* Today in Black History – May 11 *
1885 – Joseph Nathan Oliver is born in Aben, Louisiana near
Donaldsville. He will become a professional musician after
learning his craft playing with local street musicians in
New Orleans. After playing in the band of Edward “Kid” Ory,
he will be dubbed “King” Oliver. After being recruited to
Chicago, Illinois to play in the band of Bill Johnson, King
Oliver will assume leadership of the Creole Jazz Band. He
will recruit some of best available jazz talent of the time
including Louis Armstrong. The Creole Jazz Band will disband
after the exit of Louis Armstrong. King Oliver will lead
various other bands until 1937 when he retires from music.
Due to severe gum problems, he will stop playing the cornet
in 1931. He will join the ancestors on April 10, 1938. King
Oliver will be considered one of the pioneering musicians in
New Orleans and Chicago style jazz.
1895 – William Grant Still is born in Woodville, Mississippi.
Considered one of the nation’s greatest composers, he will
begin his career by writing arrangements for W.C. Handy and
as musical director for Harry Pace’s Phonograph Corporation.
One of his most famous compositions, Afro-American Symphony,
will be the first symphonic work by an African American to
be performed by a major symphony orchestra, the Rochester
Philharmonic Symphony, in 1931. He will also be the first
African American to conduct a major U.S. symphony, the Los
Angeles Philharmonic, in 1936. He will create over 150
musical works including a series of five symphonies, four
ballets, and nine operas. Two of his best known compositions
will be “Afro-American Symphony” (1930) and “A Bayou Legend”
(1941). He will join the ancestors on December 3, 1978.
1899 – Clifton Reginald Wharton is born in Baltimore, Maryland. He
will receive his law degree in 1920 and his master’s of laws
degree both from the Boston University School of Law. He
will be the first African American to enter the Foreign
Service and the first African American to become the U.S.
ambassador to an European country. He will begin his career
in the Foreign Service in 1925. He will become the first
African American to pass the foriegn service’s written and
oral examinations. He will serve in a variety of diplomatic
positions in Liberia, Spain, Madagascar, Portugal, and
France before becoming minister to Romania in 1958 and the
Ambassador to Norway in 1961. He will be the first African
American to attain the rank of minister and ambassador
before retiring from the State Department in 1964. He will
join the ancestors on April 23, 1990 after succumbing to a
1930 – Lawson Edward Brathwaite is born in Bridgetown, Barbados. He
will become a poet, critic, historian and editor better
known as Edward Kamau Brathwaite. He will be considered by
most literary critics in the English speaking Caribbean to
be the most important West Indian Poet. He will be best
known for his works “Rights of Passage,” “Masks,” and
“Islands” which will later be combined in a trilogy “The
Arrivants.” His other works will be “Other Exiles,”
“Mother Poem, Sun Poem,” “X/Self,” “Middles Passages,” and
“Roots.” He will be the recipient of a Guggenheim
Fellowship, a Fulbright Scholarship, the Casa de las
Americas prize, and the Neustadt International Prize for
Literature. After teaching at the University of the West
Indies for twenty years, he will join the faculty of New
1933 – Louis Eugene Walcott is born in Roxbury, Massachusetts. In
1955 he will convert to Islam and join The Nation of Islam
after attending the Saviour’s Day Convention in Chicago,
Illinois. He will be known as Louis X and will later adopt
the name Louis Farrakhan. Within three months of joining
the Nation, he will have to choose between his life in show
business or life in the Nation of Islam. He chooses to
leave his life as an entertainer and dedicates his life to
the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. After moving
to Boston at the request of Malcolm X, he will rise to the
rank of Minister and will head the Boston Temple from 1956
until 1965 when he was asked by Elijah Muhammad to take over
Temple # 7 in New York City. After the death of Elijah
Muhammad and three years of subsequent changes in the Nation
from his teachings, Minister Farrakhan decided to return to
the teachings of Elijah Muhammad and since then, has
continued programs to uplift and reform Blacks. In 1995, he
will exhibit his influence as a Black leader when he
successfully organizes and speaks at the Million Man March
in Washington, DC.
1963 – One day after Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth announces agreement
on a limited integration plan in Birmingham, Alabama, his
home is bombed and a civil disturbance ensues.
1965 – African Americans hold a mass meeting in Norfolk, Virginia
and demand equal rights and ballots.
1968 – Nine Caravans of poor people arrive in Washington, DC for
first phase of Poor People’s Campaign. Caravans started
from different sections of the country on May 2 and picked
up demonstrators along the way. In Washington,
demonstrators erect a camp called Resurrection City on a
sixteen-acre site near the Lincoln Monument.
1970 – Johnny Hodges joins the ancestors in New York City at the age
of 63. He had been a well known saxophone player and played
with the band of Duke Ellington for almost forty years. He
was Duke Ellington’s favorite soloist. Over his career, he
will be chosen as the best reed player by DownBeat Magazine
1972 – The San Francisco Giants announce that they are trading
Willie Mays to the New York Mets.
1981 – Hoyt J. Fuller joins the ancestors in Atlanta at the age of
57. He was a literary critic and editor of “First World”
and “Black World” (formerly Negro Digest) magazines.
1981 – Robert Nesta ‘Bob’ Marley, Jamaican-born singer who
popularized reggae with his group The Wailers, joins the
ancestors after succumbing to cancer in a Miami hospital at
the age of 36. He will enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame in 1994.
1981 – Ken Norton, former heavyweight boxing champion, is left on
the ropes and unconscious after 54 seconds of the first
round at Madison Square Garden in New York City, by Gerry
1986 – Frederick Douglass ‘Fritz’ Pollard joins the ancestors in
Silver Spring, Maryland at the age of 92. Pollard had been
the first African American to play in the Rose Bowl and the
second African American to be named All-American in college
football. After college he played professional football and
later became the coach of his team. When the league in
which he coached became the NFL in 1922, he became the
first African American coach in NFL history. No other
African American will coach in the NFL until the 1990s.
Information retrieved from the Munirah Chronicle and is edited by Mr. Rene’ A. Perry.