October 16

On October 16, 1968, gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos gave a Black Power salute during the awards ceremony after the 200 meter race at the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Silver medalist, Australian Peter Norman, was wearing an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the podium in support of their protest. It was also Norman's suggestion that each American wear one black glove after Carlos had forgotten to bring a pair. Smith and Carlos were suspended from the U.S. track team for their protest, and Norman was not chosen for the 1972 Olympic Team. On the 40th anniversary of the Mexico City games, Smith and Carlos received an Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2008 ESPY Awards honoring their action. A statue has been erected in their honor at San Jose State University depicting the medals ceremony, with Norman's podium left empty with a plaque inviting viewers to "Take a Stand." Norman requested that his space be left empty so visitors could stand in his place and feel what he felt. The iconic photograph shown here was taken by John Dominis.


Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett (October 16, 1833 - November 13, 1908) served as U.S. Ambassador to Haiti from 1869 to 1877. It was a time of civil war on the island, and he was able to arrange safe passage to Jamaica for the leader of the opposition, General Pierre Boisrond Canal, who later returned and served as president. Bassett was the first African American to serve in the diplomatic corps, and was appointed by President Grant on the recommendation of Frederick Douglass, who knew Bassett from abolitionist work in Philadelphia. After serving abroad, Bassett spent ten years as the Consul General for Haiti in New York City. He had previously been the founding principal of the Institute for Colored Youth in Philadelphia.

George Washington Williams (October 16, 1849 - August 2, 1891) wrote two of the first histories about African Americans in the U.S.: A History of Negro Troops in the War of Rebellion and The History of the Negro Race in America 1619–1880. He sailed to the Congo to investigate reports of exploitation and slaughter on the rubber plantations, making the public aware of the abuses in his 1890 open letter to King Leopold. Williams died of tuberculosis on the journey home and was buried in Blackpool, England. Earlier in his life he had enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 14, fighting in the final battles of the Civil War. He then served in the Mexican Army and again in the U.S. Army until he was wounded in 1870. Williams went on to become an ordained Baptist minister, serving churches in the Boston area, and to study law in Ohio under Alphonso Taft (thefather of President William Howard Taft), becoming the first African American elected to the state legislature of Ohio. He was portrayed in the 2016 film The Legend of Tarzan by Samuel L. Jackson.

Maidie Ruth Norman (October 16, 1912 – May 2, 1998) began studying drama and performing in Shakespeare plays as a child, later earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bennett College in 1934 and a Master's degree in drama from Columbia University in 1937. She starred in The Well, an Academy Award-nominated 1955 film about racial conflict in a small town, and is best remembered as the housekeeper in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962). She toured colleges across the country during the 1950s lecturing on African American literature and theater, and created and taught a course in African American theater history at UCLA, the first course on African American studies in the college's history.

Leon Howard Sullivan (October 16, 1922 - April 24, 2001) became a Baptist minister in his native West Virginia at the age of 18, later attending Union Theological Seminary (1943-45) and Columbia University (MDiv, 1947). He served as Adam Clayton Powell's assistant at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, then as senior pastor of  Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia from 1950 to 1988 where he was known for his success in promoting economic empowerment for the city's African American community. The boycott tactic of "don't buy where you don't work" was adopted by many civil rights organizations, and the SCLC used many of his ideas in forming Operation Breadbasket. In 1971, he joined the General Motors Board of Directors, becoming the first African American on the board of a major corporation and in 1977 developed a code of conduct for companies operating in South Africa called the Sullivan Principles, as an alternative to complete disinvestment.

Henry Jay Lewis (October 16, 1932 – January 26, 1996) joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1948, becoming the first African American instrumentalist in a major symphony orchestra. He gained national recognition in 1961 when he was appointed assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta, a post he held from 1961 to1965. In 1968 he became the conductor and musical director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the first African American to lead a major symphony orchestra. He was married to opera singer Marilyn Horne from 1960 to 1979.

Sugar Pie DeSanto (born Umpeylia Marsema Balinton, October 16, 1935) grew up in San Francisco's Fillmore District where she was friends with Etta James. Both singers were discovered by bandleader Johnny Otis, who gave DeSanto her stage name and hired her as part of his Johnny Otis Revue. She later toured with James Brown. Her biggest solo hit was in 1960 with "I Want to Know", recorded with then-husband Pee Wee Kingsley. DeSanto and Etta James recorded several duets, most notably "Do I Make Myself Clear" and "In the Basement". She was later married to Jesse Earl Davis for 27 years until his death attempting to extinguish a fire that destroyed their Oakland apartment.

Sugar Pie DeSanto, known in private life as Peylia Davis, reflects on the fire that claimed the
 life of her husband, Jesse Earl Davis, during an interviewed published December 12, 2006.
Photo by Chris Stewart, San Francisco Chronicle.

André Leon Talley (born October 16, 1949) began his career with Andy Warhol's Interview magazine in 1974  He went on to work at Women’s Wear Daily and W, from 1975 through 1980. He also worked for the New York Times and other publications before finally landing at Vogue, where he worked as the Fashion News Director from 1983 to 1987 and then as Creative Director from 1988 to 1995. He pushed top designers to have more African American models in their shows. He left Vogue and moved to Paris in 1995 to work for W, and served as contributing editor at Vogue. In 1998, he returned to Vogue as the editor-at-large until his departure in 2013 to pursue another editorial ventures.


On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown led 17 men in an attack on the arsenal at Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. Brown, a minister and fierce opponent of slavery, sought to obtain weapons from the arsenal to arm a slave revolt that would take over the South. The next day President James Buchanan ordered a company of U.S. Marines (the only government troops in the immediate area) to march on Harpers Ferry under the command of Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee. Brown was captured, tried for treason, and hanged on December 2, 1859.

On October 16, 1876 a joint politcal meeting near Cainhoy, South Carolina ended in the death of six men, five white Democrats and one black Republican. "...the violence at Cainhoy seems largely spontaneous and the product of a genuine misunderstanding.... Viewed within the larger context of the 1876 election, however, the violence at Cainhoy is indicative of the tense and violent atmosphere that pervaded the state during that volatile political season."

On October 16, 1895, the National Medical Association (NMA) was founded by African American physicians as an alternative to the white-only American Medical Association. Robert F. Boyd (left) was the organization’s first president and Daniel Hale Williams served as vice president. The organization’s mission was to combat racism and segregation in the medical field, both for medical professions and their patients.

On October 16, 1901, shortly after occupying the White House, Theodore Roosevelt invited his advisor, the African American spokesman Booker T. Washington, to dine with him and his family, and provoked an outpouring of condemnation from southern politicians and press. This reaction affected subsequent White House practice, and no other African American was invited to dinner for almost thirty years.

On October 16, 1984, Bishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his "role as a unifying leader figure in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa." He has continued to fight for human rights in campaigns against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, poverty, racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia, and was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

On October 16, 1995, The Million Man March gathered on and around the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Called by Louis Farrakhan, the march attracted more than 800,000 people to address the economic and social ills plaguing the African American community. The founder of the National African American Leadership Summit, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Jr. served as National Director of the march.

On October 18, 2013 Cory Booker was elected to the U.S. Senate in a special election following the death of Frank Lautenberg. Booker was re-elected in the regular election of 2014. He had previously served as Mayor of Newark, gaining national prominence after personally shoveling snow from a resident's sidewalk after a blizzard and inviting those without electricity after Hurricane Sandy to stay in his home.

Photo Gallery

Ilustração, No. 116, October 16 1930 Josephine Baker

First Lady Michelle Obama in Michael Kors | Presidential Debate at Hofstra University, October 16, 2012

Ruby Dee attends "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross" New York Series Premiere at the Paris Theater on October 16, 2013 in New York City. Photo: Astrid Stawiarz, Getty Images / 2013 Getty Images


Jet Magazine Cover, October 16, 1952

Jet Magazine. October 16, 1980

Time led its October 16, 1995 "O.J. Simpson Verdict: Special Report" with an extended essay from Roger
Rosenblatt that was titled, perhaps way too optimistically, "A Nation of Pained Hearts: Americans, black
and white, may be able to use the O.J. verdict as a chance to embark on a pilgrimage toward and candor and charity."

Social Determinants of Health Among African-American Men by Henrie M. Treadwell. $80.00.
Edition - 2. Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 2 edition (October 16, 2012). Publication: October 16, 2012


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