February 21, 1864 St. Francis Xavier Church in East Baltimore, Maryland, the first Catholic Church in the United States officially established for Negroes, was dedicated. Between 500 and 1,000 Black people fleeing the Haitian Revolution had arrived in Baltimore on six French ships in July, 1791. Most of them were free, wealthy, educated, Catholic, and spoke fluent French.A group of the refugees purchased the church in October, 1863. The church was very active by 1871 with three Sunday masses, a home for the aged poor, an orphanage, a night school for adults, an industrial school, and a lending library. The church moved to its current location in Baltimore in 1968 and continues to operate today.
February 21, 1905 Samuel Milton Nabrit, biologist, educator and college president, was born in Macon, Georgia. Nabrit earned his Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Morehouse College in 1925 and his Master of Science degree in 1928 and Ph. D. in 1932 from Brown University. He was the first African American to be awarded a Ph. D. by Brown. Nabrit taught zoology at Morehouse from 1925 to 1931 and became chairman of the biology department at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1932. He became the dean of the graduate school of arts and sciences at Atlanta in 1947 and served in that position until 1955 when he became the second president of Texas Southern University. Nabrit more than doubled the enrollment of Black students in his eleven year tenure and encouraged their participation in the Civil Rights Movement. He declared that no student would be expelled for civil rights activities while he was president of the university. Nabrit served on President Dwight D. Eisenhower's National Science Board from 1956 to 1962 and President Lyndon B. Johnson swore him in as a member the Atomic Energy Commission August 1, 1966, the first African American on that commission. He founded and became director of the Southern Fellowship Fund in 1967, to support and mentor Black students studying for doctorates. He worked for the fund until his retirement in 1981. Nabrit served as Brown University's first Black trustee from 1967 to 1972 and the university established the Nabrit Fellowship in 1985 to assist graduate students from minority groups. Nabrit died December 30, 2003.
February 21, 1909 Helen Octavia Dickens, medical pioneer, was born in Dayton, Ohio. Dickens earned her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois in 1932, her Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in 1934, the only African American female in her class, and her Master of Medical Science degree from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Medicine in 1945. She was the first African American female board certified obstetrics and gynecology doctor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1945. Dickens joined the staff of Women's Hospital in 1951 and joined the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine when they bought Women's Hospital in 1956. Dickens founded the Teen Clinic at the university in 1967 for school-age mothers in the inner city. It offered educational classes, counseling, family planning, and prenatal care. She was named associate dean for minority admissions in 1969 and in that position increased the number of minorities admitted from 3 to 64. Dickens was a member of the boards of the American Cancer Society and the Children's Aid Society. Dickens died December 2, 2001. The Helen O. Dickens Center for Women's Health at the University of Pennsylvania is named in her honor andthe Dr. Helen O. Dickens Lifetime Achievement Award is given to individuals with a long history of service to women of color.
February 21, 1917 Tadley Peake "Tadd" Dameron, hall of fame jazz composer, arranger and pianist, was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Dameron started playing the piano at four. He began composing at 23 and moved to New York City in the early 1940s. He composed a number of bop standards there, including "Hot House", "If You Could See Me Now", "Good Bait", and "Lady Bird". He also arranged for many of the greatest jazz performers, including Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sarah Vaughn. He was the most influential arranger of the bebop era. Dameron also recorded several albums as leader, including "The Dameron Band" (1948), "A Study in Dameronia" (1953), and "The Magic Touch" (1962). Dameron died March 8, 1965. He was posthumously inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2009 and his biography, "Dameronia: The Life and Music of Tadd Dameron", was published in 2012.
February 21, 1933 Nina Simone, singer, songwriter and civil rights activist, was born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina. Simone began playing the piano at three and made her debut as a classical pianist at 12. She released her debut album, "Little Girl Blue", in 1958 and recorded more than 40 albums over her career with songs that included "My Baby Just Cares for Me" (1958), "Mississippi Goddam" (1964), "Four Women" (1966), and "To Be Young Gifted and Black" (1970). Simone recorded her last album, "A Single Woman", in 1993. Simone performed and spoke at many civil rights events, including the Selma to Montgomery march, and her songs often contained a civil rights message. Her regal bearing and commanding stage presence earned her the title "High Priestess of Soul". Simone left the United States in 1970 for Barbados and Europe before settling in France where she died April 21, 2003. Her autobiography, "I Put a Spell On You", was published in 1992 and her recording "I Love You, Porgy" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000 as a recording of "lasting qualitative or historical significance".
February 21, 1936 Barbara Charline Jordan, hall of fame politician and the first African American woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives from a southern state, was born in Houston, Texas. Jordan earned her Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from Texas Southern University in 1956 and her Juris Doctor degree from Boston University in 1959. Jordan was the first Black woman elected to the Texas State Senate in 1966 and served until 1972 when she was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives. She supported the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 that required financial institutions to lend and make services available to underserved poor and minority communities and the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 during her time in Congress. Jordan became the first African American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention July 12, 1976 and that speech is considered by many historians to be the best convention keynote speech in modern history. Jordan retired from politics in 1979 and became adjunct professor at the University of Texas. She was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1990 and was awarded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 1992 Spingarn Medal. Jordan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President William J. Clinton August 8, 1994 and the United States Military Academy's Sylvanus Thayer Award in 1995, the second female recipient. Jordan died January 17, 1996. She was the first Black woman buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. A statue of Jordan was unveiled at the University of Texas in Austin April 24, 2009. Several schools in Texas are named in her honor as is the main terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in her honor in 2011. Her biography, "Barbara Jordan: American Hero", was published in 2000 and a collection of her speeches, "Barbara Jordan: Speaking the Truth with Eloquent Thunder", was published in 2007. Her name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
February 21, 1940 John Robert Lewis, civil rights leader, politician and author, was born in Troy, Alabama. Lewis earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in theology from the American Baptist Theological Seminary in 1961 and another Bachelor of Arts degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University in 1963. He was a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960 and served as the organization's chairman from 1963 to 1966. He participated in the Freedom Rides to desegregate the South and was beaten bloody by a White mob in Montgomery, Alabama in the spring of 1961. Lewis was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was elected to the Atlanta, Georgia City Council in 1981 and was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1986 where he serves today. Lewis received the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation Profile in Courage Award "for his extraordinary courage, leadership and commitment to civil rights" in 2001 and received the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 2002 Spingarn Medal. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama February 15, 2011. Lewis has received more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees, including honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Brown University, Harvard University, and the University of Connecticut School of Law, Cleveland State University, Emory University, and a Doctor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts. Lewis published his autobiography, "Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement", in 1999. He published "Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change" in 2012.
February 21, 1943 Adah Belle Samuels Thoms, hall of fame nurse, died. Thoms was born January 12, 1870 in Richmond, Virginia. She graduated from the Women's Infirmary and School of Therapeutic Massage in 1900 and the Lincoln Hospital and Home School of Nursing in 1905. She served as acting director at Lincoln from 1906 to 1923 but could not receive the official title of director because of her race. Thoms was a co-founder of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses in 1908 and served as president from 1916 to 1923. She played a significant role in lobbying for the rights of African American women to serve in the United States military during World War I. In Thoms was the first recipient of the Mary Mahoney Medal from the NACGN in 1936 and was an inaugural inductee into the American Nursing Association Hall of Fame in 1976.
February 21, 1961 Otis Frank Boykin of Chicago, Illinois received patent number 2,972,726 for an improved electrical resistor which could be made more cheaply and quickly and could withstand extreme changes in temperature and tolerate and withstand various levels of pressure and physical trauma without impairing its effectiveness. This device is used in electrical devices, including guided missiles, computers, and a control unit for artificial heart stimulators. Boykin was born August 29, 1920 in Dallas, Texas and earned his bachelor's degree from Fisk College (now University) in 1941. He pursued graduate studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology but had to drop out after two years because he was unable to afford tuition. Boykin took a special interest in working with resisters and began researching and inventing on his own. He received patent number 2,891,227 for a wire precision resistor that would be used in radios and televisions June 16, 1959. Boykin created other important products, including a chemical air filter and a burglarproof cash register. He invented 28 different electronic devices and earned eleven patents. Boykin died March 4, 1982. He was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.
February 21, 1961 Frederick McKinley Jones, hall of fame inventor and businessman, died. Jones was born May 17, 1893 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He boosted his natural mechanical ability and inventive mind with independent reading and study. Jones moved to Hallock, Minnesota in 1912 and after serving in the United States Army during World War I, taught himself electronics and built a transmitter for the town's radio station. Jones designed a portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food around 1935 and received patent number 2,475,841 for it July 12, 1949. His air coolers made it possible to ship perishable food long distances during any time of the year. His units were also important during World War II, preserving blood, medicine, and food. Jones was awarded 61 patents during his lifetime, mostly for refrigeration equipment but also for portable X-ray machines, sound equipment, and gasoline engines. He was the first African American elected into the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers in 1944. Jones was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Technology by President George H. W. Bush September 16, 1991, the first African American to receive the award, and was posthumously inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007. Biographies of Jones include "Man With a Million Ideas: Fred Jones, Genius/Inventor" (1976) and "I've Got an Idea: The Story of Frederick McKinley Jones" (1994).
February 21, 1965 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz aka Malcolm X, Muslim minister and human rights leader, was assassinated. Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska but raised in Lansing, Michigan. He was sentenced to prison in 1946 and while in prison became a member of the Nation of Islam. He became one of the Nation's leaders and chief spokesman after his parole in 1952. He was named assistant minister of Temple Number One in Detroit, Michigan in 1953 and had established Boston, Massachusetts' Temple Number Eleven and expanded Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's Temple Number Twelve by 1954. Malcolm X was the public face of the Nation of Islam until his departure from the organization in March, 1964. He became a Sunni Muslim, changed his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, made a pilgrimage to Mecca, and founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity. Ossie Davis delivered the eulogy at his funeral and described Malcolm X as "our shining Black prince". His autobiography, "The Autobiography of Malcolm X", was published shortly after his death and the film "Malcolm X" was released in 1992. Many streets and schools around the country are named in his honor, including the El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Academy in Lansing. The United States Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp in his honor in 1999 and Columbia University opened the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center in 2005. The Malcolm X House Site in North Omaha, Nebraska was listed on the National Register of Historic Places March 1, 1984 "because of the importance of Malcolm X to American history and national culture". A biography, "Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention", was published in 2011. His name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
February 21, 1968 Clifford Chester Sims, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, was killed in action. Sims was born June 18, 1942 in Port St. Joe, Florida. By this date, he was serving in the United States Army as a staff sergeant in Company D, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War. His actions on this date near Hue in the Republic of Vietnam earned him the medal, America's highest military decoration. His citation partially reads, "While continuing through the dense woods amidst heavy enemy fire, S/Sgt. Sims and his squad were approaching a bunker when they heard the unmistakable noise of a concealed booby trap being triggered immediately to their front. S/Sgt. Sims warned his comrades of the danger and unhesitatingly hurled himself upon the device as it exploded, taking the full impact of the blast. In so protecting his fellow soldiers, he willingly sacrificed his life." Sims' family accepted the medal from Vice President Spiro T. Agnew December 2, 1969. The Clifford Chester Sims State Veterans Nursing Home in Panama City, Florida is named in his honor.
February 21, 1992 Eva Jessye, the first Black woman to receive international distinction as a professional choral conductor, died. Jessye was born January 20, 1895 in Coffeyville, Kansas. She studied choral music and music theory at Western University, a now defunct historically Black college, and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Langston University in 1919. She formed her own group, the Eva Jessye Choir, in 1926. Jessye was the choral director for the 1929 film "Hallelujah". She was the music director for the 1933 opera "Four Saints in Three Acts" on Broadway and the music director for the 1935 opera "Porgy and Bess". Jessye published "My Spirituals", a collection of arrangements of spirituals, in 1928. She also composed her own choral works, including "The Life of Christ in Negro Spirituals" (1931), "Paradise Lost and Regained" (1934), and "The Chronicle of Job" (1936). An active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Jessye directed the official choir at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Jessye established the Eva Jessye African-American Music Collection at the University of Michigan.
February 21, 2015 Clark Terry, hall of fame jazz trumpeter and educator, died. Terry was born December 14, 1920 in St. Louis, Missouri. He began his professional musical career in the early 1940s and played with Count Basie from 1948 to 1951 and Duke Ellington from 1951 to 1959. He became the first African American staff musician at NBC Television in 1960 when he joined the "Tonight Show" band. He composed more than 200 jazz songs and performed for seven United States presidents over his career. Recordings by Terry as leader include "Serenade to a Bus Seat" (1957), "Mumbles" (1966), and "Live at Marian's with the Terry's Young Titans of Jazz" (2005). Terry also shared his jazz expertise and encouraged students at his own jazz camp where he bought instruments and gave instruction. He was designated a NEA Jazz Master, the highest honor the United States bestows on a jazz artist, by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1991 and was inducted into the French Order of Arts and Letters and the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 2000. Terry received three Grammy Award nominations and was presented the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. The Clark Terry UNH Jazz Festival is presented annually at the University of New Hampshire. "Clark: The Autobiography of Clark Terry" was published in 2011. The 2014 documentary "Keep On Keepin' On" follows Terry's mentorship of a young blind piano prodigy.
The first Black woman to receive international distinction as a professional choral conductor.
Barbara Charline Jordan
Hall of fame politician and the first African American woman to serve in the United States House of Representatives from a southern state.