Today in Black History – January 31 *
1863 – The first African American Civil War regiment, the South
Carolina Volunteers, are mustered into the United States
1865 – Congress abolishes slavery with the 13th Amendment to the
Constitution. The vote in the House is 121 to 24.
1914 – Arnold Raymond Cream is born in Merchantville, New Jersey.
He will become “Jersey Joe Walcott” and World Heavyweight
Champion at the age of 37. After retiring from boxing, he
will stay active in boxing as a referee and later will
become chairman of the New Jersey Athletic Commission. He
will be elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame
in 1990. He will join the ancestors on February 25, 1994.
1919 – Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson, the first African American
to break racial barriers in modern major league baseball,
is born in Cairo, Georgia. He will start playing baseball
in the Negro Leagues in preparation for a career as a
physical education coach. His major league baseball career
with the Brooklyn Dodgers will begin in 1947 and he will
play for nine years before leaving baseball to become a bank
official, land developer, and director of programs to
fight drug addiction. Among his honors will be the NAACP’s
Spingarn Medal in 1956. He will join the ancestors
on October 24, 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut after succumbing
to complications of diabetes.
1920 – Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity is incorporated at Howard
1925 – Benjamin Hooks is born in Memphis, Tennessee. He will
become a public defender and minister after graduating
from DePaul University Law School. Through this work, he
will become a prominent leader in the civil rights
movement. In 1965, he will become the first African
American criminal court judge in Tennessee. He will also
become the first African American to become a commissioner
on the Federal Communications Commission. In 1977, he will
become the executive director of the NAACP. He will join the
ancestors on April 15, 2010.
1928 – Harold “Chuck” Willis is born in Atlanta, Georgia. He will
become a rhythm and blues singer and be best known for his
recording of “C.C. Rider” in 1957. He will join the
ancestors in 1958 after succumbing to peritonitis.
1931 – Ernest “Ernie” Banks is born in Dallas, Texas. He will
become the first African American baseball player to wear
a Chicago Cubs uniform (September 17, 1953). Banks will
also be quick to say “Let’s play two!” Banks will be the
Cubs’ outstanding shortstop from 1954 to 1960. In 1961 he
will be moved to left field, then to first base, where he
will spend the rest of his career. In 1969, Ernie Banks
will be voted the Cub’s best player ever by Chicago fans.
‘Mr. Cub’ will retire in 1971. He will be elected to the
Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.
1934 – Etta Moten sings for President and Mrs. Franklin D.
Roosevelt at a White House dinner for family and friends.
Moten, a stage and screen star, sings songs from her role
in the movie “Golddiggers of 1933 and “Swing Low Sweet
Chariot.” It is the first time an African American
actress performs at the White House.
1962 – Lt. Commander Samuel L. Gravely assumes command of the
destroyer escort, USS Falgout. The Navy reports that he
is the first African American to command a U.S. warship.
1963 – James Baldwin’s influential collection of essays “The Fire
Next Time” is published.
1972 – Aretha Franklin sings “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” at
Mahalia Jackson’s funeral. Over 40,000 mourners view the
1988 – Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams is named Most
Valuable Player for leading his team to a 42-10 win over
the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. He is the first
African American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl game.
2006 – Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
joins the ancestors after succumbing to complications of a
stroke and heart attack at the age of seventy eight.
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle archives and is edited by Rene’ A. Perry.