Monday, January 15, 2018

There are 30 days of school between MLK Day and the anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s murder.

There are 30 days of school between MLK Day and the anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s murder. Here are 30 black lives to celebrate on those days.


Originally posted on



Day 1: Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Garrison Frazier was an enslaved minister who purchased his own freedom and that of his wife around 1857. Frazier was the leader of a group of twenty black community members who met with Union army general William Tecumseh Sherman in Savannah, Georgia in 1865. Frazier explained to Sherman that what African Americans needed more than anything was land. On January 16, 1865, Gen. Sherman issued an order that would give each of the families “forty acres and a mule.” A 330-mile stretch of land along the southern coast of Charleston was set aside specifically for this purpose, but President Andrew Johnson soon reversed the policy and returned all confiscated land to the original landowners, most of whom were former slave owners.
Day 2: Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Muhammad Ali was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. Ali was a professional boxer and activist. He is considered to be both one of the most celebrated and controversial athletes of the twentieth century. Ali was stripped of the opportunity to box during four peak years of his career. Two years after winning the heavy weight title in 1964, Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. military, citing civil rights abuses in the U.S. and opposition to the Vietnam War. He was convicted of draft evasion and stripped of his boxing titles. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1971, and Ali would reign as world heavy weight champion a second time in 1974. Muhammad Ali died from septic shock in 2016 at the age of 74.
Day 3: Thursday, January 18, 2018
Daniel Hale Williams, who performed one the very first successful open heart surgeries in the United States in 1893, was born on January 18, 1856. In 1891, Williams founded Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, the first desegregated hospital in the U.S. The work and mission of Daniel Hale Williams provided medical care and medical career opportunities for countless African Americans.
Day 4: Friday, January 19, 2018
Deray McKesson is an activist and educator from Baltimore, Maryland. He is closely associated with Black Lives Matter and was on the ground in Ferguson, Missouri, following the murder of Michael Brown. McKesson and others planned a Twitter campaign on January 19, 2015. around the hashtag #ReclaimMLK. Events related to this campaign focused on defunding racist systems and making investments in liberation projects. The goal of #ReclaimMLK is to bring new light to the radical message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a message that is often lost in the glossy positivity of mainstream MLK Day events.
Day 5: Monday, January 22, 2018
In July 2013, Patrisse Cullors re-posted a message concerning the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. She included the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. From there a movement was born. In addition to cofounding Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors advocates for criminal justice reform and describes herself as a “queer activist.” On January 22, 2015, BLM, in cooperation with other organizations, released the State of the Black Union (SOBU) in response to what was considered minimal coverage of issues relevant to the movement in Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
Day 6: Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Lonnie E. Smith was an African American dentist from Houston, Texas, who in 1944 sued Harris County election official S.S. Allwright for the right to vote in a primary election. Smith won, and Smith v. Allwright, along with other court rulings, set important precedent for the Twenty-fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified on January 23, 1964. The Twenty-fourth Amendment bars U.S. government from requiring the payment of a “poll tax” in all federal elections. Two years later poll taxes became unconstitutional at all levels of elections.
Day 7: Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Emmett Till was fourteen years old in the summer of 1955 when he travelled from Chicago to Mississippi to visit family. On August 28, 1955, young Emmett was killed by two white men claiming that the teenager had spoken inappropriately to a white woman in a grocery store. Both men plead “not guilty” and were acquitted of the murder. Less than one year later on January 24, 1956, the two men brazenly published their confession in “Look” magazine and were reportedly paid $4,000 for their story. In a book published in 2017, the wife of one of the men admitted to having fabricated the original accusation that resulted in Emmett Till’s murder.
Emmett Till
Day 8: Thursday, January 25, 2018
Etta James, multi-genre vocalist, was born on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles, California. Over her more than 50 year career, James won six Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Despite a tumultuous life, Etta James inspired multiple generations of female singers; from Aretha Franklin to Janis Joplin and from Beyoncé to Adele.
Day 9: Friday, January 26, 2018
William Harvey Carney escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad and eventually joined the Union Army as part of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. This first of its kind all black unit was formed on January 26, 1863, under the leadership of Robert Gould Shaw. Carney was part of the assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina in July of 1863. During the impossible charge across open beach, the color guard was killed, at which time Carney quickly took control of the flag and led the march until retreat was unavoidable. William Harvey Carney later received a Civil War Medal of Honor for his bravery.
Day 10: Monday, January 29, 2018
Oprah Winfrey’s place in the world is undeniable. She is considered to be the most influential woman in the world and the richest self-made woman in the United States. She was born on January 29, 1954, in Mississippi. Oprah leapt onto the national spotlight after her Chicago based daytime show began syndication in 1986. Her style is characterized by a willingness to share her personal life on camera and an uncanny ability to get others to do the same. In January of 2018, she became the first black woman to receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award. Her speech at the 2018 Golden Globes has been widely praised and sparked talk of an Oprah 2020 presidential bid.
Day 11: Tuesday, January 30, 2018
Coretta Scott King was an accomplished civil rights leader, activist, author, and singer in her own right. Following the death of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in 1968, Coretta Scott King continued the work of her husband and even expanded the scope of her work; including herself in the Women’s Movement and advocating for LGBT rights. She strived for years to create a federal holiday marking the birthday of her late husband, until President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983. Coretta Scott King never remarried and died on January 30, 2006, of complications related to ovarian cancer.
Day 12: Wednesday, January 31, 2018
August Wilson was an American playwright and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. His play, “Fences,” starring James Earl Jones, opened at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre on January 31, 1986. The play examines race relations and is an important work in the exploration of the African American experience. It was adapted to film in 2016 and starred Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. August Wilson died on October 8, 2005, at the age of 60.
Day 13: Thursday, February 1, 2018
Joseph McNeil, age 75, is a retired major general in the U.S. Air Force. McNeil was one of “the Greensboro Four” who on February 1, 1960, walked into the Woolworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina, sat down at the “whites only” lunch counter, and asked to be served. Each day the black students were refused service, and each day more students showed up. The movement spread to other cities, and on July 25, 1960, the Woolworth in Greensboro quietly began serving lunch to African Americans, eventually resulting in the desegregation of Woolworth’s nationwide.
Day 14: Friday, February 2, 2018
Eric Holder is the first African American appointed and confirmed as United States Attorney General, February 2, 2009. Two weeks after being confirmed, Eric Holder gave a speech as part of black history month in which he said, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot in things racial, we have always been, and we, I believe, continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.” Holder made civil rights and criminal justice reform central issues in his Justice Department. He is considered by many to have been an ally in the white house for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Day 15: Monday, February 5, 2018
Henry Louis Aaron was born on February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama. “Hammerin’ Hank” made his major league baseball debut on April 13, 1954, for the Milwaukee Braves. He played professional baseball for 22 years and held the MLB record for career home runs for 33 years. When Hank Aaron began his baseball career, Major League Baseball was still segregated. In 1976 when he retired, Aaron was the only Negro league baseball player on a major league roster. Each year, the Hank Aaron Award is given to the top offensive player in each league.
Day 16: Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Civil rights icon Diane Nash, age 79, continues to organize and advocate for nonviolence in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. On February 6, 1961, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee sent Nash and three of her fellow college students to Rock Hill, South Carolina to stage a “sit-in.” Nash and several others spent 30 days in jail, refusing to post bail, in what became known as a “jail-in.” Nash went on to participate in Freedom Rides and organize with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for voting rights in Selma, Alabama.
Day 17: Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Sandra Annette Bland was born on February 7, 1987, in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois. Following the murders of multiple black men at the hands of police, Bland became involved in the online resistance to police brutality. On July 10, 2015, Bland was stopped by police in Prairie View, Texas for refusing to signal a lane change. The ensuing interaction resulted in Bland’s arrest for assaulting a public servant, though several videos were released, none of which show such an assault. Bland was found hanged in her jail cell three day later. Her death was ruled a suicide.
Day 18: Thursday, February 8, 2018
Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, born February 8, 1924, was a seminal figure in the Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma. In 1946, she sued the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma for denying her admission because of her race. Two years later, the Supreme Court ruled in Sipuel’s favor, and in 1949, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher became the first African American to be admitted to the University of Oklahoma Law School. Mrs. Fisher’s law school experience was segregated under the close watch of armed guards.
Day 19: Friday, February 9, 2018
Crispus Attucks was an 18th century American sailor who was of African and Native American descent. He is thought to be the first of five killed at the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. Afterward, Crispus Attucks became an icon both for the cause of American independence and the abolitionist movement. On February 9, 1775, King George III and the British Parliament declared that the colony of Massachusetts was in a state of rebellion.
Day 20: Monday, February 12, 2018
W.E.B. Dubois was a champion for civil rights for African Americans throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Dubois opposed the tactics and policies of those like Booker T. Washington who took a more apologetic approach to racial justice. Dubois believed that full civil rights could be achieved through the leadership and education of the African American intellectual elite. However, Dubois also believed in partnering with white people to advance the rights of African Americans. On February 12, 1909, alongside two white allies, W.E.B. Dubois founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Day 21: Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Bob Douglas is considered to be the “Father of Black Professional Basketball.” On February 13, 1923, he founded the Renaissance black basketball team in Harlem. In 26 years of owning and coaching “The Rens,” Douglas led the team to an amazing 2,318-381 record (.859). In the 1932-1933 season, the Rens won 88 consecutive games, a record that still stands today. In 1972, Douglas became the first African American inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Day 22: Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Frances Mary Albrier was a civil rights activist and community organizer in Berkley, California throughout most of the twentieth century. Albrier was deeply involved in Alameda County politics and was instrumental in the hiring of the first African American teacher in Berkley Public Schools. She broke the color line at the League of Women Voters in 1941. Formed on February 14, 1920, the League of Women Voters was all white for the first 20 years of existence. Frances Mary Albrier received the NAACP “Fight for Freedom” Award in 1954.
Day 23: Thursday, February 15, 2018
Nat King Cole was a jazz pianist, vocalist, television and movie actor, Broadway performer, and the first black man to host an American television series. In 1954, Cole purchased a home in an all-white neighborhood of Los Angeles. The Ku Klux Klan responded by placing a burning cross on Cole’s front yard. Unlike many other black performers, Cole did not readily engage in the political struggle for civil rights for African Americans, yet time and again found himself on the front lines, partly because of his popularity among white people. Nat King Cole died February 15, 1965, at the age of 45.
Day 24: Friday, February 16, 2018
Joe Frazier, best known as “Smokin’ Joe,” was a gold medalist in the 1964 Summer Olympics and a heavyweight boxing champion from 1970 to 1973. On February 16, 1970, Frazier won a decisive victory over heavyweight champion Jimmy Ellis at Madison Square Gardens. A year later, Frazier faced Muhammad Ali in what became known as the “Fight of the Century.” Once supportive of each other, Frazier and Ali found themselves in conflict over the role that each of them played in the struggle for civil rights for African Americans. But when Frazier died in 2011, Ali was reported as saying, “The world has lost a great champion. I will always remember Joe with respect and admiration.”
Day 25: Monday, February 19, 2018
Marques Haynes is considered to be one of the greatest basketball players to never play in the National Basketball Association. Haynes was born in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, attended Booker T. Washington High School, and played basketball at Langston University. He was instrumental in Langston beating the Harlem Globetrotters in an exhibition game in Oklahoma City in 1946. Soon after, he was invited to join the Harlem Globetrotters. Haynes played in the February 19, 1948, game between the all black Globetrotters and the all-white Minneapolis Lakers in which the Globetrotters won and thus shattered previously held stereotypes concerning black athletes.
Day 26: Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Sydney Poitier was born on February 20, 1927, in the Bahamas. Poitier holds the high honor of being the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1963 for his role in the movie “Lilies of the Field.” This award would not go to another African American until Denzel Washington won in 1999. Since then, the award has also been won by Jamie Foxx (2004) and Forest Whitaker (2006). The only African American woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress is Halle Berry (2001).
Day 27: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Everyone in the United States should know the name John Lewis. Early in adulthood, John Lewis became the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and at the age of 23 was one of “the big six” who organized and spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Lewis worked on multiple campaigns with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1987. John Lewis was born on February 21, 1940.
Day 28: Thursday, February 22, 2018
William J. Seymour was a minister and leader of the Azusa Street Revival which lasted from 1906 to 1915. Seymour’s influential ministry is considered to be the precursor to the Pentecostal Movement. He first arrived in Los Angeles, California on February 22, 1906. After being rejected by the first church at which he preached, Seymour began meeting with a group of both white and black followers. William J. Seymour emphasized racial equality and thus attracted many who felt marginalized by other ministers.
Day 29: Friday, February 23, 2018
Thomas McPhatter arrived on the beach of Iwo Jima as a U.S. Marine on February 19, 1945. He was one of nearly 900 African Americans who fought on the Pacific island who sadly have often been left out of the history books. Four days later, February 23, 1945, the iconic photo of six Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi was captured by Joe Rosenthal. McPhatter survived Iwo Jima, returned to the states, became an ordained Presbyterian minister, and lived in San Diego, California until his death in 2009.
Day 30: Monday, February 26, 2018
Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman on the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. Martin was visiting his father’s fiancé, who lived in the same gated community where Zimmerman was in charge of the neighborhood watch program. Trayvon, who was 17, had walked to a convenience store to purchase some snacks, when on the way back, Zimmerman began following him. Zimmerman called 911, but then ignored the dispatch’s advice not to continue following Martin. Shortly after ending the call, Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed. Zimmerman was charged with Trayvon’s murder, but was later acquitted at trial on the basis of Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Trayvon Martin’s murder sparked a movement that came to be known as Black Lives Matter.

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