April – This Month In Black American History

By Guest Blogger Yahtzeebutterfly


April 1, 1949 – Spoken-word, jazz/blues poet Gil Scott-Heron was born in Chicago, Illinois

See Xena’s excellent article,  The Gift of Gil Scott HeronSeeing the Present In The Past.


April 2, 1939 – Birth of singer and songwriter Marvin Gaye in Washington, D.C.

April 4, 1928 – Poet and author Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri.

In case you missed her moving tribute to Nelson Mandela, here it is:


April 4, 1968 – Martin Luther King was assassinated.  

Every time another anniversary of Martin Luther King’s untimely death comes around,  there is an echo in my mind of him speaking about how he might not get to the “promised land” of brotherhood, equality, and social justice but that he had seen “the promised land” with all of its beauty from the mountaintop overlooking it.  Today, we are still not there.  It is a land that my heart yearns for.  It is a land that requires all of our fellow citizens’ hearts to yearn for before our arrival there is possible.  Hearts need to change and feel the qualities of that “promised land.”  It is actually a promise that we must give to each other before arrival is ever possible.


April 4, 1967 – Exactly one year before his death, Martin Luther King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech.


April 5, 1856 – Educator and author Booker T. Washington was born in Virginia as a slave.  

He became a leader in the African American community, the first president of the Tuskegee Industrial Institute in Alabama, and a advisor to many U.S. presidents.

April 7, 1965  saw the beginning of many civil rights marches (which continued through the summer months) in Bogalusa, Louisiana for voting rights, for inclusion on political committees, for equal police protection, for an end to racial segregation and an end to exclusion from public accommodations including restaurants, for equal job opportunity, and for an end to discriminatory hiring practices at the Crown-Zellerbach paper mill which was the major employer in town.

At one of these marches an ugly-hearted white woman held this sign:

A woman stands on the side of the road challenging civil rights marchers with a hand written sign. Bogalusa, Louisiana, in 1965. Photograph by Matt Herron

This Bogalusa Movement, which took place in a town with such a high concentration of KKK members that some have labeled it “Klantown USA,”  was met with white violence including beatings by mobs as well as by police, shootings, cross burnings, spraying with fire hoses, setting of fires, and other forms of intimidation.  Because of the dangerous violence against the Black protest community, a chapter of the self-defense group of Blacks called “The Deacons for Defense” was formed in Bogalusa. For an understanding of this self-defense organization see this three minute video:


See Seth Hague’s paper for an in-depth history the Bogalusa Movement.

April 7, 1915 – Birth of Billie Holiday, the talented blues & jazz singer and songwriter  well known for the songs ”GOD Bless The Child” and “Strange Fruit.”

Ms. Holiday captures the horror of lynching as she sings “Strange Fruit” with such heartbreaking emotion that there is no escape for me.  The chilling atrocities committed by the beastly mobs is related in her every pause, emphasis, change of volume and the tone of her voice.  Listening to it sears my being as I consider the many modern-day killings and beatings of innocent, unarmed Black victims. The lyrics of the poem, written and published by teacher Abel Mere in 1937, were first sung and recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939.  The song has been sung by many artists, but for me, her version here leaves me haunted and deeply shaken more than I can even express through words:


People, from Ida B. Wells beginning in the 1890s to civil rights organizations in the 1900s to Albert Einstein in the 1940s marched, spoke out, wrote letters and petitioned the Federal Government to enact anti-lynching legislation.  Despite the lobbying of Congress by seven presidents for anti-lynching legislation and despite three anti-lynching bills passing the House of Representatives, the bills were always crushed by the U.S. Senate.  

Finally, in 2005, with the support of 75% or 80% (noting sadly that it was not 100%) of the U.S. Senate, an anti-lynching apology resolution was passed.  Writing for the Washington Post,  Avis Thomas-Lester informed readers that “In passing the measure, the senators in essence admitted that their predecessors’ failures to act had helped perpetuate a horror that took the lives of more than 4,700 people from 1882 to 1968, most of them black men.”

After the Anti-Lynching Apology Resolution was passed, senators Mary Landrieu, John Kerry, George Allen, and others who were part of the moving force to bring about and pass the resolution held this press conference where also present were many family members of lynching victims as well as an elderly man who had escaped being lynched the day his two brothers were lynched.  Here is the video of that press conference:


In 2005, then a Senator, Barack Obama delivered a speech supporting the Anti-Lynching Apology Resolution:


April 9, 1866The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed by Congress over President Andrew Johnson’s veto.

April 9, 1898 – Singer and actor Paul Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey.

April 10, 1947 – Jackie Robinson signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers becoming the first African American to play Major League Baseball.  

April 11, 1899 – Birth of Chemist Percy Lavon Julian in Montgomery, Alabama.

According to Wikipedia:

 “ Percy Lavon Julian was an African American research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He was the first to synthesize the natural product physostigmine, and a pioneer in the industrial large-scale chemical synthesis of the human hormones progesterone and testosterone from plant sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol. His work laid the foundation for the steroid drug industry’s production of cortisone, other corticosteroids, and birth control pills.”



April 11 1968 – President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing. According to Wikipedia,

The law is passed following a series of Open Housing campaigns throughout the urban North, the most significant being the 1966 Chicago Open Housing Movement and the organized events in Milwaukee during 1967–68. In both cities, angry white mobs had attacked nonviolent protesters.”

April 13, 1946 – R&B singer Al Green was born this day in Forrest City, Arkansas.

April 15, 1889 – Birth of A. Philip Randolph, labor leader, president of the Sleeping Car Porters union, and civil rights advocate who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington. 

(Two minute documentary video,“A Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom”)

April 18 – Birth of James McCune Smith, who the first African American to receive a medical degree.  He was very active in the abolition of slavery movement.

(Video “Danny Glover as James McCune Smith”)

April 21, 1924 – Gospel singer Clara Ward was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

April 22, 1964 – Civil Rights protest by members of CORE takes place at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York:

CORE picketers march in the shadow of the Unisphere at the 1964 World's Fair.

CORE picketers march in the shadow of the Unisphere at the 1964 World’s Fair.


Civil Rights demonstrators picketed in front of the entrance to the fair as well as at the entrances to the pavilions. During President Lyndon B. Johnson’s opening address, protestors shouted, “Jim Crow Must Go!” and “Freedom Now!”  The Congress for Racial Equality planned the demonstration knowing that the media would be present and hoped their message would be carried nationally to the American public.

At the World’s Fair, CORE leader James Farmer proclaimed:

“For every new car that is shown at the World’s Fair, we will submit a cattle prod. For every piece of bright chrome that is on display, we will show the charred remains of an Alabama church. And for the grand and great steel Unisphere, we’ll submit our bodies from all over the country as witnesses against the Northern ghetto and Southern brutality.” James Farmer with others blocked the door to the New York City pavilion, saying it was a “symbolic act, in the same way…that Negroes have been blocked from good jobs, houses and schools in the city.”


April 23, 1956 – The U.S. Supreme Court affirms  the ruling of a federal appellate court which struck down the law of segregated seating on buses.

April 23, 1856  – Inventor,  Granville T. Woods was born in Columbus, Ohio.

Mr. Woods had more than 50 patents in his name.  Wikipedia informs that In 1885, Woods patented an apparatus which was a combination of a telephone and a telegraph. The device, which he called ‘telegraphony’, would allow a telegraph station to send voice and telegraph messages over a single wire. He sold the rights to this device to the American Bell Telephone Company. In 1887, he patented the Synchronous Multiplex Railway Telegraph which allowed communications between train stations from moving trains, a technology pioneered by Lucius Phelps in 1884.”

(”GTW-Granville T. Woods Mini-Documentary”)


April 26, 1886  – Legendary blues singer Gertrude “Ma” Raney was born in Columbus, Ohio.

April 26, 1948 – Electrical engineer and inventor Jesse Russell was born and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee.

According to Wikipedia:

“Jesse Eugene Russell is an American inventor. Trained as an electrical engineer at Tennessee State University and Stanford University… [his] innovations in wireless communication systems, architectures and technology related to radio access networks, end-user devices and in-building wireless communication systems have fundamentally changed the wireless communication industry. Known for his patented invention of the digital cellular base station, that enabled new digital services for cellular mobile users, Russell continues to innovate in the emerging next generation broadband wireless communication technologies, products, networks, and services as well as “Mobile Cloud Computing” which are shaping the forefront of the 4G Communication Industry.”




Posted on 04/04/2016, in Black History Month, civil rights, research and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 69 Comments.

    Yahtzeebutterfly plans on posting a This Month in Black American History on a monthly basis. Her research is outstanding and I thank her for giving of her time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yahtzeebutterfly


      I appreciate being able to send you my April post and for you placing it on your blog. Thank you very much. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • yahtzeebutterfly

      Artist Charles Wilbert White was born on April 2, 1918in Chicago, Illinois.

      From Wikipedia: “White’s best known work is The Contribution of the Negro to American Democracy, a mural at Hampton University depicting a number of notable blacks including Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Peter Salem, George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Marian Anderson.”

      A short video documentary on Charles White’s life and works:


  2. yahtzeebutterfly

    On this day (April 4) forty eight years ago, an assassin’s bullet took the life of Martin Luther King.

    King’s words (excerpt) from the “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which he delivered exactly one year to the day before his death, had a great impact:

    “I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor as long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube … So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as the enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

    Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the Black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.

    So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and White boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schoolroom. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago or Atlanta.”

    Martin Luther King was always trying to reach the moral conscience of America in his actions and his words to change hearts and make a better world.

    The following is old footage of Walter Cronkite’s broadcast on April 4, 1968 giving the news of Martin Luther King’s assassination:


    Liked by 2 people

  3. Liked by 1 person

  4. Jane Elliot conducted her first “Blue eyes–Brown eyes” exercise the day after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.



  5. yahtzeebutterfly

    On this day in 1839 (April 5, 1839) U.S. Congressman Robert Smalls was born enslaved to a master named Henry Mckee in Beaufort, South Carolina. Mckee raised money by hiring out Smalls when Robert Smalls was twelve. According to Wikipedia “He began in a hotel, then became a lamplighter on Charleston’s streets. In his teen years, his love of the sea led him to work on the docks and wharves of Charleston. Smalls became a stevedore (dockworker), a rigger, a sail maker, and eventually worked his way up to being a wheelman (more or less a pilot, though slaves would not be called by that title). He became very knowledgeable about Charleston harbor.”

    He would succeed in 1862 to escape slavery with his family by piloting a small Confederate transport ship past Confederate forts guarding Charleston Harbor to the Union ships blockading the harbor:

    After the Civil War, Robert Smalls went on to become a member of the South Carolina legislature and, later, a U.S. congressman. Here is a video trailer to a documentary on his life:


  6. yahtzeebutterfly

    With the Space Shuttle Discovery launch to the International Space Station on this day in 2010 (April 5, 2010) Stephanie Wilson began her third spaceflight as a mission specialist.


  7. So much hear, thank you YB!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. And Still I Rise

    Maya Angelou

    You may write me down in history
    With your bitter, twisted lies,
    You may tread me in the very dirt
    But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

    Does my sassiness upset you?
    Why are you beset with gloom?
    ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
    Pumping in my living room.

    Just like moons and like suns,
    With the certainty of tides,
    Just like hopes springing high,
    Still I’ll rise.

    Did you want to see me broken?
    Bowed head and lowered eyes?
    Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
    Weakened by my soulful cries.

    Does my haughtiness offend you?
    Don’t you take it awful hard
    ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
    Diggin’ in my own back yard.

    You may shoot me with your words,
    You may cut me with your eyes,
    You may kill me with your hatefulness,
    But still, like air, I’ll rise.

    Does my sexiness upset you?
    Does it come as a surprise
    That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
    At the meeting of my thighs?

    Out of the huts of history’s shame
    I rise
    Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
    I rise
    I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
    I rise
    Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
    I rise
    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
    I rise
    I rise
    I rise.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. yahtzeebutterfly

    Happy Birthday Pharrell Williams!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. butterflydreamer2


    Thanks for all your hard work on this!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. yahtzeebutterfly

    On April 6, 1909 explorer Matthew Henson arrived at the North Pole with Robert Peary’s expedition.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. yahtzeebutterfly

    Pianist Dorothy Donegan was born April 6, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. Wikipedia informs us that she was a “classically trained jazz pianist primarily known for performing in the stride piano and boogie-woogie style. She also played bebop, swing jazz, and classical music.”

    Video (“Dorothy Donegan (Piano) & Cab Calloway & His Band”) :


  13. "A Curious Mind"

    I don’t comment a lot, unless I have ‘really’, something to say,.. .
    let’s all be one, quit being of not, because we all came from the same father.. .
    Color.. .?? Really.. .???
    and Yes, probably, off point, but your Blog brings to mind,
    Our Souls.. .


    • yahtzeebutterfly

      Thanks for dropping by to comment, “A Curious Mind”.

      Yes, hearts need to change.

      We also need to know our country’s historical failings so that we understand why we are where we are and what we need to change in order to repair the damage caused by past events. In addition, our schools’ history textbooks need to be well-rounded so that ALL children can take pride in their ancestors’ accomplishments.

      In our white-structured society Black history was neglected in the history books. It was even revised to present a false history. (A friend of mine told me that her history textbook in the 1940s informed students that Black slaves were happy and content.) After Carter Woodson was told that Blacks “had no history” by a professor, he set out to research and publish African American history which became his life’s work.

      Excerpt from http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/misedne.html

      The most imperative and crucial element in Woodson’s concept of mis-education hinged on the education system’s failure to present authentic Negro History in schools and the bitter knowledge that there was a scarcity of literature available for such a purpose, because most history books gave little or no space to the black man’s presence in America. Some of them contained casual references to Negroes but these generally depicted them in menial, subordinate roles, more or less sub-human. Such books stressed their good fortune at having been exposed, through slavery, to the higher (white man’s) civilization. There were included derogatory statements relating to the primitive, heathenish quality of the African background, but nothing denoting skills, abilities, contributions or potential in the image of the Blacks, in Africa or America. Woodson considered this state of affairs deplorable, an American tragedy, dooming the Negro to a brain-washed acceptance of the inferior role assigned to him by the dominant race, and absorbed by him through his schooling.

      Moreover, the neglect of Afro-American History and distortion of the facts concerning Negroes in most history books, deprived the black child and his whole race of a heritage, and relegated him to nothingness and nobodyness.

      When I read your comment Color.. .?? Really.. .???” I have to respond with “Yes.”

      Here are some things I have read that have helped me:

      “I don’t see race” or “we should all just look past race” are two general statements that can only be said by a person for whom race is not a daily struggle/issue/negotiation.


      When you understand your own white privilege, you’ll be better equipped to see and understand systemic discrimination and inequality.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I read yesterday where the man who called the police on John Crawford is being charged



  15. yahtzeebutterfly

    On April 7, 1940, the Post Office Department (POD) issued a stamp honoring African-American educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) as part of its Famous Americans Series. The nation’s first stamp to honor an African-American, it holds a unique place in American history.



  16. yahtzeebutterfly

    Civil rights activist William Monroe Trotter, born on April 7, 1872, was a real estate businessman and the founder of the Boston Guardian an African American newspaper.

    I found a great site (“Trotter Multicultural Center”) that provides a timeline of his activism life.
    Here are two entries from that site:

    1899 — 1901
    Early activism
    After college, Trotter’s Boston-based political work and racial activism began to take off. He helped to organize the Boston Literary and Historical Association, which provided a forum for militant race opinion, in March 1901. Trotter also joined the Massachusetts Racial Protective Association in 1901, heading up the group’s business and finance committee. He gave one of his first protest-style speeches in October of that year, advocating for expansion of voting rights and criticizing Booker T. Washington’s attitude in his work as “subservient to the white people of the South.” This put Trotter in the so-called “radical” camp as it pertained to racial activism at the time, Soon after Trotter joined the Protective Association, William H. Scott (the Association’s leader), George W. Forbes (another member of the Association), and Trotter discussed the prospect of creating a new weekly newspaper in Boston. Forbes had the technical expertise and Trotter had the money, and at Scott’s urging they moved ahead with founding the paper.

    November 9, 1901
    Inaugural issue of The Guardian published
    In the first issue of The Guardian, Trotter and Forbes expressed the paper’s purpose: “We have come to protest forever against being proscribed or shut off in any caste from equal rights with other citizens, and shall remain forever on the firing line at any and all times in defence of such rights.” The new newspaper represented a turning point in Trotter’s life, as after its founding Trotter’s activism fighting racial discrimination was virtually inseparable from his work at the paper. This sentiment was reflected in The Guardian’s masthead: “Segregation for Colored is the Most Damning Degradation in America–Fight It.”

    This photo shows the office front of the newspaper:


  17. yahtzeebutterfly

    Walter Scott was fatally shot in the back one year ago (April 8, 2015) by Ofc. Slager.

    Slager’s trial is scheduled for October 31 this year.


  18. yahtzeebutterfly

    The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded on April 8, 1960.


  19. Salute!!!!! Phenomenal post, and posts in the comments.’Well done. There was so much I did not know. Thanks for the lesson 🙂


    • yahtzeebutterfly

      Thanks for your kind and encouraging words, Virgobeauty.

      I just wish I had known when I taught fifth and sixth grade students what I know today of the history of the African American experience (and, of course, I am still learning).

      I hope colleges will continue to keep their Black studies departments strong. I was concerned about cutbacks when I recently read a book titled ”Dude, Where’s My Black Studies Department?” In this book, author Cecil Brown points out that

      “university officials, administrators, professors, and students are ignoring the phenomenon of the disappearing black student – in both their admissions and hiring policies. With black studies departments shifting the focus from African American and black community interests to black immigrant issues, says Brown, the situation is becoming dire. “Dude, Where’s My Black Studies Department?” offers both a scorching critique and a plan for rethinking and reform of a crucial but largely unacknowledged problem in contemporary society.”

      Excerpted from Amazon’s page about this book.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my. As we both learn, we shall continue to teach others. I, too, hope that the institutions continue to advise the minds that are before them (young and old). Thanks for putting me on to a new book as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. yahtzeebutterfly

    Happy Birthday to you, Paule Marshall 🙂

    After listening to this video where you discuss your memoir Triangular Road, I look forward to reading it :

    From internet Encyclopedia Britannica :
    Paule Marshall, original name Valenza Pauline Burke (born April 9, 1929, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.), American novelist whose works emphasized a need for black Americans to reclaim their African heritage.

    Her autobiographical first novel, “Brown Girl, Brownstones”(1959), tells of the American daughter of Barbadian parents who travels to their homeland as an adult. The book was critically acclaimed for its acute rendition of dialogue, gaining widespread recognition when it was reprinted in 1981.

    “Soul Clap Hands and Sing”, a 1961 collection of four novellas, presents four aging men who come to terms with their earlier refusal to affirm lasting values… “The Chosen Place, the Timeless People” (1969) is set on a fictional Caribbean island and concerns a philanthropic attempt to modernize an impoverished and oppressed society.

    Marshall’s most eloquent statement of her belief in African Americans’ need to rediscover their heritage was “Praisesong for the Widow,” a highly regarded 1983 novel that established her reputation as a major writer. Its protagonist, Avatara (Avey) Johnson, a middle-class woman, undergoes a spiritual rebirth on the island of Grenada.


    • yahtzeebutterfly

      In the above, all of the words that followed “From internet Encyclopedia Britannica ” should have been in italics.

      (Xena, if you have time, would you correct that for me?)


  21. yahtzeebutterfly

    Blues singer and guitarist Mance Lipscomb was born April 9, 1895 in Navasota, Texas.


  22. yahtzeebutterfly

    Classical composer Florence Price was born in Little Rock, Arkansas on April 9, 1887.

    She attended the New England Conservatory of Music and also Chicago’s Conservatory of Music. According to Wikipedia:

    Even though her training was steeped in European tradition, Price’s music consists of mostly the American idiom and reveals her Southern roots. Price wrote with a vernacular style, using sounds and ideas that fit the reality of urban society. Being deeply religious, Price frequently used the music of the African-American church as material for her arrangements.

    At the urging of her mentor George Whitefield Chadwick, Price began to incorporate elements of African-American spirituals, emphasizing the rhythm and syncopation of the spirituals rather than just using the text. Price’s melodies were blues-inspired and mixed with more traditional, European Romantic techniques. The weaving of tradition and modernism reflected the way life was for African Americans in large cities at the time.

    Video (“Mississippi Suite-Florence Price”) :

    Video (Florence Price “Night” performed by Yolanda Rhodes & Deanne Tucker) :


  23. yahtzeebutterfly

    Benjamin Mays eulogized at Martin Luther King’s funeral (April 9, 1968) :

    He had faith in his country. He died striving to desegregate and integrate America to the end that this great nation of ours, born in revolution and blood, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created free and equal, will truly become the lighthouse of freedom where none will be denied because his skin is black and none favored because his eyes are blue; where our nation will be militarily strong but perpetually at peace; economically secure but just; learned but wise; where the poorest — the garbage collectors — will have bread enough and to spare; where no one will be poorly housed; each educated up to his capacity; and where the richest will understand the meaning of empathy. This was his dream, and the end toward which he strove. As he and his followers so often sang: “We shall overcome someday; black and white together.”

    Video – Aretha Franklin sings Precious Lord at Martin Luther King Funeral:


  24. yahtzeebutterfly

    Thanks to contributor Lucinda Mennenga on the Blackpast dot-org page I was able to learn for the first time about the life and contributions of James Monroe Whitfield.
    (For her full article which includes a portrait of Whitfield see http://www.blackpast.org/aah/whitfield-james-monroe-1822-1871 )

    Born on April 10, 1822 in New Hampshire John Monroe Whitfield, a barber, was a passionate abolitionist and poet who contributed poems to Frederick Douglas’ newspaper The North Star and to William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper The Liberator. Later in life, when he lived in the Northwest and in San Francisco, Whitfield wrote to local newspapers supporting civil rights for African Americans.

    Excerpt from “America” by John Monroe Whitfield:

    AMERICA, it is to thee,
    Thou boasted land of liberty, —
    It is to thee I raise my song,
    Thou land of blood, and crime, and wrong.
    It is to thee, my native land,
    From whence has issued many a band
    To tear the black man from his soil,
    And force him here to delve and toil;
    Chained on your blood-bemoistened sod,
    Cringing beneath a tyrant’s rod,
    Stripped of those rights which Nature’s God
       Bequeathed to all the human race,
    Bound to a petty tyrant’s nod,
       Because he wears a paler face.

    “Prayer of the Oppressed”
    by John Monroe Whitfield

    Oh great Jehovah! God of love,
    Thou monarch of the earth and sky,
    Canst thou from thy great throne above
    Look down with an unpitying eye? –

    See Afric’s sons and daughters toil,
    Day after day, year after year,
    Upon this blood-bemoistened soil,
    And to their cries turn a deaf ear?

    Canst thou the white oppressor bless
    With verdant hills and fruitful plains,
    Regardless of the slave’s distress,
    Unmindful of the black man’s chains.

    How long, oh Lord! ere thou wilt speak
    In thy Almighty thundering voice,
    To bid the oppressor’s fetters break,
    And Ethiopia’s sons rejoice.

    How long shall Slavery’s iron grip,
    And Prejudice’s guilty hand,
    Send forth, like blood-hounds from the slip,
    Foul persecutions o’er the land?

    How long shall puny mortals dare
    To violate thy just decree,
    And force their fellow-men to wear
    The galling chain on land and sea?

    Hasten, oh Lord! the glorious time
    When everywhere beneath the skies,
    From every land and every clime,
    Peans to Liberty shall rise!

    When the bright sun of liberty
    Shall shine o’er each despotic land,
    And all mankind, from bondage free,
    Adore the wonders of thy hand.


    • yahtzeebutterfly

      Additional biographical information about James Monroe Whitfiled from page 475 of ”African American Authors, 1745-1945: Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook” :

      “African American abolitionist and poet, James Whitfield…was born April 10, 1822 in Exeter, New Hampshire, to free blacks [parents]…

      While still a young man, after a short stay in Boston, he eventually settled in Buffalo, New York, and married a local black woman with whom he had two sons and a daughter A skilled barber, Whitfield opened a barbershop at 30 East Seneca Street in 1858, and his customers included many of Buffalo’s prominent African American citizens and visitors, including Frederick Douglass… Buffao, one of the main centers of the abolitionist movement, provided a convenient platform for his abolitionist fervor.”


  25. yahtzeebutterfly

    On April 11, 1903 John Clarke was convicted of “gaming” and was sentenced into the brutal convict lease system in Alabama.

    Excerpt from Douglas Blackmon’s 2001 article titled “From Alabama’s Past, Capitalism Teamed With Racism to Create Cruel Partnership”:

    ”In the early decades of the 20th century, tens of thousands of convicts — most of them…indigent black men — were snared in a largely forgotten justice system rooted in racism and nurtured by economic expedience. Until nearly 1930, decades after most other Southern states had abolished similar programs, Alabama was providing convicts to businesses hungry for hands to work in farm fields, lumber camps, railroad construction gangs and, especially in later years, mines. For state and local officials, the incentive was money; many years, convict leasing was one of Alabama’s largest sources of funding…

    “Most of the convicts were charged with minor offenses or violations of “Black Code” statutes passed to reassert white control in the aftermath of the Civil War…

    “Subjected to squalid living conditions, poor medical treatment, scant food and frequent floggings, thousands died…

    “In 1902 and 1903, the only period for which a complete prisoner ledger survives for Jefferson County, where Birmingham is located, local officials prosecuted more than 3,000 misdemeanor cases, the great majority of them yielding a convict to work in a Sloss-Sheffield mine.

    “One of those convicts was John Clarke, a black miner convicted of “gaming” on April 11, 1903. Unable to pay, he ended up at the Sloss-Sheffield mines. Working off the fine would take 10 days. Fees for the sheriff, the county clerk and even the witnesses who testified in the case required that Mr. Clarke serve an additional 104 days in the mines. Sloss-Sheffield acquired him at a rate of $9 a month, Jefferson County records show. One month and three days later, he was dead, crushed by “falling rock,” according to the Alabama Board of Inspectors of Convicts, the agency that monitored the system.”


    If you wish to know more of what Douglas Blackmon uncovered about the convict lease system, see this link on his book “Slavery By Another Name” :


  26. yahtzeebutterfly

    Today (April 12, 2016) is the anniversary of Freddie Gray’s death.


    • yahtzeebutterfly


      April 12, 2015 was the day that Freddie Gray received his injuries during his arrest that caused his death a week later on April 19, 2015.


  27. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 12, 1863 – Lucy Hughes Brown, the first African-American woman physician in South Carolina, was born in Mebane, North Carolina.


  28. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 13, 1854 – Birth of educator Lucy Craft Laney who founded Haines Institute for black students in Augusta, Georgia and was its principal for fifty years.


  29. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 13, 1964 – Sidney Poitier wins the the Academy’s Best Actor award for his role in Lilies of the Field.”



  30. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 14, 1775 – Founding of the Society for the “Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage” (renamed in 1784 to the “Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage, “better known as the “Pennsylvania Abolition Society.”)

    From Wikipedia:

    “At some point after 1785, Benjamin Franklin was elected as the organization’s president. The society asked him to bring the matter of slavery to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He petitioned the U.S Congress in 1790 to ban slavery.

    “The Pennsylvania Abolition (or Abolitionist) Society, which had members and leaders of both races, became a model for anti-slavery organizations in other states during the antebellum years.

    “The Pennsylvania Abolition Society still exists, dedicated to the cause of racial justice. The oldest abolitionist organization in the United States, since the late twentieth century, it has worked to improve issues of criminal justice and the over-representation of African Americans in prison, reduction in harsh sentencing laws, and improving economic and environmental justice. In 1984 when the Society was revived, a Pennsylvania State Historical Marker was placed on Philadelphia’s Front Street below Chestnut Street, at the site of its original offices.”

    Great video about this society:


  31. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 15, 1915 – Birth of graphic artist and sculptor Elizabeth Catlett in Washington, D.C.


  32. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 15, 1926 – Architect Norma Merrick Sklarek was born in Harlem, New York City.
    From Wikipedia :

    She attended Hunter College High School, went on to Barnard College, and then received her architecture degree in 1950 from Columbia University School of Architecture, one of only two women in her graduating class.Merrick was one of the first black women to be licensed as an architect in the United States, and the first to be licensed in the states of New York (1954) and California (1962).

    Among Sklarek’s designs are the San Bernardino City Hall in San Bernardino, California, the Fox Plaza in San Francisco, and the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo, Japan.


  33. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 16, 1963 – Martin Luther King wrote his Letter from Birmingham City Jail.
    Link to text of letter:
    Excerpts from letter:

    I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…

    You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation…

    I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They will be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.


  34. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 17, 1914 – Birth of Dovey Johnson Roundtree in Charlotte, North Carolina.
    From Wikipedia:

    Dovey Johnson Roundtree is an African-American civil rights activist, ordained minister, and attorney. Her 1955 victory before the Interstate Commerce Commission in the first bus desegregation case to be brought before the ICC resulted in the only explicit repudiation of the “separate but equal” doctrine in the field of interstate bus transportation by a court or federal administrative body.That case, Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company [64 MCC 769 (1955)], which Dovey Roundtree argued with her law partner and mentor Julius Winfield Robertson, was invoked by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy during the 1961 Freedom Riders’ campaign in his successful battle to compel the Interstate Commerce Commission to enforce its rulings and end Jim Crow in public transportation.


  35. yahtzeebutterfly

    On 18 April 1959, King, along with several other civil rights leaders, including Daisy Bates, Harry Belafonte, A. Philip Randolph, Jackie Robinson, and Roy Wilkins, spoke before 26,000 black high school and college students who had come to the nation’s capital to demonstrate their support for the 1954 Supreme Court decision against racial segregation in the nation’s public schools.”



  36. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 18, 1941 – NYC bus companies hired two hundred Black workers after a four week boycott led by Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Of those two hundred hired there were about one hundred drivers and seventy maintenance workers.

    Photo of Adam Clayton Powell speaking during the boycott.


  37. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 19, 1841 – Birth of Pierre Caliste Landre, the first African American to become a mayor in the U.S.

    From Wikipedia:

    Pierre Caliste Landre was an American slave who after the American Civil War became an attorney, Methodist Episcopal minister, and politician in Louisiana.

    In 1868, during the Reconstruction Era, Landry was elected mayor of Donaldsonville, Louisiana, the first African American in the United States to achieve such electoral office. He also founded St. Peter’s Methodist Episcopal Church and became active in local community affairs on many levels. He served as an elected judge, superintendent of schools, tax collector, president of the police jury, parish school board member, postmaster, and as justice of the peace.

    He became influential in the Republican Party, establishing the Black Republicans faction and winning election to the Louisiana House of Representatives[6] in 1872 by a large margin. His bill was passed to establish New Orleans University, which became the third Black private college in Louisiana. In 1874, Landry was elected to the Louisiana State Senate, serving until 1880. The Reconstruction legislature authorized public education for the first time and established a funding mechanism; it also supported a variety of public welfare institutions.


  38. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 20, 1871 – President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Third Force Act (also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act).



  39. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 20, 1971 The U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education upheld the use of busing to achieve racial desegregation in schools.


  40. yahtzeebutterfly

    Yesterday ( April 20, 2016 ) the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the portrait of Harriet Tubman will be on the new $20 bill :


  41. yahtzeebutterfly

    From the minutes of the April 21-23,1961 SNCC meeting at Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte, North Carolina :

    The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee closed its busy week-end agenda on a vote calling for sit-in across the South to extend their efforts into job discrimination, theater stand-ins, recreational (golf courses, swimming pools, beaches) facilities and an all out voter registration campaign, entitled “Operation Door Knock”.

    You can read the full report of the meeting here:

    Click to access 6104_sncc_min.pdf


  42. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 22, 1892 – Birth of civil rights activist Vernon Johns in Darlington Heights, Virginia.

    From Wikipedia:

    Vernon Johns was an American minister and civil rights leader who was active in the struggle for civil rights for African Americans from the 1920s. At times he has been rated as one of the three greatest African-American preachers, along with Mordecai Johnson and Howard Thurman.

    He is considered by some as the father of the American Civil Rights Movement, having laid the foundation on which Martin Luther King, Jr. and others would build. He was Dr. King’s predecessor as pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama from 1947 to 1952, and a mentor of Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt Walker, and many others in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

    From the movie The Vernon Johns Story :


  43. yahtzeebutterfly

    23, 1951 Student walkout strike because of overcrowding and inadequate facilities at Moton High School, which was the Black high school in Prince Edward County, Virginia.

    Excerpt from article linked below:

    Barbara Johns was 16-years-old when she rallied the Moton student body to walk out in protest of their school’s separate and unequal conditions.  With NAACP backing, the Moton students and parents ultimately filed suit for integrated schools.  Their case, Davis v. Prince Edward County, was combined with lawsuits from Delaware, Kansas, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C., and argued, together, as Brown v. Board of Education.  Seventy-five percent of Brown decision plaintiffs came from the Moton strike.  The Davis case was the only lawsuit initiated by students.

    Though increasingly recognized as the “the student birthplace of America’s Civil Rights Movement,” Prince Edward County continues to wrestle with its more widely known, post-Brown legacy, the closing of its public schools from 1959 to 1964 to avoid integration.



  44. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 23, 1933 – Birth of Annie J. Easley in Birmingham, Alabama
    From Wikipedia:

    “Annie J. Easley was an African-American computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist. She worked for the Lewis Research Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). She was a leading member of the team which developed software for the Centaur rocket stage and one of the first African-Americans in her field.”

    Liked by 1 person

  45. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 24, 1960 – “Bloody Sunday” in Biloxi, Mississippi occurred when a White mob viciously attacked 125 African Americans who were taking part in a peaceful wade-in to protest the segregation 26-mile-shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico.

    Dr. Gilbert Mason who led the wade-in campaign described the horror of that day on page 68 of his book Beaches, Blood, and Ballots :

    Hordes of snarling white folks poured onto the beach at the foot of Gill with bricks, baseball bats, pipes, sticks, and chains and attacked our unarmed black protesters. The law enforcement officers were just standing around… Our folks were like lambs being led to the slaughter… Some of the forty or fifty blacks at the foot of Gill were already in the water with at least four or five hundred whites surrounding them and beating whomever they could lay hands on… There was no protection for any of us from law enforcement. The dozens of sheriff’s deputies on the scene appeared to step back so as not to interfere with the melee on the beach. The sheriff himself was there and did nothing to stop the white mob…I was later told that FBI agent had observed these beatings from the lighthouse, and they apparently did not do anything to stop them either.

    In his book Dr. Gilbert wrote about how he told an officer who was going to arrest him that he needed to tend to the injured at the hospital. He later turned himself in after his emergency work was completed.

    The following photo and caption is from a Smithsonian page:

    ”Dr. Gilbert Mason, shown here being escorted by police to a Biloxi, Mississippi courthouse, led the black community in a series of “wade-in” protests to desegregate Biloxi’s twenty-six-mile-long shoreline. (AP Images)”

    Protests continued with the final protest being on June 23, 1963, but it was not until 1968 that the entire beachfront was desegregated.

    Excerpt from Wikipedia:

    The final protest occurred on June 23, 1963, following the assassination of Medgar Evers [June 12, 1963]. Evers had been a popular supporter of the Biloxi Wade-Ins and had written a letter to Mason proclaiming that “if we are to receive a beating, let’s receive it because we have done something, not because we have done nothing.” The protest had been postponed for two weeks to allow participants time to mourn Evers’s murder and protesters placed black flags in the sand in his memory during the demonstration. Biloxi police arrested 71 protestors, of whom 68 were black. Over 2000 white residents held a counterprotest, in which Gilbert Mason’s car was vandalized and finally overturned.

    It was not until 1967 that the Justice Department won its case, and in 1968 the entire beachfront was opened to all races for the first time.


  46. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 25, 1917 – Birth of Ella Fitzgerald in Newport News, Virginia.
    From Wikipedia:

    “Ella Jane Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer often referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing and intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing”


  47. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 26, 1888 Sarah Boone received a patent for her improvements to the ironing board.



  48. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 28,1971 – Samuel Lee Gravely became first Black admiral in the United States Navy.


  49. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 30, 1963 – In Johnson v. Virginia the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated seating in courtrooms was unconstitutional.

    For more info, see


  50. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 29, 1899 – Birth of bandleader and pianist Duke Ellington in Washington, DC.


  51. yahtzeebutterfly

    April 30, 1968 – A desegregation law was approved by the Milwaukee Common Council.

    Excerpt from article linked below:

    Until the 1960s, discriminatory laws and lending practices forced nearly all African Americans [in Milwaukee] to live in a single neighborhood just north and northwest of downtown. Ninety percent of Milwaukee’s subdivisions had been laid out with covenants prohibiting the sale of property to people of color, and informal agreements among realtors, lenders, and landlords reinforced those restrictions. These practices were not considered illegal until 1968; many, if not most, US cities were similarly segregated.

    Black residents who tried to move out of the central city faced landlords who refused to rent to them or banks that wouldn’t write mortgages. Landlords told African Americans seeking housing that vacant apartments had suddenly been rented to others, or prices and rents were much higher than had been publicly advertised.

    In 1962, alderwoman Vel Phillips introduced the first ordinance in the Milwaukee Common Council to reverse this sort of discrimination. The ordinance was defeated 18-1, her vote being the only one in favor. Similar votes occurred three more times over the next six years.

    Finally, in 1967 and 1968, Milwaukee’s NAACP Youth Council picketed the homes of alders and marched for 200 consecutive nights to demand a fair housing law. After the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr., Congress passed a national fair housing law. On April 30, 1968, the Milwaukee Common Council followed with its own ordinance.

    Click to access CivilRights_lesson1.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

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