* T O D A Y I N B L A C K H I S T O R Y *
1855 – The Wisconsin Supreme Court declares that the United States
Fugitive Slave Law is unconstitutional.
1874 – Blanche Kelso Bruce is elected to the United States Senate from
Mississippi. He will be the first African American senator to
serve a full term and the first to preside over the Senate
during a debate.
1879 – Charles Follis is born in Wooster, Ohio. He will become the
first African American professional football player in the
United States reported by the press. He will play for a
professional team known as the Shelby Blues, in Shelby, Ohio.
starting in 1904 and will retire in 1906 due to injuries.
Most sources will state that 1904 was when his career started,
when he signed a contract on September 16, but Hall of Fame
research indicates the 1902 Shelby Athletic Club that Follis
played on, was indeed professional. Editor’s note: In 1972,
The Pro Football Hall of Fame will discover proof that William
(Pudge) Heffelfinger, a Yale All-American, played one game for
$ 500, for the Allegheny Athletic Association in 1892, making
him the actual ‘first’ to play football for pay. Follis will
join the ancestors on April 5, 1910 after succumbing to
1935 – Johnny “Guitar” Watson is born in Houston. Texas. He will
become a guitarist and singer known for his wild style of
guitar playing and the sound which merged Blues Music with
touches of Rhythm & Blues and Funk. He will join the ancestors
after succumbing to a heart attack, while performing at the
Yokohama Blues Cafe in Japan, on May 17, 1996.
1938 – Emile Griffith is born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. He will
move to New York City as a young man and discover boxing. He
will win the Golden Gloves title and turn professional in
1958. In his career, he will meet 10 world champions and box
339 title-fight rounds, more than any other fighter in history.
He will be elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame
with the distinction of being the third fighter in history to
hold both the welterweight and middleweight titles. He will
join the ancestors on July 23, 2013,
1938 – Elijah Pitts is born in Mayflower, Arkansas. He will become a
professional football player with the Green Bay Packers. A
major contributor as a running back, he will help his team win
Super Bowl I. He will spend nine years with the Green Bay
Packers during their championship years under Hall of Fame
coach Vince Lombardi. The Packers will win four NFL
championships and two Super Bowls during his career. He will
return to the Super Bowl thirty years later as a running back
coach with the Buffalo Bills. He will join the ancestors on
July 10, 1998 after succumbing to abdominal cancer.
1939 – The Baltimore Museum of Art exhibit, “Contemporary Negro Art”,
opens. The exhibit, which will run for 16 days, will feature
works by Richmond Barthe, Aaron Douglas, Archibald Motley,
Jr., and Jacob Lawrence’s Toussaint L’Ouverture series.
1947 – Percival Prattis of “Our World” in New York City, becomes the
first African American news correspondent admitted to the
House and Senate press galleries in Washington, DC.
1948 – Laura Wheeler Waring, portrait painter and illustrator, joins
the ancestors. Trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine
Arts, she received the Harmon Award in 1927 for achievement in
the fine arts and, with Betsey Graves Reyneau, completed a set
of 24 renderings of their works entitled “Portraits of
Outstanding Americans of Negro Origins” for the Harmon
Foundation in the 1940’s.
1948 – Rosa Ingram and her fourteen and sixteen-year-old sons are
condemned to death for the alleged murder of a white Georgian.
Mrs. Ingram states that she acted in self-defense.
1964 – School officials report that 464,000 Black and Puerto Rican
students boycotted New York City public schools.
1980 – Muhammad Ali starts tour of Africa as President Jimmy Carter’s
1981 – The Air Force Academy drops its ban on applicants with sickle-
cell trait. The ban was considered by many a means of
discriminating against African Americans.
1984 – A sellout crowd of 18,210 at Madison Square Garden in New York
City sees Carl Lewis best his own world record in the long
jump by 9-1/4 inches.
1989 – Former St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman, Bill White becomes
the first African American to head an American professional
sports league when he was named to succeed A. Bartlett
Giamatti as National League president.
1993 – The federal trial of four police officers charged with civil
rights violations in the videotaped beating of Rodney King,
began in Los Angeles.
1993 – Marge Schott is suspended as Cincinnati Reds owner for one year
for her repeated use of racial and ethnic slurs.