October 28

On October 28, 1827, James W. C. Pennington escaped from slavery in Maryland and settled for a time in Long Island, where he studied in night school.  Pennington then attended classes at Yale College in New Haven, although Yale forbade him to officially enroll or to use its library. After completing his studies he was ordained by the Congregationalist Church, and in 1838 officiated at the wedding of Frederick Douglass and Anna Murray. He was an active abolitionist and was among those who became involved in seeking justice for the West African Mende illegally taken in slavery, in the Amistad case, which was litigated from 1839-1841 and ultimately settled by the United States Supreme Court in favor of the Mende. To help those who chose to return to Africa, he formed the United Missionary Society, the first black missionary society. When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, Pennington was in Scotland and he chose to stay in Europe for two years while friends in the U.S. raised funds to buy his freedom from the estate of his former master. During that time he lectured on abolition and was granted an honorary doctorate of divinity by the University of Heidelberg. He wrote and published what is considered the first history of blacks in the United States, The Origin and History of the Colored People (1841). His memoir, The Fugitive Blacksmith, was first published in 1849 in London.


Levi Coffin (October 28, 1798 - September 16, 1877) grew up in a Quaker farming community in North Carolina, moving to Indiana in 1825 because of increased objection to abolitionist beliefs. The family settled in Newport (now Fountain City) where he was a successful merchant and operated a prominent stop on the Underground Railroad. He began selling free-labor goods (produced without slave labor), and in 1847 was asked to establish a free-labor warehouse in Cincinnati. He and his wife continued their work with the Underground Railroad, and they may have been the models for the couple in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin who rescued Eliza after she crossed the frozen Ohio River. In 1863 Coffin became an agent for the Western Freedman's Aid Society, which offered assistance to the slaves who were freed during the war, and he was one of many who petitioned for a national Freedman's Bureau to help them establish businesses and obtain an education. In his 1876 autobiography, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin, he estimates that he helped about 3,000 people escape to freedom. When asked about his motives for doing so, he replied: "The Bible, in bidding us to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, said nothing about color, and I should try to follow out the teachings of that good book."

Fredrick McGhee (October 28, 1861 - September 9, 1912) was a co-founder of the Niagara Movement. W.E.B. Du Bois credits him with having the original idea for the group. McGhee was an attorney in St. Paul, Minnesota and was the first African American admitted to the bar in that state, as well as in Tennessee and Illinois. He was also  one of the first nationally prominent African American Democrats at a time when nearly all were still Republican.

Arthur Wharton (October 28,  1865 - December 13, 1930) is widely considered to be the first  professional association football of African descent in the world. He was born in Jamestown, Gold Coast (now Accra, Ghana). His father, Henry Wharton, was Grenadian, while his mother, Annie Florence Egyriba, was a member of the Fante Ghanaian royalty. Wharton moved to England in 1882 at age 19, to train as a Methodist missionary, but soon abandoned this in favour of becoming a full-time athlete. He was also a cyclist and cricketer, playing for local teams in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Herman Boone (born October 28, 1935) is a former American high school football coach, most famous for coaching at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Boone was portrayed by Denzel Washington in the 2000 film Remember the Titans. In 1971, the city of Alexandria, Virginia decided to totally consolidate its school system and appointed Herman as its first consolidated head football coach at T. C. Williams High School over a white coach Bill Yoast with several years seniority and a steadfast citywide following. Herman was able to pull together and solidify a diverse coaching staff and an unfocused group of young boys into one of the most powerful football teams in the state of Virginia, winning the 1971 Virginia State Championship. This team was ranked second in the nation by national polls.

Leonard Randolph “Lenny” Wilkens (born October 28, 1937) was a professional basketball player for the St. Louis Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle Supersonics, and coached every team for which he played. In 1995, he surpassed Red Auerbach as the NBA's winningest coach, with his 939th victory, a record he held until 2010. He has been inducted three times into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, first in 1989 as a player, as a coach in 1998, and in 2010 as part of the 1992 United States Olympic "Dream Team", for which he was an assistant coach.

Telma Louise Hopkins (born October 28, 1948) started her career as a background singer working with legendary acts like The Four Tops and Marvin Gaye. She also sang back up for Isaac Hayes and can be heard famously exclaiming "Shut your mouth!" on Hayes' hit song "Theme From Shaft" She rose to prominence as a member of the 1970s pop music group Tony Orlando and Dawn, and performed on the CBS variety show Tony Orlando and Dawn from 1974 to 1976 along with Tony Orlando and Joyce Vincent Wilson.  As lead actress, she starred on Getting By (1993--1994 and was a regular cast member on Half & Half (2002–06), Are We There Yet? (2010-13), and the short-lived Partners (2014).


On October 28, 1873 Patrick Healy was named president of Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic University in the United States. Although he was accepted as and identified as Irish-American during his lifetime, in the 1960s the history of Healy's mixed-race ancestry became more widely known. He was recognized as the first person of African-American descent to earn a PhD; the first to become a Jesuit priest; and the first to be president of Georgetown University or any predominantly white college.

October 28, 1914 Omega Psi Phi fraternity is incorporated at Howard University. Founded in 1911 by three students, Frank Coleman, Oscar J. Cooper and Edgar A. Love and their faculty adviser, Ernest Everett Just, the fraternity will grow to have over 90,000 members in chapters throughout the United States and abroad.

Photo Gallery

October 28, 1954. New York. “Dorothy Dandridge flashes a beautiful smiles as she arrives at the Rivoli Theater at the premiere of the CinemaScope Technicolor movie version of Carmen Jones, in which she plays the title role. The premier, a major entertainment event, was presented on nationwide television and radio hookups.”

Mahalia Jackson and Nat King Cole on the set of the film, St. Louis Blues.
 Hollywood, October 28, 1957 (AP Photo)

October 28, 1965, Vietnam --- A medic from the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) gives first aid
 to a slightly wounded soldier, who winces in pain.. --- Image by © CORBIS NA007294

Former Senator Edward William Brooke (R-MA) speaks during a ceremony to honor him with
 the Congressional Gold Medal in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on October 28, 2009 in Washington, DC.


Octavius V. Catto, portrait from Harper's Weekly, October 28, 1871

"IN SELF-DEFENSE" Cartoonist: A. B. Frost Source: Harper's Weekly Date: October 28, 1876, p. 880 Complete HarpWeek Explanation: This image dramatically condemns the brutal racism of some white Southerners against blacks. The white man has killed a black child, and his plea of "self-defense" exemplifies the perspective among Southern whites that Reconstruction had led to "black rule." The cartoon appeared just a few weeks before the presidential election. 

Say, October 28, 1954 On the cover: Vivian Cervantes 

A Young Bill "Wilt" Chamberlain - Say Magazine, October 28, 1954

Jet Magazine, October 28, 1971 -- Barbara Blair, Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA

Sports Illustrated, October 28, 1974 | Volume 41, Issue 18 - Foreman and Ali

Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present by
Deborah Willis. $22.43. Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 28, 2002).


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