July 17 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – July 17 *

1794 – Richard Allen organizes Philadelphia’s Bethel African
Methodist Episcopal Church.

1794 – Absalom Jones and his followers dedicate The African Church
of St. Thomas in Philadelphia. On August 12, 1794, the St.
Thomas parishioners will affiliate with the Protestant
Episcopal Church.

1862 – Congress approves the rights of African Americans to bear
arms to fight in the Civil War and enlist in the Union Army
by passing two laws, the Confiscation and Militia acts.
Over 208,000 African Americans and their white officers
will serve in the Union Army, with 38,000 losing their

1863 – Unions troops, with First Kansas volunteers playing a
leading role, route rebels at Honey Springs, Indian
Territory. African American troops capture the colors of a
Texas regiment.

1911 – Frank Snowden is born in York County, Virginia. He will
become the foremost scholar on Blacks in ancient history,
notably for his books “Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in
the Greco-Roman Experience” and “Before Color Prejudice:
The Ancient View of Blacks”. He will document that in ancient
Rome and Greece, racial prejudice was not an issue. Much of
this, according to his research, is because most of the
Blacks they encountered were not slaves. Most slaves in the
Roman Empire were white. Most of the Blacks they met were
warriors, statesmen, and mercenaries. Therefore, Blacks were
not subjected to the racism of modern civilization. He will
study ancient art and literature, and find evidence that
Blacks were able to co-exist with the Greeks and Romans. He
will join the ancestors on February 18, 2007.

1935 – Carol Diann Johnson (Diahann Carroll) is born in the Bronx,
New York. She will be better known as Diahann Carroll,
star of Broadway (“House of Flowers”), television (“Julia”),
and films including “Carmen Jones” and “Claudine”, the
latter earning her an Academy Award nomination as Best
Actress. Beginning her music career at an early age, she
will be the recipient of a Metropolitan Opera scholarship
for studies at New York’s High School of Music and Art at a
mere ten years of age. While still a teenager, she will
begin working part-time as a model, a TV actress, and as a
nightclub singer, leading to her Broadway debut (the Harold
Arlen/Truman Capote production “House of Flowers”) and her
film debut (the modern version of Bizet’s opera “Carmen”
with an all-black cast “Carmen Jones”) both in 1954. More
movie work will come her way (including the 1959 film
version of “Porgy & Bess”), as well as a Tony Award in 1962
for her work on the Broadway production “No Strings.”
Beginning in the late ’50s, she will launch a successful
recording career, issuing albums on a regular basis
throughout the next two decades (including such titles as
1957’s “Diahann Carroll Sings Harold Arlen,” 1960’s
“Diahann Carroll and Andre Previn,” and 1962’s “The
Fabulous “Diahann Carroll,” among many others). In the late
’60s, she will star in the TV sitcom “Julia,” for which she
will be nominated for an Emmy Award and the recipient of a
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. The ’70s will see her
give arguably the finest acting performance of her career
in 1974’s “Claudine,” for which she was nominated for an
Academy Award. She will return to TV work in the mid-’80s
with her portrayal of businesswoman Dominique Devereaux on
the hit nighttime soap opera “Dynasty,” while she earns her
second Emmy nomination for a guest appearance on the comedy
series “A Different World” (also during the same decade, she
will publish an autobiography, 1986’s “Diahann”). In the
’90s, she will star in a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s
“Sunset Boulevard” and tour the U.S. performing classic
Broadway standards in “Almost Like Being in Love: The Lerner
and Loewe Songbook.” 2001 will see the release of the
16-track compilation “Nobody Sees Me Cry: The Best of the
Columbia Years.”

1944 – An ammunitions depot at Port Chicago, California explodes
killing 320 men including 202 African Americans assigned by
the Navy to handle explosives. The resulting refusal of 258
African Americans to return to the dangerous work formed the
basis of the trial and conviction of 50 of the men in what
will become known as the Port Chicago Mutiny.

1959 – Billie Holiday, blues singer, joins the ancestors after
succumbing to liver failure at the age of 44 in Metropolitan
Hospital, New York City.

1967 – A racially motivated disturbance occurs in Cairo, Illinois
(within 100 miles of the Mississippi border. The Illinois
National Guard is mobilized during the three day civil

1967 – Innovative and famed jazz musician, John Coltrane joins the
ancestors after succumbing to cirrhosis of the liver at the
age of 40 in Huntington Hospital, Long Island, New York.

1981 – The Fulton County (Atlanta) grand jury indicts Wayne B.
Williams, a twenty-three-year-old photographer, for the
murder of two of the twenty-eight Black youths killed in a
series of slayings and disappearances in Atlanta. He will
deny the charges and be convicted in February, 1982.

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


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