* Today in Black History – May 17 *
1875 – The first Kentucky Derby is won by African American jockey
Oliver Lewis riding a horse named Aristides. Fourteen of
the 15 jockeys in the race are African Americans. The
winning purse for the race is $ 2,850. Lewis won the one
and a half mile “Run for the Roses” in a time of 2
minutes, 37-3/4 seconds.
1881 – Frederick Douglass is appointed Recorder of Deeds for the
District of Columbia.
1909 – White firemen on Georgia Railroad strike in protest of the
employment of African American firemen.
1915 – The National Baptist Convention is chartered.
1937 – Hazel Rollins O’Leary is born in Newport News, Virginia. She
will graduate from Fisk University and will receive a law
degree from Rutgers University in 1966. She will gain
experience in the energy regulatory field working for the
Federal Energy Administration. After working for a few years
heading her own energy consulting firm and becoming
president of the Northern States Power Company, she will be
appointed Secretary of Energy in 1993 by President Bill
1942 – Henry St. Claire Fredericks is born in New York City. He
will become an entertainer and songwriter for film. He also
will be a singer of urban folk-blues, better known as Taj
Mahal. He will be one of the first American artists to
blend blues and world music. For over three decades, Taj
Mahal will teach generations the wonders of Robert Johnson,
Sleepy John Estes, Muddy Waters and Jimmy Reed. With a
catalogue of almost thirty albums (including some for
children!), one can find film soundtracks (“Sounder,”
“Brothers”), music for television dramas (“The Tuskegee
Project,” “The Man Who Broke A Thousand Chains”) as well as
his best-loved classics like “Natch’l Blues.”
1944 – Felix Eboue’ joins the ancestors in Cairo, Egypt at the age
of 59 after succumbing to pneumonia. He had been the
highest ranking French colonial administrator of African
descent in the first half of the twentieth century. He had
been a successful administrator for the French government in
the Caribbean and in Africa. During World War II, he had been
a staunch ally of the exiled French government headed by
General Charles de Gaulle.
1954 – The Supreme Court outlaws school segregation in Brown v.
Board of Education. The ruling is a major victory for the
NAACP, led by Thurgood Marshall of the Legal Defense Fund,
and other civil rights groups. The rulings declares that
racially segregated schools were inherently unequal.
1956 – “Sugar” Ray Charles Leonard is born in Wilmington, North
Carolina. Leonard will win the National Golden Gloves
championship at 16, an Olympic gold medal in 1976, and have
a successful professional boxing career. He will be named
Fighter of the Decade for the 1980s. He will enter the
decade a champion and will leave the decade a champion.
In between, he will win an unprecedented five world titles
in five weight classes and compete in some of the era’s
most memorable contests. His career boxing record will be 36
wins (25 by knockout), 3 losses, and 1 tie. After retiring
from the ring, he will become a successful boxing analyst.
He will be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of
Fame in 1997.
1957 – The Prayer Pilgrimage, attracting a crowd of over 30,000, is
held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
Timed to coincide with the third anniversary of Brown v.
Board of Education, the pilgrimage is organized by Martin
Luther King, Jr., the NAACP, and others to advocate greater
voting and civil rights for African Americans.
1962 – Marshall Logan Scott is elected the first African American
moderator of the Presbyterian Church.
1962 – E. Franklin Frazier joins the ancestors in Washington, DC at
the age of 67. Dr. Franklin had been a leading sociologist
who retired from Howard University and had been the first
African American president of the American Sociological
1969 – A commemorative stamp of W.C. Handy, “Father of the Blues,”
is issued by the U.S. Postal Service, making Handy the
first African American blues musician honored on a postage
1969 – Rev. Thomas Kilgore, a Los Angeles pastor, is elected
president of the predominantly white American Baptist
1970 – Hank Aaron becomes the ninth baseball player to get 3,000
1980 – A major racially motivated civil disturbance occurs in
Miami, Florida after a Tampa, Florida jury acquitted four
former Miami police officers of fatally beating African
American insurance executive Arthur McDuffie. The
disturbance in that city’s Liberty City neighborhood
results in eighteen persons being killed and more than
three hundred persons injured.
1987 – The work of four contemporary African American artists –
Sam Gilliam, Keith Morrison, William T. Williams, and
Martha Jackson-Jarvis – is shown in the inaugural
exhibition of the new Anacostia Museum in Washington, DC.
1987 – Eric “Sleepy” Floyd of the Golden State Warriors sets a
playoff record for points in a single quarter. He pours
in 29 points in the fourth period in a game this night
against Pat Riley’s Los Angeles Lakers.
1994 – The U.N. Security Council approves a peacekeeping force and
an arms embargo for violence-racked Rwanda.
1997 – Laurent Kabila declares himself the new President of Zaire
and renames it the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The
country had been previously under the 37 year rule of
dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.
2012 – Donna Summer (born LaDonna Adrian Gaines), the “Queen of
Disco” whose hits included “Hot Stuff,” “Bad Girls,” “Love
to Love You Baby” and “She Works Hard for the Money,” joins
the ancestors in Naples, Florida, after succumbing to lung
cancer at the age of 63.
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Rene’ A. Perry.