Today in Black History, 06/28/2015 | Organization of Afro-American Unity - The Charles H. Wright Museum Blog

Today in Black History, 06/28/2015 | Organization of Afro-American Unity



  • June 28, 1830 David Walker, abolitionist and author of “David Walker’s Appeal”, was found dead on the doorsteps of his home. Walker was born September 28, 1785 in Wilmington, North Carolina. He moved to Boston, Massachusetts during the 1820s where he served as the local distributor of “Freedom’s Journal”, a weekly abolitionist newspaper, and began to speak and write about slavery and racism. He joined the Massachusetts General Colored Association, which was committed to promoting the interests and rights of African Americans, in 1828. Walker published a 76 page pamphlet entitled “Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America” in 1829. In the appeal, he argued that African Americans suffered more than any other people of the history of the world and called for immediate, universal, and unconditional emancipation. He also openly praised enslaved people who used violence in self-defense against their masters and overseers and suggested that enslaved people kill their masters in order to gain freedom. Many historians believe that this was the first written assault on slavery and racism to come from a Black man in the United States. Southern slave owners labeled the pamphlet seditious and placed a price on Walker’s head. “To Awaken My Brethren: David Walker and the Problem of Antibellum Slave Resistence” was published in 1996.
  • June 28, 1870 Emmanuel Stance was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, America’s highest military decoration. Stance was born in 1847 in East Carroll Parish, Louisiana. Prior to joining the United States Army, he worked as a sharecropper. He enlisted in the army in October, 1866 and within ten months was promoted to sergeant. On May 20, 1870, while serving in Company F of the 9th Cavalry at Fort McKavett, he led a detachment of ten privates to return two White boys who had been kidnapped by Apaches. For his bravery on the mission, Stance was cited for “gallantry on scout after Indians”. Stance remained in the army, reaching the rank of first sergeant, until his death December 25, 1887.
  • June 28, 1884 Lamina Sankoh, clergyman, politician and educator, was born Etheldred Jones in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Sankoh earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Fourah Bay College and went on to read theology and philosophy at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. He returned to Sierra Leone in 1924 and was appointed priest and curate of the Holy Trinity Church. He left the church in the late 1920s and came to the United States where he taught at Tuskegee University, Lincoln University, and South Carolina State University. Sankoh returned to Britain in 1930 and became active with the West African Students Union, an organization campaigning for self-government of British colonies in Africa. Sankoh eventually became editor of the organization’s journal. He returned to Sierra Leone in the 1940s and became a city councilor in 1948. That same year, he founded what eventually became the Sierra Leone People’s Party. He also established a savings bank and a newspaper called The African Vanguard. Sankoh died in 1964. There is a prominent street named for him in downtown Freetown.
  • June 28, 1900 Harriet E. “Hattie” Adams Wilson, considered the first African American female novelist, died. Wilson was born March 15, 1825 in Milford, New Hampshire. Her father died and her mother abandoned her when she was young. As an orphan, she was made an indentured servant. After the end of her indenture, Wilson worked as a house servant and seamstress. Wilson copyrighted her novel, “Our Nig: or Sketches From the Life of A Free Black”, August 18, 1859 and it was published September 5, 1859. The book is generally considered an autobiographical novel and it highlighted the brand of racial oppression practiced in New England. After publishing the novel, Wilson traveled throughout New England, delivering lectures on labor reform and children’s education. “Our Nig” received national attention when it was rediscovered by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in 1982. Wilson’s name is enshrined in the Ring of Genealogy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, Michigan.
  • June 28, 1911 Samuel Jesse Battle became the first Black police officer in New York City. Battle was born January 16, 1883 in New Bern, North Carolina. After attending segregated schools in North Carolina, he moved to New York City where he worked as a train porter and began studying for the police department civil service examination. After being appointed a police officer, he was assigned to San Juan Hill, one of the major African American neighborhoods in Manhattan. As the African American population in Harlem grew, Battle was reassigned there. Battle later became the first African American sergeant and lieutenant on the force and became the first African American parole commissioner in 1941. In that capacity, he worked with delinquent youth in Harlem, overseeing summer camps and sports activities. Battle retired in 1951 but remained active in the Harlem community until his death August 7, 1966.
  • June 28, 1915 David “Honeyboy” Edwards, hall of fame blues guitarist and singer, was born in Shaw, Mississippi. Edwards left home at 14 to begin the life of an itinerant musician which he led throughout the 1930s and 1940s. During that time, he played with many of the leading bluesmen of the Mississippi Delta, including Robert Johnson and Big Joe Williams. Edwards was recorded for the Library of Congress in 1942. He did not record again until 1951 when he recorded “Who May Be Your Regular Be”. Other albums by Edwards include “Drop Down Mama” (1953), “I’ve Been Around” (1995), and “Roamin’ and Ramblin’” (2008). Edwards won the 2008 Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album for “Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas”. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1996 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the National Guitar Museum Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. Edwards published his autobiography, “The World Don’t Owe Me Nothin’”, in 1997. He received the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship, recognizing him as a national treasure, in 2002. The story of his life is told in the 2010 film “Honeyboy and the History of the Blues”. Edwards died August 29, 2011.
  • June 28, 1942 Chris Hani, leader of the South African Communist Party and Chief of Staff of the armed wing of the African National Congress, was born Martin Thembisile Hani in Cofimvaba, South Africa. Hani joined the ANC Youth League at 15. He also studied modern and classical literature at the University of Fort Hare and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin and English from Rhodes University in 1962. Following his arrest under the Suppression of Communism Act, Hani went into exile in Lesotho in 1963. While in exile, Hani fought with rebels in Rhodesia against the White government. He was elected to the ANC National Executive Committee in 1975 and became chief of staff of the armed wing of the ANC in 1987. Following the end of the government ban on the ANC in 1990, he returned to South Africa and was elected general secretary of the South African Communist Party in 1991. During this time, Hani was the most popular ANC leader after Nelson Mandela. Hani was assassinated April 10, 1993. A township and municipality in South Africa are named in his honor. The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, one of the largest hospitals in the world, was renamed in his honor in 1997.
  • June 28, 1943 Matthew Wesley Clair, Sr., one of the first African Americans elected bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, died. Clair was born October 21, 1865 in Union, West Virginia. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Morgan College in 1889 and was licensed to preach. He earned his Ph. D. from Bennett College in 1901. Clair was presiding elder of the Washington District of the Methodist Episcopal Church from 1897 to 1902 and from 1902 to 1919 was pastor of Asbury Church in Washington, D. C. where he spearheaded the construction of a 1,800-seat sanctuary. He also edited the conference paper, “The Banner”. Clair was elected bishop in 1920 and assigned to a mission in Monrovia, Liberia where he served until 1928. While in Liberia, he was a member of the Board of Education of the Republic of Liberia and the American Advisory Commission on the Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute of Liberia. He was assigned to the Covington, Kentucky Episcopal Area in 1928 and served the Black conferences in the Midwest until his retirement in 1936.
  • June 28, 1947 Mark Clark, Black Panther leader, was born in Peoria, Illinois. Clark became active with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at an early age and joined in demonstrations against discrimination in housing, employment, and education. He joined the Black Panther Party in the mid-1960s and later organized a chapter in Peoria with a free breakfast program. In the pre-dawn hours of December 4, 1969, the Chicago police raided the apartment of Black Panther Party state chairman Fred Hampton, killing Clark and Hampton and seriously wounding four others, including two females. A federal grand jury determined that the police fired between 82 and 99 shots while most of the occupants were sleep. Only one shot was proven to have come from a Panther gun. The families of Hampton and Clark filed a civil suit against the city, state, and federal governments which was eventually settled for $1.85 million.
  • June 28, 1958 Donna F. Edwards, the first African American woman to represent the State of Maryland in the United States House of Representatives, was born in Yancyville, North Carolina. Edwards earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wake Forest University in 1980. She worked for Lockheed Corporation at the Goddard Space Flight Center from 1982 to 1986. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire in 1989. Edwards co-founded and served as the first executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence from 1996 to 1999. She served as executive director of the Arca Foundation from 2000 to 2008. Edwards won a special election to replace a representative who resigned in June, 2008 and won the regular election in November of that year. She has been re-elected three times. Edwards serves on the Committee on Science, Space and Technology and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
  • June 28, 1971 The United States Supreme Court in the case of Clay v. United States ruled unanimously to overturn the conviction of Muhammad Ali for refusing to report for induction into the United States military. The court found that the government had failed to properly specify why Ali’s application for conscientious objector classification had been denied.  Ali had previously refused to serve in the U. S. military because he considered himself a conscientious objector. He appealed the draft board’s denial of his conscientious objector classification and the case went to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Ali was stripped of his World Heavyweight Boxing title and not allowed to box from 1967 to 1970.
  • June 28, 2012 Leontine Turpeau Current Kelly, hall of fame religious leader and the first African American female bishop in the United Methodist Church, died. Kelly was born March 5, 1920 in Washington, D. C. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Union University in 1960 and her Master of Divinity degree from the Union Theological Seminary in 1976. She became assistant general secretary for evangelism for the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship in 1983. The following year, she was elected bishop and served until retirement in 1988. Following her retirement, Kelly served as visiting professor of evangelism and witness at Pacific School of Religion. Her many honors and awards include 10 honorary doctorate degrees and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice and Grass Roots Leadership awards from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Kelly was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2000 and received the 2002 Thomas Merton Award, given annually to “national and international individuals struggling for justice”.


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