This Week In Black History June 26 – July 2, 2024

  • JUNE 26

1899—Black inventor William H. Richardson redesigns the baby car­riage. While the idea for the baby car­riage is nearly 300 years old, Richard­son’s patent, filed at the Boston patent office, included several new features including a special joint which allowed the bassinet to be turned to face the mother or whoever was pushing the carriage. Many of Richardson’s designs are still in use today. [There is some authority that Richardson’s patent was actually filed on June 18.]

1942—Harvard medical student, Ber­nard W. Robinson, becomes the first African American to win a commission to the United States Navy.

  • JUNE 27

1872—Paul Lawrence Dunbar, one of the most popular poets in Black American history, is born in Dayton, Ohio. Dunbar first gained national recognition with a collection of works published in 1896 entitled “Lyrics of a Lowly Life,” which included “Ode to Ethiopia.” Despite the power of his poetry, Dunbar angered some Blacks who were concerned about “what will White people think” because he generally used Black dialect and not Standard English in much of his poet­ry. Dunbar’s first poem was published in a newspaper owned by high school friends and American airplane pio­neers Orville and Wilbur Wright. The Wright brothers would also provide Dunbar with funds to open the Dayton Tattler—a newspaper geared toward the city’s Black community. Unfortu­nately, Dunbar died at the age of 34 in 1906 of Tuberculosis.

  • JUNE 28


1839—Cinque (original name Sengh­be), after being kidnapped and sold into slavery, is placed on the Spanish slave ship Amistad. The son of a King of the Mende (Mendi) tribe in West Africa would lead the most successful revolt on a slave ship during the entire history of the slave trade. The Amistad was captured by the slaves who killed the captain and attempted to sail the ship to Africa. But due to delaying tactics by the remaining White crew, the ship was captured by a U.S. naval ship. Cinque and the rebel­lious slaves were taken to New Haven, Conn., and put on trial for murder. Amaz­ingly they won their case and were al­lowed to return to Africa.

1971—Muhammad Ali is allowed to box again after winning a victory in the United States Supreme Court. The court overturned his conviction for refusing to be drafted and serve in the United States war in Vietnam. When asked how he could claim to be a pacifist opposed to war while being a professional boxer, Ali’s most frequent response was, “I am not going 10,000 miles from here to help murder and kill and burn poor people to help continue the domination of White slave masters over the darker people.”

1978—The United States Supreme Court hands down the Bakke Decision which undermined affirmative action pro­grams that had been designed to give preference to Blacks and other minori­ties in education and industry in order to compensate for decades of past discrim­ination. Although the court ruled affirma­tive action programs were constitutional; it struck down the use of quotas and that had the effect of weakening the affirma­tive action programs.

  • JUNE 29

1970—NAACP Chairman Stephen Gill Spottswood creates a national contro­versy by telling the annual convention of the civil rights organization that the administration of President Richard Nix­on was “anti-Negro” and was pursuing policies “inimical to the needs and aspi­rations” of African-Americans.

1972—The United States Supreme Court rules in a historic five to four de­cision that as it was being carried out in America, the death penalty was “cruel and unusual punishment” and thus vi­olated the Constitution. The ruling also suggested that the death penalty was racist. At the time 483 of the approxi­mately 600 people waiting to be execut­ed in the nation were Blacks or members of other minority groups. However, since the decision, at least 38 states and the federal government have re-instituted the death penalty by supposedly meet­ing Supreme Court guidelines.

  • JUNE 30

1847—Dred Scott (and his wife, Harriet) files his famous lawsuit in St. Louis Cir­cuit Court arguing that after living with a slave master for several years in non-slave territories, they should be consid­ered free. After several twists and turns, the case makes its way to the United States Supreme Court where the court rules against Scott and Justice Roger B. Taney writes what may be the most rac­ist decision ever rendered by the court. Taney wrote that Scott was “private property” and had no right to sue in fed­eral court. He also declared that Blacks were not citizens of America and never could be. Then he topped the decision by writing of Scott and all Blacks, “being of inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the White race…they have no rights which the White man is bound to respect.”

1917—Glamorous Singer-Actress Lena Horne is born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to an up­per-income Black family. She would per­form with Jazz greats such as Artie Shaw, Teddy Wilson, Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington. She also became the first Afri­can-American woman to sign a long-term contract with a major Hollywood studio. But she became disenchanted with Hol­lywood and returned to her nightclub career. She is best known for her 1940s hit “Stormy Weather.” In her later years she became active in civil rights includ­ing participation in Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic 1963 March on Washington. Horne died on May 9, 2010 at the age of 92.

1967—Major Robert H. Lawrence is named the first Black U.S. astronaut in the NASA space program. The Chica­go-born Lawrence would later die under somewhat mysterious circumstances during a training exercise in December 1967.

1974—A deranged Black man, Marcus Chennault, shoots and kills the mother of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Along with Al­berta Christine Williams King, a church deacon was killed and another church member wounded. Chennault, a Day­ton, Ohio, native, reportedly claimed that Black Christians were deceiving and mis­leading Black people.


1995—Song-stylist and singer Phyllis Hyman commits suicide in New York City shortly before she was scheduled to per­form at a concert. Hyman was one of the premier female vocalists of her day. The reasons for her suicide were unclear. She left a note which read in part “I’m tired. I’m tired.” Hyman was 45—six days short of her 46 birthday—when she died.

  • JULY 1

Walter Francis White

1863—Walter Francis White is born in Atlanta, Ga. For nearly 25 years White was one of the most influential Black leaders in the nation. He headed the NAACP from 1931 to 1955. However, he first received national attention because of the way he looked. As a light-complex­ioned Black man with blue eyes, White was able to infiltrate racist groups and investigate planned brutality against Blacks. But in 1919, he barely escaped with his life while attempting to investi­gate the deadly Elaine Race Riot in Phil­lips County, Ark., which had left more than 200 Blacks dead. Somehow the mob discovered that White was in the area and set out to lynch him. But he was able to catch a train back to Little Rock before he could be identified. While on the train, the White conductor told him he was leaving town too early because the mob had discovered “a damn yellow Nigger passing for White and the boys are going to get him.” White would die in New York City in 1955. His autobiogra­phy is entitled “A Man Called White.”

1899—Thomas Andrew Dorsey is born in Villa Rica, Ga. Dorsey is widely credit­ed with being the “Father of Gospel Mu­sic.” During the early 1930s, after leaving Atlanta for Chicago, Dorsey combined gospel and the blues while performing under the name “Georgia Tom.” He wrote more than 400 gospel and blues songs including his most famous “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” He died in Chicago in 1993 at the age of 96. Once asked to comment on his life, Dorsey said, “I had hope, faith, courage, aspiration and most of all determination to accomplish some­thing in life.”

  • JULY 2

1777—Vermont becomes first U.S. ter­ritory to abolish slavery. By 1783, New Hampshire and Massachusetts had fol­lowed Vermont’s lead. The abolition of slavery was formally placed in the Ver­mont Constitution, which was formally adopted on July 8, 1777. A major force in the early abolition movement was a group known as the Rights of Man Move­ment.

1822—Denmark Vesey and five of his co-conspirators are hanged in Charles­ton, S.C. Vesey’s “crime” had been the organization of the largest slave rebel­lion in American history. But the insur­rection was betrayed by a “house slave” before it could be implemented. Vesey was actually a former slave who had pur­chased his freedom.


1908—Thurgood Marshall is born in Baltimore, Md. Marshall would go on to become chief counsel for the NAACP and the lead attorney in the Brown v. Board of Education case, which led to the desegregation of the nation’s schools. President Lyndon Johnson would, in June 1967, nominate him to be the first African-American Justice on the United States Supreme Court because as John­son put it, “It was the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

1943—Lt. Charles Hall became the first African-American pilot to shoot down a Nazi warplane during World War II. Hall was from Brazil, Ind.

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