Today In Black History: February 12

  • Sumo

Today In Black History: February 12

1793 – Congress enacted the first fugitive slave law

On this day, Congress passes the first fugitive slave law, requiring all states, including those that forbid slavery, to forcibly return slaves who have escaped from other states to their original owners. The laws stated that “no person held to service of labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such labor or service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.” (read more)

1900 – “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, written by James Weldon Johnson and co-composed with his brother James Rosamond John was performed by a chorus of 500 school children

Lift Every Voice and Sing — often called “The Negro National Anthem” — was written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson (18711938) and then set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (18731954) in 1900. It was first performed in public in the Johnsons’ hometown of Jacksonville, Florida as part of a celebration of Lincoln‘s Birthday on February 121900by a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal.

Singing this song quickly became a way for African Americans to demonstrate their patriotism and hope for the future. In calling for earth and heaven to “ring with the harmonies of Liberty,” they could speak out subtly against racism and Jim Crow laws — and especially the huge number of lynchings accompanying the rise of the Ku Klux Klan at the turn of the century. In 1919, the NAACP adopted the song as “The Negro National Anthem.” By the 1920s, copies of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” could be found in black churches across the country, often pasted into the hymnals. (read more)

1909 – NAACP was founded

Founded Feb. 12. 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization. Its more than half-million members and supporters throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, campaigning for equal opportunity and conducting voter mobilization. (read more)

1934 – William “Russell” Felton is born

William Felton Russell was born February 12, 1934 in Monroe, Louisiana, to Charles “Mr. Charlie” Russell and Katie King. He was a sickly child, battling through several illnesses as an infant. On one occasion, Russell was taken to a hospital for nuns to pray for his health as doctors were at a loss for how to help him. The Russell family experienced racism in the South, and, like many blacks of the era, in 1943 Charles Russell moved north to better provide for his family. The idea was to leave the low-paying jobs of the South, and his family, behind for the time being, and head to Detroit in search of high-paying factory work. After a brief stop in Detroit, Charles Russell settled in Oakland, California, where he found work in a shipyard, and sent for his family to join him. (read more)

1948 – First Lieutenant Nancy C. Leftenant accepted in regular Army Nursing Corps

When Nancy Leftenant-Colon entered the U.S. Army in 1945 as a reservist, she knew there would be obstacles. But her quiet strength and insurmountable courage helped her turn every obstacle into an advantage, opening doors for those who would follow in her foot-steps.

She made history in the Army as the first Black member of the Regular Army Nurse Corps. She served in the Air Force as a flight nurse and made history again as the only woman to hold the presidency of the Tuskegee Airmen (1989-91).

Leftenant-Colon, now 77, still has a youthful look and is still quite independent. She lives at her home in East Norwich, NY, recalling her battle for success. (read more)

1952 – Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863 has awarded in the name of the Congress the Medal of Honor posthumously to:

SERGEANT CORNELIUS H. CHARLTON UNITED STATES ARMY for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty near Chipo-ri, Korea 2 June 1951 (read more)

1956 – Arsenio Hall is born

Actor, comedian, television talk show host, born in Cleveland, Ohio, on February 12, 1956, to Fred, a preacher, and Anne, who had separated by the time Hall was six. At age seven he became interested in magic, and began performing at birthday parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs.

Hall is best known for his groundbreaking talk show The Arsenio Hall Show which ran from 1989-94. As the first black late-night talk show host, one of Hall’s distinctions is that he provided what was the first, and for a time, only, showcase for hardcore rap and hip-hop artists, and for controversial guests like Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader. (read more)

1962 – Bus Boycott in Macon, Georgia begins

The boycott of the Bibb Transit Company officially began February 12, 1962, and it lasted for three weeks. Despite a series of court decisions in other Georgia cities that had declared segregated transportation unconstitutional, Macon’s African American residents still faced massive resistance to integration attempts. As was the case with the Albany students who attempted to desegregate the city’s downtown Trailways bus station, arrests swiftly ensued when student protesters and ministers attempted to sit in the front seats of Bibb Transit’s buses.

1983 – James Eubie Blake dies

Eubie Blake was one of the most important figures in early-20th-century African-American music, and one whose longevity made him a storehouse of the history of ragtime and early jazz music and culture. Born in Baltimore in 1883, Blake began playing piano professionally when he was 16; he wrote his first composition, “Sounds of Africa,” (later retitled “Charleston Rag”) around the same time. His career did not really take off until he met Noble Sissle in 1915. Together, Blake and Sissle wrote many hits. Blake also collaborated with Andy Razaf (on “Memories of You”), Henry Creamer, and other writers, composing more than 350 songs. (read more)

2 Responses to Today In Black History: February 12

  1. Stephen Young February 12, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Very interesting and educational. I have a history background, but most of your news and people of history is new to me.

    • aprilsims February 12, 2012 at 9:14 PM

      Most of the information I have been uncovering is new to me as well. I’m glad we are learning together. The internet makes history even more interesting.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login