Today in Black History – May 18 *
1652 – Rhode Island enacts the first colonial law limiting slavery.
This law, passed by the General Court of Election,
regulates Black servitude and places Blacks on the same
level as white bondservants. This means they were free
after completing their term of service of ten years.
1848 – William Leidesdorff joins the ancestors in San Francisco,
California. The first man to open a commercial steamship
service on San Francisco Bay, Leidesdorff developed a
successful business empire, including a hotel, warehouse,
and other real-estate developments. Active politically,
he served on San Francisco’s first town council and became
city treasurer. A street in the city will be named in his
1877 – Louis-Dantès Bellegarde is born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He
will become Haiti’s most well known diplomat in the
twentieth century. He will enter government service in
1904 and will serve under many administrations until he
retires in 1957 at the age of 81. W.E.B Du Bois, in 1926,
will refer to Bellegarde as the “international spokesman
of the Negroes of the world.” He will join the ancestors
on June 14, 1966.
1880 – George Lewis wins the sixth running of the Kentucky Derby
astride Fonso. He is one of ten African Americans to win
the Kentucky Derby in the years between 1877 and 1902.
1896 – In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds
Louisiana’s “separate but equal” segregation laws. The
ruling is a major setback for integration and marks the
beginning of Jim Crow laws, changing a largely “de facto”
system of segregation into a legally defined system in
the South. It will be overturned 58 years later in the
case of “Brown v. Board of Education.”
1911 – Joseph Vernon “Big Joe” Turner, Jr. is born in Kansas City,
Missouri. He will become one of the best blues shouters
and a critical link between Rhythm and Blues and Rock &
Roll. In 1951 Turner will sign a recording contract with
Atlantic Records and cut a string of Rhythm & Blues
classics that will lead the way straight into Rock & Roll.
His most famous hit, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” will be
released in 1954, and make it to number 1 and will be
covered shortly thereafter by Bill Haley and the Comets.
But before “Shake” , will come the million-selling “Chains
of Love,” which will reach number 2 on the Rhythm & Blues
charts and number 30 on the pop side, plus “Chill Is On,”
“Sweet Sixteen,” “Don’t You Cry,” “TV Mama,” and the number
1 smash, “Honey Hush.” Turner’s chart success will continue
after “Shake” with “Well All Right,” “Flip Flop and Fly,”
“Hide and Seek,” “The Chicken and the Hawk,” “Morning,
Noon, and Night,” “Corrina Corrina,” and “Lipstick Powder
and Paint.” Turner will nearly dominate the Rhythm &
Blues charts from 1951 to 1956. He will continue to
perform through the 1980’s. He will join the ancestors on
November 24, 1985, succumbing to a heart attack having
suffered earlier effects of a stroke and diabetes. He will
be posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame in 1987.
1912 – Walter Sisulu is born in the Engcobo district, Transkei,
South Africa. He will become a major player in the fight
against apartheid in South Africa and will become deputy
president of the African National Congress. He will be a
mentor to Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo and will be
imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island for many years.
While in prison, Sisulu will write the history of the
African National Congress. Even though he was given a life
sentence when imprisoned, he will be released in 1989 as
South Africa began to dismantle the system of apartheid.
He will be elected ANC deputy president in 1991 and will
resign from the post in 1994 at the age of 82. He will
join the ancestors on May 5, 2003.
1946 – Reginald Martinez Jackson is born in Wyncote, Pennsylvania.
He will be better known as Reggie Jackson, star baseball
player for the Oakland A’s and the New York Yankees. He
will set or tie seven World Series records and will be
known as “Mr. October.” He will retire from baseball in
1987 and will be elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame in
1955 – Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and founder of the National
Council of Negro Women and Bethune-Cookman College, joins
the ancestors in Daytona Beach, Florida at the age of 79.
1960 – Yannick Noah is born in Sedan, France. He will become a
professional tennis player. Arthur Ashe will spot his
talents while on a three-week, goodwill tour of Africa in
1971, and arrange for Noah to be sent back to France to
further develop his game. Noah will go on to win the
French Open in 1983, a Grand Slam event. During his
career, he will win 23 singles titles and be runner up at
1971 – President Nixon rejects the sixty demands of the
Congressional Black Caucus, saying his administration
would continue to support “jobs, income and tangible
benefits, the pledges that this society has made to the
disadvantaged in the past decade.” The caucus expressed
deep disappointment with the reply and said the Nixon
administration “lacked a sense of understanding, urgency
and commitment in dealing with the critical problems
facing Black Americans.”
1986 – John William “Bubbles” Sublett joins the ancestors in New
York City at the age of 84. He had been half of the piano
and tap dance team, “Buck and Bubbles” from 1912 to 1955.
He was known as “father of rhythm tap,” and developed a
tap style called “jazz tap.” He will continue to perform
(after the death of Ford “Buck” Washington in 1955) until
1980, when he appeared in the revue “Black Broadway.”
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Rene’ A. Perry.