* Today in Black History – May 4 *
1864 – Ulysses S. Grant crosses the Rapidan and begins his duel
with Robert E. Lee. At the same time Ben Butler’s Army
of the James moves on Lee’s forces. An African American
division in Grant’s army did not play a prominent role
in the Wilderness Campaign, but Ben Butler gave his
African American infantrymen and his eighteen hundred
African American cavalrymen important assignments.
African American troops of the Army of the James were
the first Union Soldiers to take possession of James
River ports (at Wilson’s Wharf Landing, Fort Powhatan
and City Point).
1937 – Melvin Edwards is born in Houston, Texas. He will become
a sculptor and will have one-man exhibits at the Santa
Barbara Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center in
Minneapolis, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in
New York City. His work will be represented in private
collections as well as that of the Museum of Modern Art,
the Schomburg Collection of the New York Public Library,
and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among others.
1942 – Nickolas Ashford is born in Fairfield, South Carolina. He
will become a songwriter who, with his partner and wife
Valerie Simpson, will write such hits as “Reach out and
Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real
Thing,” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Becoming a
solo act in 1973, Ashford and Simpson will have a string
of successful albums including “Send It,” “Solid,” and
“Real Love.” He and wife Valerie will perform at Nelson
Mandela’s 70th birthday celebration in London in 1988,
sing for President Clinton at the 52nd Presidential
Inauguration in 1992, perform at the White House for the
CISAC 39th World Congress, and in April of 1996 they will
be awarded ASCAP’s highest honor: The Founder’s Award, at
the Motown Cafe in New York. He will join the ancestors on
August 22, 2011.
1943 – William Tubman is elected president of Liberia.
1951 – Sigmund Esco Jackson is born in Gary, Indiana. Better known as
“Jackie,” he will become the oldest of the pop group, “The
Jackson Five” and later “The Jacksons.”
1961 – Thirteen CORE-sponsored Freedom Riders begin a bus trip in
Washington, DC to cities throughout the south, to force
desegregation of terminals. Ten days later, the bus will be
bombed and its passengers attacked by white segregationists
near Anniston, Alabama.
1965 – Willie Mays’ 512th home run breaks Mel Ott’s 511th National
League home run record.
1969 – “No Place to Be Somebody” opens at the Public Theatre in New
York City. Charles Gordone’s powerful play will earn its
author the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
1985 – The famed Apollo Theatre, once the showcase for the nation’s
top African American performers, reopens after a renovation
that cost $10.4 million. The landmark building on West
125th Street in New York was the first place The Beatles
wanted to see on their initial visit to the United States.
Ed Sullivan used to frequent the Apollo in search of new
talent for his CBS show.
1990 – The South African government and the African National
Congress conclude historic talks in Cape Town with a joint
statement agreeing on a “common commitment toward the
resolution of the existing climate of violence.”
1999 – Five New York police officers go on trial for the torture
of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. One officer will later
plead guilty; a second officer will be convicted; and three
will be acquitted.