December 16 African American Historical Events

Today in Black History – December 16 *

1834 – George Lewis Ruffin is born in Richmond, Virginia. The
son of free African Americans, he and his wife, Josephine
St. Pierre Ruffin (1842–1924), will flee to England after
the Dred Scott decision (1857), and return soon to
Boston. While making his living as a barber, he will
speak out on matters concerning African Americans. He
will read the law in Boston and become the first Black
to graduate from Harvard Law School (1869). While
maintaining a thriving practice in Boston, he will serve
in the Massachusetts legislature (1869–71) and Boston
City Council (1876–8), and will be named a municipal
judge (1883). An active Baptist and able speaker, he will
attend national conventions of African Americans and
become a close friend of many prominent people of his
day, including Frederick Douglass. His wife was a partner
in his many efforts to improve the lot of fellow
African Americans. He will join the ancestors on
November 19, 1886.

1838 – The Zulu chieftain Dingaan is defeated by the Boers in
South Africa.

1859 – Shields Green and John Anthony Copeland, two of five
African American freedom fighters, are hanged for their
participation in John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.
Copeland will be led to the gallows shouting “I am dying
for freedom. I could not die for a better cause. I had
rather die than be a slave.”

1859 – The last slave ship, the Clothilde, landed a shipment of
slaves at Mobile Bay, Alabama.

1870 – The Colored Methodist Church of America is established at
Jackson, Tennessee. The organization will change its
name in 1954 to the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
The denomination will grow to include approximately 3,000

1875 – Charles Caldwell, a militant African American militia
officer, joins the ancestors, after being assassinated in
Clinton, Mississippi.

1875 – Alabama A&M College, Knoxville College and Lane College are

1875 – Governor Daniel H. Chamberlain, acting in concert with
white Democrats and conservatives, refuses to resign his

1875 – William J. Whippers is elected judge of the circuit court
of Charleston by the South Carolina General Assembly.

1895 – Andriamanantena Paul Razafinkarefo(Andy Razaf) is born in
Washington, DC. He will become an important lyricist and
musical collaborator with Eubie Blake and Fats Waller. His
most famous songs will include “Ain’t Misbehavin’,”
“Honeysuckle Rose,” and the lyrics to “Stomping at the
Savoy.” He will be inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of
Fame in 1972. The Songwriters’ Hall of Fame entry on Andy
Razaf lists 215 compositions, giving co-writers and
publishers. He will join the ancestors on February 3, 1973.

1934 – John Edward Jacobs is born in Trout, Louisiana and will be
raised in Houston, Texas. He will serve the National
Urban League in many capacities and in 1982 will replace
Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. as its president. In the early 1980s,
He will help develop a plan for urban recovery similar to
the 1947 Marshall Plan initiated to assist European nations
after World War II. Aid will be sought from private sectors
to facilitate entry-level job training programs, and he will
propose the League give direct assistance from its own
resources to poverty-stricken minorities and whites, to
include housing and job placement. In addition, he will
recommend the federal government institute full employment
through substantial public works and job training programs,
and along with other civil rights groups, will support
economic pressure in the corporate world to develop markets
and jobs for minorities. He will be an adherent of self-help.
He will promote SAT tutoring, comprehensive teenage pregnancy
prevention, and a male responsibility program for fatherhood,
to address issues contributing to the cycle of poverty in the
African American community. He will also add voter
registration, education, and drug control to the League’s
agenda of priorities. In contrast to Reagan, George H.W. Bush
will be initially receptive to his domestic Marshall Plan
proposal, and he will welcome dialogue with the new
administration. But Bush’s veto of the Civil Rights Act of
1990 will sour the relationship. The early 1990s will also
see new court decisions and conservative political pressure
against affirmative action policies the Urban League supported.
He will lead the National Urban League until 1994. His greatest
achievement with the Nation Urban League will be the
establishment of the Permanent Development Fund, which will
start as a $4.5 million Ford Foundation grant and grow to a
$15 million fund by 1994. After his retirement in 1994, he will
be named executive vice president and chief communications
officer for the Anheuser-Busch Corporation. He will direct
public relations, including consumer and business matters for
Anheuser-Busch until 2006. He will remain on the Anheuser-Busch
board of directors.

1937 – Augusta Savage, sculptress, is commissioned to sculpt a
piece for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The sculpture
is to symbolize the African American contribution to the
field of music. It is the first such commission given to
an African American.

1946 – The first coining honoring an African American and designed
by an African American is issued. The fifty-cent piece
contains the bust of Booker T. Washington.

1962 – William “The Refrigerator” Perry, is born in Aiken, South
Carolina. He will become a NFL defensive lineman with the
Chicago Bears. He will be best known for his occasional
performance as a running back on short yardage situations.

1967 – Wilt Chamberlain, of the NBA Philadelphia 76ers, scores 68
points against the Chicago Bulls.

1973 – Jim Brown’s single season rushing record in the NFL is
smashed by O.J. Simpson. Brown rushed for 1,863 yards,
while Simpson ran for 2,003 yards.

1976 – Rep. Andrew Young is appointed Ambassador and Chief
representative to the United Nations by President Jimmy

1990 – Jean-Bertrand Aristide is elected president of Haiti in
the country’s first democratic elections.

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


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