September 21

1872 — John Henry Conyers becomes the first black student at the US Naval Academy. However, racism and often violent harassment forced him to leave the academy before he could graduate.

1905 – Atlanta Life Insurance Company. is founded in Atlanta, Georgia, and becomes one of the largest insurance companies in America serving a predominantly African-American clientele.

1984—Gen. Colin Powell becomes the first African-American appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Some blacks hailed Powell as a role model as the nation’s top military leader, while criticizing him for supporting what critics saw as warmongering government policies. His generally positive reputation was damaged by his appearance before the United Nations and disinformation in 2003 in support of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq.

September 22

1863—Mary Church Terrell was born on this day in 1863. She became one of the leading national activists advocating for the advancement of education for blacks and women. She was the first black person to sit on the Washington, D.C., school board and was instrumental in desegregating that city’s restaurants.

1961 – The Interstate Commerce Commission officially bans segregation on interstate buses. It also banned insulated terminals, even though the ordinance was largely ignored in many southern states. But in the mid-1960s, civil rights activists often cited the ordinance when they consolidated facilities across the South.

September 23

John Caltrane

1926—Legendary great jazz John Caltrane Born on this day in Hamlet, North Carolina. He is generally credited with changing modern jazz and setting the pattern that generations of jazz saxophonists would follow.


1930—Singer-performer Ray Charles was born on this day in Albany, Georgia. Charles pioneered the soul genre in the 1950s, combining blues, R&B and gospel styles in the music he recorded for Atlantic Records. He also contributed to the integration of country, R&B, and pop music in the 1960s through his crossover success with ABC Records, notably with the two Modern Sounds albums. During his time with ABC, Charles became one of the first black musicians to receive creative control from a major record company.

September 24

1957 – President Dwight Eisenhower orders federal troops into Little Rock, Ark.., to prevent angry Whites from interfering with the integration of the city’s Central High School by nine black students. The confrontation was one of the most dramatic in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. Governor Orval Faubus vowed to go to jail to block a court order desegregating the school, arguing that whites would be destroyed if they united with blacks. But the confrontation settled the question of whether states must comply with federal court orders.

1965 – President Lyndon Johnson issues what is generally considered the nation’s first affirmative action executive order – Executive Order 11246. Companies awarded federal construction contracts were required to ensure equality in the hiring of minorities. Despite the disastrous Vietnam War that eventually forced his resignation, the southern-born Johnson generally supported many legislative and executive efforts beneficial to blacks.

September 25

1861 – The Secretary of the Navy authorizes the recruitment of free blacks and slaves as Union sailors in an attempt to help the North win the Civil War against pro-slavery Southern whites who proved more difficult to fight than the North originally expected.


1962—In another such case that demonstrates the persistence of racism among southern whites, Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett ignores a federal court order and personally stands at the door to block the admission of a black student –James Meredith— to the University of Mississippi. Meredith will eventually be accepted and graduate. Historians today generally believe that Ross’s “show” was primarily designed to curry favor with white voters, not to stop the desegregation of the then-all-white university.

September 26

1867 — Maggie L. Walker is born. She would become the most famous black businesswoman in Richmond, Virginia, and one of the wealthiest black women in the country. She also became the first black woman to start a bank in the country. A social activist, she helped found the Lily Black political party, partly as a slap in the face to the “Lily White” political parties of the time.

1907—The People’s Savings Bank was founded in Philadelphia by one of the country’s first black congressmen George H. White. White was largely ousted from Congress as Jim Crow laws increased black disenfranchisement after Reconstruction. After leaving Congress, he turned his attention to the economic advancement of blacks. His bank helped thousands of blacks buy homes.

1929 – Ida Stevens Owens is born. She will become the nation’s first black female biochemist.

1937—The blues are great Bessie Smith dies of injuries sustained in an automobile accident near Clarksdale, Miss. Rumors spread that white doctors refused to treat her. However, later information cast doubt on the accuracy of these rumors.

September 27

1817—Hiram R. Revels born free in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Revels became the first black to serve in the United States Senate shortly after the Civil War.

1876 ​​- Edward Mitchell Bannister upsets white racists who believe blacks lack artistic skills by winning a bronze medal for a painting he displayed at the American Century Exhibition in Philadelphia.


1950 – Gwendolyn Brookeshe won the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poems Annie Allen. She was the first black woman to receive such an honor. Brooks published her first poem in the children’s magazine American Childhood when she was 13 years old. By the time she was 16, she had compiled a portfolio of about 75 published poems, and her work was praised by the poet and novelist James Weldon Johnson. At the age of 17, she began submitting her work to the Chicago Defender’s African-American newspaper, Lights and Shadows, a poetry column. Her poems, many of which were published while she was a student at Wilson Junior College, ranged in style from traditional ballads and sonnets to poems using blues rhythms in free verse.

1950 – Ralph J. Bunch won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the conflict between the Palestinians and the newly created Jewish state of Israel. The Arabs went to war claiming that the Jewish state was established on land that rightfully belonged to the Palestinians.

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