By Aswad Walker,
In support of celebrating Black history 24/7/365, check out the list below to learn about key historical events that have taken place during the month of June— in addition to Juneteenth.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Haynes Rainey born
On June 21, 1832, the first African American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, Joseph Hayne Rainey, was born in Georgetown, S.C. He was elected in 1870 from the state of South Carolina, served five terms in Congress and died in 1887. However, it wasn’t until 2005, 118 years after his passing, that a portrait of Rainey was finally hung in the U.S. Capitol Building.
Military Prowess (Don’t ever question our patriotism)
On June 19, 1864, U.S. Navy seaman Joachim Pease earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his brave actions in battle.
In June 1877, Henry O. Flipper became the first African American to graduate from West Point.
On June 4, 1922, the Navy’s first Black admiral, Samuel Gravely, was born in Richmond, Virginia.
And on June 22, 1959, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. became the first African-American general in the U.S. Air Force. His father, Benjamin O. Davis Sr., had been the first Black U.S. Army general.
Juneteenth was born
Even though the Emancipation Proclamation technically freed all enslaved persons in 1863, it was not until June 19, 1865 that all were actually informed that they were free. On that date, U.S. General Gordon Granger read General Orders No. 3 in Galveston, Texas stating “the people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”
On paper, at least, this decree freed more than 250,000 enslaved Blacks. However, as internationally lauded historian and University of Houston professor, Dr. Gerald Horne, shares in his book “The Counter Revolution of 1836: Texas Slavery and Jim Crow and the Roots of American Fascism,” the reality was much different. Horne highlights that it was the oft-ignored “war” waged by Granger’s roughly 2,000 predominantly Black troops against stubborn enslavers that made freedom possible. Grangers soldiers took on those who refused to acknowledge the new law of the land.
Horne reveals that Black troops engaged in numerous bloody battles with White enslavers and their armed forces, defeating them on the battlefield, thus making Juneteenth quite literally a Black Liberation holiday.
But the story gets even Blacker!
These same Black troops again saved the nation two years later, on June 19, 1867, when they put down an insurrection led by ex-Confederate soldiers working with the French, who moved their base of operations to Mexico with plans of re-taking Texas for the confederacy as step one in restarting the Civil War.
Horne writes: “It’s not only June 19, 1865, that we should mark, but also June 19, 1867, because that’s when the French leader Maximillian was killed, which marks the end of the attempt to continue our enslavement in Mexico.”
Wilma Rudolph Begins Her Run
On June 23, 1940, track icon Wilma Rudolph was born in Saint Bethlehem, Tenn.. Rudolph overcame polio and became the fastest woman in the world. In 1960, she won three gold medals at the Olympic Games in Rome, Italy.
SCOTUS rules segregation in D.C. unlawful
On June 8, 1953, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation in Washington D.C. was unlawful. This was a victory for civil rights activist Mary Church Terrell who had led the fight to end segregation in DC restaurants.
Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner
On June 21, 1964, civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner all disappeared near Philadelphia, Miss. They were later found murdered. Seven Ku Klux Klan members who opposed the Black voting rights campaign being led by the men were indicted for the killings, but none served more than six years in prison. The incident became one of the major sparks of the then young Civil Rights Movement.
Justice for the three was finally completed in June 2005 when the leader of the group of klansmen — Edgar Ray “The Preacher” Killen — was convicted of their murders, ironically, on June 21, 2005 — 41 years to the day that Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered.
Thurgood Marshall Nominated to Serve on the SCOTUS
Though Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as the first Black person to serve as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice on Aug. 30, 1967, then President Lyndon Baines Johnson nominated Marshall in June 1967 to replace the retiring Justice Tom Clark.
Johnson said Marshall was “best qualified by training and by very valuable service to the country.… I believe it is the right thing to do, the right time to do it, the right man and the right place.”
Marshall courageously served 24 years on the SCOTUS before retiring in 1991.
Ali Takes a Stand
On June 20, 1967, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Muhammad Ali was convicted in a Houston federal court of violating the Selective Service Act for refusing to be inducted into the armed services. Ali was fined $10,000 and given five years in prison, even though he took the legal position of being a “religious objector” to the Vietnam War.
Ali stated plainly he was no draft dodger, hiding in a foreign land. Rather, he stood his ground saying he would willingly accept any punishment rather than betray his principles. The SCOTUS later overturned the conviction, but not after Ali lost more than three of his prime boxing years.
When asked why he refused to go to Vietnam, Ali often said, “No Vietnamese ever called me N**ger.”
“I’m not gonna help somebody get something that Negroes don’t have. If I’m going to die, I’ll die now right here fighting you. You’re [racist White people] my enemy… You’re my opposer when I want freedom. You’re my opposer when I want justice. You’re my opposer when I want equality. You won’t even stand up for me in America for my religious beliefs, and you want me to go somewhere and fight, but you won’t even stand up for me here at home,” said Ali, to media outlets of the day.
It was this stance against global White imperialism, neo-colonialism and militarism, coupled with his boxing accomplishments, that cemented Ali in the minds of the world’s majority that he was, without a doubt, the greatest of all time.
Apology, but No Reparations (WTH?!?)
On June 19, 2009, the U.S. Congress issued a formal apology to Black Americans for the enslavement of our ancestors, acknowledging the “fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws” which followed. However, the resolution specifically rejected paying Blacks reparations for past, discrimination, mistreatment and brutality.
Musical icons make their transitions
On June 23, 1981, legendary Reggae artist Bob Marley was given an official state funeral in his homeland of Jamaica after dying of cancer on May 11 in Miami. He was only 36 when he died. Also in June— June 25, 2009 to be exact—another icon passed away. I was in the weight room of Texas Southern University’s Wellness and Recreation Center working out with my oldest son, Biko, when news broke that intergalactic music superstar Michael Jackson had died of cardiac arrest in his Los Angeles home. Jackson was 50 years old and was in the process of preparing a major comeback tour when he died after reportedly being given a powerful sedative, Propofol, to help him sleep. Let us honor these fallen musical giants during the month of June, President Jimmy Carter declared to be “Black Music Month” in 1979.
This article was originally published on Defender Network.