For the Week of December 20-26
1860—Believing the November election of Abraham Lincoln would bring the end of slavery; on this day in 1860 South Carolina becomes the first Southern state to secede from the Union. Other states hold conventions and by the time Lincoln takes office on March 4, 1861, seven Southern states had seceded to form the Confederacy. The secessions lay the foundation for the start of the Civil War. In 1865, the victory of the North brings an end to slavery but not before over 600,000 people had been killed.
1988—Max Robinson, the first Black co-anchor of a nightly network news program (ABC’s World News Tonight), dies in Washington, D.C., of complications due to AIDS. The 49-year-old Robinson was officially thought to be straight. It was never publicly explained how he contracted the deadly disease. Robinson’s given name was Maxie Cleveland Robinson Jr.
1865—Following the example set by Mississippi, South Carolina on this day enacted a series of “Black Codes.” The codes displayed a White Southern obsession with three things after losing the Civil War. 1) They still desperately wanted to control Blacks. The primary method was forcing the now landless and money-less ex-slaves to sign “labor contracts” with White employers, which were so strict that they came close to re-instituting slavery. 2) They were obsessed with preventing sexual relations between Blacks and Whites. This took the form of banning interracial marriages and relationships. 3) They wanted to retard Black economic progress with a series of measures designed to require that Blacks work for Whites and not establish their own businesses. The codes barred Blacks from even selling farm products without the permission of a White employer. Fortunately, many of the codes were never fully enforced because Northern troops occupied the South and voided many of the “Black Codes.”
1956—The Montgomery Bus Boycott ends. For more than a year, Montgomery, Ala., Blacks had boycotted city buses to demand an end to segregation and demeaning treatment of African-Americans. The boycott had been sparked by the dramatic refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat on the bus to a White man. The boycott ended when the United States Supreme Court ruled that public transportation segregation was unconstitutional. By the time the boycott ended, Parks and boycott leader Martin Luther King Jr. were national heroes (at least among Blacks).
1988—National Black political leader Jesse L. Jackson Sr. begins a campaign encouraging use of the designation “African-American” instead of “Black” to denote Americans of African ancestry.
1898—Historian and author Chancellor Williams is born on this day in Bennettsville, S.C. Williams authored the book “Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.” The book is considered a must-read for any serious student of Black history. Williams died in 1992.