December 26 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – December 26 *

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* The Nguzo Saba – The seven principles of Kwanzaa – Principle for *
* Day #1 – Umoja (oo-MOE-jah) Unity: To strive for and maintain unity *
* in the family, community, nation and race. *
* *
***********************************************************************

1848 – William & Ellen Craft escape from slavery in Georgia. Mrs. Craft
impersonates a slave holder and her husband, William, assumes
the role of her servant, in one of the most dramatic of the
slave escapes.

1849 – David Ruggles joins the ancestors in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Often called the first African American bookseller (for his
bookstore established in 1834), Ruggles was an early
abolitionist, speaker, and writer as well as a “conductor” on
the Underground Railroad. He published the first African
American magazine, the “Mirror of Liberty in August of 1838. He
was a noted hydropathist, erecting the first building
constructed for hydropathic treatments in the United States and
was known as the “water cure doctor.”

1894 – Nathan Pinchback “Jean” Toomer is born in Washington, DC. The
grandson of P.B.S. Pinchback, he will become a poet and novelist
and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance and modernism.
His first book “Cane,” published in 1923, is considered by many
to be his most significant. Of mixed race and majority European
ancestry, he will struggle to identify as “an American” and will
resist efforts to classify him as a black writer. He will
continue to write poetry, short stories and essays. After his
second marriage in 1934, he will move from New York to Doylestown,
Pennsylvania, where he will become a member of the Religious
Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) and will retire from
public life. His papers will be held by the Beinecke Rare Book
Library at Yale University. He will join the ancestors on March
30, 1967.

1908 – Jack Johnson wins the heavyweight title in Australia, defeating
Tommy Burns. After avoiding fighting Johnson for over a year,
Burns will say of his loss, “Race prejudice was rampant in my
mind. The idea of a black man challenging me was beyond
enduring. Hatred made me tense.”

1924 – DeFord Bailey, Sr., a harmonica player, becomes the first African
American to perform on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville,
Tennessee.

1927 – Lonnie Elder III is born in Americus, Georgia, but will be raised
in Jersey City, New Jersey. He will begin his career as a
Broadway actor but soon will find his skills in playwriting. His
first and most well known play, “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men,”
will win him a Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Playwright.
The play, which was about a Harlem barber and his family, will be
produced by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1969, and this will
encourage him to study filmmaking at Yale. He will write the
screenplay for “Sounder” and he and Suzanne de Passe will become
the first African Americans to be nominated for an Academy Award
for screen writing. He will later write the sequel to “Sounder.”
He will be known for films that promote the cause of feminism for
African American women. His script for the television miniseries
“A Woman Called Moses” is an example of this. His play
“Ceremonies in Dark Old Men,” which will be produced for
television in 1975, will also be influential in depicting the
realities of a black family attempting to survive in New York
City. He will also co-write the screenplay for the Richard Pryor
comedy “Bustin’ Loose.” He will also star in the original
Broadway production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun”
as the character Bobo. He will join the ancestors on June 11,
1996.

1937 – La Julia Rhea becomes the first African American to sing with the
Chicago Civic Opera Company during the regular season. She
opens in the title role of Verdi’s “Aida.”

1956 – African Americans in Birmingham, Alabama begin mass defiance of
Jim Crow bus laws.

1966 – Kwanzaa, originated by Dr. Maulana Karenga, is first celebrated
by a small number of African American families in Los Angeles,
California, to “restore and reaffirm our African heritage and
culture.” Kwanzaa, a Kiswahili word meaning first or first
fruit, will celebrate over the next seven days the Nguzo Saba,
or seven principles, of Umoja(Unity), Kujichagulia(self-
determination), Ujima(Collective Work and Responsibility),
Ujamaa(Cooperative Economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba
(Creativity), and Imani (Faith).

1999 – Prolific singer, songwriter & producer Curtis Mayfield joins
the ancestors at the age of 57 in North Fulton Regional Hospital
near Atlanta, Georgia. Mayfield introduced social
consciousness into African American music and continued to
record for a decade after an accident left him paralyzed. His
many hits included “People Get Ready,” “I’m So Proud,” and “Keep
On Pushing.” His soundtrack for the 1972 movie “Superfly” sold
over 4 million copies and produced two classic hit singles, the
title track and “Freddie’s Dead.” In addition to his wife, he
leaves behind his mother, 10 children, a brother, two sisters
and seven grandchildren to celebrate his life.

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

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