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Black History Feb 19, 2009

Robert Taylor | 1/10/2009, 6:02 p.m.

Feb. 22

1950 €" Basketball legend Julius €Dr. J€ Erving is born in Roosevelt, N.Y. He was the most dominant NBA player of his era. The former Philadelphia 76€er was 6€7€, 210 pounds.

Feb. 23

1868 €"Dr. W.E.B. DuBois is born William Edward Burghardt DuBois in Great Barrington, Mass. DuBois can easily qualify as Black America€s leading scholar and intellectual of the late 1800€s and early 1900€s. He was also an educator and social activist fighting tirelessly against racial injustice and U.S. imperialism. He started the NAACP€s influential Crisis magazine. He organized what many consider the First Pan African Congress. [Actually, it was the second. The first took place in 1900.] However, in his later years DuBois became increasingly frustrated with American racism, injustice and hypocritical brand of democracy. He turned to socialism around 1927 and despaired of the NAACP€s legalistic approach to obtaining rights for Blacks. He nevertheless authored several influential books including €The Souls of Black Folks.€ He coined the phrase €talented 10th€ to describe what he believed would have to be a class of educated and skilled Blacks who would have to lead the race out of its oppression. DuBois finally went into self-imposed exile in the West African nation of Ghana saying, €In my own country for nearly a century I have been nothing but a Nigger.€ He died in Ghana€s capital, Accra, on Aug. 27, 1963. He was 95.

Feb. 24

1864 €" Rebecca Lee Crumbler becomes the first African American woman to receive a medical degree. Born in 1833, she graduated from the New England Female Medical College. Prior to becoming a doctor, she had worked as a nurse in Massachusetts for over six years.

1868 €" The U.S. House of Representatives voted 126 to 47 to impeach President Andrew Johnson. Johnson had run afoul of a group of pro-Black legislators known as the Radical Republicans because of his opposition to full citizenship rights for former slaves. He survived being ousted as president by one vote in the U.S. Senate. As far as historical speculation goes, it would have been much better for Black rights and the course of Black history if Johnson had been ousted. His opposition to full rights, including voting rights, for Blacks helped lay the foundation for the un-doing of Reconstruction and the many gains Blacks had made during that period.

1966 €"Kwame Nkrumah is ousted in a military coup as president of the West African nation of Ghana. This was another event which changed the course of Black history for the worse. Nkrumah, educated at predominantly Black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, had been a major intellectual and pragmatic force for Pan-Africanism and worldwide Black unity. From the time he became the first president of Ghana in March 1957, he had worked tirelessly for international Black advance and world peace. His ouster left a void which after 40 years has not been filled by any other African leader. Nkrumah died in 1972.

Feb. 25

1839 €" Seminole Indians and their Black allies are shipped from the Tampa Bay, Fla. area to the Midwest after years of battling White adversaries and U.S. government troops. The Whites had for years longed to possess Seminole lands. Their anger at the Seminoles was heightened because the Indians frequently gave safe haven to escaped slaves. Intermarriage often resulted and some Black Seminoles rose to take leadership positions in the tribe. Among the Black Seminole leaders was the famous warrior John Horse. Finally, a treaty was reached allowing the Seminoles to leave Florida for government owned lands in the Midwest. But the Seminoles refused a government demand to turn over their 500 to 800 Black brothers and sisters who the Whites wanted to treat as escaped slaves.

1870 €" Hiram R. Revels of Mississippi is sworn in as the first Black United States Senator. Born free in 1827 in Fayetteville, N.C., Revels was secretly taught to read by a free Black woman. He later became a minister and helped recruit Black soldiers for the Union Army during the Civil War. He served only briefly in Congress before moving on to head up what would become Alabama€s Alcorn State University.

1964 €" Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, defeats Sonny Liston to become boxing€s world heavyweight champion.

1975 €" Elijah Muhammad dies in Chicago, Ill. at the age of 77. He was the founder and leader of the Nation of Islam €" a Black nationalist and Islamic organization he built primarily through assiduous recruitment of talented people including Malcolm X. After his death, however, the organization split with one group following his son Wallace D. Muhammad into orthodox Islam. A second group stayed with Minister Louis Farrakhan who maintained more of the group€s original principles.

[This Week in Black History is compiled by Robert Taylor. He welcomes comments and additions at SirajT12@yahoo.com or brief messages at 202-657-8872.]