February 23 African American Historical Events

Today in Black History – February 23 *

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1763 – A major slave rebellion occurs in the Dutch South American
colony of Berbice (part of present-day Guyana). Slaves,
led by Cuffy, Atta, Accara, and others, fire a rebellion at
Plantation Magalenenburg because of the harsh and inhumane
treatment of the slave population. Cuffy, proclaims himself
Governor of Berbice and orders the Dutch Governor, Hoogenheim,
to leave with the white inhabitants. The slaves will control
the territory for months. Major resistance will continue
beyond October, 4th. There will be a split at the leadership
level of the rebellion. The final collapse of the revolution
will occur just before the trial of the last resisters on
March 16, 1764.

1868 – William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois is born in Great
Barrington, Massachusetts. He will become one of the
greatest men of letters of his time, serving as an editor,
teacher, political theorist, and novelist. His
accomplishments will include founding and editing the NAACP
“Crisis Magazine,” writing the influential “Souls of Black
Folk,” being one of the founding fathers of the NAACP, and
the first African American to become a member of the National
Institute of Arts and Letters. He will join the ancestors on
August 27, 1963 in Accra, Ghana.

1942 – Don Luther Lee is born in Little Rock, Arkansas. He will become
a major African American literary critic, author of nonfiction
and poetry, and founder of the influential Third World Press
known as Haki Madhubuti. The Chicago State University
professor, poet, and publisher will score a hit for his Third
World Press with his own “Groundwork: Selected and New Poems
1966-1996.” “Groundwork” and the second volume of Gwendolyn
Brooks’ autobiography-along with continuing sales of
Madhubuti’s 1995 “Million Man March/Day of Absence”, will
increase the number of successful titles at Third World Press
to 25 by 1997.

1964 – Roberto Martin Antonio “Bobby” Bonilla is born in New York
City. He will become a major league baseball player in 1981
and will play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox,
New York Mets, and the Baltimore Orioles, before ending up
with the Florida Marlins in 1996.

1968 – Wilt Chamberlain becomes the first NBA player to score 25,000
points.

1970 – Guyana becomes a republic. The Republic of Guyana changes its
name to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana. February 23 is
chosen to celebrate the start of the Berbice Slave Revolt of
1763, which was led by Cuffy, a slave who became a national
hero. One of the first actions of the new republic will be
to nationalize foreign-owned companies.

1977 – “Roots,” an adaptation of Alex Haley’s best-selling novel, is
viewed by more Americans than any other program since the
invention of television. Approximately 130 million people
watched at least part of the series. The final episode was
watched by a reported 80 million viewers. Alex Haley spent
twelve years researching and writing the book. While the
show attracted many African American viewers, ratings
companies reported that millions of whites as well as
African Americans watched the show.

1979 – Colonel Frank E. Peterson, Jr. becomes the first African
American promoted to the rank of general in the Marine Corps.
He also was the first African American pilot to win Marine
Corps wings. He will retire in 1988 as commanding general
of the Marine Development Education Command in Quantico,
Virginia.

1990 – Comer J. Cottrell, President of Pro-Line Corporation, pays
$1.5 million for the Bishop College campus, traditionally
an African American college, in a bankruptcy auction.
Cottrell’s actions result in the relocation of Paul Quinn
College in Waco, another African American campus, to the
Dallas site.

1999 – Hughie Lee-Smith, a painter and former teacher at the Art
Students League in New York, joins the ancestors after
succumbing to cancer at the age of 83 in Albuquerque, New
Mexico. Lee-Smith was known for his paintings that
frequently included symbolic figurative scenes. His works
often included settings suggestive of theater stages or
bleak urban or seaside landscapes. In 1953, he won a
prize for his work from the Detroit Institute of Arts.
While serving in the Navy he did a mural titled, “History
of the Negro in the U.S. Navy.” He taught at the Art
Students League for 15 years, beginning in 1958. In 1963,
he became the second African American member elected to
the National Academy of Design in New York City. He became
a full member four years later. His paintings are in many
public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
the Detroit Institute of Arts, the National Gallery of Art in
Washington and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black
Culture in New York City.

1999 – A jury in Jasper, Texas convicts white supremacist John
William King of murder in the gruesome dragging death of an
African American man, James Byrd Jr. King will be sentenced
to death two days later.

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

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