May 21 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – May 21 *

1833 – Oberlin College is founded in Ohio “to train teachers and other
Christian leaders for the boundless most desolate fields in the
West.” After almost going bankrupt in 1835, Oberlin will become
one of the first colleges in the United States to admit African
Americans. Arthur and Lewis Tappan, wealthy New York merchants
and abolitionists, will insist that Oberlin admit students
regardless of their color, as a condition of their financial
support. As a result of this decision, by 1900, nearly half of
all the African American college graduates in the United States
— 128 to be exact — will be graduated from Oberlin.

1862 – Mary Jane Patterson becomes the first African American woman to
earn an B.A degree from the four-year gentleman’s course at
Oberlin College in Ohio.

1904 – Thomas “Fats” Waller, is born in New York City. He will become a
celebrated jazz pianist, organist, and composer. Early in the
1920s, Waller will become the protege of the famous pianist James
P. Johnson and later will accompany such important vocalists as
Florence Mills and Bessie Smith. His hundreds of recordings,
including some early piano rolls, encompass ragtime, boogie
woogie, dixieland, and swing, although in his hands these styles
are deftly recomposed into a unique Waller sound that will
influence most of the jazz pianists of the following generation.
His appearances on radio and in several motion pictures (notably
“Stormy Weather,” 1943) will bring Waller’s talents to a wide
audience. A major jazz creator, he will write complete scores
for such all-African-American shows as “Keep Shufflin'” (1928)
and “Hot Chocolates” (1929) as well as many single pieces,
especially the now-classic “Honeysuckle Rose,” “Ain’t
Misbehavin’,” and “Black and Blue.” He will join the ancestors on
December 15, 1943.

1921 – Christopher Perry, who founded the Philadelphia Tribune in 1884,
joins the ancestors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the age of

1934 – Robert ‘Bob’ Northern is born in Kinston, North Carolina. He will
become a jazz musician, known professionally as “Brother Ah”. His
specialty will be the French horn. He will be raised in the Bronx,
New York City. He will study at the Manhattan School of Music, the
Vienna State Academy in the 1950s and is a graduate of Howard
University. He will be best known as a session musician, working
extensively in the 1950s and 1960s with Donald Byrd, John Coltrane,
Gil Evans, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, Roland Kirk and the Jazz Composers
Orchestra. He will also work with Don Cherry, Thelonious Monk,
Freddie Hubbard, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Eric Dolphy, Charlie
Haden, and John Lewis. He will live in New York City from 1963 to
1971, and after a period of increasing interest in non-Western
music, will visit and study in Africa (Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania)
during seven consecutive summers (1972-1977). In the 1970s he will
release several albums as a bandleader. His 1974 release, “Sound
Awareness” will feature Max Roach and M’Boom. These albums will be
reissued on CD on the IKEF Records label in the 2000s. His
classical performances will include the New York Metropolitan Opera
(stage band); the Symphony of the Air; Radio City Music Hall
Orchestra; symphony orchestras in Vienna, Austria, West Germany and
Broadway Theatre orchestras in New York City. In addition to horn
playing, he will also branch into percussion and flute performance
later in his career. He will establish The World Community School
of Music, Inc. in 1992 and offer instrumental and vocal music
classes to students of all ages from “3 to 93”. As a lecturer and
instructor he will teach at the Levine School of Music, Sewell
Music Conservatory, District of Columbia Public and private schools,
as well as lectures at Howard University, University of the District
of Columbia, University of Maryland, Smithsonian Institution and
the Kennedy Center. He will also teach at Brown University (9 years),
Dartmouth College (3 years), Talledega College, the New York City
Public Schools, and the African Learning Center in Washington, DC
and privately. He will also establish the “World Music Ensemble,”
a group which explores African, Japanese, Spanish, East Indian,
Native American and American musical traditions and “The Sounds of
Awareness Ensemble” which explores the sounds of nature and music.
The World Music Ensemble will release its first compact disc
entitled “Celebration” in 1993. As Brother Ah, he will host a weekly
jazz oriented radio program, “The Jazz Collectors,” on station WPFW
in Washington, DC. His web site is

1941 – Ronald Isley is born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He will become a singer
and with his brothers O’Kelly, Rudolph and Vernon Isley will form
the group, The Isley Brothers. They will leave Cincinnati in
1956 and go to New York City to pursue their musical career.
Ronald and his brothers will obtain fame and success nationally
and internationally earning numerous platinum and gold albums
which contain such classic hits as “Shout,” “Twist and Shout,”
“It’s Your Thing,” “Who’s That Lady,” “Fight the Power,” “For the
Love of You,” “Harvest For The World,” “Live It Up,” “Footsteps
in the Dark,” “Work to Do,” “Don’t Say Good Night” and many

1955 – After being introduced to Leonard Chess, by bluesman Muddy Waters,
Chuck Berry goes into a recording session for Chess Records,
performing a restyled version of his song “Ida Red”. What comes
out of that hot session will be Ida Red’s new name and Chuck
Berry’s first hit, “Maybellene”. “Maybellene” will top the
Rhythm & Blues charts at #1, and the pop charts at #5.

1961 – Freedom Riders are attacked in Montgomery, Alabama. The third
city in which the CORE-sponsored group is attacked, the incident
prompts Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to send U.S. marshals
to keep the peace while Governor Patterson of Alabama declares
martial law and dispatches the National Guard to the troubled

1964 – Edler Garnet Hawkins is elected by the 176th General Assembly and
becomes the first African American moderator of the United
Presbyterian Church. Born in the Bronx, New York on June 13, 1908,
he received his bachelor’s degree in 1935 at Bloomfield College in
Bloomfield, New Jersey and his Bachelor of Divinity degree from
Union Theological Seminary in 1938. He built his church from
nine African American members to an integrated congregation of
more than 1,000. He also became the first moderator of the
Presbyterian Church to visit the Roman Catholic Pope. He will
join the ancestors on December 18, 1977.

1969 – Police and National Guardsmen fire on demonstrators at North
Carolina A&T College. One student is killed and five policemen
are injured.

1970 – The National Guard is mobilized to stop widespread demonstrations
and violence at Ohio State University. The interracial student
demonstrators demand an end to ROTC programs and greater
admissions for African-American students.

1971 – Riots in Chattanooga, Tennessee, result in one death and 400
arrests as National Guard troops are called to put down the
racially motivated disturbances.

1973 – The sensual, “Pillow Talk”, by Sylvia (Sylvia Vanderpool), earns a
gold record. The artist first recorded with Hot Lips Page for
Columbia Records back in 1950 and was known as Little Sylvia.
She was also half of the singing duo Mickey & Sylvia, who
recorded “Love Is Strange” in 1957. “Pillow Talk” is her only
solo major hit and will make it to number three on the pop music

1975 – Lowell W. Perry is confirmed as chairman of the Equal Opportunity
Commission (EEOC).

1985 – Marvin Gaye’s last album is released. “Dream of a Lifetime”
features songs that critics consider too offensive such as the
controversial, pop version of “The Lord’s Prayer”. Three of the
songs from the album are completed after Gaye’s joins the
ancestors. Marvin Gaye will be inducted into the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame in 1987.

Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Rene’ A. Perry.


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