July 23 African American Historical Events

* Today in Black History – July 23 *

1891 – Louis Tompkins Wright is born in LaGrange, Georgia. He
will graduate from Harvard Medical School in 1915, and
subsequently serve in World War I as an officer in the
United States Army Medical Corps. He will become the
first African American doctor to be appointed to the
staff of a New York City municipal hospital in 1919 when
he begins seeing patients at the Harlem Hospital out-
patient clinic. He will be, at one point, the only
African American member of the American College of
Surgeons. He will be a brilliant medical doctor and
specialist in fractures and head injuries and will make
strides in multiple directions in the field of medicine.
His greatest accomplishments will include the perfection
of an intradermal smallpox vaccination, the use of
Aureomycin for lymphogranuloma venereum (a viral venereal
disease), the treatment of humans with antibiotic
chlortetracycline, the invention of a brace to cushion
head and neck injuries, a blade plate for the treatment
of knee fractures, and drug therapy for cancer. From 1948
to 1952, he will have eighty-nine scientific publications
to his credit. With grants from the National Cancer
Institute and Damon Runyon Fund, he will found the Harlem
Hospital Cancer Research Foundation where he will deal
with the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic agents. He will
publish fifteen papers dealing with his investigation of
the effects of cancer-fighting drugs. Dr. Wright will also
be an active civil rights advocate and leading member of
the NAACP which will recognize him as a champion of human
rights with the Spingarn Medal in 1940. Harlem Hospital
will rename its library after him shortly before he joins
the ancestors on October 8, 1952, after succumbing to a
heart attack.

1892 – Lij Tafari Makonnen is born in Ejarsa Goro, Ethiopia. When
Menilek II’s daughter becomes empress in 1917, Ras (Prince)
Tafari will be named regent and heir apparent to the throne.
In 1923 he will have a conspicuous success in the admission
of Ethiopia to the League of Nations. In the following year
he will visit Rome, Paris, and London, becoming the first
Ethiopian ruler ever to go abroad. In 1928 he will assume
the title of negus (“king”), and two years later, when
Zauditu joins the ancestors, he will be crowned emperor
(Nov. 2, 1930) and take the name of Haile Selassie I
(“Might of the Trinity”). In 1931 he will promulgate a new
constitution, which strictly limits the powers of
Parliament. From the late 1920s on, Haile Selassie in
effect will be the Ethiopian government, and, by
establishing provincial schools, strengthening the police
forces, and progressively outlawing feudal taxation, he
will seek to both help his people and increase the
authority of the central government. When Italy invades
Ethiopia in 1935, he will lead the resistance, but in May
1936 he will be forced into exile. He will appeal for help
from the League of Nations in a memorable speech that he
delivers to that body in Geneva on June 30, 1936. With the
advent of World War II, he will secure British assistance
in forming an army of Ethiopian exiles in the Sudan.
British and Ethiopian forces will invade Ethiopia in
January 1941 and recapture Addis Ababa several months
later. Although he will be reinstated as emperor, he will
have to recreate the authority he had previously exercised.
He will again implement social, economic, and educational
reforms in an attempt to modernize Ethiopian government
and society on a slow and gradual basis. The Ethiopian
government will continue to be largely the expression of
his personal authority. In 1955 he will grant a new
constitution giving him as much power as the previous one.
Overt opposition to his rule will surface in December 1960,
when a dissident wing of the army secures control of Addis
Ababa and is dislodged only after a sharp engagement with
loyalist elements. He will play a very important role in
the establishment of the Organization of African Unity in
1963. His rule in Ethiopia will continue until 1974, at
which time famine, worsening unemployment, and the
political stagnation of his government prompts segments of
the army to mutiny. They will depose him and establish a
provisional military government that espouses Marxist
ideologies. He will be kept under house arrest in his own
palace, where he will spend the remainder of his life.
Official sources at the time will attribute his death to
natural causes, but evidence will later emerge suggesting
that he had been strangled on the orders of the military
government. He will be regarded as the Messiah of the
African ace by the Rastafarian movement. He will join the
ancestors on August 26, 1975.

1900 – The Pan-African Congress meets in London, England. Among
the leaders of the Congress are H. Sylvester Williams, a
West Indian Lawyer with a London practice, W.E.B. Du Bois,
and Bishop Alexander Walters.

1920 – British East Africa is renamed Kenya.

1947 – Spencer Christian is born in Charles City, Virginia. He
will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English
and a minor in journalism from Hampton University. He will
teach English at the Stony Brook School in Long Island,
New York, for one year before launching his television
career. He will begin a broadcasting career in 1971 in
Richmond, Virginia, as a news reporter, covering state and
local politics, the public school system, and landmark
cases in the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He will
become a weathercaster in Baltimore, Maryland from 1975-
1977, where he will also host “Spencer’s World,” a weekly
half-hour talk show. He will go on to become weather
forecaster for “Good Morning America” for thirteen years
and sportscaster and weatherman for WABC-TV in New York
for nine years. He will then join the ABC7 News team in
San Francisco as weather anchor in 1999. He is the author
of a series of children’s books under the general heading
“Spencer Christian’s World of Wonders.” The first four
books are titled: “Can It Really Rain Frogs?,” “Shake,
Rattle, and Roll,” “What Makes the Grand Canyon Grand?,”
and “Is There a Dinosaur in Your Backyard?.” He will be
inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in
April 1993, and named Virginian of the Year by the
Virginia Press Association in July, 1993.

1948 – Progressive party convention, meeting in Philadelphia,
nominates Henry Wallace for President. The New Party
makes a major effort to attract African Americans.
Approximately 150 African American delegates and
alternates attend the convention. The keynote speaker is
Charles P. Howard, and attorney, publisher and former
Republican from Des Moines, Iowa. Thirty-seven African
Americans will run for state and local offices on the
party ticket. Ten Blacks will run for Congress. The
party attracts few Black voters, but forces the
Democratic party to make serious gestures to hold the
African American vote.

1967 – Forty-three persons are killed in a racially motivated
disturbance in Detroit, Michigan. Federal troops are
called out for the first time since the Detroit riot of
1943, to quell the largest racial rebellion in a U.S.
city in the twentieth century. More than two thousand
persons are injured and some five thousand are arrested.
Police report 1,442 fires. Disturbances will spread to
other Michigan cities.

1968 – An alleged black radical ambush of a Cleveland police
detail sparks two days of disturbances that will result
in 11 deaths, including three policemen. The Ohio
National Guard will be mobilized to control the

1984 – Vanessa Williams, the first African American Miss America,
relinquishes her crown after publication of nude
photographs taken before her entry in the pageant.
Replacing her is Suzette Charles, first runner-up in the

1987 – Billy Williams is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame
in Cooperstown, New York.

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


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