April 20 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – April 20 *

1853 – Harriet Tubman starts as a conductor on the Underground

1871 – Third Enforcement Act defines Klan conspiracy as a rebellion
against the United States and empowers the president to
suspend the writ of habeas corpus and declare martial law
in rebellious areas.

1877 – Federal troops are withdrawn from public buildings in New
Orleans, Louisiana. Democrats then take over the state

1908 – Lionel Hampton is born in Louisville, Kentucky. He will
become trained as a drummer and starts his musical career
on this instrument. In 1930, while in a recording session
with Louis Armstrong, He will become fall in love with the
sound of a vibraphone that was used only to play the famous
NBC bing-bang-bong station identification. This will lead
to Armstrong asking Hampton to add the instrument to the
score they were about to record. “Memories of You”, the
song premiering Hampton on the vibraphone, will become a
classic. He will go on to become the best-known jazz master
of the vibraphone. He will join the ancestors on August 31,

1920 – Mary J. Reynolds invents a hoisting/loading mechanism.

1926 – Harriet Elizabeth Byrd is born in Cheyenne, Wyoming. She
will become a teacher and in 1981, the first African
American legislator in Wyoming’s state history. She will
serve in the Wyoming House of Representatives from 1981 to
1988, and in the Wyoming Senate from 1988 to 1992, becoming
the first African American to serve in both houses. During
her career in the state legislature, she will sponsor
legislation establishing a state holiday in honor of Martin
Luther King Jr., achieving a partial victory in 1991 through
the establishment of the Martin Luther King, Jr./Wyoming
Equality Day which is popularly recognized as King Day in
the state. Other legislation she will sponsor includes
requiring the use of child safety restraints, expansion of
available handicapped parking, and the establishment of
social services programs for adults. She will join the
ancestors on January 27, 2015.

1951 – Luther Vandross is born in New York City. An early backup
singer and commercial jingle writer, his big break as a
solo artist will come in 1981 when his album “Never Too
Much” will reveal his talents to both Rhythm & Blues and
pop audiences. He will make a string of hit albums,
earning seven consecutive platinum and double-platinum
albums and achieve his greatest crossover success with the
albums “The Best of Luther Vandross” and “Power of Love,”
which will earn him three Grammy awards. He will join the
ancestors from complications of diabetes and a stroke on
July 1, 2005.

1964 – Cleveland school officials report that 86 per cent of the
African American students in the school system participated
in one-day boycott.

1965 – President Lyndon Johnson awards the Medal of Freedom to
Leontyne Price, for “Her singing has brought light to her

1969 – James Earl Jones wins a Tony for his portrayal of
controversial heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in “The
Great White Hope.”

1971 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that busing is a
constitutionally acceptable method of integrating public

2010 – Dorothy Height, the leading female voice of the 1960s civil
rights movement and a participant in historic marches with
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others, joins the ancestors
at the age of 98. Dr. Height, whose activism on behalf of
women and minorities dates to the New Deal, led the National
Council of Negro Women for 40 years. She continued actively
speaking out into her 90s, often getting rousing ovations at
events around Washington, where she was immediately recognized
by the bright, colorful hats she almost always wore. In a
statement, President Barack Obama calls her “the godmother of
the civil rights movement” and a hero to Americans. “Dr. Height
devoted her life to those struggling for equality … and
served as the only woman at the highest level of the Civil
Rights Movement _ witnessing every march and milestone along
the way,” Obama said.

2011 – Gerard Smith joins the ancestors at the age of 36, succumbing to
lung cancer. He was an American visual artist, musician, and
member of the celebrated Brooklyn-based band “TV on the Radio.”
He recorded an album of original music as “A Rose Parade” with
Shannon Funchess of Light Asylum and also produced music with
Midnight Masses.

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


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