This Week in Black History

October 29

1929—The Stock Market collapses, ushering in the Great Depression, bringing about Black unemployment rates ranging from 25 to 40 percent. The effects of the Great Depression would last until the start of World War II which created massive war industry jobs and a second mass migration of Blacks from the South to the industrial North.

1994—Famed dancer Pearl Primus dies. She blended African and Caribbean dance and music with Black American traditions of blues, jazz and the jitterbug to form a new vibrant dance form. She formed a dance troupe and she personally appeared in such early Broadway hits as “Showboat” and “Emperor Jones.” Primus was known for her amazingly high leaps. In 1991, the first President Bush awarded her the National Medal of Arts.



October 30

1831—Minister and mystic Nat Turner, leader of the bloodiest slave revolt in U.S. history, is captured in South Hampton County, Va. The uprising took place Aug. 21 and 22 of the same year and left 55 Whites dead. Turner was hanged and then skinned Nov. 11.

1954—The U.S. Department of Defense announced the official end of all segregated military regiments in the armed forces.

1966—The Black Panther Party is founded in California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The full name was the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. It was formed in major measure to bring attention to and combat brutality against Blacks by the Los Angeles Police Department.

1974—Muhammad Ali defeats George Foreman for the heavyweight boxing title. The fight took place in Zaire (now the Congo) and was billed as the “Rumble in the Jungle.”

1991—BET Holdings, Inc. sold 4.2 million shares of stock in an initial public offering, becoming the first Black company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Founder Bob Johnson has since sold the company to media giant Viacom.

2002—One of the original founders of modern rap music, Jam Master Jay of the group Run-DMC, was killed in a shooting at his New York recording studio. He was 37. His group, Run-DMC, was a major force in attracting young Whites to rap music.

October 31

1517—Revolutionary Christian leader Martin Luther posted his famed 95 Thesis on the door of Wittenberg Palace in Germany setting off the Protestant Reformation against the Catholic Church. It is believed the parents of American Civil Rights Movement icon Martin Luther King Jr. named him after Martin Luther. However, King’s original name was “Michael” and was later changed to “Martin.”

1820—(circa) Irish Catholics bring Halloween to America where it first gains popularity among the lower classes and becomes heavily influenced by both American Indian and Black American (slave) superstitions.

1896 (or 1900)—Actor and singer Ethel Waters is born in Chester, Pa. She became one of the nation’s best known jazz and gospel singers. Waters was born to a 12-year-old Black girl who had been raped by a White man.

November 1

1604—William Shakespeare’s great play “Othello” was first performed at Whitehall Palace in London. It is the earliest known European play with a Black lead character.

1866—America’s first Civil Rights Act is passed over the veto of President Andrew Johnson. In part, it was Johnson’s opposition to such pro-Black legislation that led a group called the “Radical Republicans” to seek his impeachment. Johnson had become president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and adopted a wide-range of anti-Black policies.

1910—Scholar and political activist W.E.B. DuBois publishes the first issue of the NAACP’s monthly magazine “Crisis.” DuBois would later break with the NAACP charging that its approach to ending discrimination against Black was too “gradualist.”

1945—The first issue of Ebony Magazine is published in Chicago by founder John H. Johnson. Johnson died in September 2005. The magazine and its sister publication Jet are now facing financial difficulties and may be bought by a group of non-Blacks.

1991—Clarence Thomas takes his seat on the United States Supreme Court after a prolonged controversy over his alleged sexual harassment of former co-worker Anita Hill. Thomas would go on to disappoint much of Black America by rendering votes on major issues which many leading African-Americans felt were anti-Black.

1999—Chicago Bears running back great Walter Payton died of cancer at the age of 45. His power and grace on the football field led to his nickname “Sweetness.”

November 2

1889—The last great African king is crowned. Menelik II becomes “Negusa Nagast” (King of Kings) of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). At that time Abyssinia included not only present day Ethiopia but parts of Kenya, Somalia and the Sudan. European colonialism would weaken and reduce the size of the kingdom. Menelik could trace his heritage back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba of the Christian Bible.

1903—Maggie L. Walker opens the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Va. Walker was one of the most accomplished business women in Black American history having founded a bank, a newspaper, other businesses and a political party known as the Lily Black. Constant refrain in her speeches was “Let us put our money together…and reap the benefits.”

1930—Haile Selassie is crowned Emperor of Ethiopia after the death of Ethiopian Empress Zawditu. Tracing his lineage back to the Bible’s King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, some Blacks (most notably the Jamaican Rastafarians) consider him a god. Selassie’s name prior to being crowned emperor was Raz Tafari.

1983—Conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan signs the law that designates the third Monday in January Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Shortly after the signing he angers some Blacks when in response to a reporter’s question he suggests that King may have been a communist.

November 3

1868—John W. Menard is elected to the U.S. Congress and was among the first group of Blacks to take a seat in that body during the Reconstruction period, which followed the Civil War. He defeated a White candidate in Louisiana’s 2nd district.

1883—A racist political coup takes place in Danville, Va. White conservatives aided by outright racists violently seize control of city government from an elected group of Blacks and Whites. Four Blacks are killed. This was during the Jim Crow period as Whites began reasserting authority as Reconstruction ended.

1890—South Carolina State University is established in Orangeburg, S.C.

1983—National Black political leader Jesse Jackson announces the first of his bids for president of the United States. His campaign, at the time, is credited with registering the largest number of Black voters in modern history.

1992—Carol Moseley Braun, D-Ill., becomes the first Black woman elected to the United States Senate.

1992—James Clyburn becomes the first Black person elected to the U.S. Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction. He is now one of the most powerful people in Congress.

November 4

1922—The entrance to King Tutankhamen’s tomb is discovered in Egypt. Controversy reigns to this day as to “King Tut’s color. Many Black authorities claim White historians and museums continue a historic practice of using representations of Tut which lighten his skin and downplay his African features.

1750—Explorer Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable is born. As a result of his explorations and trading, he is credited with founding the early settlement that eventually became the city of Chicago. [Spelling of his last name varies and includes De Sable and Au Sable.]

1872—P.B.S. Pinchback was elected to the United States Congress from Louisiana. He was one of the most colorful of the Blacks who took seats in Congress after the Civil War. His full name was Pinckey Benton Stewart Pinchback.

1872—Blacks actually take political power in Louisiana. C.C. Antoine is elected lieutenant governor; P.G. Deslonde become secretary of state; and W.B. Brown becomes superintendent of public education. Virtually all Black political gains would be taken away as Reconstruction gave way to the Jim Crow.

1874—The Democratic Party sweeps the off-year elections. At this stage in history the Democrats are largely an anti-Black political party. Their taking control of the House of Representatives helped pave the way for the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the racist Jim Crow period.

1982—Scholar and educator Rayford Logan dies. He was one of Black America’s most prominent educators, historians, and was the author of numerous books. He was also the long time chairman of the Howard University history department.

1988—Entertainer Bill Cosby and his wife Camille give Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga. $20 million—the largest such gift by a Black couple to a Black educational institution in U.S. history.

1999—Daisy Bates dies at 84. Her efforts and leadership helped to integrate public school education in America. Bates was prominent in aiding the “Little Rock Nine”—the group of Black students, which integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.

(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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