* Today in Black History – April 9 *
1816 – The African Methodist Episcopal Church is organized at a
general convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
1865 – Nine African American regiments of Gen. John Hawkins’s
division help to smash the Confederate defenses at Fort
Blakely, Alabama. Capture of the fort will lead to the
fall of Mobile. The 68th U.S. Colored Troops will have
the highest number of casualties in the engagement.
1865 – Robert E. Lee surrenders Army of Northern Virginia to
Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, ending the
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE CONFEDERACY: The Confederacy is
the first to recognize that African Americans are major
factors in the war. The South impresses slaves to work
in mines, repair railroads and build fortifications,
thereby releasing a disproportionately large percentage
of able-bodied whites for direct war service. A handful
of African Americans enlisted in the rebel army, but few,
if any, fired guns in anger. A regiment of fourteen
hundred free African Americans received official
recognition in New Orleans, but was not called into
service. It later became, by a strange mutation of
history, the first African American regiment officially
recognized by the Union army.
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE UNION NAVY: One out of every
four Union sailors was an African American. Of the
118,044 sailors in the Union Navy, 29,511 were African
Americans. At least four African American sailors won
Congressional Medals of Honor.
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE UNION ARMY: The 185,000 Black
soldiers in the Union army were organized into 166 all
Black regiments (145 infantry, 7 cavalry, 12 heavy
artillery, 1 light artillery, 1 engineer). The largest
number of African American soldiers came from Louisiana
(24,052), followed by Kentucky (23,703) and Tennessee
(20,133). Pennsylvania contributed more African
American soldiers than any other Northern state (8,612).
African American soldiers participated in 449 battles,
39 of them major engagements. Sixteen Black soldiers
received Congressional Medals of Honor for gallantry in
action. Some 37,638 African American soldiers lost
their lives during the war. African American soldiers
generally received poor equipment and were forced to do
a large amount of fatigue duty. Until 1864, African
American soldiers (from private to chaplain) received
seven dollars a month whereas white soldiers received
from thirteen to one hundred dollars a month. In 1863
African American units, with four exceptions (Fifth
Massachusetts Cavalry, Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth
Massachusetts Volunteers and Twenty-ninth Connecticut
Volunteers), were officially designated United States
Colored Troops (USCT). Since the War Department
discouraged applications from African Americans, there
were few commissioned officers. The highest ranking of
the seventy-five to one hundred African American
officers was Lt. Col. Alexander T. Augustana, a surgeon.
Some 200,000 African American civilians were employed
by the Union army as laborers, cooks, teamsters and
1866 – The Civil Rights Bill of 1866 is passed over the
president’s veto. The bill will confer citizenship on
African Americans and give them “the same right, in
every State and Territory… as is enjoyed by white
1870 – The American Anti-Slavery Society is dissolved.
1898 – Paul Leroy Robeson is born in Princeton, New Jersey. The
son of an ex-slave turned Methodist minister, Robeson
will attend Rutgers University on a full scholarship,
where he will excel and obtain 12 letters in four sports,
be named to the All-American football team twice, be a
member of the debate team, and earn a Phi Beta Kappa key.
He will study law at Columbia University in New York and
receive his degree in 1923. There he will meet and marry
Eslanda Cardozo Goode, who will be the first African
American woman to head a pathology laboratory. He will
work as a law clerk in New York, but once again will
face discrimination and leave the practice when a white
secretary refuses to take dictation from him. He will
later become one of America’s foremost actors and singers.
He will make 14 films including “The Emperor Jones,”
“King Solomon’s Mines,” and “Showboat.” During the 1940’s
he will continue to have success on the stage, in film,
and in concert halls, but will remain face to face with
prejudice and racism. After finding the Soviet Union
to be a tolerant and friendly nation, he will begin to
protest the growing Cold War hostilities between the
United States and the USSR. He will question why
African Americans should support a government that did
not treat them as equals. At a time when dissent was
hardly tolerated, Robeson will be looked upon as an
enemy by his government. In 1947, he will be named by
the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and the
State Department will deny him a passport until 1958.
Events such as these, along with a negative public
response, will lead to the demise of his public career.
He will be an inspiration to millions around the world.
His courageous stance against oppression and inequality
in part will lead to the civil rights movement of the
1960s. He will join the ancestors on January 23, 1976,
in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after living in seclusion
for ten years.
1929 – Valenza Pauline Burke is born in Brooklyn, New York to
parents who had immigrated to the United States from
Barbados. She will become a novelist known as Paule
Marshall. She will author “Browngirl, Brownstones,”
“Praisesong for the Widow,” “The Chosen Place, The
Timeless People,” “Soul Clap Hands and Sing,” and
Daughters.” She will also write a collection of short
stories, “Reena and Other Stories.”
1939 – When she is refused admission to the Daughters of the
American Revolution’s Constitution Hall to give a
planned concert, Marian Anderson performs for 75,000 on
the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Two months later, she
will be honored with the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for her
talents as “one of the greatest singers of our time”
and for “her magnificent dignity as a human being.”
1950 – Juanita Hall becomes the first African American to win a
Tony award for her role as Bloody Mary in the musical
1968 – Martin Luther King Jr. is buried after funeral services
at Ebenezer Baptist Church and memorial services at
Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia. More than
300,000 persons march behind the coffin of the slain
leader which is carried through the streets of Atlanta
on a farm wagon pulled by two Georgia mules. Scores of
national dignitaries, including Vice-President Hubert
Humphrey, attend the funeral. CORE and the Fellowship of
Reconciliation send twenty-three dignitaries. Ralph
David Abernathy is elected to succeed King as head of
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
1993 – The Reverend Benjamin Chavis is chosen to head the NAACP,
succeeding Benjamin Hooks.
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Mr. Rene’ A. Perry.