- MARCH 22
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.
- March 23
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. The UNIA owned everything from bakeries to a shipping line. It would develop chapters throughout major cities in the U.S., Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. “Garveyism” emphasized racial pride, economic empowerment, Blacks doing for self and the establishment of a powerful Black nation in Africa to give protection to Blacks throughout the world.
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 was a brilliant scholar who traveled widely and among his major writings was the book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.” He died in a car bombing in Guyana in 1980.
- March 24
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.
- March 25
1931—Ida B. Wells Barnett dies. Barnett was one of the leading Black female activists in America for over 30 years. Born in Holly Springs, Miss., she became a crusading journalist against racism and injustice with her Memphis, Tennessee-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. The convictions were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and more retrials and new convictions followed. Eventually, either by paroles or escapes, all the Scottsboro Boys would leave Alabama prisons. The last one died in 1989.
1942—Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul” music, is born in Detroit, Mich.
- March 26
1831—The founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church 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. He, in effect, chartered a separate religious identity for African-Americans. He also founded schools throughout the nation to teach Blacks. This includes Allen University in Columbia, S.C.
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.
- March 27
1924—The sensational Jazz singer Sarah Vaughn was born on this day in Newark, N.J.
1970—Mariah Carey was born on this day in Long Island, N.Y. Her parents are of Irish/African-American/Venezuelan background. Carey came to prominence after releasing her self-titled debut studio album “Mariah Carey” in 1990; it went multiplatinum and spawned four consecutive number one singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Under the guidance of Columbia Records executive and later husband Tommy Mottola, she continued booking success with followup albums “Emotions” (1991), “Music Box” (1993), and “Merry Christmas” (1994), Carey was established as Columbia’s highest-selling act. In 1998, she was honored as the world’s best-selling recording artist of the 1990s at the World Music Awards. She married actor/comedian Nick Cannon in 2008. She lists Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder as her favorite singers.
- March 28
1900—The British demand the Ashanti Golden Stool. Ironically, the Ashanti had been one of the tribes which had actually benefited from slavery by capturing and selling their fellow Africans. But when the slave trade ended, the British turned on the Ashanti in a bid to colonize the Gold Coast (now Ghana). In an apparent attempt to demoralize and humiliate the Ashanti, the British demanded that they turnover one of their greatest symbols—the Golden Stool. The demand led to war. The Ashanti were led by Queen Yaa Asantewa. Her fighters kept the British at bay for several months. But with superior fire power, the British eventually prevailed.
1972—The two surviving Soledad Brothers are found not guilty by an all White jury in the alleged killing of a White guard at the California prison. The other Soledad Brother, revolutionary writer George Jackson, had been killed during an August 1971 Marin County Courthouse escape attempt, which also led to charges against college professor and communist Angela Davis. Davis was also eventually acquitted.
1984—Dr. Benjamin Mays dies. The president of Atlanta’s Morehouse College had been one of the leading Black educational figures in America during the 20th century.