupe’s premier dancer in 1967 most notably exhibiting her signature the tour de force dance solo Cry, a tribute to African-American women, which became her signature piece. She has performed both in the United States and abroad. She won a Dance Magazine award for her performances in 1972.

Jamison left Ailey’s company in 1980, appeared on Broadway in the musical Sophisticated Ladies, and performed as guest artist with dance companies throughout the world. In 1987 she founded her own company, the Jamison Project, which, in 1988, merged with Ailey’s company after Ailey’s health declines as an artistic associate. After Ailey died in December 1989, she succeeded him as artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She continued the company’s tradition of performing early works choreographed by African Americans for many years.

She also has choreographed a number of works, including Divining, 1984, Ancestral Rites,  Forgotten Time, 1989, Hymn, 1993, Echo: Far from Home, 1998, and Double Exposure, 2000. Jamison’s autobiography, Dancing Spirit, was published in 1993.


1950
Jackie Robinson appears on the cover of Life magazine. It is the first time an African American was featured on the magazine’s cover in its 13-year history.


1951
NAACP attorney Z. Alexander Looby was the first African American elected to the Nashville City Council. The election helped Blacks make political advances in the South.


1951
Singer Ron Banks, one of founding members of the Dramatics was born in Detroit, MI on this date.

Banks, known for his falsetto, along with five others, formed the Dynamics in the early ‘60s. The group soon became a quintet -- Banks, Rob Davis, Larry Reed, Larry “Squirrel” Demps and Elbert Wilkens -- when founding member Robert Ellington left the group, and they soon changed their name to the Dramatics.

But more lineup changes were to come, as the band’s early chart performance reportedly “discouraged” lead singer Reed and bassist Davis, according to the group’s AllMusic biography. The two left the group, and were replaced with William “Wee Gee” Howard and Willie Ford, who was formerly of the group the Capitols.

The group began on the Wingate label, but had no charting hits with that imprint. Their first hit came with “All Because of You,” which landed at No. 43 in 1967 and was released on the label Sport. The Dramatics’ big break came in 1971 with “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” by Tony Hester. It reached No. 3 on the R&B chart. The group had its first R&B No. 1 with “In the Rain,” released the following year.

The Dramatics’ cover of “Me and Mrs. Jones,” as well as the songs “Get Up and Get Down,” “You’re Fooling You,” “Hey You! Get Off My Mountain,” and “Be My Girl,” were among the group’s numerous other top ten R&B singles during the 1970s, when they worked mostly with the labels MCA and ABC and adapted well to the disco era. Banks remained with the group during another lineup change in 1973, when Howard and Wilkens were replaced with L.J. Reynolds, who had been in the group Chocolate Syrup, and Lenny Mayes.

Wilkens formed his own version of the Dramatics, which forced Banks and the rest of the group to rename themselves Ron Banks & the Dramatics. Their last charting hit was “Welcome Back Home,” released in 1980. Reynolds left the group in 1981, followed by Banks in 1983. Both pursued solo careers, but the Dramatics have since reunited several times.

Ron Banks died of a heart attack on March 4, 2010.


1952
On this date, “Shuffle Along,” the first major successful African American musical, written by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles with music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, closed at the Broadway Theater in New York City after 4 performances. “Shuffle Along” premiered on Broadway in 1921.


1957
The Jive Bombers of “Bad Boy” fame recorded their unique version of the 1928 song “Cherry.” (“Cherry” written by Ray Gilbert & Don Redman performed by Clarence “Bad Boy” Palmer & The Jive Bombers recorded 10 May 1957 issued June 1957 as Savoy 45-1515. The rest of The Jive Bombers are Earl Johnson, and brothers Allen & Willie “Pee Wee” Tinney. Backing the guys on this cut are Kenny Burrell (guitar), Leonard Gaskin (bass), and Bobby Donaldson (d). Earl doubles on tenor sax and Allen plays piano.)


1962
Southern School News reported that 246,988 or 7.6 per cent of the African American pupils in public schools in seventeen Southern and Border States and the District of Columbia attended integrated classes in 1962.


1963
After having led mass demonstrations against segregation in Birmingham, which resulted in him being hospitalized after being slammed against a wall by water from fire hoses, the Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth announced an agreement on a limited integration plan, which ended the demonstrations.


1963
The obscure Chuck Berry tune “Come On” (originally released in 1953), became the first single recorded by the Rolling Stones in the debut 45.


1967
On this date, in the top of the 8th inning with pinch runner Miguel de la Hoz on in Shibe Park in Philadelphia, Hank Aaron hit his only inside the park home run. He did this against, future conservative Republican congressman, the Phillies’ Jim Bunning. It was his second home run of the game and the 449th of his career.

Aaron didn't have only one inside-the-parker because he was slow; he stole 240 bases in his career.


1968
A public school named in honor of Lewis H. Latimer opened in Brooklyn, NY on this date.


1974
“Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely” earned a gold record for the group, The Main Ingredient. The trio began as the Poets in 1964. Cuba Gooding was the lead singer. (Gooding’s son, Cuba Jr., would star in the 1991 film “Boyz N The Hood” and win an Academy award for his role in the movie “Jerry Maguire in 1997.) The Main Ingredient’s biggest hit, “Everybody Plays The Fool,” made it to number three on the pop charts in 1972.


1975
The Commodores’Slippery When Wet” charted, becoming their first pop Top 20 hit (#19) and first R&B #1. The group began their career playing the club circuit, but unlike most acts, it wasn’t the local club circuit. They started in French resorts like St. Tropez.


1975
Bob Marley and the Wailers charted with their Natty Dread album, reaching #92. It was the first of seventeen chart albums through 1995. The band was originally called the Wailin’ Wailers because they used to start out crying. Marley worked alternatively as a forklift driver, a waiter, a Chrysler assembly-line worker, and a lab assistant at DuPont Chemicals before succeeding as a reggae star.


1975
On this date, Stevie Wonder played in front of 125,000 fans at a free concert near the Washington Monument to celebrate Human Kindness Day.


1980
Charley Pride jumped on the country charts with “You Win Again,” reaching #1. Pride, the most popular Black artist in country music history would go on to have an extraordinary sixty-seven hits between 1966 and 1989. Although his music was overwhelmingly country, he managed to cross to the pop charts eleven times, including his biggest hit, “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’“ which reached #1 for five weeks country and #21 pop.


1986
Navy Lt. Commander Donnie Cochran became the first African American pilot to fly with the celebrated Blue Angels precision aerial demonstration team.


1994
After being released from 27 years of imprisonment for his battles against the racist system of apartheid, in an historic exchange of power, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was inaugurated as first Black and fully elected president of South Africa after more than three centuries of white rule. In his acceptance speech, he says, “We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts—a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.”


1994
On this date, rapper Tupac Shakur began serving a 15-day county jail term for attacking director Allen Hughes on a video set.


1998
José Francisco Peña Gomez died at the age of 61 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic on this date after succumbing to pancreatic cancer. He had led a successful civil-military revolt in 1965 which was curtailed by the interference of United States Marines sent to the Dominican Republic to put down the rebellion. He was later forced into exile. He later returned to the Dominican Republic and was heavily involved in politics as leader of the Partido Revolucionario Dominicano. He ran for president unsuccessfully three times.


2000
On this date, singer Bobby Brown was arrested at the Newark airport in New Jersey for breaking his probation order. He had been wanted in Florida since 1999 when his probation officer reported that a urine test proved positive for cocaine use.


2001
On this date, France passed a law recognizing slavery as a crime against humanity. This law eventually led to a French national holiday to mark this atrocity of human history, which exists worldwide even today.


2005
On this date, singer Seal married German supermodel Heidi Klum in a low-key ceremony on a beach in Mexico near the singer’s home on the luxurious Costa Careyes.


2006
On this date, France commemorated their first annual national day of remembrance for the victims of slavery. The date for the annual holiday was chosen to coincide with the date five years earlier in 2001 when France became the first country to pass a law declaring slavery to be a crime against humanity.


2007
Hip-hop artist Akon apologized after footage of him dancing provocatively on stage with a teenage girl was posted on the internet. It led to telecommunications company Verizon pulling out as a sponsor of his US tour with Gwen Stefani. The incident took place on 12 April in Trinidad, where Akon was performing at a nightclub. It was later reported that the girl was just 14. In a statement Akon said he didn’t know the girl was underage. He said: “I want to sincerely apologize for the embarrassment and any pain I’ve caused to the young woman who joined me on stage, her family and the Trinidad community for the events at my concert.”


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