* Today in Black History – March 4 *
1837 – The second major African American newspaper, the “Weekly
Advocate” changes its name to the “Colored American.”
1869 – The forty-second Congress convenes (1871-73) with five
African American congressmen: Joseph H. Rainey, Robert
Carlos Delarge, and Robert Brown Elliott from South Carolina;
Benjamin S. Turner, of Alabama; Josiah T. Walls of Florida.
Walls is elected in an at-large election and is the first
African American congressman to represent an entire state.
1889 – The fifty-first Congress convenes. Three Black congressmen:
Henry P. Cheatham of North Carolina; Thomas E. Miller of
South Carolina; and John Mercer Langston of Virginia.
1897 – William McKinley (Willie) Covan is born in Savannah, Georgia.
When he was 8 and living in Chicago he will meet Harry
Yancey, who had been in an act of very young black dancers
who shared bills with major white performers. Yancey will
captivate him with tales of touring the West, riding horses
and picking oranges and lemons from trees in California. He
will be so smitten by the idea that he will hustle part-time
jobs and begin paying Yancey to teach him to dance. He will
build a practice floor in his basement and eventually dance
his way into a troupe that will toured the West. When
returning from California, he could dance a lot better than
Harry. He will partner with Leonard Ruffin and become one of
the first black dance acts to be booked into New York City’s
Palace Theater, and will also appear in a long series of hit
musicals. He will appear in the original production of
“Shuffle Along” as well as with the Four Covans. Eleanor
Powell will bring him to MGM to teach dancing to pupils,
ranging from Debbie Reynolds to Mae West to Gregory Peck.
Encouraged by West, he will open the Willie Covan Dance
Studio in Los Angeles in the mid-1930s and train students
there for 35 years. He will join the ancestors on May 10,
1989, in Los Angeles, California.
1901 – The congressional term of George H. White, last of the post
Reconstruction congressmen, ends.
1922 – Theater legend Bert Williams joins the ancestors at the age of
46 in New York City. He was considered the foremost African
American vaudeville performer, teaming first with George
Walker in 1895, most notably in “In Dahomey,” and later as a
soloist with the Ziegfeld Follies.
1932 – Miriam Zenzi Makeba, “Empress of African Song,” is born in
Prospect Township, South Africa. Although exiled from her
homeland, Makeba will become an internationally known
singer and critic of apartheid. Throughout her life and
singing career, She will use her voice to to draw the attention
of the world to the music of South Africa and to its oppressive
system of racial separation. After appearing in the
semi-documentary antiapartheid film, “Come Back, Africa,” she
will attract international attention. This will include
meeting Harry Belafonte, who will become her sponsor and
promoter in the United States. Because her music always
contained a political component – the denunciation of
apartheid, her South African passport will be revoked in 1960.
Her career in the United States will be crippled by her
marriage to Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture’), who was
active in the Black Panther Party. Her career will continue
to flourish in Europe. She will later become a United Nations
delegate from Guinea and will continue to record and perform.
She will return to her homeland, South Africa, in 1990 and in
1991, will make her first performance there in over thirty
years. She will join the ancestors on November 9, 2008 after
succumbing to a heart attack suffered after singing her hit
song “Pata Pata” during a concert organized to support writer
Robert Saviano in his stand against the Camorra, a mafia-like
organization in the Campania region of Italy.
1934 – Barbara McNair is born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in
Racine, Wisconsin. She will become a singer and actress, and
will host her own television program (The Barbara McNair Show).
The glamorous actress will moonlight as a pop singer between
TV and film roles during the 1960s. She will be a classy
addition to Berry Gordy’s talent roster when his firm attempts
to diversify its appeal. She will cut a pair of albums for
Motown in 1966 and 1969. She will join the ancestors on
February 4, 2007 after succumbing to throat cancer.
1944 – Robert Dwayne “Bobby” Womack is born in Cleveland, Ohio. He
will become a Rhythm and Blues performer, guitarist and
songwriter. He will be an active recording artist, starting in
the early 1960s, as the lead singer of his family musical group,
the Valentinos and as Sam Cooke’s backup guitarist. His career
will span more than 50 years, during which he will play in the
styles of Rhythm & Blues, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop, gospel,
and country. He will write and originally record the Rolling
Stones’ first UK No. 1 hit, “It’s All Over Now” and New Birth’s
“I Can Understand It” among other songs. As a singer, he will be
most notable for the hits “Lookin’ For a Love”, “That’s The Way
I Feel About Cha”, “Woman’s Gotta Have It”, “Harry Hippie”,
“Across 110th Street” and his 1980s hit “If You Think You’re
Lonely Now”. He will join the ancestors on June 27, 2014 after
suffering from prostate and colon cancer, pneumonia and
1954 – The first African American sub-cabinet member is appointed.
President Eisenhower names J. Earnest Wilkins of Chicago as
the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor.
1968 – Joe Frazier defeats Buster Mathis for the world heavyweight
boxing championship by knockout in the eleventh round.
1968 – Martin Luther King, Jr. announces plans for the Poor People’s
Campaign in Washington, DC. He says that he will lead a
massive civil disobedience campaign in the capital to pressure
the government to provide jobs and income for all Americans.
He tells a press conference that an army of poor white, poor
African Americans and Hispanics will converge on Washington
on April 20 and will demonstrate until their demands were met.
1981 – A jury in Salt Lake City convicts Joseph Paul Franklin, an
avowed racist, of violating the civil rights of two black men
who were shot to death.
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Mr. Rene’ A. Perry.