* Today in Black History – March 31 *
1850 – The Massachusetts Supreme Court rejects the argument of Charles Sumner in the Boston school integration suit and established the “separate but equal” precedent.
1853 – At concert singer Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield’s New York debut in Metropolitan Hall, African Americans are not allowed to attend. Angered and embarrassed at the exclusion of her race, Greenfield will perform in a separate concert at the Broadway Tabernacle for five African American congregations.
1871 – John Arthur “Jack” Johnson is born in Galveston, Texas. He will become a professional boxer and will become the first African American to be crowned world heavyweight boxing champion. His championship reign will last from 1908 to 1915. He will join the ancestors on June 10, 1946 after succumbing to injuries from an automobile accident. He will be inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954, and is on the roster of both the International Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2005, the United States National Film Preservation Board deemed the film of the 1910 Johnson- Jeffries fight “historically significant” and will place it in the National Film Registry.
1930 – President Hoover nominates Judge John J. Parker of North Carolina for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. The NAACP launches a national campaign against the appointment. Parker is not confirmed by the Senate.
1948 – A. Phillip Randolph tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that unless segregation and discrimination were banned in draft programs he would urge African American youths to resist induction by civil disobedience.
1949 – William Grant Still’s opera, “Troubled Island” receives its world premiere at the New York City Opera. In addition to marking Robert McFerrin’s debut as the first African American male to sing with the company, the opera is the first ever written by an African American to be produced by a major opera company.
1967 – Jimi Hendrix begins the tradition of burning his guitar in London, England.
1968 – The provisional government of the Republic of New Africa is founded in Detroit, Michigan.
1973 – Ken Norton defeats Muhammad Ali in a 12 round split decision in San Diego, California. Norton will break Ali’s jaw during the bout.
1980 – Jesse Owens joins the ancestors in Tucson, Arizona at the age of 66, and President Jimmy Carter adds his voice to the tributes that pour in from around the world. Jesse won four gold medals in track at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.
1980 – Larry Holmes wins the vacant world heavyweight title by knocking out Leroy Jones in the eighth round.
1988 – Toni Morrison wins the Pulitzer Prize for “Beloved,” a powerful novel of a runaway slave who murders her daughter rather than see her raised in slavery.
1995 – President Bill Clinton briefly visits Haiti, where he declares the U.S. mission to restore democracy there a “remarkable success.”
1999 – Four New York City police officers are charged with murder for killing Amadou Diallo, an unarmed African immigrant, in a hail of bullets. They shot at him 41 times, hitting him with 19 shots. The officers will later be acquitted of all charges, even involuntary manslaughter.