* Today in Black History – April 26 *
1798 – James Pierson Beckwourth is born in Fredericksburg,
Virginia. He will become a legendary American Western
mountain man, trapper, warrior, Indian chief, and
trailblazer. He will maintain a lifelong friendship with
the Crow Indian nation. He will work as an Army scout
during the third Seminole War and will be a rider for the
Pony Express. In 1850, he will discover a pass through the
Sierra Nevada mountains that will enable settlers to more
easily reach California. The Beckwourth Pass is still in
use today by the Union Pacific Railroad and the U.S.
Interstate Highway System. He will join the ancestors on
October 29, 1866.
1886 – William Levi Dawson is born in Albany, Georgia. A graduate
of Fisk University, he will move to Chicago, serve in the
365th Infantry in World War I, become an attorney and
initially be involved in Republican politics upon his
return to the city after the war. Elected to his first
term in the United States Congress in 1942, he will serve
27 years in the House, where he will become the first
African American representative to chair a committee of
Congress, the Committee on Expenditures in Executive
Departments, in 1949. He will join the ancestors on
November 9, 1970.
1886 – Gertrude Pritchett is born in Columbus, Georgia. She will
become a blues singer and vaudeville performer. She will
marry William “Pa” Rainey and will become the “Ma” half of
“Rainey and Rainey: The Assassinators of the Blues.”
Between 1923 and 1928, she will record 93 songs, many of
which were her own compositions. She will perform
nationwide and will have a loyal fan base, even after her
recording contract with Paramount is terminated. She will
have a great impact on performers who will follow her and
will be immortalized by being included in August Wilson’s
play, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and the poem of Sterling
Brown, “Ma Rainey.” She will join the ancestors on
December 22, 1939 and will be inducted into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
1964 – The African nations of Tanganyika and Zanzibar merge to form
Tanzania. The name is derived from the first syllable of
each country’s name.
1968 – Students seize the administration building at Ohio State.
1984 – Jazz musician great William “Count” Basie, joins the
ancestors in Hollywood, Florida at the age of 77. NOTE:
Many sources will have 1904 for Count Basie’s birth year.
Our source for his birth and death is the Kennedy Center
Archives documenting “The Honors” bestowed on him in 1981.
1991 – Maryann Bishop Coffey is named the first woman and the first
African American co-chair of the National Conference of
Christians and Jews.
1992 – “Jelly’s Last Jam” opens at Virginia theater on Broadway.
Gregory Hines will portray the great jazz composer Jelly
Roll Morton and will receive a Tony award as best actor in
a musical in that role.
1994 – Voting begins in South Africa’s first all-race elections.
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Mr. Rene’ A. Perry.