April 15 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – April 15 *

1861 – President Lincoln calls for 75,000 troops to put down
the rebellion. The Lincoln administration rejects
African American volunteers. For almost two years
straight African Americans fight for the right, as one
humorist puts it, “to be kilt”.

1889 – Asa Philip Randolph is born in Crescent Way, Florida.
He will become a labor leader and a tireless fighter for
civil rights. He will organize and lead the Brotherhood
of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly African
American labor union (organized in 1925). In the early
Civil Rights Movement, he will lead the March on
Washington Movement, which will convince President
Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802 in
1941, banning discrimination in the defense industries
during World War II. The group will then successfully
pressure President Harry S. Truman to issue Executive
Order 9981 in 1948, ending segregation in the armed
services. In 1963, he will be the head of the March on
Washington, organized by Bayard Rustin, at which Reverend
Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his “I Have A Dream”
speech. He will inspire the Freedom budget, sometimes
called the “Randolph Freedom budget”, which will aim to
deal with the economic problems facing the black community.
In 1942, he will receive the NAACP Spingarn Medal. On
September 14, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson will
present him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He will
join the ancestors on May 16, 1979. He will be named
posthumously to the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame in
January, 2014.

1919 – Elizabeth Catlett (later Mora) is born in Washington, DC.
In 1940, she will become the first student to receive an
M.F.A. in sculpture at the University of Iowa School of
Art and Art History. While there, she will be influenced
by American landscape painter Grant Wood, who will urge
students to work with the subjects they knew best. For
her, this will mean black people, and especially black
women, and it will be at this point that her work begins
to focus on African Americans. Her piece ‘Mother and
Child,’ done in limestone in 1939 for her thesis, will
win first prize in sculpture at the American Negro
Exposition in Chicago in 1940. In 1946, she will receive
a Rosenwald Fund Fellowship that allows her to travel to
Mexico where she will study wood carving with Jose L.
Ruiz and ceramic sculpture with Francisco Zúñiga, at the
Escuela de Pintura y Escultura, Esmeralda, Mexico. She
will later emigrate to Mexico, marry, and become a
Mexican citizen. She will become an internationally
known printmaker and sculptor and embrace both African
and Mexican influences in her art. She will be best
known for the black, expressionistic sculptures and
prints she produced during the 1960s and 1970s, which
will be seen as politically charged. She will join the
ancestors on April 2, 2012 in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

1922 – Harold Washington is born in Chicago, Illinois. He will
serve in the Illinois House of Representatives and
Senate as well as two terms in Congress before becoming
the first African American mayor of Chicago. He will
join the ancestors after suffering a massive heart
attack on November 25, 1987 after being re-elected to a
second term as mayor.

1928 – Pioneering architect Norma Merrick (later Sklarek) is
born in New York City. She become one of the first black
women to be licensed as an architect in the United States,
and the first to be licensed in the states of New York
(1954) and California (1962). She will also become the
first African American woman to become a fellow in the
American Institute of Architects (1980). In 1985, she will
become the first African American female architect to form
her own architectural firm: Siegel, Sklarek, Diamond,
which will be the largest woman-owned and mostly woman-
staffed architectural firm in the United States. Among her
designs will be the San Bernardino City Hall in San
Bernardino, California, the Fox Plaza in San Francisco,
Terminal One at the Los Angeles International Airport and
the Embassy of the United States in Tokyo, Japan. Howard
University will offer the Norma Merrick Sklarek
Architectural Scholarship Award in her honor. She will join
the ancestors on February 6, 2012.

1947 – Baseball player Jackie Robinson plays his first major-
league baseball game (he had played exhibition games
previously) for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the
first African American in the major leagues since Moses
Fleetwood Walker played in 1885. The Brooklyn Dodgers
promoted him to the majors from the Montreal Royals.

1957 – Evelyn Ashford is born in Shreveport, Louisiana. She
will grow up in Roseville, California becoming a track
star specializing in sprinting. She will be a four-
time winner of Olympic gold medals and one silver in
1976, 1984, 1988, and 1992. In 1979, she will set a
world record in the 200-meter dash. In 1989 she will
receive the Flo Hyman Award from the Woman’s Sports
Foundation. In 1992, the U.S. Olympic team will ask her
to carry the flag during the opening ceremonies in the
Barcelona Olympics. She will retire from track and
field in 1993 at the age of 36.

1958 – African Freedom Day is declared at the All-African
People’s Conference in Accra, Ghana.

1960 – The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is
formed on the campus of Shaw University in Raleigh,
North Carolina.

1985 – Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns wins the World Middleweight
title. This is one of five weight classes in which he
will win a boxing title making him the first African
American to win boxing titles in five different weight

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


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