Today in Black History – December 15 *
1644 – A Dutch land grant is issued to Lucas Santomee, son of
Peter Santomee, one of the first 11 Africans brought to
Manhattan. Among the land granted to Santomee and the
original Africans is property in Brooklyn and Greenwich
1706 – A slave named Onesimus arrives in the home of Cotton
Mather. The slave’s experience and explanation of
African inoculation will result in Mather’s encouragement
of Dr. Zabdiel Boylston to inoculate for smallpox in
1864 – In one of the decisive battles of the Civil War, two
brigades of African American troops help crush one of the
South’s finest armies at the Battle of Nashville.
African American troops open the battle on the first day
and successfully engage the right flank of the rebel line.
On the second day Col. Charles R. Thompson’s African
American brigade makes a brilliant charge up Overton Hill.
The Thirteenth U.S. Colored Troops will sustain more
casualties than any other regiment involved in the battle.
1896 – Julia Terry Hammonds receives a patent for the apparatus
for holding yarn skeins.
1934 – Maggie Lena Walker, the first woman to head a bank, joins
the ancestors at the age of 69.
1934 – The NAACP’s Spingarn Award is awarded to William Taylor
Burwell Williams, Tuskegee dean and agent of the Jeanes
and Slater funds, for his achievements as an educator.
1939 – Cynthia Ann “Cindy” Birdsong is born in Mount Holly
Township, New Jersey. She will become a singer with Patti
LaBelle and the Bluebells and later will replace Florence
Ballard and join Diana Ross and the Supremes.
1941 – Lena Horne records the torch classic for Victor Records,
that will become her signature song: “Stormy Weather.”
1943 – Thomas W. “Fats” Waller joins the ancestors, outside Kansas
City, Missouri at the age of 39, from pneumonia. The self-
taught piano player began recording as a teenager and
became one of a small group of African American pianists to
make piano rolls for the growing player piano industry.
Waller’s first solo recording in 1926 led to his own radio
show and three tours of France. Waller was known for such
popular songs as “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right
Down and Write Myself a Letter,” and “Honeysuckle Rose.”
He also wrote music for the stage and the movies, most
notably “Stormy Weather.”
1943 – The San Francisco Sun-Reporter is established. Its co-
founder, Thomas Fleming will be its editor and a working
journalist into his nineties.
1943 – The NAACP’s Spingarn Medal is presented to William H. Hastie
“for his distinguished career as a jurist and as an
uncompromising champion of equal justice.”
1950 – Ezzard Charles knocks out Nick Barone to retain his
heavyweight boxing title.
1954 – The Netherlands Antilles become a co-equal part of the
Kingdom of the Netherlands.
1961 – Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, psychologist and educator, is awarded
the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for pioneering studies that
influenced the Supreme Court decision on school
1961 – Police use tear gas and leashed dogs to stop a mass
demonstration by fifteen hundred African Americans in Baton
1980 – Dave Winfield signs a ten-year contract with the New York
Yankees, for somewhere between $1.3 and $1.5 million. He
will become the wealthiest player in the history of U.S.
team sports. The total package for the outfielder is said
to be worth over $22 million dollars.
1985 – Businessman J. Bruce Llewellyn and former basketball star
Julius Erving become owners of Philadelphia Coca-Cola
Bottling, the fourth-largest African American business in
the United States.