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1619 - 2019: 400 Years of African American History

On This Day...

Throughout the year, we will highlight notable events in history and provide resources for more information.

Sources:

From Slavery to the White House: Black History 2019 Calendar. (2018). Sacramento, CA: African American Expressions.

A Journey into 365 Days of Black History. (2018). Takoma Park, MD: IOKTS Productions.

January 1, 1863

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation

Online Resources

The Emancipation Proclamation exhibit at the National Archives 

January 2, 1898

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, first African American to earn a PhD in economics, is born in Philadelphia, PA. 

Online Resources

Sadie T. M. Alexander, 91, Dies; Lawyer and Civil Rights Advocate

January 4, 1787

Prince Hall, founder of first black Masonic lodge, and others petition Massachusetts legislature for funds to return to Africa, the first recorded effort by blacks to do so.

 

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January 7, 1955

Marian Anderson becomes the first African American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1955.

 

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January 8, 1922

Col. Charles Young, first African American to achieve that rank in the US Army, dies in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

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January 9, 1866

Fisk School holds its first classes in Nashville, TN.

Online Resources

Fisk University History

January 10, 1957

The Southern Christian Leadership Council, a prominent civil rights organization, is founded in 1957. The organization will be chaired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. until his death in 1968.

Online Resources

SCLC History

Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC)

January 11, 1924

Blues harmonica player Slim Harpo is born in Lobdell, LA.

Online Resources

'Buzzin' The Blues' Revisits The Declarative Harmonica Style Of Slim Harpo

January 14, 1916

Author John Oliver Killens is born in Macon, GA.

 

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January 15, 1908

Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority is founded at Howard University by Ethel Hedgeman Lyle.

 

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January 17, 1942

Muhammad Ali, heavyweight boxing champion, is born in Louisville, KY.

 

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January 18, 1856

Daniel Hale Williams, one of the first physicians to perform successful open-heart surgery and founder of Provident Hospital in Chicago, IL, is born in Hollidaysburg, PA.

Online Resources

Who Was Dr. Daniel Hale Williams?

 

January 21, 1993

Congressman Mike Espy of Mississippi is confirmed as secretary of agriculture.

 

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January 22, 1931

Singer Sam Cooke, best known for “You Send Me” and “Twistin’ the Night Away” is born in Clarksdale, MS. 

Online Resources

Tracing the Highs and Tragic End of Sam Cooke

January 24, 1985

Tom Bradley, four-term mayor of Los Angeles, receives the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal.

Online Resources

The Spingarn Medal 

From the Archives: Mayor Who Reshaped L.A. Dies

January 25, 1966

Constance Baker Motley becomes first African American woman to be nominated for a federal judgeship.

 

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January 28, 2017

Tennis player Serena Williams breaks the record for most grand slam titles in Open era.

 

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January 30, 2006

Coretta Scott King Dies in Mexico.

Online Resources

About Mrs. King

Coretta Scott King

 

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January 31, 1919

Jackie Robinson, first African American to play in major league baseball, is born in Cairo, GA.

 

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February 1, 1902

Prolific poet Langston Hughes is born in Joplin, MO. 

Online Resources

The Langston Hughes Society 

 

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February 4, 1913

Rosa Parks, initiator of the Montgomery bus boycott is born in Tuskegee, AL. 

Online Resources

National Women's History Museum 

 

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February 8, 1925

Marcus Garvey enters federal prison in Atlanta, GA. 

 

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February 12, 1915

Biologist Ernest E. Just receives the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for his pioneering research in fertilization and cell division. 

Online Resources

The National Academies of Sciences

February 13, 1920

Andrew "Rube" Foster organizes first black baseball league, the Negro National League.

 

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February 18, 1688

Quakers of Germantown, PA, sign first formal antislavery statement in American history.

Online Resources

Library of Congress

 

February 20, 1927

Sidney Poitier, first African American to win an Academy Award in a starring role, is born in Miami, FL. 

 

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February 21, 1965 ​

Malcolm X was assassinated

Online Resources
Malcolm X assassination: 50 years on, mystery still clouds details of the case

 

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February 25, 1870

Hiram Rhodes Revels became the first African American to be seated in the United States Senate.

Online Resources

United States House of Representatives

February 26, 1928

Singer Antoine “Fats” Domino is born in New Orleans, LA. 

Fats Domino

Fats Domino, Architect of Rock 'N' Roll, Dead at 89

February 27, 1872

Charlotte E. Ray graduates from Howard University’s law school, becoming first female African American lawyer. 

Online Resources

Women Lawyers and State Bar Admission

 

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March 1, 1914

Ralph Waldo Ellison, the author of the award-winning novel Invisible Man, is born in Oklahoma City, OK. 

 

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March 6, 1857

US Supreme Court rules against citizenship for African Americans in the Dred​ Scott decision. 

 

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March 11, 1959

Lorraine Hansberry’s play, A Raisin in the Sun, debuted on Broadway and was also the first Broadway play to be produced by an African American woman.

Online Resources

Lorraine Hansberry: Radiant, Radical — And More Than 'Raisin'

 

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March 14, 1933

Composer, musician, and producer Quincy Jones is born in Chicago, IL. 

 

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March 18, 1901

Renowned painter William H. Johnson is born in Florence, SC. 

Online Resources

Smithsonian American Art Museum

National Gallery of Art

March 20, 1852

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was published. 

Online Resources

The Story of Josiah Henson, the Real Inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin

 

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March 25, 1931

Ida B. Wells-Barnett, journalist, anti-lynching activist, and founding member of the NAACP, dies in Chicago, IL. 

Online Resources

National Women's History Museum

 

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April 4, 1968

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

Online Resources

Civil Rights Digital Library

 

April 5, 1937

Colin Powell, first African American to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff and US Secretary of the State, is born in New York City.

 

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April 8, 1990

Percy Lavon Julian and George Washington Carver are first black inventors admitted into the Inventors Hall of Fame. 

Online Resources

National Inventors Hall of Fame

 

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April 9, 1950

Juanita Hall becomes the first black actor to win a Tony Award, for her portrayal of Bloody Mary in South Pacific. 

Online Resources

Masterworks Broadway 

April 10, 1968

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was passed in an effort to reduce racial discrimination in the housing market.

 

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April 18, 1977

Alex Haley, author of Roots, the groundbreaking novel turned into a television drama is awarded a Pulitzer Prize. 

Online Resources

Alex Haley 

 

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April 19, 1975

Percy Lavon Julian, a chemist who held over 130 patents and carried out research vital to the invention of the birth control pill, dies in Waukegan, IL. 

Online Resources

Science History Institute

April 25, 1944

The United Negro College Fund was established to support black students.

 

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April 29, 1899

Duke Ellington was born.

 

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May 1, 1950

Gwendolyn Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry titled Annie Allen, becoming the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize.

 

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May 13, 1914

Heavyweight boxer Joe Louis is born in LaFayette, AL. 

Online Resources

Arlington National Cemetery 

 

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May 14, 1999

Dolores Kendrick is appointed poet laureate of the District of Columbia. 

Online Resources

Poetry Foundation 

Library of Congress 

May 15, 1946

Camilla Williams appears in the title role of Madama Butterfly with the New York City Opera, becoming the first black female singer to sign with a major US Opera company. 

Online Resources

Camilla Williams, Barrier-Breaking Opera Star, Dies at 92

The Civil Rights History Project 

May 17, 1954

The U.S. Supreme Court rendered its verdict on Brown v. the Board of Education ruling racial segregation in educational facilities was unconstitutional.

Online Resources

Library of Congress 

 

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May 23, 1921

Shuffle Along, the first major play of the Harlem Renaissance opened.

Online Resources

'Shuffle Along' and the Lost History of Black Performance in America

 

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May 28, 2014

Author Maya Angelou dies in Winston-Salem, NC. 

Online Resources

Poetry Foundation 

Academy of American Poets 

 

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May 29, 1851

Sojourner Truth delivered her speech, Ain’t I a Woman, at the Ohio Women’s Convention.

Online Resources

Sojourner Truth: Ain't I A Woman?

Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee

June 10, 1854

James Augustine Healy, first African American Catholic Bishop, is ordained a priest in Notre Dame Cathedral. 

 

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June 12, 1967

The U.S. Supreme Court rendered its verdict on Loving v. Virginia ruling the state’s laws prohibiting interracial marriage or cohabitation was unconstitutional.

Online Resources

ACLU

 

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June 17, 1871

James Weldon Johnson, writer, poet, and first African American to pass the Florida Bar, is born in Jacksonville, FL. 

Online Resources

Academy of American Poets

Poetry Foundation

 

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June 21, 1859

Renowned painter Henry Ossawa Tanner is born in Pittsburg, PA. 

 

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July 2, 1964

Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawing major forms of racial discrimination in public entities.

Online Resources

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom

 

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July 4, 1881

Tuskegee Institute is founded in Tuskegee, AL with Booker T. Washington as its first principal. 

Online Resources

History of Tuskegee University 

National Park Service

 

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July 5, 1892

Andrew Beard is issued a patent for a rotary steam engine. 

Online Resources

The Life of Andrew Beard - From Slave to Inventor

July 8, 1943

Women’s rights advocate Faye Wattleton is born in St. Louis, MO.

Online Resources

Faye Wattleton 

July 9, 1936

Poet and author June Jordan is born in New York City. 

Online Resources

Poetry Foundation 

 

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July 16, 1944

Dr. Charles R. Drew won the 29th NAACP Spingarn Medal for his work with blood plasma.

Online Resources

US National Library of Medicine 

 

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July 22, 1939

Jane Bolin, the first African American woman to graduate from Yale Law School, became the first African American female judge.

 

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July 26, 1948

Harry S. Truman issued an executive order desegregating the military.

Online Resources

President Truman issues Executive Order No. 9981 Desegregating the Military

July 29, 1909

Crime novelist Chester Himes is born in Jefferson City, MO. 

 

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August 6, 1965

Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawing literacy tests, poll taxes, and other practices used to keep African Americans from voting.

Online Resources

History of Federal Voting Rights Laws

A History of the Voting Rights Act

 

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August 7, 1904

Ralph Bunche, first African American Nobel Prize winner, is born in Detroit, MI. 

Online Resources

Discover Diplomacy 

August 8, 1866

Matthew A. Henson, the first African American Arctic explorer, was born.

Online Resources

Arlington National Cemetery 

August 9, 2003

Gregory Hines, actor, and dancer, dies in Los Angeles. 

Online Resources

Biography of Gregory Hines 

 

August 16, 1998

Harlem Renaissance author Dorothy West dies in Boston, MA. 

 

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August 19, 2017

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory dies in Washington, D.C. 

Online Resources

Dick Gregory, 84, Dies; Found Humor in the Civil Rights Struggle 

 

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August 21, 1831

Nat Turner led the only successful slave rebellion in U.S. history.

 

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August 22, 1989

Huey P. Newton, a  co-founder of the Black Panther Party, dies in Oakland, CA. 

 

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August 28, 1963

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his I Have a Dream speech to more than 200,000 people in Washington, D.C.

Online Resources

The National Archives 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute

Why It's Difficult to Find Full Video of King's Historic Speech 

 

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August 30, 1983

Guion Bluford, Jr. became the first African American to go to space.

Online Resources

NASA

 

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September 3, 1838

Frederick Douglass escaped slavery disguised as a sailor.

Online Resources

National Park Service 

 

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September 10, 1925

Roy James Brown, blues singer, songwriter, and musician who influenced Elvis Presley, James Brown, and Jackie Wilson, is born in New Orleans, LA. 

 

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September 12, 1992

Mae Jemison became the first African American woman to travel in space.

 

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September 16, 1925

Blues great B. B. King is born in Itta Bena, MS.

Online Resources

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 

September 24, 2016

National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in Washington, DC.

Online Resources

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture 

 

October 7, 1993

For her novel Beloved, Toni Morrison became the first African American to win the Nobel Prize in literature.

Online Resources

The Toni Morrison Society 

The Nobel Prize

 

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October 9, 1806

Mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker dies in Baltimore County, MD. 

 

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October 14, 1964

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is awarded Nobel Peace Prize. 

Online Resources

The Nobel Prize 

October 15, 1966

Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton founded the Blank Panther Party.

Online Resources

Mapping the Black Panther Party in Key Cities 

 

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October 24, 1935

Langston Hughes’ play, Mulatto, opened on Broadway.

 

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October 25, 1940

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. became the first African American general in the U.S. Army.

Online Resources

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr

November 1, 1945

The first issue of Ebony magazine was published.

Online Resources

Celebrating 71 Years of EBONY Magazine: Then and Now

November 4, 2008

Barack Obama became the first African American to be elected President of the United States.

Online Resources

Barak Obama Presidential Library 

 

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November 5, 1956

The Nat King Cole show debuted, the first televised variety show to be hosted by an African American.

Online Resources

'Nat King Cole Show' Challenged TV's Race Line

November 15, 1866

Cathay Williams, while posing as a man, became the first African American woman to enlist in the U.S. Army.

Online Resources

National Parks Service 

 

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November 18, 1900

Dr. Howard Thurman, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader, is born in Daytona Beach, FL.

Online Resources

Dr. Howard Thurman

About Howard Thurman

November 21, 1934

Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut at Harlem’s Apollo theatre.

 

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November 27, 1942

Rock musician Jimi Hendrix is born in Seattle, WA. 

Online Resources

Jimi Hendrix: 1942-1970

 

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December 11, 1871

P.B.S. Pinchback was sworn in as governor of Louisiana becoming the first African American governor in the U.S.

Online Resources

The Black Governor Who Was Almost a Senator

December 23, 1867

Madame C.J. Walker was born. She became the first African American millionaire.

Online Resources

National Women's History Museum

December 26, 1944

Harriet Ida Pickens and Frances Wills became the first African American women to be admitted to the Women’s Navel Corps (WAVES).

Online Resources

Naval History and Heritage Command

Celebration • Education • Reflection

H.R.1242/Public Law 115-102, the 400 Years of African American History Commission Act, establishes 2019 as a year of "commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies, at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619."  The commemoration is intended “to recognize and highlight the resilience and contributions of African-Americans since 1619; to acknowledge the impact that slavery and laws that enforced racial discrimination had on the United States; and to educate the public about the arrival of Africans in the United States; and the contributions of African-Americans to the United States.” In recognition of this commemoration and with the Act serving as a guide, the SJR State Library has organized a year-long series of events that will provide educational experiences and resources to students and the community that celebrate the history and culture of African Americans.

Page maintained by Brittnee Fisher. Content will be added and maintained throughout 2019.
Maintenance will cease at the end of 2019 but this site will remain accessible.