May – This Month In Black American History
By Guest Blogger, Yahtzeebutterfly
In addition to this post, as the month continues, Yahtzeebutterfly adds historical information to the comment section.
May 1, 1930 – Little Walter in Marksville, Louisiana.
“Marion Walter Jacobs, known as Little Walter, was an American blues musician, singer, and songwriter, whose revolutionary approach to the harmonica and impact on succeeding generations earned him comparisons to such seminal artists as Django Reinhardt, Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix. His virtuosity and musical innovations fundamentally altered many listeners’ expectations of what was possible on blues harmonica.”
Video (“Little Walter R&R Hall of Fame film”) :
May 3, 1933 – Singer and songwriter James Brown was born in Bardwell, South Carolina.
Trailer video to movie biography of James Brown titled Get On Up :
May 6, 1983 – Gabourney Sidibe, American actress who made her acting debut in the 2009 film Precious, a role that brought her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
May 9, 1897 – Radiologist and writer Rudolph Fisher was born in Washington, D.C.
“Rudolph Fisher was an African-American physician, radiologist, novelist, short story writer, dramatist, musician, and orator. His parents were John Wesley Fisher, a clergyman, and Glendora Williamson. Fisher had three children.”
“His first published work, ‘City of Refuge’, appeared in the ‘Atlantic Monthly of February 1925. He went on in 1932 to write “The Conjure-Man Dies”, the first novel with a black detective as well as the first detective novel with only black characters. Fisher was also a physician, dramatist, musician and orator. He was an active participant in the Harlem Renaissance, primarily as a novelist, but also as a musician.”
May 11, 1895 – Classical Composer William Grant Still was born in Woodville, Mississippi.
“William Grant Still was an American composer, who in his lifetime composed more than 150 pieces of music, including 5 symphonies and 8 operas. “
“Often referred to as ‘the Dean’ of African-American composers, Still was the first American born composer of any race to have an opera produced by a major opera company. He was the first African American to conduct a major American symphony orchestra, the first to have a symphony (his first symphony) performed by a leading orchestra, the first to have an opera performed by a major opera company, and the first to have an opera performed on national television. His first symphony was also at one time the most widely performed symphony by an American composer.”
Video (“ William Grant Still – Violin Suite 2nd mvt “Mother and Child” by J. Patrick Rafferty”) :
May 13, 1950 – Stevie Wonder. Happy Birthday, Mr. Wonder!
Stevie Wonder documentary video:
May 15, 1938 – Diane Nash, one of the founding members of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), in Chicago, Illinois.
“Diane Judith Nash is an American civil rights activist, and a leader and strategist of the student wing of the Civil Rights Movement. Her efforts included the first successful civil rights campaign to integrate lunch counters (Nashville); the Freedom Riders, who desegregated interstate travel; and co-initiating the Alabama Voting Rights Project and working on the Selma Voting Rights Movement. This helped gain Congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which authorized the federal government to oversee and enforce state practices to ensure that African Americans and other minorities were not prevented from registering and voting.”
Interview with Diane Nash:
May 16, 1966 – Janet Damita Jo Jackson. Singer, songwriter, dancer, actress, and a family member of the Jackson 5.
May 19, 1925 – Birth of Malcolm X in Omaha, Nebraska
(Denzel Washington as Malcolm X)
May 26, 1927 – Trumpeter and jazz composer Miles Davis was born in Alton, Illinois.
Video of movie trailer for the Miles Davis Story :
May 27, 1898 – David Crosthwait
“David Crosthwait was an African-American mechanical and electrical engineer, inventor, and writer. He was born in the city of Nashville, Tennessee. In the 1920s and 1930s Crosthwait invented a vacuum pump, a boiler, and a thermostat control, all for more effective heating systems for larger buildings. Some of his greatest accomplishments were for creating the heating systems for the Rockefeller Center and New York’s Radio City Music Hall.”
May 17, 1954 – Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court mandating the desegregation of U.S. public schools
For those of you who may wish to gain an understanding of how the case of Brown v. The Board of Education was brought before the Supreme Court, I highly recommend the movie “Separate But Equal” starring Sidney Poitier. Here is the movie trailer for it:
May 18, 1896 – Plessy v. Ferguson decision that allowed discrimination against Black passengers on trains. This decision which used the phrase “separate but equal” in describing how segregated public facilities were to be maintained. The result of this decision led to the passage of a myriad of Jim Crow laws all over the South and laws intended to suppress the voting rights of Black citizens.
Douglas Blackmon writes of Plessy v. Ferguson that
“On its face, the ruling sanctioned only the newly conceived concept of ‘separate but equal’ public facilities for blacks and whites. But its actual import was vastly greater. ‘Plessy v. Ferguson’ legitimized the contemptuous attitudes of whites [towards Blacks].” (p. 110 of Slavery By Another Name)
The Fight For Equal Rights
May 17, 1957 – Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom rally held in Washington, DC on the third anniversary of Brown v. The Board of Education. It was at this event that Martin Luther King delivered his “Give Us the Ballot” speech. You can read his speech at King Encyclopedia.
May 21, 1968 – The Poor People’s Campaign for jobs and economic justice began in Washington, DC.
Video (“ March on Poverty | Resurrection City”) :
May 29, 1851 – Abolitionist and women’s rights advocate Sojourner Truth delivered her speech titled “Ain’t I A Woman?”
( Sojourner’s speech performed magnificently by Pat Theriault at Kansas State University):
“Sojourner Truth; born Isabella (“Bell”) Baumfree; (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, in 1828 she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.”
The Destruction of Black Wall Street
May 31, 1921 – Tulsa Riot of White mob that destroys “Black Wall Street”
A white mob set fire to the economically-thriving Black community in Tulsa, Oklahoma destroying 35 city blocks leaving about 10,000 African Americans homeless, destroying two Black hospitals, and killing at least 39 Black Americans. (Some estimate that number to be between 55 to 300.)