On This Day in Black History

To highlight the countless contributions that Black Americans have made to American history, each day during the month of February, the UCLA Lab School Black History Celebration Committee shared facts from Black history that occurred “On This Day.”

February 1

February 1, 1865 – The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, was sent to the state legislatures for ratification. The necessary number of states ratified the amendment by December 6, 1865. The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

February 1, 1902 – It is believed that Black American poet Langston Hughes (born James Mercer Langston Hughes) was born this day in Joplin, MO. Recent findings by researchers seems to indicate that he may have been born the year before. Hughes became known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, the early stages of the Black Arts Movement. His poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of the working-class Blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music.

February 1, 1960 – Four Black college students staged a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, and refused to leave after being denied service. The sit-in movement soon spread to college towns throughout the South and drew public attention to racial injustices through non-violent civil disobedience.

February 1, 1978 – The United States Postal Service issued a Harriet Tubman stamp, making her the first Black woman to receive the honor. Born enslaved, Harriet Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849. She soon returned to the South to assist her family to freedom. She became known as a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, helping more than 300 enslaved Black people escape to freedom to Canada through a network of routes and safe houses. During the Civil War she also assisted the Union Army as a spy, scout and nurse.

February 2

February 2, 1897 – Alfred L. Cralle’s invention, the ice cream scooper, was patented as Patent #576395. Click here for a picture of the patented invention.

February 2, 1915 – Ernest Just, genetic biologist, became the first recipient of the Spingarn Medal. The Spingarn Medal is awarded annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for outstanding achievement by an African American. Just received the medal for his pioneering research on cell division and fertilization.

February 2, 1914 – Artist William Ellisworth Artis was born in Washington, NC. Ellisworth was an African American sculptor whose favorite medium was clay. Click here for a video of Ellisworth putting some final touches on a sculpture.

February 2, 1948 –President Truman sent a special message to Congress urging the adoption of a Civil Rights program, including establishing a permanent Commission on Civil Rights, a Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, eliminating poll tax measures, and the creation of a Fair Employment Practices Commission.

February 3

February 3, 1870 – The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The 15th Amendment granted African American men the right to vote by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” However, through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were still able to effectively disenfranchise Black voters. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (nearly 100 years later) before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote.

February 3, 1903 – Jack Johnson won the World Colorded Heavyweight Championship, becoming the first Black Heavyweight Champion. Johnson is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. He later went on to win the World Heavyweight Championship in 1908, a title he held for 5 years.

February 3, 1964 – Geraldine McCullough, sculptor, won the Widener Gold Medal Award with her 25-pound welded steel and copper sculpture, “Phoenix”. The sculpture was named for the mythological bird that burns up and is then reborn from its own ashes. To McCullough, the Phoenix was the perfect symbol of the struggle of African Americans to rise toward freedom from under the crushing weight of oppression.

February 3, 1956 – Autherine J. Lucy became the first Black student to attend a white public school or university in the state of Alabama. Lucy enrolled in the University of Alabama as a graduate student in library science. She was suspended three days later “for her own safety” in response to threats from a mob.

February 4

February 4, 1913 – Rosa Parks (born Rosa Louise McCauley) was born on this day in Tuskegee, AL. Parks was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott.  On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, AL, Parks rejected bus driver James F. Blake’s order to vacate a row of four seats in the “colored” section in favor of a white passenger, once the “white” section was filled. She was arrested. Parks’ act of defiance led to the Montgomery bus boycott, both important symbols of the Civil Rights Movement.

February 4, 1964 – The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished the Poll Tax, was certified. The Amendment declared that, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay poll tax or other tax.”

February 4, 1986 – The United States Postal Service issued a Sojourner Truth stamp. Sojourner Truth was an American abolitionist, one of the most inspirational and widely known African Americans of the 19th Century. She was born Isabella Bomefree (also spelled “Baumfree”) in 1797, enslaved in New York. She escaped with her daughter in 1826. In 1828, she sued to recover her son, becoming one of the first Black woman to win such a case against a white man.

February 5

February 5, 1866 – Congressman Thaddeus Stevens offered an amendment to Freedmen’s Bureau Bill authorizing the distribution of public land and confiscated land to freedmen and loyal refugees in 40-acre lots (40 acres and a mule). The proposed amendment did not pass.

February 5, 1884 – Willis Johnson’s invention, the egg beater, was patented as U.S. Patent #292821. Click here for a picture of the patented invention.

February 5, 1900 – U.S. Representative Jefferson Long of Georgia died. Long was the second African American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and became the first Black member to speak on the House Floor, speaking against the Amnesty Bill, which restored political rights to most former Confederates.

February 5, 1934 – Legendary baseball player Hank Aaron (Henry Louis Aaron) was born in Mobile, AL. Nicknamed “Hammer” or “Hammerin’ Hank”, Aaron was a right fielder who played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), from 1954 through 1976. Aaron is regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. His 755 career home runs broke the long-standing MLB record set by Babe Ruth and stood as the most for 33 years.

February 5, 1950 – Singer, songwriter and actress Natalie Cole was born. Cole rose to success in the 1970s and sold over 30 million records worldwide.

February 5, 1958 – Clifton R. Wharton Sr., a pioneering Black U.S. Diplomat and career Foreign Service Officer, was confirmed as Minister to Romania, becoming the first Black American to head a U.S. embassy in Europe.

February 5, 1990 – Barack Obama became the first Black man named president of the Harvard Law Review.

February 6

February 6, 1867 – Robert Tanner Jackson became the first Black man to receive a degree in dentistry. He was one of “the first six” to enter Harvard’s Dental Program.

February 6, 1898 – Melvin B. Tolson, a Black American poet, educator, columnist and politician, was born. As a debate coach at the historically black Wiley College in Marshall, TX, Tolson led a team that pioneered interracial college debates against white colleges in the segregated South. His work was depicted in 2007 biopic The Great Debaters, produced by Oprah Winfrey and starring Denzel Washington as Tolson.

February 6, 1945 – Reggae Music legend Bob Marley was born. Considered one of the pioneers of reggae, his musical career was marked by fusing elements of reggae, ska, and rocksteady, as well as his distinctive vocal and songwriting style. Marley’s contributions to music increased the visibility of Jamaican music worldwide and made him a global figure in popular culture.

February 6, 1993 – Arthur Ashe died. Ashe was the first African American man to win at Wimbledon and the only black man ever to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open. Ashe was also a UCLA alumnus.

February 7

February 7, 1883 – James Hubert “Eubie” Blake, famed pianist, lyricist and composer was born in Baltimore, MD. In 1921, Blake and his longtime collaborator, Noble Sissle wrote the Broadway musical, “Shuffle Along,” one of the first Broadway musicals to be written by African Americans. Blake composed one of his most popular songs, “Charleston Rag,” when he was only 16 years old. Click here to view a video of Eubie Blake playing “Charleston Rag” in Berlin, Germany in 1972.

February 7, 1926 – Negro History Week, originated by Carter G. Woodson, was observed for the first time. Negro History Week would later become Black History Month.

February 8

February 8, 1831 – Dr. Rebecca Lee (Crumpler), the first Black woman to receive an M.D. degree, was born. Dr. Crumpler graduated from New England Female Medical College in 1864, after having completed three years of coursework, a thesis, and final oral examinations in February 1864. She was named a Doctor of Medicine on March 1, 1864.

February 8, 1902 – On this day, Mary Elizabeth “Bessie” Jones, founding member of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, was born in Smithville, GA. Her work preserved the rich history of folk and spiritual songs in the southern Black tradition and she is credited with bringing African American folk songs, circle games, plays and stories to 20th century audiences. Click here for archival footage of Bessie Jones singing and giving background information on the traditional ring games “Little Sally Walker” and “Johnny Cuckoo”.

February 8, 1944 – Harry S. McAlphin, became the first Black person to be accredited to attend the White House press conference.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported including Black people in the press corps, which Paul Wooton, the president of the Correspondents’ Association, opposed.

February 8, 1974 – The legendary show “Good Times” premiered on TV. “Good Times” was the first primetime sitcom featuring a Black family. During its six-season run, the show tackled topics such as child abuse, gang violence, poverty, discrimination, and unemployment.

February 9

February 9, 1906 – Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first poet to use Black dialect in his verse, died at the age of 33. Dunbar published his first poems as a young teenager in a Dayton newspaper, and served as president of his high school’s literary society. Dunbar was one of the first Black writers to establish an international reputation. He wrote the lyrics for the musical comedy In Dahomey (1903), the first all-African American musical produced on Broadway in New York.

February 9, 1944 – Novelist Alice Walker, author of the Color Purple, which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was born in Eatonton, GA. Walker has written more than 30 novels, short story collections, poetry collections, non-fiction books and essays and many awards and honors for her work.

February 9, 1952 – Author Ralph Ellison’s novel, Invisible Man, won the National Book Award. The novel, considered one of the top 100 books of the 20th century, addresses many of the social and intellectual issues faced by African Americans in the early 20th century, including Black nationalism, the relationship between Black identity and Marxism, as well as issues of individuality and personal identity and Booker T. Washington’s reformist racial policies.

February 9, 1965 – Martin Luther King, Jr. met with President Lyndon B. Johnson to discuss black voting rights resulting in the president pledging full support.

February 9, 1971 – Leroy “Satchel” Paige, considered one of the best baseball pitchers of all time by his peers, became the first Negro League veteran nominated to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was later inducted into the Hall of Fame in August 1971.

February 9, 1995 – Astronaut Bernard Harris, became the first Black person to take a spacewalk. Click here to view a photo of Bernard Harris and Michael Foale as they prepare for the spacewalk.

February 10

February 10, 1927 – Leontyne Price, an internationally acclaimed opera singer, was born in Laurel, MS. She has received a number of awards and honorary degrees including, but not limited to: the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Spingarn Medal (1965), the Kennedy Center Honors (1980), the National Medal of Arts (1985), the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement (1986), 19 Grammy Awards for operatic and song recitals and full operas, and a Lifetime Achievement Award – more than any other classical singer. Click here for an audio recording of Price singing “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera.

February 10, 1964 – After 10 days of debate and consideration of more than 120 amendments offered, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a vote of 290–130. The bill that passed the House of Representatives was stronger and broader than the bill proposed by President John F. Kennedy. It was signed into law on July 2, 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

February 10, 2007 – Barack Obama, then-junior United States Senator from Illinois, announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States in Springfield, IL. In 2008, Obama became the first Black person and the 44th president of the United States.

February 11

February 11, 1961 – Robert Weaver was sworn in as Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency, the highest Federal post at the time ever achieved by a Black American. He eventually became the first Black person ever to be named to the President’s Cabinet when he was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson as the Secretary of the new Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department.

February 11, 1977 – Appointed by President Jimmy Carter, Clifford Alexander Jr. was confirmed as the first Black secretary of the Army.

February 12

February 12, 1865 – Henry Highland Garnet became the first Black person to speak in the Capitol when he delivered a memorial sermon on the abolition of slavery at services in the House of Representatives.

February 12, 1793 – The Fugitive Slave Act was enacted by Congress, which required that every state, even those that forbade slavery, to return enslaved people who had escaped from other states back to their enslavers.

February 12, 1907 – The gospel singing great Roberta Martin was born in Helena, AK. She helped to launch the careers of many gospel artists through her group, The Roberta Martin Singers.

February 12, 1909 –  The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded. The call for the organizational meeting was issued by 47 whites and six Blacks on the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth as a response to the Race Riot of 1908 in Springfield, IL. Now with over 2,200 units and branches nationwide, the NAACP is the largest and most pre-eminent civil rights organization in America. Their mission is “to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.”

February 12, 1934 – Basketball legend and Boston Celtics great Bill Russell was born in West Monroe, LA. He won 11 titles and made 12 All-Star teams in only 13 seasons, and he has the most NBA championship rings of any player in the history of the game.

February 12, 1948 – First Lt. Nancy C. Leftenant became the first Black member accepted in the Regular Army Nurse Corps. She also served as a flight nurse in the Air Force and became the only woman in history to serve as the president of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

February 12, 1956 – The first Black late-night talk show host, Arsenio Hall, was born in Cleveland, OH.

February 12, 1970 – The New York Stock Exchange admitted its first Black member, Joseph Searles, III. He became the first floor member and floor broker of the New York Stock Exchange in its 178-year history.

February 13

February 13, 1818 – Absalom Jones, the first Black Episcopal priest ordained in America, died. Jones, with Richard Allen and assistance from the Quakers and Episcopalians, established the “First African Church” in Philadelphia, PA, which later became the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas.

February 13, 1920 – The Negro National League, the first Black professional baseball league, was founded at a YMCA in Kansas City, MO, by a coalition of team owners. It was led by baseball hall of fame pitcher Andrew “Rube” Foster.

February 13, 1923 – The first Black professional basketball team, “The Renaissance,” was organized in Harlem, NY, by Robert “Bob” Douglas. The team was one of the most dominant in the 1920s and 1930s.

February 13, 1893 – Soprano Sissieretta Jones, a highly celebrated international opera star, made her debut on the main stage of Carnegie Hall when she performed at a benefit for the World’s Fair Colored Opera and Concert Company. By the time she ended her 28-year career, she had traveled throughout the West Indies, Canada and Europe; sung in the White House, Madison Square Garden, and Carnegie Hall; and appeared in 46 of the 48 continental states. Unfortunately, no recordings of her singing or performances remain.

February 14

February 14, 1760 – Bishop Richard Allen was born in Philadelphia. He founded the African Methodist Church (AME), which advocated for civil and human rights as part of its teachings.

February 14, 1817 – Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery and led a movement to abolish it, chose Valentine’s Day to celebrate his birthday because he liked the traditions celebrated on the day. Douglass only knew that he was born in February 1817 or 1818 and thought 1817 seemed more likely. Douglass’ book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave is one of the most widely read books in American history.

February 14, 1946 – Gregory Hines, who is considered one of the greatest tap dancers of all time, was born in New York City. Hines won many awards for his acting and tap dancing. He inspired younger tap dancers like Savion Glover to keep the artform in the spotlight. To view a video of Gregory Hines performing at The Kennedy Honors in 1982, click here.

February 14, 1957 – The Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized and held a meeting in New Orleans, LA. At that meeting, an Executive Board was established with Martin Luther King Jr. as president.

February 15

Feb. 15, 1848 – Sarah C. Roberts, a 5-year old African American girl, was barred from an all-white school in Boston. Her father, Benjamin Roberts, filed the first school integration suit on her behalf. Although they lost the case, the Roberts’ lawsuit would inspire others.

February 15, 1968 – Henry Lewis became the first African American to lead a symphony orchestra in the United States when he became the conductor and musical director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. Lewis, who played the double bass, was also the first African American instrumentalist in a major orchestra when he joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the age of 16.

February 16

February 16, 1974 – Actor Mahershala Ali was born. Ali won two Academy Awards for his roles in the films Moonlight, and the film Green Book, which was named for a directory that would tell African Americans and other non-white people which restaurants and hotels were safe for them to eat and stay in as they traveled through segregated towns.

Feb. 16, 1951 – New York’s City Council passed an ordinance banning segregation in housing projects that had received tax breaks. It was the country’s first anti-discrimination law. Eventually the Fair Housing Act was established in 1968 to ban discrimination in renting or buying homes.

February 17

February 17, 1870 – Congress passed a resolution readmitting Mississippi on condition that it would never change its constitution to disenfranchise Blacks. Mississippi had seceded from the union to join the confederacy in the run-up to the Civil War. Mississippi would adopt a new constitution in 1890 that levied a poll tax and arbitrary literary tests in order to vote, setting a model for disenfranchisement of Black voters that would be copied by other Southern states. To this day, Mississippi is known as a state that actively disenfranchises Black voters with laws that are aimed at discouraging Black voters from making it to the polls.

February 17, 1942 – The Black Panther Party’s founder, Huey P. Newton, was born. Along with Bobby Seale, he founded the party in 1966 to oppose police brutality and provide services to poor Black neighborhoods.

February 17, 1963 – Michael Jeffrey Jordan, considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time, was born in New York, NY. After winning six National Basketball Association (NBA) championships, Jordan retired and became a successful businessman. He owns the Charlotte Hornets basketball team, and Nike’s Air Jordan line of sneakers celebrate his NBA nickname. Today, 81% of NBA players are Black.

February 17, 1891 – Inventor Albert Richardson patented the butter churn. Before Richardson created the churn people would have to make butter by shaking cream by hand.

February 17, 1982 – On this day, jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk died at the age of 65. Monk was considered one of the most important composers of Jazz, which originated in Black communities in New Orleans, LA. Jazz has its roots in West African traditions that enslaved Black people brought with them to the United States. It is frequently referred to as “America’s Classical Music.” To view a video of Thelonious Monk playing “Don’t Blame Me” in Denmark on April 17, 1966, click here.

February 17, 1997 – The Virginia House of Delegates voted unanimously to retire the state song, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia,” a tune that glorifies slavery.

February 18

February 18, 1688 – The first documented anti-slavery protest in America occurred in Germantown, PA, when Quakers met to craft a petition arguing that slavery was immoral.

February 18, 1894 – Renowned architect Paul Revere Williams was born in Los Angeles, CA. Although he faced discrimination, Williams designed thousands of buildings and was one of the most influential architects in shaping the city of Los Angeles. He designed homes, commercial and government buildings and was part of the team that designed the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

February 18, 1931 – Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford) was born on this day in Lorain, OH. In 1993, she became the first Black Woman of any nationality to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her books Beloved, The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon are considered American classics.

February 18, 1973 – Harlem Renaissance artist Palmer Hayden died. Hayden made paintings of people in everyday scenes, as if they had been caught in candid photographs. The Harlem Renaissance refers to a period in the 1920s when Black artists (writers, poets, dancers, singers) from around the world gathered in Harlem, New York, to create and to support each other’s work.

February 19

February 19, 1919 – The first Pan-African Congress, organized by African American public intellectual W.E.B. DuBois, met in Paris. The goal of the Congress was peaceful decolonization of countries in Africa and the West Indies/Caribbean. So far there have been eight Pan-African Congress meetings around the world, each one focused on the issues resulting from European colonization of majority-Black countries.

February 19, 1940 – Legendary singer Smokey Robinson was born. As the lead singer of the group The Miracles, Smokey would be one of the biggest stars of the Black music record label called Motown. Motown developed a distinctive style of music that appealed to all audiences and therefore was called a “crossover” success.

February 19, 1942 – The Tuskegee Airmen were initiated into the U.S. armed forces as the first African American pilots to fly in World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen trained in Tuskegee, AL, where Jim Crow laws meant that Black and white troops were segregated.

February 19, 1992 – Director John Singleton became the first Black filmmaker nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director, and at 24 years old, the youngest person to be nominated in the category. He was also nominated for best original screenplay for Boyz N The Hood. No Black filmmaker has ever won an Oscar for directing.

February 19, 2002 – Vonetta Flowers became the first Black gold medalist in the Winter Olympics, when she and her teammate Jill Bakken won the first ever two-woman bobsled event. Like many bobsledders, Flowers was previously a track athlete. She had been bobsledding for less than two years when she won Gold.

February 20

February 20, 1927 – Legendary actor Sidney Poitier was born in Miami, FL. He is the first Black male actor to win the Academy Award, for the film Lilies of the Field in 1963.

February 20, 1929 – Harlem Renaissance writer Wallace Thurman’s play Harlem opened on Broadway. That same year Thurman published The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life, which would become his most famous work. It is the story of a dark-skinned woman who faces discrimination but learns to love her dark complexion. From this book came the saying: “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice.”

February 21

February 21, 1895 – The North Carolina Legislature, dominated by Black Republicans and white Populists, adjourned for one day to honor Frederick Douglass on the day after his death.

February 21, 1936 – Barbara Jordan was born in Houston, TX. In 1973, Jordan and Andrew J. Young Jr. became the first Blacks elected to Congress from the Deep South since Reconstruction. After deciding not to run for a fourth term in Congress, she was appointed the Lyndon Johnson Chair in National Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin, where she taught and also continued to lecture widely on national affairs. In 1994, she was appointed by President Bill Clinton to lead the bipartisan Commission on Immigration Reform.

February 21, 1933 – Nina Simone, the legendary singer and “High Priestess of Soul,” was born in Tryon, NC. Simone was a classically trained pianist who studied at Julliard in New York and later became a singer, songwriter and civil rights activist. Her music spanned a broad range of musical styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. Many of her songs were protest and “civil rights” songs written in response to events affecting Black people during the Civil Rights era in the 1960s and 1970s. To watch an interview with Nina Simone and hear her sing, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” (live at Morehouse College, June 1969), click here.

February 21, 1961 – Otis Boykin patented the electrical resistor, an improvement on a previous version that allowed for extreme changes in temperature and pressure. The device was used in all guided missiles and IBM computers. In 1964, Boykin invented the control unit for the artificial cardiac pacemaker, his most famous invention. To view a copy of the electrical resistor patent, click here.

February 22

February 22, 1888 – Legendary painter Horace Pippin was born in West Chester, PA. Pippin was self-taught and focused on themes inspired by his service in World War I — landscapes, portraits, slavery, segregation, and biblical subjects. To view a slideshow of Pippin’s work at the National Gallery of Art, click here.

February 22, 1911 – Activist and social reformer Frances Ellis Watkins Harper died. She was the first Black woman to publish a short story in the United States. The story was called “The Two Offers.” Harper was also the cofounder and vice-president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs and the director of the American Association of Colored Youth.

February 22, 1938 – Poet Ishmael Reed was born in Chattanooga, TN. Reed has published more than 30 books of poetry, prose, essays, and plays, and he penned hundreds of lyrics for musicians, including Taj Mahal and Macy Gray. His work is known for its satirical, ironic take on race and literary tradition.

February 22, 1950 – Legendary basketball player Julius “Dr. J” Erving was born in East Meadow, NY. Erving helped legitimize the American Basketball Association (ABA) and was the best-known player in that league when it merged into the National Basketball Association (NBA) after the 1975-1976 season. He is the eighth-highest scorer in ABA/NBA history, with 30,026 points (NBA and ABA combined).

February 22, 1989 – D.J. Jazzy Jeff (Jeffrey Allen Townesand) and The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) won the first rap Grammy for their single, “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” To view a video of the song, click here.

February 23

February 23, 1868 – W.E.B. Du Bois, or William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, author, historian and activist, was born in Great Barrington, MA. In 1895 he became the first Black to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. Du Bois was an early champion of using data to solve social issues for the Black community, and his writing—including his groundbreaking The Souls of Black Folk—became required reading in African American studies.

February 23, 1965 – Constance Baker Motley was elected Manhattan Borough president, the highest elective office held by a black woman in a major American city, and the first woman in that position. Among the many accomplishments in her career, Motley was the first Black woman to sit in the New York State Senate, became the first Black female federal judge in 1966, wrote the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education in 1950 as Thurgood Marshall’s law clerk, was the first Black woman to argue a case for the U.S. Supreme Court (Meredith v. Fair), and she was a key legal strategist in the civil rights movement.

February 23, 1979 – Frank E. Petersen Jr., the first Black Marine Corps aviator, was promoted to brigadier general, becoming the first Black brigadier general in the U.S. Marine Corps.

February 24

February 24, 1811 – Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne, reformer, educator and author, was born in Charleston, SC. Payne was the premier bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and one of the most influential Christians in the 19th century. He founded Wilberfource University, the first Black owned and operated institution of higher learning in the country. He also wrote the first history of the AME Church.

February 24, 1940 – Heavyweight boxing great Jimmy Ellis was born in Louisville, KY. He won the vacant heavyweight championship title (the title was stripped from Muhammad Ali after he refused to enter the military) against Jerry Quarry following an eight-man tournament.

February 24, 1999 – Lauryn Hill won five Grammy Awards, setting a record for female artists, with the first hip-hop recording to be named Album of the Year, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” Since its release in 1998, the record has been ranked in numerous best-album lists, with a number of critics regarding it as one of the greatest albums of the 1990s, as well as one of the greatest albums of all time. In 2015, it was included by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry. As of 2018, the album reached estimated sales of 8 million copies in the US and more than 20 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling albums of all-time. It remains Hill’s only studio album. To see the video of her song “Everything is Everything” click here.

February 25

February 25, 1644 – Eleven enslaved African men who worked for the Dutch West India Company in New Amsterdam, which later became New York, were granted freedom after 19 years of “faithful service” through the Act of the Director and Council of New Netherlands. Freedom was also granted to their wives, and each pair was given a plot of land that they were required to pay rent on for life and fulfill certain obligations to the Dutch West India Company, establishing one of the first Black communities in America. Their children, however, remained enslaved. The land became legally theirs in 1664, and the Blacks became totally free upon the collapse of the Dutch West India Company in 1674.

February 25, 1870 – Hiram R. Revels of Mississippi was sworn in as the first Black U.S. Senator and first Black member of Congress during the Reconstruction era. He served on both the Committee of Education and Labor and the Committee on the District of Columbia (at the time, Congress acted as administrator to the District). He served a one-year term and following its conclusion was appointed as the first president of Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University), a historically Black college located in Claiborne County, MS.

February 25, 1948 – At the age of 19, Martin Luther King Jr. was ordained as a Baptist minister in his father’s church, Ebenezer Baptist Church. That June, King graduated from Morehouse College, and in September 1948 started seminary school. King later went on to become the leader and most visible spokesperson of the Civil Rights Movement. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, and following his death in 1968, was posthumously granted a number of awards and medals, had numerous streets renamed after him, a federal holiday established, and monuments dedicated in his honor.

February 25, 1964 – Cassius Clay became heavyweight champion, defeating the heavily favored Sonny Liston in seven rounds. It was in pre-fights interviews that he declared, “I am the greatest!” Two days after the fight, Clay announced that he was joining the Nation of Islam and spoke of the importance of being a Muslim. Later in 1964, Clay took the Muslim name Muhammad Ali.

February 25, 1975 – Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad died. Muhammad led the Nation of Islam from 1934-1975 and was the teacher and mentor of Malcom X, Muhammad Ali, and Louis Farrakhan.

February 25, 1987 – Edgar Daniel “E.D” Nixon died. Nixon was a civil rights leader and union organizer in Alabama, and one of the lead organizers of the 1955 landmark Montgomery bus boycott. He was described by Martin Luther King, Jr. as “one of the chief voices of the Negro community in the area of civil rights,” and “a symbol of the hopes and aspirations of the long-oppressed people of the State of Alabama.”

February 25, 1989 – Mike Tyson defended his boxing world heavyweight title against Frank Bruno. Tyson was considered one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time, having won 50 out of 58 matches, 44 of which were by knockout. He also holds the record as the youngest person (at age 20) to ever win a heavyweight title.

February 26

February 26, 1869 – The Fifteenth Amendment guaranteeing the right for Black males to vote was approved by Congress. To view the document, click here.

February 26, 1928 – Singer Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino was born in New Orleans, LA. Fats Domino was one of the pioneers of rock and roll and sold more than 65 million records. Between 1950 and 1963, Domino hit the R&B charts a reported 59 times, and the pop charts 63 times. He outsold Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly — combined. Only Elvis Presley moved more records during that time period, and Presley cited Domino as the early master. To view Fats Domino singing “Blue Monday” in 1957, click here.

February 27

February 27, 1833 – Maria W. Stewart, one of the first women of any race to give public lectures and the first Black woman to write and publish a political manifesto, delivered her third public lecture, “African Rights and Liberty.”

February 27, 1869 – John W. Menard became the first Black man to speak before the U.S. House of Representatives while it was in session. He spoke in defense of his claim to a contested seat in Louisiana’s Second Congressional District. Congressman and future president James A. Garfield, of the examining committee, said “it was too early to admit a Negro to the U.S. Congress.”

February 27, 1872 – Charlotte E. Ray, the first Black woman lawyer, graduated from Howard University School of Law. Ray took the case of Martha Gadley, a Black woman seeking a divorce from her abusive husband, to the District of Columbia’s Supreme Court and won. She practiced law through her own practice but was forced to close it soon after she won the Gadley case due to the prejudices she faced as a Black woman. Ray remained active in public affairs through her support of women’s suffrage and equality for Black women.

February 27, 1883 – Walter B. Purvis patented the hand stamp. To view the patent file, click here.

February 27, 1902 – Famed opera singer Marian Anderson was born. In 1939, during the age of segregation, she was prevented by the Daughters of the Revolution from performing at their venue, Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President Franklin Roosevelt arranged for her to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for an inclusive audience of more than 75,000 people, with millions more listening on the radio. To view a video of Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial, click here.

February 27, 1964 – Anna Julia Cooper died. Cooper was an author, educator, sociologist, speaker, and activist, and was considered one of the most prominent Black scholars in American history. She is also often referred to as the “Mother of Black Feminism” because her first book is acknowledged as one of the first writings on the importance of education and social improvement of Black women.

February 27, 1988 – Figure skater Debi Thomas became the first African American athlete to win a medal (bronze) at the Winter Olympic Games.

February 28

February 28, 1859 – The Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 151, also known as Arkansas’s Free Negro Expulsion Act of 1859, a law requiring free Blacks and mulattos to choose between exile and enslavement. The bill stated that free Black people living anywhere within Arkansas (approximately 1,000 people at the time) had to leave by January 1, 1860, or be sold into slavery for one year. Proceeds from their labor would be set aside to fund their future relocation out of the state. Enforcing the law became less of a priority with the coming of the Civil War and Arkansas’s declaration on May 6, 1861 that it had severed its bond with the United States. The addition of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1865, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude (except as punishment for a crime) in the United States, officially ended Act 151.

February 28, 1966 – President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Andrew Brimmer to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors where he became the first Black member in the Board’s history.

February 28, 1984 – The 26th Grammy Awards was held. Michael Jackson won seven Grammy Awards (and 11 nominations) for his critical and commercially successful album, “Thriller.” That album remains one of the top-grossing albums of all time. At the same ceremony, Wynton Marsalis became the first artist ever to be nominated and win a Grammy Award in both the jazz and classical categories. Click here to see Michael Jackson’s “Beat it” video, which won Song of the Year. To see the Grammy Award winning performance of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto in E Flat by Winton Marsalis, click here.