Often others will ask why a column on Today in Black History is necessary. As with all aspects of American history, Black history is an indispensable key to understanding the nation’s past, present, and future. Unfortunately, much of this history began with the hundreds of thousands of Africans who reached the United States as slaves between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. With such an abhorrent beginning, the freedom and other achievements eventually earned by African-Americans cannot be simply disregarded. With each new advancement or right gained by African-Americans, a new obstacle or restriction followed. The tumultuous beginnings of Black history in the United States, along with the truly admirable perseverance of those who withstood it all are strong parts of the growth of the nation as a whole.
Here are a few selected Black Facts for December 21
1986 – Michael Griffith
Michael Griffith is struck by an automobile and killed while escaping from a mob of whites who were beating him, in Howard Beach (Queens), NY. In the 1980s, several racially motivated attacks dominated the headlines of New York City newspapers. On September 15, 1983, artist and model Michael Stewart died on a lower Manhattan subway platform from a chokehold and beating he received from several police officers. A year later, on October 29, an elderly grandmother, Eleanor Bumpers, was murdered by a police officer in her Bronx apartment as he and other officers tried to evict her. Later that year, on December 22, a white man, Bernhard Goetz, shot and seriously wounded four black teenagers he thought were going to rob him on a subway train in Manhattan. The Howard Beach racial incident in late 1986 propelled the predominantly Italian and Jewish community into the national spotlight, exposing racial hatred in New York City.
1911 -Josh Gibson (the home run king of the Negro Baseball League) born
Baseball historians consider Gibson to be among the very best power hitters and catchers in the history of any league, including Major League Baseball (MLB). In 1972, he was the second player after Satchel Paige who had played in the Negro leagues to be inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Gibson was known as the “black Babe Ruth”, in fact, some fans at the time who saw both Ruth and Gibson play, called Ruth “the white Josh Gibson”.
The Negro Renaissance – December 21, 1921
The Negro Renaissance, a period of extraordinary activity on the part of Black artists and extraordinary receptivity on the part of the white public, reached a peak in the twenties. Among the writers who contributed to the movement were Claude Mckay, “Harlem Shadows”, 1922; Jean Toomer, “Cane”, 1923; Alain Locke, The New Negro, 1925; Langston Hughes, “The Weary Blues”, 1926 Countee Cullen, “Color”, 1925.
1976 – Patricia R.Harris (first Black woman to hold a Cabinet position)
Patricia R. Harris named secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by President-elect Carter. She served in this position from 1977 to 1979. She was the first African-American woman to become a Cabinet Member, U.S. Ambassador and lead a law school.
1941 – Samuel L. Jackson
Actor Samuel Jackson was born on this day in Washington, DC. Jackson will begin his acting career as a student at Morehouse College. He will star in over 40 movies including box office hits “The Long Kiss Goodnight”, “Pulp Fiction”, “Jackie Brown”, and “A Time to Kill”. Samuel L. Jackson turns 74 today.
1972 – Gordon B. Parks is awarded Spingarn Medal
Spingarn Medal awarded to Gordon B. Parks “in recognition of his unique creativity, as exemplified by his outstanding achievements as photographer, writer, film-maker and composer.” Parks is best remembered for his photographic essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft.
Other well-known recipients of the award include: W. E. B. Du Bois, Colonel Charles Young, George Washington Carver, Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Sammy Davis, Jr., Alex Haley, Andrew Young, Rosa Parks, Coleman Young, Lena Horne, Bill Cosby, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Colin Powell, Earl Graves, Alvin Ailey and Maya Angelou.