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This Week in Black History

6/29/2011, 11:29 a.m.

Week of July 2 to July 8

July 2

1822 - Denmark Vesey and five of his co-conspirators are hanged in Charleston, South Carolina. Vesey's "crime" had been the organization of the largest slave rebellion in American history. But the insurrection was betrayed by a "house slave" before it could be implemented. Vesey was actually a former slave who had purchased his freedom.

1908 - Thurgood Marshall is born in Baltimore, Maryland. Marshal would go on to become chief counsel for the NAACP and the lead attorney in the Brown v. Board of Education case which led to the desegregation of the nation's schools. President Lyndon Johnson would in June

July 3

1775 - Prince Hall founds African Lodge Number One - the first Black lodge of Free Masons in the United States. Hall would become the pioneer builder of Black Masons in America. He was also a leading voice against slavery and for Black rights in the North.

1962 - The first Black man permitted to play Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson, is named to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

July 4

1776 - The United States formally becomes a nation with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. The document was largely written by later President Thomas Jefferson. Amazingly, although he was a slave owner himself, Jefferson originally included a section in the Declaration denouncing slave traders and slave owners, but it was later deleted by Congress.

1881 - Booker T. Washington opens Tuskegee Institute (now university) in Alabama. It would become a leading center for the education of Blacks.

July 5

1975 - Tennis star Arthur Ashe becomes the first Black man to win the men's singles championship at Wimbledon defeating Jimmy Connors. Ashe was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. During his prestigious career he had become active in several social causes including frequent protests against the system of racial oppression known as apartheid in then white-ruled South Africa. Ashe contracted AIDS as a result of blood transfusion in 1988. He died of AIDS complications on February 6, 1993.

July 6

1862 - One of the most pioneering and militant Black journalists in Black American history is born. Ida B. Wells-Barnett came into the world on this day in Holly Springs, Mississippi. The legendary journalist was also a relentless anti-lynching crusader and a fighter for women's right to vote. She even made a stand against one of the more insulting laws of Jim Crow segregation nearly 70 years before Rosa Parks. In 1884, she refused to give up her seat on a train to a white man and move to an already over-crowded smoking car. She died in Chicago in 1931.

1957 - Althea Gibson becomes the first Black person (male or female) to win the singles championship at Wimbledon. Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina and grew up in Harlem, New York. She died in September 2003.

July 7

1906 - Baseball legend Satchel Paige is born in Mobile, Alabama. He was one of 15 children born to John and Lula Page. Paige first learned to pitch in a reform school where he had been sent at the age of 12 for shoplifting. He is generally recognized as one of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game. Baseball great Joe DiMaggio once said Paige was "The best and fastest pitcher I ever faced." Paige pitched his last game in 1965 at the age of 60 throwing three shutout innings. The great Satchel Paige died on June 8, 1982.

July 8

1914 - Jazz great Billy Eckstine is born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was raised in Washington, D.C. where he began entering talent competitions at the age of 7. Eckstine would become one of the dominant Jazz singers during the era of the big bands. He has been described as "an exceptional singer who never failed to impress." Eckstine died of a heart attack in 1993.

[Robert Taylor is editor of "This Week in Black History." Receive a free copy of his bi-weekly "Black History Journal" by writing him at "Robert N. Taylor," P.O. Box 58097, Washington, DC 20037. Include $3.00 check payable to Robert N. Taylor to help defray mailing costs.]