October 25

Elizabeth Van Lew (October 25, 1818 – September 25, 1900) became an abolitionist after attending a Quaker school in Philadelphia despite being the daughter of a prosperous Richmond, Virginia merchant. After her father passed away in 1843 she insisted that the family slaves  be freed, and she used much of her inheritance to buy families at the local slave auction and free them. During the Civil War she took food and clothing to captured Union soldiers at nearby Libby Prison, helped them to escape, and forwarded any information they had about Confederate troops to Union commanders through an elaborate spy network she devised, which included her former household servant Mary Bowser who managed to find employment with Jefferson Davis's family in the Confederate White House and pass information along to Van Lew.


Władysław Franciszek Jabłonowski (October 25, 1769 - September 29 1802) was a general in the Polish Army of English, French, and African ancestry who took the surname of his Polish stepfather. He attended the French military academy at Brienne-le-Château where he was a classmate of Napoleon and Davout. After graduation he joined the Régiment de Royal-Allemand where he attained the rank of lieutenant.  In 1799 he was made General of Brigade of the Polish legions. He was sent on his own request to Haiti in May 1802 (before the decision to send the rest of the Polish legions) and died there from yellow fever.

Irene McCoy Gaines (October 25, 1892 - April 7, 1964) was the first African American woman to run for a state legislative seat and was the first African American woman to run for the county commissioner’s office in 1950. Her husband, Harris B. Gaines, was a Republican Illinois State Representative (1928-1935), as was her son, Charles Gaines (1975-1981). She also served as President of the National Association of Colored Women (1952-1958). During her presidency of the NACWC, she led the organization into more assertive civil rights positions. Her office issued press releases in support of the Birmingham bus boycott and in behalf of Authurine Lucy’s efforts to gain admission as the first African American to attend the University of Alabama.

Louis L. Redding (October 25, 1901 - September 28, 1998) was vice principal of Fessenden Academy in Ocala, Florida and taught at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. before attending Harvard Law School and becoming the first African American attorney in Delaware in 1929. He specialized in civil rights work, including a suit to integrate the state universities (1950) and Gebhart v Belton (1952) which became part of Brown v Board of Education. Redding also successfully argued Burton v. Wilmington Parking Authority before the US Supreme Court in 1961 which held that segregation in public accommodations was not permissible.

Bill Spiller (October 25, 1913 - 1988) was a Jim Crow-era golfer who helped to change PGA rules. Through his attempts to play in this lucrative circuit, in 1952 the previously all-white PGA began allowing a limited number of African Americans in each tournament although they were still not granted PGA membership.

Emmett W. Chappelle (born October 25, 1925) taught biochemistry at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, was a research associate at Stanford University, and worked at the Research Institute in Baltimore (a division of the Martin Marietta Corporation) before joining NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center as a research chemist, and later a remote sensing scientist, studying natural systems to improve environmental management. He primarily studied the use of naturally occurring luminescent enzymes as a way of detecting extraterrestrial life. This technology also has applications in medicine and in environmental science.


On October 25, 1940, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. was promoted to Brigadier General, becoming the first African American general in the United States Army. He began his military career in the Spanish-American War and then as a member of the 9th Cavalry Regiment (Buffalo Soldiers) where he was mentored by West Point grad Charles Young. His first command was the 4th Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas. His son, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became the first African American general officer of the United States Air Force in October 1954. The senior Davis is shown here after passing tests to enter Officer Candidate School in 1901, and below in France on August 8, 1944.

On October 25, 1968 The state of Illinois recognized Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable as the true founder of Chicago. Du Sable, a historic African American pioneer, was the first known settler to build a house and open a trading post in what is now the city of Chicago.

On October 25, 1976, Alabama Governor, George Wallace, pardoned Clarence Norris, the only one of the Scottsboro Boys sentenced to death in a 1937 retrial after the original 1931 death sentence for all but one of the defendants. Governor Bibb Graves of Alabama in 1938 commuted his death sentence to life. Given parole in 1946, he "jumped" and went into hiding. In 1976 he was found in Brooklyn, New York. Governor George Wallace pardoned him that year, declaring him not guilty. Norris published an autobiography, The Last of the Scottsboro Boys (1979). He died of Alzheimer's disease on January 23, 1989.

Photo Gallery

On October 25, 1958, Daisy Bates, head of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP, and the nine
students (The Little Rock Nine) who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School ware awarded
the Spingarn Medal for their courage and leadership in the civil rights struggle.

On October 25, 1969, the Malcolm X Liberation University opened in Durham. Founded by black activist Howard Fuller and named for then recently-slain civil rights leader Malcolm X, the school was founded in response to protests by students at Duke University over the lack of an African American studies program there. 

On October 18, 1974, Al Green's girlfriend, Mary Woodson White, assaulted him before committing suicide at his Memphis home by dousing Green with a pan of boiling grits while he was bathing, causing severe burns on his back, stomach and arms. She then found his .38 and killed herself. In her purse, police found a note declaring her intentions and her reasons.

Maya Angelou at Ohio State University, October 25, 1976

Morgan Fairchild (left) and Cicely Tyson, for the Dallas Fashion Awards, October 25, 1987.

Jet Magazine, October 25, 2010 -- Michelle Obama


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