This Week in Black History

Week of October 8 to October 14

October 8

1775—Slaves and free Blacks are officially barred by the Council of Officers from joining the Continental Army to help fight for American independence from England. Nevertheless, a significant number of Blacks had already become involved in the fight and would distinguish themselves in battle. Additional Blacks were barred out of fear, especially in the South, that they would demand freedom for themselves if White America became free from Britain.

1941—National Black political leader and two-time candidate for president of the United States, Jesse Jackson, was born on this day in Greenville, S.C. After the 1968 assassination of Civil Rights Movement icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jackson, who was one of his top aides, would become the nation’s most prominent and influential civil rights leader.

October 9


Banneker dies in Ellicott Mills, Md. at age 74. Banneker was a brilliant mathematician with a great memory and is credited with completing the layout and design of Washington, D.C.

1823—Mary Ann Shad is born. She becomes the publisher of Canada’s first anti-slavery newspaper—The Provincial Freeman. In fact, she is the first woman in the U.S. or Canada to edit and publish a newspaper.

1962—The east African nation of Uganda becomes independent from British rule.

1984—W. Wilson Goode makes history by becoming the first Black mayor of Philadelphia, Pa.

October 10

1778—What is believed to be the first formal school for Blacks—the Africa Free School—opens in New York City.

1899—Black inventor Isaac Johnson patents the bicycle frame.

1901—Frederick Douglass Patterson is born. He grows up to become President of Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. From there he would later launch an effort that leads to the 1944 founding of the United Negro College Fund.

1917—Famed jazz pianist Theolonius Monk is born in Rocky Mount, N.C.

1935—George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” a Black spiritual opera, premiers in New York City on Broadway. It starred Todd Duncan from Howard University. The play became one of the most popular Black-themed shows ever to hit Broadway. The 1959 version starred Sidney Portier and Dorothy Dandridge.

October 11

1887—Alexander Miles patents a major safety improvement to the elevator. Miles did not invent the elevator. But he made it safer with an automatically closing door which prevented people from accidentally falling down elevator shafts.

1890—Black inventor Charles Orren Bailiff patents the shampoo headrest.

1939—The NAACP organizes the NAACP Education and Legal Defense Fund, which goes on to win many important legal battles guaranteeing civil and educational rights for Blacks.

1991—Comedian and actor Redd Foxx dies at age 68. He was born John Elroy Sanford in St. Louis, Mo. An IRS raid on his Las Vegas home to collect back taxes is thought to have hastened his death.

October 12

1854—Lincoln University is founded in Pennsylvania.

1932—Richard “Dick” Gregory is born in St Louis, Mo. Gregory advanced from comedy to political activist.

1945—The lynching of Jesse James Payne takes place in Madison County, Fla. The lynching came to typify the lies that prompted many a lynching. Payne got into an argument with his White boss and threatened to expose some of his boss’ illegal dealings. But the boss then spread a rumor that Payne had molested his daughter and Payne was lynched.

1972—Nearly 50 Black and White sailors were injured in a race riot aboard the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk during the Vietnam War.

1999—Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain died at age 63. The 7-1, 280-pound great included among his records the scoring of 100 points in one game when the Philadelphia Warriors beat the New York Knicks 169 to 147 March 2, 1962.

October 13

1902—Arna W. Bontemps (1902-1973) is born. He was a noted poet and librarian of Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. Bontemps frequently collaborated with another noted Black poet, Langston Hughes.

1914—Garret Morgan invents and patents the gas mask.

1919—Whites riot in Phillips County, Ark. leaving nearly 80 Blacks lynched.

1926—Jesse Leroy Brown is born. He became the first Black naval aviator.


1970—Communist and Black nationalist Angela Davis is arrested as a fugitive in New York City for her alleged role in a California courthouse shootout that left four dead. She is later found not guilty

October 14

1902—William Allison Davis is born. He earned a Ph.D. and became a leading educator and anthropologist. Among his lasting legacies were his well documented challenges to the cultural bias of IQ tests, which generally portrayed Blacks as less intelligent than Whites.

1916—Washington and Lee University of Virginia refuses to play Rutgers University of New Jersey because it has a Black player on its team. That player was Paul Robeson who withdrew from the game but later became world famous as an actor, singer and advocate of Black and socialist causes.

1964—Martin Luther King Jr. becomes the youngest man ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He was 35 and had already become world famous for his leadership of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

1999—Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere dies at 77 of cancer. He had led his country to independence and called on American Blacks to come to African to help rebuild the “motherland.”

(This Week in Black History is compiled by Robert Taylor. He welcomes comments and additions. You can also have one free edition of his popular “Black History Journal” e-mailed to you by contacting him at or by leaving your e-mail address at 202-657-8872.)

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