1793 – Congress makes it a crime to hide or protect a runaway slave
by passing the first fugitive slave law.
1865 – Henry Highland Garnet, preacher and abolitionist, becomes the
first African American to preach in the rotunda of the
Capitol to the House of Representatives. It is on the
occasion of a Lincoln birthday memorial.
1896 – Isaac Burns Murphy, considered the greatest American jockey
of all time, joins the ancestors. He was the first jockey
to win the Kentucky Derby two years in a row and became the
first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times. In
1955, Isaac Murphy was the first jockey voted into the
Jockey Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing, in
Saratoga Springs, New York.
1900 – For a Lincoln birthday celebration, James Weldon Johnson
writes the lyrics for “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” With
music by his brother, J. Rosamond, the song is first sung
by 500 children in Jacksonville, Florida. It will become
known as the “Negro National Anthem.”
1909 – When six African Americans were killed and 200 others driven
out of town in race riots in Springfield, Illinois in the
summer of 1908, many Americans were shocked, because they
associated such violence only with racism in the south.
Springfield was not only a northern city, but the home of
Abraham Lincoln. Three people, Mary Ovington, William E.
Walling, and Dr. Henry Moskowitz, alarmed at the
deterioration of race relations, decided to open a campaign
to oppose the pervasive discrimination against racial
minorities. They issue a call for a national conference
on “the Negro question”, and for its symbolic value, they
will choose the centennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln,
February 12, 1909, as the date for the conference. Held in
New York City, it will draw an interracial group of 60
distinguished citizens, who will formulate plans for a
permanent organization devoted to fighting all forms of
racial discrimination. That organization will be the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The NAACP will be the oldest and largest civil rights
organization in the U.S. With more than 2,200 branches
across the country, it will be in the forefront of the
struggle for voting rights, and an end to discrimination in
housing, employment, and education.
1934 – William Felton “Bill” Russell is born in Monroe, Louisiana.
He will become a star basketball player and high jumper at
the University of San Francisco. After college, he will
win a gold medal in the 1956 Olympics, as a member of the
United States basketball team. He will then play
professional basketball for the Boston Celtics for thirteen
seasons, winning eight straight NBA titles and eleven
championships. At the end of the 1965-66 season, he will
become the coach of the Boston Celtics.
1983 – Eubie Blake joins the ancestors at the age of 100 in Brooklyn,
New York. Blake was one of the last ragtime pianists and
composers whose most famous songs included “I’m Just Wild
About Harry.” With Noble Sissle, Blake was the composer of
the first all-African American Broadway musical, “Shuffle
Along,” which opened on Broadway in 1921.