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Today in Black History, 4/24/2014

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• April 24, 1886 Augustine John Tolton was ordained to the priesthood in Rome, Italy and directed to return to the United States to serve the Black community, the first Black Roman Catholic priest in the U. S. Tolton was born enslaved April 1, 1854 in Ralls County, Missouri. During the Civil War, the Tolton family escaped to Quincy, Illinois. There Tolton was tutored by several priests. No American seminary would admit a Black student, therefore he attended the Urban College of the Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide in Rome. After being ordained and returned to the U. S., he organized St. Joseph Catholic Church and School in Quincy. He was later reassigned to Chicago, Illinois where he led the development and administration of the “Negro national parish” of St. Monica’s Catholic Church which he grew to 600 parishioners. This earned him national attention. Tolton was known for his eloquent sermons, beautiful singing voice, and his talent for playing the accordion. Tolton died July 9, 1897. His biography, “From Slave to Priest: A Biography of the Reverend Augustine Tolton (1854-1897),” was published in 1973. The Father Augustine Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbus, Missouri is named in his honor. In 2011, the Roman Catholic Church officially began the formal introduction of the cause for sainthood of Tolton. He is now designated Servant of God – Fr. Augustus Tolton.

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Today in Black History, 4/23/2014

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• April 23, 1856 Granville T. Woods, hall of fame inventor often called the “Black Edison,” was born in Columbus, Ohio. In 1884, he and his brother formed the Woods Railway Telegraph Company to manufacture and sell telephone and telegraph equipment. On December 2, 1884, Woods was granted patent number 308,876 for a telephone transmitter, an apparatus that conducted sound over an electrical current. His instrument improved on models then in use by carrying a louder and more distinct sound over a longer distance. On November 29, 1887, he received patent number 373,915 for the synchronous multiplex railway telegraph which allowed communication between stations from moving trains. Although Woods was granted approximately 60 patents, he died virtually penniless January 30, 1910. The Granville T. Woods Math and Science Community Academy in Chicago, Illinois is named in his honor. Woods was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Today in Black History, 4/22/2014

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• April 22, 1921 Candido de Guerra Camero, jazz percussionist, was born in Havana, Cuba. Prior to moving to the United States, Candido recorded with various Cuban bandleaders, played in the house band of a Cuban radio station, and performed in the band of a popular Cuban nightclub. He moved to New York City in 1952 and started recording with Dizzy Gillespie. Candido subsequently recorded with Billy Taylor, Stan Kenton, and Erroll Garner. From the late 1950s through the 1970s, Candido was the most active Latin American percussionist in jazz and pop. He has appeared on more than a thousand albums, making him the most recorded conga drummer in history. As a leader, his recordings include “Candido” (1956), “Beautiful” (1970), and “Dancin’ and Prancin’” (1979). In 2008, Candido was designated a NEA Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor the nation bestows on a jazz artist.

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Today in Black History, 4/21/2014

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• April 21, 1896 Thomas Boyne, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died. Boyne was born in 1849 in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In 1879, he was serving as a sergeant in Company C of the 9th Cavalry Regiment in New Mexico during the Indian Wars. Boyne was cited for “bravery in action” at the Mimbres Mountains May 29, 1879 and at the Cuchillo Negro River September 27, 1879. For his actions, Boyne was awarded the medal, America’s highest military decoration, January 6, 1882. He was discharged from the army in 1889 because of a disability and admitted to the U. S. Soldiers Home in 1890, where he lived until his death.

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Today in Black History, 4/20/2014

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• April 20, 1906 Everett Frederick Morrow, businessman and the first African American to hold an executive position at the White House, was born in Hackensack, New Jersey. Morrow graduated from Bowdoin College in 1930 and was employed by the National Urban League and the NAACP as field secretary before entering the United States Army in 1942. He graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1943 and was discharged in 1946 as a major of artillery. In 1948, he earned his Juris Doctor degree from Rutgers University. In 1955, he joined President Dwight Eisenhower’s staff as administrative officer for special projects where he served until 1961. In 1963, Morrow published his account of the experience in his autobiography “Black Man in the White House.” In 1964, he became the first Black corporate executive at Bank of America. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Bowdoin in 1970. Morrow died July 20, 1994.

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Today in Black History 4/19/2014

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• April 19, 1841 Pierre Caliste Landry, the first African American to serve as mayor of an American city, was born enslaved in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. In 1854, Landry was sold at public auction to a prominent Louisiana family where he was educated in their primary and technical schools. After the Civil War ended, Landry was freed and he moved with his family to Donaldsonville, Louisiana. There he founded two Black schools, built a prosperous business, and became an influential leader in the Black community. In 1868, Landry was elected Mayor of Donaldsonville and served a one-year term. In 1872, he was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives and in 1874 to the state senate where he served until 1880. While in the house, he authored the bill to create New Orleans University, the third Black private college in Louisiana. In 1891, Landry was elected to the highest position in the Methodist Episcopal Church, Presiding Elder of the South New Orleans District. He later served as principal and dean of several high schools. Landry died December 22, 1921.

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Today in Black History 4/18/2014

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• April 18, 1813 James McCune Smith, physician, abolitionist and author, was born in New York City. After graduating from the African Free School, Smith tried to attend several American colleges but was denied admission because of his race. Therefore, he attended the University of Glasgow in Scotland where he graduated at the top of his class with his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1835, his Master of Arts degree in 1836, and a medical degree in 1837. In 1837, he returned to New York as the United States’ first professionally trained African American physician. In 1846, he was appointed the only doctor for the Free Negro Orphan Asylum where he worked for more than 20 years. He also opened what is believed the first Black pharmacy in the U. S. Smith was a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society and in 1850 was one of the organizers of the Committee of Thirteen which was formed to resist the Fugitive Slave Law. During the mid-1850s, he worked with Frederick Douglass to establish the National Council of Colored People. Smith was a prolific writer whose works include “The Destiny of the People of Color” (1843) and “Ira Aldridge” (1860). He also wrote the introduction to Douglass’ second autobiography, “My Bondage and My Freedom” (1855), in which he stated “the worst of our institutions, in its worst aspect, cannot keep down energy, truthfulness, and earnest struggle for the right.” In 1863, Smith was appointed professor of anthropology at Wilberforce College but was too ill to take the position. He died November 17, 1865. James McCune Smith School in New York City is named in his honor.

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Today in Black History 4/17/2014

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• April 17, 1823 Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, businessman, politician and the first elected African American municipal judge, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After the 1849 gold rush, Mifflin moved to San Francisco, California where he became a successful retail merchant and a leader of the San Francisco Black community. In 1855, he founded The Mirror of the Times, the first Black newspaper west of the Mississippi River. In 1858, he moved to Victoria, British Columbia to escape growing racial prejudice in California and in 1866 became the first Black man elected to the Victoria City Council. Gibbs returned to the United States in 1870 and in 1871 settled in Little Rock, Arkansas and began to study the law. He passed the bar examination in 1872 and in 1873 was elected Little Rock Police Judge, a position he held until 1875. In 1877, President Rutherford Hayes appointed Gibbs registrar of the Little Rock district land office. President Benjamin Harrison appointed him receiver of public monies in 1889 and President William McKinley appointed him U. S. consul to Madagascar in 1897. In 1903, Gibbs founded the Capital City Savings Bank which by 1905 had deposits of $100,000. Gibbs died July 11, 1915. Gibbs published his autobiography, “Shadow and Light: An Autobiography with Reminiscences of the Last and Present Century,” in 1902.

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Today in Black History 4/16/2014

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• April 16, 1861 Isaac Burns Murphy, hall of fame jockey, was born in Frankfort, Kentucky. Murphy competed in 11 Kentucky Derby’s and was the first jockey to ride three derby winners, Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890, and Kingman in 1891. Over his career, Murphy won 628 of the 1,412 starts, a winning percentage of 44.5% that historians feel “there is no chance that his record of winning will ever be surpassed.” At his peak in the late 1880s, he was the highest paid athlete in America, earning close to $20,000 a year. Murphy died February 12, 1896. He was the first jockey inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1955 and the official Kentucky Derby website states, “Isaac Murphy is considered one of the greatest race riders in American history.” Since 1995, the National Turf Writers Association has given the Isaac Murphy Award to the jockey with the highest winning percentage for the year. “Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World’s Greatest Jockeys” was published in 2006 and a book of poetry, “Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride,” was published in 2010.

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Today in Black History 4/15/2014

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• April 15, 1791 John Marrant, one to the first African American preachers and missionaries, died. Marrant was born June 15, 1755 in New York City but raised in Charleston, South Carolina. During the Revolutionary War, the British forced him into the navy where he served for seven years. In 1782, he began training as a Methodist minister and was ordained in 1785. That year, he was sent to Nova Scotia to minister to several thousand African Americans who had fled north during the Revolutionary War. In 1788, Marrant became the chaplain of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1790, Marrant traveled to London, England where he died. Marrant published his memoir, “A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, A Black,” in 1785. His memoir was so popular that it was reprinted more than 17 times. A sermon he delivered in 1789 and his journal from 1785 to 1790 were also published.

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Today in Black History 4/14/2014

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• April 14, 1816 The Bussa Rebellion, the first of three large-scale rebellions in the British West Indies that shook public faith in slavery, started in Barbados. The rebellion was led by an enslaved man named Bussa who had been born free in Africa but was captured by African slave merchants and brought to Barbados. Bussa commanded approximately 400 freedom fighters and was killed in battle. In 1985, the Bussa Emancipation Statue was unveiled in Barbados and in 1999 Bussa was named the first national hero of Barbados.

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Today in Black History 4/13/2014

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• April 13, 1873 The Colfax Massacre occurred in Colfax, Louisiana when White men armed with rifles and a small canon overpowered Black freedmen and state militia trying to control the parish courthouse after a contested election for governor. A military report to Congress in 1875 identified 81 Black men by name who had been killed and estimated that 15 to 20 bodies were thrown in the Red River and another 18 secretly buried. An attempt to prosecute a few of the perpetrators led to the 1876 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Cruikshank, that the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment did not apply to the actions of individuals, but only to actions of the state. More information about the massacre can be found in “The Colfax Massacre: The Untold Story of Black Power, White Terror, & The Death of Reconstruction” (2007) and “The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of Reconstruction” (2008).

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Today in Black History, 4/12/2014

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• April 12, 1825 Richard Harvey Cain, minister, abolitionist and congressman, was born in Greenbrier County, Virginia. Cain attended Wilberforce University and a divinity school in Missouri. He joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1848 and in 1865 moved to South Carolina as superintendent of AME missions. In 1872, Cain was elected to the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina. He did not seek re-election in 1874 but was elected a second time in 1876 and served one term. In 1880, Cain was ordained an AME bishop serving the diocese of Louisiana and Texas and during that time helped found Paul Quinn College, serving as president until 1884. Cain died January 18, 1897.

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Today in Black History, 4/11/2014

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• April 11, 1881 Spelman College, the oldest historically Black college for females, was founded as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary by two teachers from Massachusetts with 11 students and $100. In 1883, the school relocated to a nine acre site and in 1884 John D. Rockefeller provided funding to retire the debt on the property. The name of the school was changed to Spelman Seminary in honor of Rockefeller’s wife. In 1888, Sophia B. Packard was appointed the first of Spelman’s nine presidents. In 1924, the school became Spelman College, in 1929 it became part of the Atlanta University Center, and in 1932 it was accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Today, the campus consists of 26 buildings on 39 acres with 2,400 students and 175 faculty members. Notable alumnae include Pearl Cleage, Marian Wright Edelman, Bernice Johnson Regon, and Alice Walker.

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Today in Black History, 4/10/2014

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• April 10, 1926 Johnnie Tillmon Blackston, welfare reformer, was born in Scott, Arkansas. The daughter of sharecroppers, Blackston never finished high school. When things went bad in Arkansas, she left her first husband and moved to Los Angeles, California with her six children. There she worked in a laundry and received Aid to Families With Children. During that time, welfare inspectors routinely invaded the privacy of recipients, checking on their possessions and ensuring that they were not living with men. In 1963, Blackston organized a meeting of other welfare recipients to protest these invasions. Out of that meeting came a statewide organization, Aid to Needy Children Mothers Anonymous. That organization inspired the creation of the National Welfare Rights Organization with Blackston as executive director. The NWRO successfully campaigned for reforms that removed many of the system’s paternalistic trappings. After the NWRO closed in 1974, Blackston worked as a legislative aide and served on state and local committees concerned with welfare until her death November 22, 1995.

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Today in Black History, 4/9/2014

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• April 9, 1866 The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed by the United States Congress. The act provided that “All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of every kind and to no other.” The problem with the act was that it contained no remedies for violations and because those being discriminated against had limited access to legal help, it essentially left victims without any recourse.

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Today in Black History, 4/8/2014

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• April 8, 1872 Ruth Ada Gaines-Shelton, playwright, was born in Glasgow, Missouri. Shelton-Gaines graduated from Wilberforce University in 1895 and taught school until 1898. After marrying, Gaines wrote many plays but her only known published work is “The Church Fight” which was published in the Crisis Magazine in May, 1926. This play is significant because it documents the creative activities of Black women within their own communities during a time when most other avenues of opportunity were closed. “The Church Fight” continues to be performed today. Not much else is known of Gaines-Shelton’s life, including the date of her death.

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Today in Black History, 4/7/2014

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• April 7, 1803 Francois-Dominique Toussaint L’Ouverture, Haitian patriot and revolutionary leader, died. Toussaint was born enslaved May 20, 1743 in Saint-Domingue, Hispaniola (now Haiti). At an early age, Toussaint’s master recognized his superior intelligence and taught him French, gave him duties which allowed him to educate himself, and freed him at 33. Beginning in 1791, Toussaint led enslaved Black people in a long struggle for independence from French colonizers. By 1796, Toussaint was the dominant figure in Haiti and tried to rebuild the collapsed economy and reestablish commercial contacts with the United States and Britain. However, in 1802 he was kidnapped by the French and died in a French prison. Toussaint figures importantly in the early 19th century writings of several authors as a symbol and exemplar of resistance to slavery and as an example of the potential of the Black race. He also inspired a number of 20th century works, including Leslie Pinckey Hill’s “Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Dramatic History” (1928) and Aime Cesaire’s “Toussaint Louverture” (1960). Toussaint’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.

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Today in Black History 4/6/2014

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• April 6, 1712 The New York City Slave Revolt started when 23 enslaved Africans killed nine Whites and injured six. As a result, 70 Black people were arrested and jailed, 27 were put on trial and 21 were convicted and executed. Also laws governing the lives of Black people in New York were made more restrictive. Africans were not permitted to gather in groups of more than three, crimes such as property damage, rape, and conspiracy were made punishable by death, and free black people were not allowed to own land.

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Today in Black History, 4/5/2014

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• April 5, 1839 Robert Smalls, businessman and politician, was born enslaved in Beaufort, South Carolina. In 1862, while serving as a helmsman on a Confederate military transport, he and other Black crewman took over the ship and handed it over to the Union Navy. This action made Smalls famous in the North and Congress passed a bill rewarding Smalls and his crewman prize money for the captured ship. Smalls returned to Beaufort and purchased the estate of his former master. Smalls served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1865 to 1870, the South Carolina Senate from 1871 to 1874, and the United States House of Representatives from 1875 to 1879 and 1882 to 1883. Smalls also served as U. S. Collector of Customs from 1889 to 1911. Smalls died February 23, 1915. The Robert Smalls House in Beaufort was designated a National Historic Landmark May 30, 1973 and Robert Smalls Middle School in Beaufort is named in his honor. On September 15, 2007, the U. S. Army commissioned a Logistics Support Vessel in his name, the first army vessel named for an African American. Biographies of Small include “From Slavery to Public Service: Robert Smalls, 1839 – 1915” (1971) and “Gullah Statesman: Robert Smalls From Slavery to Congress, 1839 – 1915” (1995). In 2012, an exhibition, “The Life and Times of Congressman Robert Smalls,” was curated by the South Carolina State Museum.

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