Today in Black History

Let’s take a minute to talk about

Septima Poinsette Clark (May 3, 1898—December 15, 1987)

Originally posted by roricomics

Septima Poinsette Clark was a civil rights and education activist. Originally barred from teaching in Charleston, SC schools because she was Black, Clark petitioned for that right in 1920. She won. And she did it while teaching children during the day and adults at night in a nearby town. MLK Jr. refers to her as “The Mother of the Movement”. 


Mae C. Jemison (October 17, 1956)

Originally posted by francavillarts

Mae C. Jemison was not only the first Black woman in space, she was the first Black female astronaut for NASA ever. She launched in the Endeavor in 1992, just 25 years ago. 


Maria Weems (1840—?)

Originally posted by smithsonianlibraries

Above is Anna Maria Weems, a woman who escaped slavery by posing as a male. With a $500 reward for her capture, Weems spent over two months on the road until she found freedom in Canada. This art comes courtesy of the Smithsonian Libraries’ (@smithsonianlibraries) yearly celebration of BHM, which includes stories, art, personal histories, and lots more from their massive collection.

Follow these too:

  • Black Women Art (@fyblackwomenart​) has been around since 2012 (!), giving anyone who follows them a regular dose of art featuring Black women.
  • Badass Black Women History Month (@bbwhm​) is a brand new Tumblr celebrating badass Black women every day for Black History Month. Hell yeah.

There are more in the search results, of course. More Black women in STEM, in music, in sports, standing up for their rights, and have you read up on the Motorcycle Queen of Miami? One thing to note: some of these posts aren’t just highlighting women from 10, 20, 30, 100 years ago. They’re also highlighting Black women today, because Black women are still making history. 

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February 11th 1990: Mandela released

On this day in 1990, the South African activist and politician Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Mandela had spent twenty-seven years in prison for his role as an anti-apartheid activist at the head of Umkhonto we Sizwe, which translates as Spear of the Nation. The controversial organisation served as the militant armed wing of the African National Congress political party, born out of a frustration among anti-apartheid activists that their non-violence was met with brutality by white authorities against black citizens. Mandela was arrested in 1962 and sentenced to life in prison, during which time he was largely condemned as a terrorist by Western nations. He served most of his twenty-seven years on Robben Island, then Victor Verster Prison near Cape Town, and during his imprisonment his reputation grew as a significant black leader both in South Africa and internationally. Mandela was finally freed after the ban on the ANC was lifted by the apartheid government. Upon his release, Mandela led the ANC in the successful negotiations with President F.W. de Klerk to end apartheid, and was overwhelmingly elected President of South Africa in the first multi-racial elections in 1994, serving until 1999. In 2013, Nelson Mandela died aged 95 and has been mourned around the world as a hero who fought for freedom in South Africa, and as a symbol of resistance for oppressed peoples everywhere.

“Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way.”

Today in Black History for February 7th
  1. 1974 - Grenada achieves independence from Great Britain

  2. 1967 - Chris Rock Born
    Comedian, author, recording artist, actor, and talk show host Chris Rock was born in South Carolina. He will become a critically comedian, hosting his self titled show on HBO. He will also bring to the forefront a boycott of the flag of his birthplace. He will star in and make a few movies of his own.

  3. 1946 - Filibuster in U.S. Senate killed FEPC bill

  4. 1945 - Irwin Molison appointed to Customs Court

  5. 1926 - Black History Week
    Carter G. Woodson creates Negro History Week. In 1976 it became Black History Month.

  6. 1926 - Negro History week originated by Carter G.Woodson is observed for the first time.

  7. 1883 - Eubie Blake born
    Eubie Blake, pianist, born.

  8. 1872 - Alcorn A&M College opened.
Today in Black History for February 21st
  1. 1992 - Eva Jessye choral director for the first Broadway production of Porgy and Bess died in Ann Arbor, Michigan Feb. 21, 1992.

  2. 1987 - Black Rebellion in Tampa, Florida
    African Americans in Tampa, Florida rebelled after an African American man was killed by a white police officer while in custody.

  3. 1965 - Malcolm X (39) assassinated in Audubon Ballroom at a rally of his organization. Three Blacks were later convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment.

  4. 1961 - Otis Boykin patents the Electrical Resistor
    Otis Boykin, Inventor, patented the Electrical Resistor. U.S. 2,972,726 He is responsible for inventing the electrical device used in all guided missiles and IBM computers, plus 26 other electronic devices including a control unit for an artificial heart stimulator (pacemaker). He began his career as a laboratory assistant testing automatic controls for aircraft. One of Boykin’s first achievements was a type of resistor used in computers, radios, television sets, and a variety of electronic devices. Some of his other inventions included a variable resistor used in guided missiles, small component thick-film resistors for computers. The innovations in resistor design reduced the cost of producing electronic controls for radio and television, for both military and commercial applications. Other inventions by Otis Boykin also included a burglarproof cash register and chemical air filter.

  5. 1940 - John Lewis, founder and chairman of SNCC, born

  6. 1936 - Barbara Jordan born
    2/21/1936: On this day Barbara Jordan, who will be the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives, is born

  7. 1933 - Nina Simone born
    Nina Simone (Eunice Waymon), 66, singer (“I Love You Porgy,” “Trouble in Mind”) born Tryon, NC, Feb 21, 1933.

  8. 1917 - Thelonious Monk, jazz great born
    Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917–82) Jazz musician; born in Rocky Mount, N.C. He was raised in New York

  9. 1895 - North Carolina Legislature adjourns
    North Carolina Legislature, dominated by Black Republicans and white Populists, adjourned for the day to mark the death of Frederick Douglass.
Today in Black Music History for February 13th

1975 - Columbia Records releases Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star”, the group’s first major hit. The song would rise to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100

1983 - Marvin Gaye sang a soulful, drum machine-accompanied version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before The 33rd National Basketball Association All-Star Game that was played at The Forum in Inglewood, California. Julius Erving was voted Most Valuable Player as The Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference, 132–123.

1989 - “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, the first single from Whitney Houston’s second studio album “Whitney” becomes Houston’s first single to be certified platinum with shipment of over one million units

1999 - Monica’s “Angel of Mine”, originally recorded by British R&B Girl group Eternal, becomes the third number one single from Monica’s “The Boy is Mine” album

2011 - Mavis Staples won her first Grammy award in the category for Best Americana Album for You Are Not Alone. In her acceptance speech, a shocked and crying Staples said “This has been a long time coming.”

Today In History

Malcolm X, Muslim and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), was born in Omaha, NE, on this date in 1925.
“When I am dead, I want you to just watch and see if I’m not right in what I say: that the white man, in his press, is going to identify me with “hate.” He will make use of me dead, as he has made use of me alive, as a convenient symbol of “hatred” – and that will help him to escape facing the truth that all I have been doing is holding up a mirror to reflect, to show, the history of unspeakable crimes that his race has committed against my race.

You watch. I will be labeled as, at best, an “irresponsible” black man. I have always felt about this accusation that the black “leader” whom white men consider to be “responsible” is invariably the black “leader” who never gets any results. You only get action as a black man if you are regarded by the white man as “irresponsible.” In fact, this much I had learned when I was just a little boy. And since I have been some kind of a “leader” of black people here in the racist society of America, I have been more reassured each time the white man resisted me, or attacked me harder – because each time made me more certain that I was on the right track in the American black man’s best interests. The racist white man’s opposition automatically made me know that I did offer the black man something worthwhile.“ - MalcolmX

(photo: Malcolm X)

- CARTER Magazine

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March 21st 1960: Sharpeville massacre

On this day in 1960, police opened fire on peaceful anti-apartheid protestors in the South African township of Sharpeville, killing 69. The over 5,000 strong crowd gathered at Sharpeville police station to protest the discriminatory pass laws, which they claimed were designed to limit their movement in designated white only areas. The laws required all black men and women to carry reference books with their name, tax code and employer details; those found without their book could be arrested and detained. The protest encouraged black South Africans to deliberately leave their pass books at home and present themselves at police stations for arrest, which would crowd prisons and lead to a labour shortage. Despite the protestors’ peaceful and non-violent intentions, police opened fire on the crowd. By the day’s end, 69 people were dead and 180 were wounded. A further 77 were arrested and questioned, though no police officer involved in the massacre was ever convicted as the government relieved all officials of any responsibility. The apartheid government responded to the massacre by banning public meetings, outlawing the African National Congress (ANC) and declaring a state of emergency. The incident convinced anti-apartheid leader and ANC member Nelson Mandela to abandon non-violence and organise paramilitary groups to fight the racist system of apartheid. In 1996, 36 years later, then President Mandela chose Sharpeville as the site at which he signed into law the country’s new post-apartheid constitution.

“People were running in all directions, some couldn’t believe that people had been shot, they thought they had heard firecrackers. Only when they saw the blood and dead people, did they see that the police meant business”
- Tom Petrus, eyewitness to the Sharpeville massacre

Happy Birthday to community organizer, independent journalist, and hip-hop activist Rosa Clemente!

Rosa Clemente, a native of the South Bronx, is one of the most raw, honest, political, social, and cultural voices in the country. From Harvard to prisons, Rosa has spent her life dedicated to scholar activism. She is currently a doctoral student in the W.E.B. Dubois department of UMASS-Amherst. Throughout her scholarly career, Rosa has been a constant on the ground presence through the many political struggles facing Black and Latinx people in the 21st century.

Rosa is the president and founder of Know Thy Self Productions, which has produced four major community activism tours and consults on issues such as Hip-Hop activism, media justice, voter engagement among youth of color, third party politics, intercultural relations between Black and Latinx, immigrants’ rights as an extension of human rights, and universal healthcare. She is a frequent guest on television, radio and online media, as her opinion on critical current events is widely sought after.

Rosa is a leading scholar on the issues of Afro-Latinx identity. Her groundbreaking article, Who is Black?, published in 2001, was the catalyst for many discussions regarding Blackness in the Latinx culture. She continues to discuss cultural identity, political identity and racial identity in and out of the academy.

Additionally, in 2008, Rosa was the vice presidential running mate of 2008 Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney in the U.S. Presidential election.

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March 20th 1852: Uncle Tom’s Cabin published

On this day in 1852, American author Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published. Previously published as a serial in the anti-slavery periodical the National Era, Uncle Tom’s Cabin tells the story of a black slave and recounts the harsh reality of his enslavement. Stowe was an ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery, and wrote the novel in response to the passage of the controversial 1850 Fugitive Slave Act which was part of the Compromise of 1850. The Act ordered Northern citizens to assist in the return of runaway slaves from the South, thus forcing the generally anti-slavery North to become complicit in the continuance of the ‘peculiar institution’. The popular discontent over the slavery issue helped make Uncle Tom’s Cabin the best-selling novel of the nineteenth century and saw its translation into sixty languages. The novel helped keep the flames of anti-slavery sentiment alive, and is therefore sometimes attributed with helping start the American Civil War. While still hailed as a great anti-slavery work of its day, the novel falls short of modern expectations with its stereotypical portrayal of African-Americans.

“So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war”
- what, according to legend, Abraham Lincoln said upon meeting Stowe in 1862