Week of March 20-26
1852—The leading Black nationalist of the 1800s Martin R. Delany publishes his manifesto entitled “The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States.” Delany, who fought in the Civil War to end slavery, became frustrated with American racism and argued that Blacks were “a nation within a nation” who should consider returning to their Africa homeland. Delany died in Wilberforce, Ohio, in 1885.
1852—“Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is published in Boston and becomes a national bestseller. The novel was based in part on a real-life Maryland slave named Josiah Henson.
1883—Jan Matzeliger receives a patent for the “shoe lasting” machine, which would revolutionize the shoe industry, significantly reduce the cost of shoes and make Lynn, Mass., the shoe-making capital of the world. Unfortunately, Matzeliger died at 37 before he was able to realize any of the enormous profits produced by his invention.
1957—Filmmaker Spike Lee is born in Brooklyn, N.Y.
1955—Walter White dies. As head of the NAACP, White was perhaps the most prominent and powerful civil rights leader of the first half of the 20th century. The light complexioned, blue-eyed White became somewhat of a legend in 1919 when he “passed for White” in order to investigate the notorious Elaine, Ark., race riot when marauding bands of Whites killed more than 200 Blacks.
1960—The Sharpsville Massacre occurs, in then White-ruled South Africa, when police fired on Blacks protesting the country’s “pass laws,” which greatly restricted the movement of the majority African population. At least 67 demonstrators were killed and 186 injured or wounded.
1965—The historic Selma to Montgomery March calling for full voting rights for African-Americans begins under federal protection. Organizers, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., went to court to get confirmation of their Constitutional right to demonstrate. The court battle was won, and the march resumed under federal protection on March 21. Five months later President Lyndon Johnson signed the historic 1965 Voting Rights Act.
1492—Alonzo Pietro sets sail with Christopher Columbus as he begins his famous journey to find a new trade route to China, but accidentally “discovers” the Americas. Pietro was one of Columbus’ navigators. He was known as “il Negro”—The Black.
1916—Marcus Garvey arrives in the United States from Jamaica. He would go on to build the largest Black nationalist and self-help organization in world history—the Universal Negro Improvement Association.
1942—Scholar and political activist Walter Rodney is born in Georgetown, Guyana. Rodney would become one of the leading intellectual forces behind the worldwide Black Nationalist and Pan-Africanist movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. He died in a car bombing in Guyana in 1980.
1837—Blacks in Canada are granted the right to vote. Most of these Blacks had escaped from slavery in America.
2002—Halle Berry becomes the first Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress. She won for her role in the movie “Monster’s Ball.” She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Movie/Mini-Series for “Introducing Dorothy Dandridge” in 1999. Berry was born on Aug. 14, 1966 in Cleveland, Ohio, to an African-American father and a Caucasian mother.
1931—Ida B. Wells Barnett dies. Barnett was one of the leading Black female activists in America for more than 30 years. Born in Holly Springs, Miss., she became a crusading journalist against racism and injustice with her Memphis, Tenn.-based newspaper—“The Free Speech and Headlight.” When a prominent Memphis Black man (and friend or hers) was lynched in 1892, she launched a national campaign against lynching. In 1909, she became a member of the Committee of 40 which laid the foundation for the organization which would become the NAACP. But she later sided with scholar W.E.B. DuBois when he accused the NAACP of not being militant enough. Barnett would also later join with White suffragettes in demanding that women be given the right to vote.
1931—The “Scottsboro Boys” are arrested and accused of raping two young White women—a crime which evidence suggests (then and now) never occurred. However, the saga of the nine Scottsboro Boys (young Black men aged 12 to 20) would stretch out over a period of nearly 20 years in a series of trials, convictions, reversals and retrials. The racism of the period was so thick that even when one of the young White women recanted and admitted that no rape had occurred, an all-White Alabama jury still found members of the group guilty and sentenced them to death.
1942—Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul” music, is born in Detroit, Mich.
1831—The founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Richard Allen, dies at age 71 in Philadelphia, Pa. As its first bishop, Allen set the AME Church on the path to becoming the first Black religious denomination in America to be fully independent of White control.
1944—Singer/Actress Diana Ross is born in Detroit, Mich. She headed the most popular female signing group of the 1960s—The Supremes.
1950—Singer Teddy Pendergrass is born in Philadelphia, Pa. For a period, Pendergrass was the leading sex symbol in R&B music. However, an automobile accident on March 18, 1982 left him paralyzed from the chest down. Pendergrass died Jan. 13, 2010.
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