* Today in Black History – October 17 *
1711 – Jupiter Hammon is born a slave on Long Island, New York. He
will become a poet and the first published Black writer in
America, a poem appearing in print in 1760. He will be
considered one of the founders of African American
literature. He will be a slave his entire life, owned by
several generations of the Lloyd family on Long Island.
However, he will be allowed to attend school, and unlike
many slaves, will be able to read and write. In 1786,
He will give his “Address to the Negroes of the State of
New York” before the African Society. He will write the
the speech at age seventy-six after a lifetime of slavery,
and it will contain his famous quote, “If we should ever
get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for
being Black, or for being slaves.” The speech draws
heavily on Christian motifs and theology. For example, He
will say that Black people should maintain their high
moral standards precisely because being slaves on Earth
had already secured their place in heaven. His speech
also will promote the idea of a gradual emancipation as a
way of ending slavery. It will be thought that he stated
this plan because he knew that slavery was so entrenched
in American society that an immediate emancipation of all
slaves would be more difficult to achieve. The speech will
be later reprinted by several groups opposed to slavery.
It is widely believed that he joined the ancestors in
1787 – Boston African Americans, led by Prince Hall, submit to
the State Legislature in Boston, Massachusetts, a
petition asking for equal educational rights and
facilities. The petition is not granted.
1806 – Jean Jacques Dessalines, revolutionist and Emperor of
Haiti, joins the ancestors as a result of an
1817 – Samuel Ringgold Ward is born on the Eastern Shore of
Maryland. He will be considered one of the finest
abolitionist orators. He will work for the Anti-Slavery
Society of Canada and will travel to Britain to further
the society’s work. His fundraising success in Britain
will provide the society to finance their support of
escaped slaves from the United States. After publishing
a book that will chronicle his anti-slavery achievements,
he will be able to retire to Jamaica, where he will join
the ancestors in 1866.
1871 – President Grant suspends the writ of habeas corpus and
declares martial law in nine South Carolina counties
affected by Ku Klux Klan disturbances.
1888 – The first African American bank, Capital Savings Bank of
Washington, DC, opens for business.
1894 – Ohio National Guard kills 3 members of a lynch mob while
rescuing an African American man.
1909 – William R. Cole is born in East Orange, New Jersey. He
will become a jazz drummer best known as “Cozy Cole.”
He will begin to play professionally as a teenager and
will make his first recording at age 20 with Jelly Roll
Morton’s Red Hot Peppers. Cozy Cole will join Cab
Calloway’s band in 1939 and will join CBS radio in 1943
to play in Raymond Scott’s Orchestra, becoming one of
the first African American musicians on a network
musical staff. In 1958, Cole will make a solo hit
record, “Topsy,” that sells more than a million copies.
He will join the ancestors on January 9, 1981.
1928 – James William “Junior” Gilliam is born in Nashville,
Tennessee. He will become a professional baseball player
for the Brooklyn Dodgers and will be the National League
Rookie of the Year in 1953. a key member of ten NL
championship teams from 1953 to 1978. The Dodgers’
leadoff hitter for most of the 1950s, he will score over
100 runs in each of his first four seasons and lead the
National League in triples and walks once each. He will
be the first switch hitter since the 19th century to
play regularly for the Dodgers for more than three years,
and will later became one of the first Black coaches in
the major leagues. He will join the ancestors on October
8, 1978 in Inglewood, California after succumbing to a
1956 – Mae C. Jemison is born in Decatur, Alabama. She will
grow up in Chicago, become a physician, serve in the
Peace Corps in Africa, and practice medicine in Los
Angeles, before being selected for the astronaut
training program in 1987.
1969 – Dr. Clifton R. Wharton Jr., is elected president of
Michigan State University and becomes the first African
American to head a major, predominantly white university
in the twentieth century.
1985 – Legendary jazz and blues singer Alberta Hunter joins the
ancestors in New York City. She achieved fame in
Chicago jazz clubs in the 1920’s, toured Europe in the
1930’s and, after over 20 years of anonymity as a nurse,
returned to performing in 1977.
1990 – Dr. Ralph Abernathy, civil rights leader, joins the
1991 – The 100th episode of “A Different World” airs on NBC.
The acclaimed show, a spin-off of “The Cosby Show” that
stars Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, and an ensemble of
young African American actors, is directed by Debbie
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Rene’ A. Perry.