November 20

Robert Francis (Bobby) Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968) served as Attorney General and chief advisor during his brother John's presidency. He advanced the Civil Rights Movement by intervening with personal communication and protection by Federal Marshals and troops, if necessary,  to the Freedom Rides and to the integration of the University of Mississippi by James Meredith. He worked with his brother and, later, Lyndon Johnson, to increase minority hiring in government offices and to ensure the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He left the Johnson administration to run for the U.S. Senate and continued his commitment to civil rights after elected, introducing anti-discrimination legislation and visiting the Mississippi Delta. He had a large amount of African American support during his 1968 presidential bid and was able to prevent a violent reaction the the death of Martin Luther King in Indianapolis where he was campaigning on the day that King was assassinated.

Anna Pauline "Pauli" Murray (November 20, 1910 - June 1, 1985) was a civil rights attorney and law professor who wrote State's Laws on Race and Color, which Thurgood Marshall called the bible of the civil rights movement. She also worked for gender equality, coining the term "Jane Crow" and was a co-founder of the National Organization for Women. Ruth Bader Ginsburg named Murray a coauthor on a brief for Reed v. Reed in recognition of her pioneering work on gender discrimination. She left teaching to join the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, becoming its first African American female priest in 1977, and was named a saint in 2012.  Dr. Murray held an undergraduate degree from Hunter College in English, law degree from Howard Law School, a master's degree in law from the University of California at Berkeley, and in 1965 she became the first African American to receive a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from Yale Law School.


Edmond Dédé (November 20, 1827 - 1903) worked in a cigar factory to earn passage from New Orleans to France where he studied at the Paris Conservatoire before serving for 27 years as the conductor of the orchestra at the Théâtre l'Alcazar in Bordeaux. He also conducted light music performances at the Folies Bordelaises. Many of his compositions have been preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. His parents were free Creoles of color who moved to New Orleans from the French West Indies, and his father had been a militia unit bandmaster. In 1851 he wrote “Mon Pauvre Coeur” (My Poor Heart), which is considered the oldest piece of sheet music published by a New Orleans free Creole of color.

Amanda America Dickson (November 20, 1849 - June 11, 1893) inherited over $300,000 in land and other assets her father, Georga plantation owner David Dickson. Her mother was Dickson's enslaved servant, Julia, who was 13 years old at the time of Amanda's birth. She was raised by her white paternal grandmother and taught the social graces of wealthy society. She entered into a four-year common-law marriage to her white first cousin, Charles Eubanks when she was sixteen, and later was briefly married to Nathan Toomer until her death at age 43. Toomer and his second wife, Nita Pinchback, were the parents of novelist Jean Toomer.

Charles Sidney Gilpin (November 20, 1878 – May 6, 1930) toured with vaudeville, musical, and dramatic productions until he settled in New York City in 1915 as part of the Anita Bush Players. His Broadway debut was in 1919 in John Drinkwater’s Abraham Lincoln and he had the lead role of Brutus Jones in the 1920 premier of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, which brought him the Drama League of New York's annual award as one of the ten people who had done the most that year for American theater. In 1921,he was awarded the NAACPs Spingarn Medal and was also honored at the White House by President Warren G. Harding.

Sallie Martin (November 20, 1895 - June 18, 1988) was hired by Thomas A. Dorsey as part of a trio he had formed to introduce his songs to churches. She proved to be an able organizer as well, and marketed Dorsey's songs, organized his finances, developed new avenues for business and helped launch the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, Inc. Martin was a successful artist in her own right, forming the Sallie Martin Singers, in which her daughter Cora Martin, Dinah Washington, then known as Ruth Jones, and Brother Joe May were featured, in 1940 after a dispute with Dorsey. She started her own publishing house, Martin and Morris Music, Inc., with Kenneth Morris.
Richard Aoki (November 20, 1938 - March 15, 2009) was one of the first members of the Black Panther Party and was eventually promoted to the position of Field Marshall. Although there were several Asian Americans in the Black Panther Party, Aoki was the only one to have a formal leadership position. He joined the BPP through friendships with Huey Newton and Bobby Seale while all three men attended Merritt College. Aoki later transferred to UC Berkeley where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in social work. He was born in San Leandro, California. to Japanese parents and the family was interned at the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah from 1942-1945. It is possible he was an FBI informant during his time with the Black Panthers.

Dominique Dawes (born November 20, 1976) began taking gymnastics lessons at age 6. She participated in the Olympic Games as part of the U.S. women's gymnastics team in 1992, 1996 and 2000, winning a team medal each time. In 1996, Dawes's team won Olympic gold and Dawes won an individual bronze medal,becoming the first person of African descent from any country to win an individual Olympic medal in  gymnastics. She retired from gymnastics after the 2000 Games.


On November 20, 1866, Howard University was founded when ten members of the First Congregational Society of Washington, D.C., resolved to establish a seminary for the training of African-American clergymen. By early 1867, the founders had broadened their mission to encompass colleges of liberal arts and medicine. The school was incorporated in March 1867 and the first classes were held in May 1868. It is named after founder Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard, commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau.

On November 20, 1923, the U.S. Patent Office granted Patent No. 1,475,074 to Garrett Morgan for his three-position traffic signal. The Morgan traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three positions: Stop, Go and an all-directional stop position. This "third position" halted traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets. Morgan's hand-cranked semaphore traffic management device was in use throughout North America until replaced by the automatic signals currently used.

On November 20, 1962, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 11063, mandating an end to housing discrimination. The order, which came during the burgeoning Civil Rights movement, prohibited federally funded housing agencies from denying housing or funding for housing to anyone based on their race, color, creed or national origin. Although Kennedy’s order was a symbolic landmark for ending de facto segregation in housing, the policy was never enforced. The order left it up to the individual housing and funding agencies to police themselves, leaving much room for non-compliance from state to state.
On November 20, 1981, the Negro Ensemble Company’s production of Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play” opened at the Theater Four in New York City The play won, in addition to the Pulitzer Prize, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play, and the Obie Award for Distinguished Ensemble Performance.

Photo Gallery

Althea Gibson, photographed by Carl Van Vechten on November 20, 1958

Leontyne Price, Flyer/Playbill November 20. 1974

Texas bluesman Sam Lightnin' Hopkins at the Students' House (Gothenburg, Sweden) November 20, 1977. Photo © 1996 by Torsten Stahlberg.

Day of Black Consciousness in São Paulo, November 20, 2006

Baseball legend Ernie Banks receives a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama, during an event in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., November 20, 2013.


Hattie McDaniel's Oscar Bequeathed to Howard University
Jet Magazine, November 20, 1952

First Black Los Angeles State College Homecoming Queen Donzella Coulter
Jet Magazine, November 20, 1952

Josephine Premice Set For Broadway Musical
Jet Magazine, November 20, 1952

Drummer Louis Bellson Defies Father to Wed Pearl Bailey
Jet Magazine, November 20, 1952

Jet Magazine, November 20, 2006


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