October 13

Arnaud (Arna) Wendell Bontemps (October 13, 1902 - December 4, 1973) began his literary career during the Harlem Renaissance, writing poetry and teaching at the Harlem Academy. During the Depression he moved to Huntsville, Alabama, where taught at Oakwood Junior College and wrote his critically acclaimed first novel, God Sends Sunday (1931). A later novel, Black Thunder (1936), was also highly praised but had little commercial success. He found work with the Chicago WPA Writers' Project and, hoping that his work would have more of an impact on younger readers, began writing children's books, often collaborating with Langston Hughes or Jack Conroy. In 1943 earned a master's degree in library science from the University of Chicago, and took a position at Fisk University where he developed the Langston Hughes Renaissance Collection. He stayed at Fisk for 20 years, then worked at the University of Chicago and at Yale where he oversaw the James Weldon Johnson Collection


John Stewart Rock (October 13, 1825 – December 3, 1866) began teaching in Salem, New Jersey at the age of 19 while studying under two local doctors to prepare for admission to medical school. When he was turned down for admittance because of his race, he switched to dentistry and was licensed to practice in 1849. He was soon admitted to medical school and graduated from American Medical College in Philadelphia in 1852, becoming one of the first African Americans to attain a degree in medicine. He opened a practice in Boston and became involved in abolition and civil rights to the extent that when his health kept him from practicing full-time as a physician, he began studying law. He was admitted to the Massachusetts State Bar in 1861, and four years later became the first African American licensed to practice before the Supreme Court.

Gertrude Howard (October 13, 1892 - September 30, 1934) was an American actress of the silent and early sound film eras. She broke into films in 1925 and appeared mostly in minor or supporting roles, such as Queenie in the original version of Show Boat (1929), and Martha in Christy Cabanne's Conspiracy. Her appearance as Beulah Thorndyke in I'm No Angel (1933), led to her being forever linked to Mae West with the famous line, "Beulah, peel me a grape".

Edith Spurlock Sampson (October 13, 1898 – October 8, 1979) attended Chicago's  John Marshall Law School at night while employed as a social worker. In 1949, Sampson was part of the Round-the-World Town Meeting which was a program that sent twenty-six prominent Americans on a world tour meeting leaders of foreign countries and participating in public political debates. As a result of the Town Meeting tour In 1962, Sampson ran for associate judge of the Municipal Court of Chicago, and easily won the election; she was the first black woman to be elected as a judge in the state of Illinois.and her other public speaking, President Truman appointed Sampson as an alternate U.S. delegate to the United Nations in August 1950, making her the first African American to officially represent the United States at the UN. Painting by Betsy Graves Reyneau.

Arthur (Art) Tatum, Jr. (October 13, 1909 – November 5, 1956)  is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time and a major influence on later generations of musicians. He was hailed for the technical proficiency of his performances, which set a new standard for piano virtuosity. Critic Scott Yanow wrote "Tatum's quick reflexes and boundless imagination kept his improvisations filled with fresh (and sometimes futuristic) ideas that put him way ahead of his contemporaries."

Jesse LeRoy Brown (October 13, 1926 - December 4, 1950) graduated from Eureka HS in Hattiesburg as salutatorian of his class, followed by earning an engineering degree in three years at Ohio State while working full-time and then serving in the NROTC. He was commissioned as the first African American Navy pilot in October 1948 and served aboard the USS Leyte. He was killed during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir when his plane crashed after ground fire from Chinese troops ruptured a fuel line, becoming the first naval officer to die during the war.

Shirley Caesar (born October 13, 1938, Durham, North Carolina) is an American Gospel music singer, songwriter and recording artist whose career has spanned six decades. A multi-award winning artist, with eleven Grammy Awards and seven Dove Awards to her credit, she was known as "First Lady of gospel music"and now the "Queen of Gospel Music" now since the death of the late Queen Albertina Walker.

Pharoah Sanders, born October 13, 1940 is a Grammy Award-winning jazz saxophonist. Ornette Coleman once described him as "probably the best tenor player in the world." Emerging from John Coltrane's groups of the mid-1960s Sanders is known for his overblowing, harmonic, and multiphonic techniques, as well as his use of "sheets of sound." Sanders is an important figure in the development of free jazz; Albert Ayler famously said: "Trane was the Father, Pharoah was the Son, I am the Holy Ghost.

Grady Demond Wilson, born October 13,1946 in Valdosta, Georgia, actor, known for Sanford and Son He has been married to Cicely Loise Johnston since May 3, 1974. They have six children. See full bio » Born: October 13, 1946 in Valdosta, Georgia, USA red Sanford (played by Redd Foxx) on the popular television comedy series “Sanford and Son,” Wilson starred in other TV series but left the entertainment world to become an ordained minister in 1984.

Soprano Leona Mitchell (born October 13, 1949) is best known for singing Bess in the first complete stereo recording of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess (1975), which earned Mitchell a Grammy Award. After making her operatic debut as Micaela in Bizet's Carmen with the San Francisco Opera, she reprised the role for her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1975. Mitchell has sung for four US presidents and numerous world dignitaries, including Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Prince Charles and Bishop Desmond Tutu.

Beverly Johnson (born October 13, 1952)  rose to fame when she became the first African American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue in August 1974. In 1975, she became the first black woman to appear on the cover of the French edition of Elle. She was the star of the reality series Beverly's Full House on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The New York Times named Johnson one of the 20th century's most influential people in fashion.


On October 13, 1914, Garrett Morgan received a patent for his safety hood for firemen and other rescuers which used a wet sponge to filter out smoke and cool the air, along with a series of tubes bringing in fresher air nearer the floor and venting air at a higher level. Morgan marketed the device with demonstrations in a smoke-filled tent, and gained national publicity in 1916 by using it during a rescue after a tunnel explosion under Lake Erie. It was modified during World War I for use as a battlefield gas mask.

On October 13, 1915, Meharry Medical College was granted a charter separate from Central Tennessee College, which it had been a part of since 1886. Meharry  was the first medical school in the South for African Americans and is currently the second-largest educator of African American doctors and dentists.

On October 13, 1970,  Angela Davis was arrested in New York City and charged with unlawful flight to avoid persecution for her alleged role in a Marin County, California courthouse shoot-out which left four persons dead. The raid on the courthouse had been designed to free imprisoned Black nationalists George Jackson. Authorities charged Davis with supplying the guns during the raid. However, a jury later found her not guilty.

Photo Gallery

Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, U.S. Third Army commander, pins the Silver Star on Private Ernest A. Jenkins of NY City for his conspicuous gallantry in the liberation of Chateaudun, France, October 13, 1944. From: The National Archives

Seattle The Black Panther Party, October 13, 1968


Mary Elizabeth Vroman on the cover of Jet, October 13, 1955.  Her short story, “See How They Run”
 was published in the June 1952 issue of Ladies Home Journal and adapted into the 1953 film,
 “Bright Road” which starred Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte.

What the Public Didn't Know About the Emmett Till Trial - Jet Magazine, October 13, 1955

US Department of Justice To Probe The Hiding of Emmett Till Witnesses - Jet Magazine, October 13, 1955

$10,000 (1954 dollars) Raised At NAACP Emmett Till Rally - Jet Magazine October 13, 1955
How Moses K Wright, Emmett Till's Uncle, Escaped from Mississippi After Emmett's Murder
Jet Magazine, October 13, 1955

Sammy Davis Jr is Cheesecake Shutterbug - Jet Magazine, October 13, 1955

During the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Cuban Holiday Dinner Party in Detroit, Michigan
 Jet Magazine, October 13, 1955

A newspaper article about Alex Haley, author of the novel “Roots,” published
 in the  Springfield Union (Springfield, Massachusetts), 13 October 1986.


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