December – This Month In Black American History
By Guest Blogger Yahtzeebutterfly
December 1, 1942 – Singer Carla Thomas, known as the “Queen of Memphis” for her hit songs in the 1960s.
December 2, 1931 – Civil rights attorney Solomon Leay Jr. in Montgomery, Alabama. Some of the cases he worked on involved school desegregation, the Freedom Riders, and the march from Selma to Montgomery.
December 3, 1882 – Folk painter Ellis Ruley in Norwich, Connecticut
December 5, 1912 – Blues harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson II
December 9, 1939 – Civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due in Quincy, Florida. She took part in a jail-in, refusing to pay a $300 fine after being found guilty as a result of a participating in a sit-in at a Tallahassee lunch counter. In a letter to Jackie Robinson, Patricia Stephens, told of the sit-in and of a waitress demeaning the sit-in protestors by apologizing to a White patron at the lunch counter for having to eat “in all this indecency.”
December 11, 1938 – Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner
December 12, 1940 – Happy Birthday Dionne Warwick!
December 13, 1903 – Civil rights activist and organizer Ella Baker
Ella Baker was a key figure in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was its liaison advisor to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Of her relationship with the students in SNCC, Ella Baker noted that listening to and supporting the ideas of the students was more important than simply directing them as to what they should do. The singing group Sweet Honey in the Rock, tells of this in Bernice Reagon’s “Ella’s song” which uses an Ella Baker quotation:
…That which touches me most is that I had a chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me
To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can shed some light as they carry us through the gale
The older I get the better I know that the secret of my going on
Is when the reins are in the hand of the young who dare to run against the storm
Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me
I need to be just one in the number as we stand against tyranny
Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot; I come to realize
That teaching others to stand up and fight is the only way my struggle survives
I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At time I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word
We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
In his memoir, John Lewis noted that Ella Baker “was committed to the utter necessity of keeping this student movement independent and in control of itself.”
December 14, 1829 – Politician, abolitionist and lawyer John Mercer Langston in Louisa County, Virginia.
Langston was born a free Black man who went on to become the first dean at Howard University’s law school, a U.S. Congressman and, later, the U.S. minister to Haiti. Earlier he had helped slaves escape on the Underground Railroad and was a member of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society. During the Civil War he helped recruit men for the Ohio regiment and for the Massachusetts Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth regiments. He also assisted in the drafting of the 1875 Civil Rights Act.
December 18, 1912 – General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., commander of the WWII Tuskegee Airmen
December 18, 1917 – Actor and civil rights activist Ossie Davis
December 19, 1924 – Happy Birthday Cicely Tyson!
Ms. Tyson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor last month:
December 19, 1875 – Carter G. Woodson, historian of the African American experience, in Buckingham County, Virginia
December 23, 1869 – Business woman and philanthropist Madam C. J. Walker who became a millionaire through creating and selling hair and beauty products for Black women
As a member of the executive committee of the NAACP in New York Madam Walker helped to organize the a silent parade to protest the killing of 39 African Americans in the East Saint Louis riot. She donated generously to the anti-lynching fund and was a leading member of the Circle for Negro War Relief.
December 28, 1978 – Happy Birthday John Legend!
December 30, 1842 – Congressman Josiah Walls who had been born a slave in Winchester, Virginia
December 31, 1930 -Singer and civil rights activist Odetta Holmes in Birmingham, Alabama
December 3, 1847 – Escaped slave, abolitionist, and orator Frederick Douglass published the first issue of “The North Star” anti-slavery newspaper.
December 4, 1909 – The “Amsterdam News,” a newspaper serving the African American community, was founded by James A. Anderson with its headquarter in Harlem.
“The four-page newspaper was established by James H. Anderson in the heart of Harlem with an initial capital of $10. The Amsterdam News was the mouthpiece for one of the largest African-American communities in the United States. It covered the Black community’s social news such as weddings, engagements, births, and charity events. In its heyday, it had a circulation of over 100,000. By the mid-1940s it was one of the four leading Black newspapers in the country, along with The Pittsburgh Courier, The Afro-American, and The Chicago Defender.”
December 4, 1969 – Fred Hampton, an American activist and revolutionary, was assassinated while sleeping at his apartment during a raid by a tactical unit of the Cook County, Illinois State’s Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A civil lawsuit filed in 1970 resulted in a settlement of $1.85 million in 1982.
December 5, 1955 – First day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
December 6, 1932 – Inventor Richard B. Spikes received a patent for the automatic gear shift. To read about details of the patent, you can click this link:
December 5, 1960 – The Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia said that racial segregation was illegal in interstate bus terminals illegal because it violated the Interstate Commerce Act. The case, argued by Thurgood Marshall, was based upon Bruce Boynton, a Howard University law student being arrested in a Trailways station for sitting in the restaurant that was for Whites-only.
Sidenote: Bruce Boynton is the son of Amelia Boynton Robinson who was a leader in the Selma voting rights movement and who helped organize the march from Selma to Montgomery.
December 10, 1950 – Diplomat Dr. Ralph J. Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Arab-Israeli conflict in Palestine.
Excerpt from Nobel Prize.org:
“From June of 1947 to August of 1949, Bunche worked on the most important assignment of his career – the confrontation between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. He was first appointed as assistant to the UN Special Committee on Palestine, then as principal secretary of the UN Palestine Commission, which was charged with carrying out the partition approved by the UN General Assembly. In early 1948 when this plan was dropped and fighting between Arabs and Israelis became especially severe, the UN appointed Count Folke Bernadotte as mediator and Ralph Bunche as his chief aide. Four months later, on September 17, 1948, Count Bernadotte was assassinated, and Bunche was named acting UN mediator on Palestine. After eleven months of virtually ceaseless negotiating, Bunche obtained signatures on armistice agreements between Israel and the Arab States.”
December 12, 1938 – Decision by the U. S. Supreme Court in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U.S. 337 that equal educational facilities must be provided by states for African Americans. Lloyd Gaines, the plaintiff, disappeared soon after the decision:
December 16, 1946 – On this day the U.S. Mint issued the Booker T. Washington commemorative half dollar, the first U.S. coin honoring an African American. It was designed by African American sculptor, Issac Scott Hathaway.
The following video is titled “Issac Scott Hathaway: Sculptor of Minds and Clay”
December 17, 1916 – Founding of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company, the first Black film company, by George and Noble Johnson. This video shows the only surviving works from the Lincoln Motion Picture Company:
December 19, 1910 – Founding of the Pittsburgh Courrier African American newspaper by Edwin Nathaniel Harleston.
December 24, 1832 – The Georgia Infirmary received its charter. This was the first Black hospital in the United States.
December 26, 1966 – Kwaanza was first celebrated in 1966.
December 30, 1892 – On this day the first issue of “The Medical and Surgical Observer” was published by physician and author Dr. Miles Vandahurst Link. Earlier in 1890 Dr. Lynk and his wife Beebe Steven Lynk founded the University of West Tennessee Medical College. Its various departments included dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, law, and nursing. Dr. Lynk also established the Bluff City Medical Society.