When six Black people were killed and 200 others were driven out of town by whites during the race riots in Springfield, Illinois in 1908, some Americans were shocked because they associated such racism only with the south. A group of social scientists, including W.E.B. DuBois, issued a call for a national conference on “the Negro question”, and for its symbolic value, they chose February 12, 1909, which is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, as the date for the conference. Held in NYC, it drew a multi-racial group of distinguished citizens who formulated plans to develop an organization devoted to fighting all forms of racial discrimination. That organization came to be known as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the NAACP. The NAACP is the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States. With more than 2,200 branches across the country, it stands in the forefront to end discrimination in housing, employment, education, and the justice system.
Other “Black Facts” on this date:
1793- the first “Fugitive Slave Law” was passed by Congress to implement the provisions in the Constitution. It stated that in order for a slave owner to recover an escaped slave, they only needed to go before a magistrate and provide oral or written proof of ownership. Slaves were not given a trial or allowed to present any evidence of any type, including that of having previously earned their freedom.
1900- author, politician, and civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson wrote the lyrics for “Lift Every Voice and Sing”. With music by his brother J. Rosamond, the song is first sung by 500 children in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1919, it was adopted by the NAACP as the “Black National Anthem”.
1915- biologist and science writer Ernest Everett Just received the first NAACP Springarn Medal for his pioneering rresearch on fertilization and cell division. In November 1911, Just also assisted Edgar Love, Oscar Cooper, and Frank Coleman in establishing the Omega Psi Phi Inc. fraternity and became the first American, black or white, to be invited to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, Germany to conduct research in 1930.
1934- born on this date in Monroe, Louisiana, Bill Russell became one of the best basketball players in history. He won a gold medal for the U.S. in 1956 and went on to play and coach the Boston Celtics to eight straight NBA titles and eleven championships. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2010.
1983- Born James Hubert Blake to former slaves on February 7, 1887 in Baltimore, Maryland, famous composer, lyricist, and pianist Eubie Blake passed away in Brooklyn, NY in 1983. He composed such hits as the “Charleston Rag”, “Love Will Find A Way”, and the landmark Broadway musical, “Shuffle Along”.