This Month in History – August

THis MonthIn BlackHistory

  • 1834 – Slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire – Slavery Abolition Act 1833 came into effect.
  • August 2, 1850 – The start of The Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century enslaved people in the United States in efforts to escape to free states and Canada. The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad. It got its name because its activities had to be carried out in secret, using darkness or disguise, and because railway terms were used by those involved with system to describe how it worked. Various routes were lines, stopping places were called stations, those who aided along the way were conductors and their charges were known as packages or freight.
  • August 2, 1924 – James Baldwin, author of Go Tell It On The Mountain, The Fire Next Time, and Another Country, is born.
  • August 3, 1800 – Gabriel Prosser, a literate enslaved blacksmith, planned a large slave rebellion in the Richmond  area in the summer of 1800. Information regarding the revolt was leaked prior to its execution, and he and twenty-five followers were taken captive and hanged in punishment.
  • August 4, 1901 – Jazz trumpet player Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Known as “Satchmo,” he appeared in many films and is best known for his renditions of It’s a Wonderful Worldand, Hello, Dolly.Three young civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, were found murdered and buried in an earthen dam outside Philadelphia, Mississippi.
  • August 5, 1962 – Nelson Mandela imprisoned.
  • August 11, 1841– Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave, spoke before an audience in the North for the first time.
  • August 11, 1965 – Watts Riots: In Los Angeles, racial tension reaches a breaking point after two white policemen fight with a black motorist suspected of drunk driving. An angry crowd gather near the corner of Avalon Boulevard and 116th Street to watch the arrest and soon grew angry by what they believe to be another incident of racially motivated abuse by the police. A riot kicks off and lasts for five days (ending on the 16th) with 34 dead and 1,032 injured.
  • Roots author Alex Haley was born in Ithaca, New York. His Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, published in 1976, explored seven generations of his family from its origins in Africa through slavery in America and eventual hard-fought freedom. Roots was translated into 37 languages and also became an eight-part TV miniseries in 1977 which attracted a record American audience and raised awareness concerning the legacy of slavery. A remake of Roots aired in on May 30, 2016.
  • August 18, 1859 – Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig is first novel published by a black writer.
  • August 20, 1619 – 1st known African Americans (approx. 20) land at Jamestown Virginia aboard Dutch vessel then sold or traded into servitude for supplies.
  • August 21-22 1831 – In Southampton County, Virginia, on August 21-22, 1831, Nat Turner, led the first slave revolt of magnitude. The revolt was crushed, but only after Turner and his band had killed some sixty whites and threw the South into panic. After hiding out, Turner was captured on October 30, 1831, and hanged in Jerusalem, Virginia, on November 11th. Thirty other blacks were also implicated and executed. It was not until John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in 1859 that another slave revolt became known.
  • August 21, 1971 – George Jackson assassinated by prison guards during a Black prison rebellion at San Quentin on August 21, 1971. Three prison guards were also killed during that rebellion and prison officials charged six Black and Latino prisoners with the death of those guards. These six brothers became known as the San Quentin Six.
  • August 23, 1926 – Carter Woodson, historian, author, inaugurated Negro History Week and later producer of the Negro History Bulletin. Negro History Week would later be known, as it is today, as Black History Month.
  • August 25, 1908 – National Association of Colored Nurses founded.
  • August 26, 1900: Hall Woodruff was born. He was a nationally known print-maker, draftsman and painter and a leading artist of the Harlem Renaissance. He died in 1980.
  • August 27, 1935 – Mary McLeod Bethune founds the National Council of Negro Women.
  • August 28, 1955 – While visiting family in Money, Mississippi, 14-year-old Emmett Till from Chicago, is brutally murdered for flirting with a white woman four days earlier. His assailants–the white woman’s husband and her brother–made Emmett carry a 75-pound cotton-gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. The two men then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head, and then threw his body, tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the river. (Duet. 28:49-50)
  • August 28, 1888 – Granville T. Woods patents railway telegraphy.
  • August 29, 1920 – Saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker born
  • August 30, 1967 – Thurgood Marshall ~ became first Black Supreme Court Justice
  • August 30, 1838 – The first African American magazine, Mirror of Freedom, begins publication in New York City.
  • August 31, 1836 – Henry Blair patents cotton planter (also patented a corn planter), and became the second African American to hold a United States patent.

Unfamiliar Faces – Lost to History

Last week I published a post called “Unfamiliar Faces – Lost to History” where I listed a few people who were affiliated with major historical events in some way but whom we do not hear much about. I stated that I will attempt to list a few every Thursday. This is not a promise. I will do my best, but most of the faces of the truly unknown are not on Google but are hidden inside the pages of books I’d have to revisit, articles and documentaries. Below are four more faces of the unknown I found this week:

#1: The Harlem Hellfighters

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For those who didn’t already know, African Americans have fought in every major war. Little is known of one of the few black combat regiments of World War I. Nicknamed “The Harlem Hellfighters”, February 17th, the day of their battle, became an unofficial holiday. On February 18th of 1919, 3,000 veterans of the 369th Infantry (formerly known as the 15th Colored Regiment) paraded up Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street to 145th and Lenox for the prestigious Croix de Guerre from the French army.

#2: The Olmecs 

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The Olmecs, whose features are similar to that of the African and Asian, are another part of black history we do not often hear about. They, The Olmecs, carved about twenty-two colossal stone heads in the southern parts of Mexico with their likeness and their influence have been found in Guatemala and further south. Olmec type sculptures have also been found in parts of the U.S. In fact, I am not sure if its still there, but there was an Olmec head on the property of The Field Museum in Chicago. If its still there, it should be somewhere near the back for those of you who are in the city.

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The Olmecs and other pre-columbian Blacks of the Americas were part of a prehistoric trade network that began in Africa and spread worldwide over 100,000 years ago and at various periods afterwards. To learn more about them, read They Came Before Columbus by Ivan Van Sertima and Susu Economics: The History of Pan-African Trade, Commerce, Money and Wealth.

#3: Cpl. Roman Ducksworth Jr

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A military police officer stationed in Maryland, was on leave to visit his sick wife when he was ordered off a bus by a police officer and shot dead. The police officer may have mistaken Ducksworth for a “freedom rider” who was testing bus desegregation laws.

#4. Triple Nickles

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When my husband and I went to the movies about a month ago, a man had on a shirt displaying The Triple Nickle. My husband, former military, stopped and sparked up a conversation with the man. He was surprised to see it since no one really knew who they were. To our surprise, neither did the man. He was just wearing the shirt.

In 1944, 16 black men completed jump training and became parachute-qualified. The Triple Nickles Battalion was the first black airborne unit. Historians suggest the unit paved the way for a more integrated military.