• May 4, 1891 Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, the first black-owned and operated hospital in the United States, was established by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams. At that time, black physicians had little or no hospital privileges, and nursing schools in Chicago did not admit black students. The original building housed 12 beds. By 1897, the hospital was moved to a larger building, had 189 patients, and an outpatient clinic that treated 6,000 patients. In the early 1930s, Provident purchased a seven-story building, built a four-story outpatient clinic, and purchased two apartment buildings to house student nurses. Provident was forced to close in 1987 due to financial difficulties, but reopened in 1997 as part of Cook County’s Bureau of Health Services.
• May 3, 1898 Septima Poinsette Clark, “grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” was born in Charleston, South Carolina. As an African American, Clark was barred from teaching in the Charleston public schools. Therefore, she began teaching on John’s Island. In 1919, she returned to Charleston to teach at Avery Normal Institute, a private academy for black children, and became active with the NAACP. From 1929 to 1947, Clark taught in the Columbia, South Carolina public school system. During that time, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Benedict College in 1942 and her Master of Arts degree from Hampton Institute in 1946. In 1956, Clark became vice president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP. That same year, the South Carolina legislature passed a law banning city or state employees from being involved with civil rights organizations. Clark refused to leave the NAACP and was fired from her teaching position. Beginning in 1954, Clark was active with the Highlander Folk School where she ran an adult literacy program. One of the participants in her workshops was Rosa Parks. In response to Southern states which required literacy and knowledge of the United States constitution in order to register to vote, Clark established “Citizenship Schools” throughout the Deep South. The program became so large that it was transferred to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Clark became SCLC’s director of education and training. Clark retired from the SCLC in 1970 and from 1974 to 1982 served on the Charleston County School Board, the first black female member. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter presented Clark a Living Legend Award. Her autobiography, “Ready from Within: Septima Clark and the Civil Rights Movement,” was published in 1986 and won the American Book Award. Clark died December 15, 1987.
• May 2, 1843 Elijah J. McCoy, hall of fame engineer and inventor, was born in Colchester, Ontario, Canada. His parents had escaped enslavement to Canada. McCoy studied engineering in Edinburgh, Scotland and after returning to Canada found work with the Michigan Central Railroad. On July 12, 1872, he received patent number 129,843 for “Improvements in Lubricators for Steam-Engines.” This was a boon for railroads because it allowed trains to run faster and more profitably with less need to stop for lubrication and maintenance. McCoy continued to invent until late in his life, receiving 57 patents mostly related to lubrication, but also including a folding ironing board and a lawn sprinkler. In 1920, he formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company. McCoy died October 10, 1929. In 1975, a Michigan historical marker was placed at the site of his Detroit, Michigan home and Elijah McCoy Drive in Detroit was named in his honor. In 2001, he was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and in 2006 the play “The Real McCoy” was written which chronicled his life and inventions. His biography, also titled “The Real McCoy,” was published in 2007. McCoy’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
• May 1, 1866 The Memphis Riots of 1866 began after a shooting altercation between white policemen and black Soldiers recently mustered out of the Union Army in Memphis, Tennessee. For three days, mobs of white civilians and policemen rampaged through black neighborhoods. A report by a joint Congressional Committee detailed 46 blacks and 2 whites killed, 75 persons injured, over 100 persons robbed, 5 women raped, and 91 homes, 4 churches, and 8 schools burned. No criminal charges were ever brought against any of the perpetrators of atrocities committed during the riots. The riots did result in major changes toward modernization of the city’s police force.
• April 30, 1872 Turner Byrd, Jr. of Williamsville, Michigan received patent number 126,181 for an improved neck-yoke for wagons. Byrd also received patent numbers 123,328 February 6, 1872 for an improved harness rein holder, 124,790 March 19, 1872 for an improved apparatus for detaching horses from carriages, and 157,370 December 1, 1874 for an improvement in railcar couplings. Not much else is known of Byrd’s life.
• April 29, 1854 Lincoln University, the first degree granting historically black college, was established as Ashmun Institute in Chester County, Pennsylvania “to provide a higher education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent.” In 1866, the institution was renamed Lincoln University. The first African American president was named in 1945 and in 1952 the institution began admitting women. Between 1854 and 1954, Lincoln produced 20 percent of the black doctors and 10 percent of the black lawyers in the United States. Today, the institution offers 37 undergraduate majors and 5 pre-professional programs to approximately 2,500 students. Notable alumni include Roscoe Lee Browne, Cab Calloway, Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, and Kwame Nkrumah.
• April 28, 1891 George Toliver of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received patent number 451,086 for his invention of a new propeller for vessels. His invention was simple, durable, and efficient in providing motive power to force vessels through water and thereby gaining speed and economizing power. Not much else is known of Toliver’s life.
• April 27, 1882 Jessie Redmon Fauset, editor, author, and educator, was born in Fredericksville, New Jersey. Fauset earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University in 1905 and is believed to be the second black woman elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Master of Arts degree in French from the University of Pennsylvania in 1919. Fauset began working at the NAACP’s The Crisis Magazine in 1912 and from 1919 to 1926 served as literary editor. She wrote four novels, “There is Confusion” (1924), “Plum Bun” (1928), “The Chinaberry Tree: A Novel of American Life” (1931), and “Comedy, American Style” (1933) and several poems and short stories. Fauset also worked as a schoolteacher from 1905 to 1919 and again from 1927 to her retirement in 1949. Fauset died April 30, 1961 and her biography, “Jessie Redmon Fauset: Black American Writer,” was published in 1981.
• April 26, 1886 Ma Rainey, hall of fame vocalist and the “Mother of the Blues,” was born Gertrude Malissa Nix in Columbus, Georgia. Rainey first appeared on stage at the age of 14 and in 1904 began performing with her husband as Rainey & Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. She made her first recording in 1923 and between that year and 1928 recorded more than 100 songs, including “Moonshine Blues” (1923), “C. C. Rider” (1924), and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (1927). She earned enough money that she was able to retire from performing in 1933 and run two theaters that she owned until her death December 22, 1939. Rainey was posthumously inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor. In 2004, her recording of “C. C. Rider” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of “qualitative or historical significance” and included by the National Recording Preservation Board in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Books about Rainey include “Ma Rainey and the Classic Blues Singers” (1970) and “Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey” (1981). Rainey’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
• April 25, 1882 William B. Purvis of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received patent number 256,856 for a bag fastener. His invention used gum or paste to seal paper bags, thus eliminating the need for a cord. Over his lifetime, Purvis received ten additional patents. He is also believed to have invented, but did not patent, several other devices. Little else is known of Purvis’ life.
APRIL 2013: TheVoices of the Civil War is a five-year film series dedicated to celebrating and commemorating the Civil War over the course of the sesquicentennial.Each month, new episodes cover pertinent topics that follow the monthly events and issues as they unfolded for African Americans during the Civil War. Within these episodes there are various primary sources – letters and diaries, newspaper reports, and more - to recount various experiences of blacks during this period.We encourage your feedback and commentary through our Voices of the Civil War web blog.
Episode 15 focuses on the life and career of Alexander Thomas Augusta, the first of only eight black physicians commissioned into the Union Army. Major Augusta served in the 7th U.S. Colored Troops and later worked as the surgeon-in-chief at the Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.
1. Ohio Historical Society 2, 17. National Archives and Records Administration 3, 7, 9, 12, 13, 16. Library of Congress 4. Army Military History Institute Collection 5, 10. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, HUA 6. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division 8. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1498, Item 11 11. Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore 14, 18. General Research & Reference Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations 15. Courtesy Anne Straith Jamieson Fonds, Western Archives, Western University 16. Courtesy of Toronto Public Library
• 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, making him 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 and he 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.
• April 23, 1856 Granville T. Woods, 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.
• 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.
• 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 on May 29, 1879 and at the Cuchillo Negro River on 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.
• April 20, 1906 Everett Frederic 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 during World War II. Morrow graduated from Officer Candidate School in 1943 and was discharged in 1946 as a major of artillery. In 1948, he earned his Juris Doctorate 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, he 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.
• 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.
• 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 to be 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.
• 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 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. The bank failed in 1908 and Gibbs died July 11, 1915. Gibbs published his autobiography, “Shadow and Light: An Autobiography with Reminiscences of the Last and Present Century,” in 1902.
• 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.