October 20

Jelly Roll Morton (born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, October 20, 1890 - July 10, 1941) took the name Morton as an anglicized version of his stepfather's name, Mouton, and the nickname "Jelly Roll" came from the risque lyrics he sang during an early stint playing in a brothel, where he first played piano in his distinctive ragtime style. Different dates and years have been given for his birth date but October 20, 1890 is listed on his baptism certificate and no birth certificate is available. His composition "Jelly Roll Blues" was the first published jazz composition, in 1915, and in 1926 he signed a recording contract with the the Victor Talking Machine Company. In May 1938,  Alan Lomax began recording Morton for the Library of Congress. The sessions, originally intended as a short interview with musical examples for use by music researchers, soon expanded to record more than eight hours of Morton talking and playing piano. (Sketch by Keith Mallett).


William Washington Browne (October 20, 1849 – December 21, 1897) was turned down for membership in the segregated Independent Order of Good Templars, but the society offered him the option of opening a sponsored charter named the Grand United Order of True Reformers. Over time the organization grew in size to where it managed a bank, ran a newspaper, owned several properties, and at one point in time was the largest black fraternal society and black-owned business in the United States. The bank was the only one in Richmond to maintain full services during the panic of 1893. After Browne's death, unsecured loans and employee embezzlement led to its collapse in 1910.

Jomo Kenyatta (October 20, 1893 - August 22, 1978) served as Kenya's prime minister and, later, president from the nation's independence in 1963 until his death in 1978. He attended a Church of Scotland Mission School as a child and held a number of jobs while becoming involved in national politics, becoming general secretary of the Kikuyu Central Association in 1928. He then went to England where he studied social anthropology under BronisÅ‚aw Malinowski at the London School of Economics and was active in Pan-African groups. He returned to Kenya in 1946, becoming principal of Kenya Teachers College, and was elected president of the Kenya African Union (KAU) the next year. The Mau Mau Rebellion, a a radical anti-colonial movement, began in 1951, with the KAU being banned, and a state of emergency was declared on October 20, 1952. Kenyatta was arrested that month on the charges of "managing and being a member" of the Mau Mau Society, tried, and sentenced to seven year's imprisonment. Kenyatta was admitted into the Legislative Council after his release in 1961, where he led the Kenya African National Union delegation, and he became Prime Minister on June 1, 1963. The following year, Parliament amended the Constitution to make Kenya a republic, with the office of prime minister replaced by a president with wide executive and legislative powers. Kenyatta died of natural causes in 1978, and his son, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, is the current president.

Rex Ingram (October 20, 1895 – September 19, 1969) attended Northwestern University before moving to Hollywood where he was literally discovered on a street corner by the casting director for the silent film Tarzan of the Apes (1918). With the arrival of sound, his presence and powerful voice became an asset and he went on to memorable roles in The Green Pastures (1936), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (the 1939 MGM version, opposite Mickey Rooney),  and The Thief of Bagdad (1940) which was perhaps his best-known film appearance as the genie.  He appeared in more than a dozen Broadway productions, including the original cast of Haiti (1938), Cabin in the Sky (1940), and St. Louis Woman (1946).

Adelaide Hall (October 20, 1901 - November 7, 1993) entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2003 as the world's most enduring recording artist having released material over eight consecutive decades.  She began her stage career in 1921 on Broadway in the chorus line of Noble Sissle's and Eubie Blake's hit musical Shuffle Along, starred in the long-running Blackbird Revue, and often appeared with  Duke Ellington, Bill (Bojangles) Robinson, Art Tatum, and other contemporary musicians. She settled permanently in London in 1938. She made more than 70 records for Decca, had her own BBC Radio series Wrapped in Velvet (making her the first black artist to have a long-term contract with the BBC), and appeared on the stage, in films, and in nightclubs.

Enolia Virginia Pettigen McMillan (October 20, 1904 - October 24, 2006) became the first woman elected National President of the NAACP in 1984, a position she held until 1990. The role at the time was largely ceremonial, but McMillan had considerable influence in the organization’s policies and operations. She had previously served as president of the Baltimore NAACP as well as President of the Maryland State Colored Teachers' Association and as Regional Vice-President of the National Association of Colored Teachers. She taught in the Maryland public schools for 40 years and held a B.A. in education from Howard and an M.Ed. from Columbia.

Eddie Harris (October 20, 1934 – November 5, 1996) was an American jazz musician, best known for playing tenor saxophone and for introducing the electrically amplified saxophone. He was also fluent on the electric piano and organ. His best-known compositions are "Freedom Jazz Dance", recorded and popularized by Miles Davis in 1966, and "Listen Here." His jazz arrangement of Ernest Gold's theme from the movie Exodus was heavily played on radio and became the first jazz record ever to be certified gold. He experimented with new instruments of his own invention, such as the reed trumpet, a trumpet with a saxophone mouthpiece.


On October 20, 1951, Drake halfback and Heisman Trophy candidate Johnny Bright received a broken jaw from an Oklahoma A&M's Wilbanks Smith in a racially motivated incident during a Missouri Valley Conference football game in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Bright was one of the few African American players in the conference and had been the first to play at Lewis Field two years previously. Both campus and local newspapers articles predicting the attack. Despite the injury, Bright was still able to complete a 64-yard touchdown pass before leaving the game a few plays later.   Des Moines Register cameramen John Robinson and Don Ultang won the 1952 Pulitzer Prize in photography for their coverage.

On October 20. 1951, the British colonial government in Kenya declared a national state of emergency due to the Mau Mau Rebellion, an anti-colonial movement of radical Kikuyu natives led by  Dedan Kimathi. All nationalists were suspected of involvement; Jomo Kenyatta and five other members of the moderate Kenya African Union known as the "Kapenguria Six" (left) were arrested and found guilty after a staged trial. In 1954 during Operation Anvil, a sweep of Nairobi by British forces, 50,000 native Kenyans were arrested or deported to reserves. Kimathi was arrested and executed on October 21, 1956, essentially ending the revolt. Land and electoral reforms began  to be introduced, with the first direct elections for native Kenyans to the Legislative Council occurring in 1957. The country gained its independence from Britain in 1963.

On October 20, 1967, an all-white federal jury in Meridian, Mississippi convicted seven white men of civil rights violations in the murder of civil rights workers James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. Eighteen men had been indicted, including Sheriff Lawrence Rainey (shown left, being escorted by U.S. Marshals) and Deputy Cecil Ray Price. The seven found guilty were sentenced to 3-10 years in federal prison.

On October 20, 1956 an article by W.E,B. Du Bois entitled "Why I Won't Vote" was published in The Nation. He believed the rematch between Republican Dwight Eisenhower and Democrat Adlai Stevenson was a contest of “one evil party with two names and it will be elected despite all I can do or say. . . Democracy is dead in the United States.” Du Bois condemned both parties for their indifferent positions on the influence of corporate wealth, racial inequality, arms proliferation and unaffordable health care.

Photo Gallery

Wilson Brown served in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. In August 1864 Brown joined
Company B of the 127th USCT. According to his service records, Brown was discharged on October 20, 1865. 

October 20, 1955: Brooklyn High School in Cleveland, OH, is host to a rock and roll
concert featuring Bill Haley, LaVern Baker (pictured), Roy Hamilton, Johnnie Ray, the
up-and-coming artist Elvis Presley, and also, improbably, Pat Boone and The Four Lads.

Queen Juliana of the Netherlands congratulates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., after the American civil rights
 leader received an honorary degree in social science by the Amsterdam Free University, on October 20, 1965.

During the weekend of October 20, 1972, Black American poets, artists, critics, and scholars gathered
at the University of Dayton to celebrate the centennial of the birth of Paul Laurence Dunbar

October 20, 1974, Muhammad Ali defeated George Foreman for heavyweight boxing title in Zaire.

October 20, 2012 Doug Mills/The New York Times The Obamas at the dedication of the
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall last October.


Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Illinois Jacquet, Norman Granz Arrested For Houston Craps Game
Jet Magazine, October 20, 1955

Mose Wright, Uncle of Emmett Till, Awaits Till Murder Trial
Jet Magazine, October 20, 1955

Lake City, South Carolina Whites Burn Church to Chase Away Minister
Jet Magazine, October 20, 1955


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