This Week in Black History

Week of October 22-28

October 22

1906—Three thousand Blacks demonstrated and rioted in Philadelphia to protest a theatrical production of Thomas Dixon’s racist play—“The Clansman.” The play essentially praised the Ku Klux Klan while demeaning Blacks.

1936—Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale is born in Dallas, Texas.

1953—Clarence S. Green becomes the first African-American certified as a neurological surgeon.

October 23

1775—The Continental Congress approves a resolution barring free Blacks from the army fighting for American independence from England. The resolution came even though many free Blacks were already fighting in the war. The motive behind the resolution came from the Southern slave colonies that feared that by fighting in the war for American independence, Blacks would also demand an end to slavery.

1911—The National Urban League is formed. Next only to the NAACP, it becomes the second oldest and second largest Black self-help organization in America. It resulted from the merger of three organizations.

1947—The NAACP files an “Appeal To The World” with the newly founded United Nations concerning racial injustice in America. For its day, the filing was a bold move on the part of the NAACP and it angered many liberal and conservative Whites.

October 24

1892—More than 25,000 Black workers are said to have joined a workers strike in New Orleans to protest working conditions, lynchings and other social ills.


1935—Fascist Italy invades Ethiopia, at the time, one of only two independent countries in Africa. U.S. Blacks were among thousands protesting worldwide. Powerful Harlem, N.Y. Pastor Adam Clayton Powell Sr. was among those seeking aid for Ethiopia. Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie spoke at his church.

1935—“Mulatto” opens on Broadway in New York City. The play, written by famed Black poet Langston Hughes, became the first long-run Black play on Broadway.

1948—Kweisi Mfume is born Frizzel Gray in Baltimore, Md. He became a congressman, head of the NAACP but later lost a bid for a seat in the U.S. Senate.

1964—The African nation of Zambia becomes independent from White colonial rule.

October 25

1940—The Black newspaper owners group—the NNPA (National Newspaper Publishers Association) is founded.

1940—Benjamin O. Davis Sr. becomes the first Black general in the U.S. Army.

1958—An estimated 10,000 students led by Jackie Robinson, Harry Belafonte, and labor leader A. Phillip Randolph, participate in a youth march for integrated schools in Washington, D.C.

1976—One-time racist Gov. George Wallace grants a full pardon to Clarence “Willie” Norris—the last known survivor of the nine “Scottsboro Boys.” The group had been framed in a 1931 conviction for allegedly raping two White women.

1994—Apparently believing it would be easy to frame a Black man for the crime, Susan Smith—a White woman from Union, S.C.—claims that a Black carjacker had driven off with her two sons. Her story became a national sensation but it later fell apart. She eventually confessed to drowning the children and was convicted of murder.

October 26

1749—The British parliament legalizes slavery in the American colony, which would become known as Georgia.

1806—Benjamin Banneker dies at 74. He had become a recognized inventor and scientist. He also completed the design and layout of Washington, D.C. after Pierre Charles L’Enfant returned to France.

1868—B.F. Randolph, a prominent Black politician in South Carolina after the Civil War, is assassinated. He was believed to have been killed by former Confederate soldiers seeking to re-establish White racist rule in the state via terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan.

1872—Inventor T. Marshal patents the fire extinguisher.


1911—Famed gospel singer Mahalia Jackson is born (1911-1972) in New Orleans, La. She is generally considered to be the greatest gospel singer who ever lived.

October 27

1891—Inventor P.B. Downing patents the street letter mailbox whose basic design remains in use today. Not much is known about Downing.

1960—President John F. Kennedy intervenes to get Martin Luther King Jr. released from the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville where he had been imprisoned because of his civil rights activities. The Kennedy action endeared him to Black voters.

1981—Former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young is elected mayor of Atlanta, Ga. becoming city’s second Black mayor.

October 28

1798—Levi Coffin (White) is born in the slave state of North Carolina but becomes a strong opponent of slavery. He and his wife Catherine are credited with being among the original founders of the “Underground Railroad”—the system of transports and safe houses that enabled Blacks to escape slavery in the South to freedom in the North.

(This Week in Black History is compiled by Robert Taylor. He welcomes comments and additions. Log onto to leave comments or leave a brief message at 202-657-8872.)

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