Black History Journal
1920 – Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) founds the first nationally organized celebration of Black American history then called Negro History Week which was first celebrated on this day in 1926. Woodson scheduled the week to coincide with the birthdays of Civil War President Abraham Lincoln and black abolitionist Frederick Douglas. However, in 1976, Negro History Week was expanded into the current day Black History Month.
1869 – Congress adopts the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution making it illegal for the U.S. government or any state to “deny or abridge” the right to vote “on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.” This was one of the so-called “Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th & 15th) that ended slavery, made Blacks full U.S. citizens and guaranteed the right to vote.
1879 – A date considered by many to mark the beginning of the great “Exodus of 1879” when thousands of blacks begin fleeing racism, violence and economic exploitation in the South for new lives in the Midwest, especially Kansas. One of the most prominent organizers of the exodus was former Tennessee slave Benjamin “Pap” Singleton. An estimated 20,000 blacks take part in the exodus. They were driven in part by the Homestead Act, which promised free land. But by 1880, efforts had already begun to curtail the movement of blacks to the Midwest. In 1881, Pap Singleton was hauled before a Senate investigative committee looking into his role in the exodus.
1739 – The British government is forced to sign a peace treaty with the Jamaican Maroons. The Maroons were escaped slaves or put another way Africans who refused to be slaves. When the Spanish lost Jamaica to the British in 1665, they freed many of their slaves and called them Maroons or “wild.” The Maroons set up villages, were frequently joined by other escaped slaves and eventually began to wage a highly successful guerrilla war against the British. Under the terms of the peace treaty, the Maroons were designated a free people and given 1,500 acres of land.
1896 – Ethiopia defeats Italy at the battle of Adowa (also called Adwa). It was one of the few successful military victories of Africans over Europeans as the latter attempted to colonize and economically exploit the African continent. Lead by general was Ras Makonnen – father of the man who would become next Emperor Haile Selassie, the left 6,000 Italians and 10,000 Ethiopians dead. But the victory forced Europe to recognize Ethiopia as an independent and sovereign nation.
1968 – The infamous COINTELPRO memorandum is sent to FBI field offices around the country. COINTELPRO was a government counter intelligence program aimed at disrupting and destroying black, peace and anti-war groups. The March 3rd memorandum specifically called on FBI agents to infiltrate militant black organizations and employ various tactics to prevent them from growing individually or uniting with one another.
1922 – Comedic great Bert Williams dies of pneumonia in New York City at the age of 46. What Jackie Robinson did for blacks by breaking the color bar in major league baseball, Bert Williams did on the American stage. He was a comic, singer, writer and producer who spent10 of his 25 years in show business performing with the famous Ziegfield Follies. W.C. Fields once referred to him as “the funniest man I ever saw.” Williams was born Egbert Austin Williams in the Bahamas.
This Week in Black History is compiled by Robert Taylor. Get a free subscription to his weekly Black History Journal by writing him at Robert N. Taylor, P.O. Box 58097, Washington, D.C. 20037. Simply include $3.00 to cover postage.