September 17

On September 17, 1849, Harriet Tubman (born  Aramita “Minty” Ross) escaped slavery with her brothers, Ben and Harry. Little is known about her journey or her early days in Philadelphia until she returned to guide family members and others to freedom. She was later quoted as saying, "When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven."


Mary Burnett Talbert (September 17, 1866 - October 15, 1923) became the first black woman in the country to serve as a high school assistant principal when she was appointed to that position at Little Rock's Union High. After her marriage to William Talbert she moved to Buffalo NY where meetings to form the Niagara Movement were held at the Talbert home in 1905. She was a founding member of the NAACP and its first female Spingarn Medal winner.

Andrew "Rube" Foster (September 17, 1879 – December 9, 1930) was an American baseball player, manager, and pioneer executive in the Negro leagues. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. Foster, considered by historians to have been perhaps the best African-American pitcher of the first decade of the 1900s, also founded and managed the Chicago American Giants, one of the most successful black baseball teams of the pre-integration era. Most notably, he organized the Negro National League, the first long-lasting professional league for African-American ballplayers, which operated from 1920 to 1931. He is known as the "father of Black Baseball."

Dr. Lena Frances Edwards (September 17, 1900 - December 3, 1986) graduated from Howard Medical School in 1924 and began a medical practice serving the immigrant population of Hudson County, New Jersey but was not admitted to an OB/GYN residency until 1945. She began teaching at Howard in 1954, while continuing to bring medical care to low-income women. Dr. Edwards received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964.

Joseph W. Hatchett (born September 17, 1932) was the first African American to be elected to the Florida Supreme Court (1976) and to be nominated to the Federal Court of Appeals in the south (1979). He is a graduate of FAMU and Howard School of Law.

Kevin Jeffrey Clash (born September 17, 1960) is a puppeteer, producer and director whose characters include Elmo, Clifford, Benny Rabbit, and Hoots the Owl. In the early 1980s, he began working in Captain Kangaroo, and began performing in Sesame Street in 1984. He was the fifth puppeteer to perform Elmo, the character he became the most famous for, and became an executive producer and director for the show. He resigned from Sesame Street in late 2012, after allegations of sexual impropriety, which he denied and were dismissed due to statute of limitations expiring. Clash wrote an autobiography, My Life as a Furry Red Monster, which was published in 2006.


On September 17, 1861 Mary Peake held the first class under the Emancipation Oak in Hampton VA for for children whose enslaved families had escaped to freedom at Fort Monroe. This was the first school for freedmen, and it was later known as the Butler School and Hampton Institute before taking its current form as Hampton University. The Emancipation Oak still stands on the campus.

On September 17, 1947 Jackie Robinson won the National League Rookie of the Year Award. In addition to the challenges of being the first African American baseball player, he finished the season having played in 151 games for the Dodgers, with a batting average of .297, an on-base percentage of .383, and a .427 slugging percentage. He had 175 hits (scoring 125 runs) including 31 doubles, 5 triples, and 12 home runs, driving in 48 runs for the year. Robinson led the league in sacrifice hits, with 28, and in stolen bases, with 29. The award in both leagues was renamed in his honor in 1987.

On September 17, 1953, Ernie Banks became the first African American baseball player for the Chicago Cubs. He had played two seasons with the Kansas City Monarchs and was one of several former Negro league players who joined MLB teams without playing in the minor leagues. He finished second in Rookie of the Year votes the following year, and make fourteen All-Star Game appearances over his career. A fan favorite, he was known as "Mr. Cub" and his uniform number 14 was retired in 1982.

On September 17, 1957, Louis Armstrong uncharacteristically expressed his anger about racism in America when asked about the then-current Little Rock Central High desegregation standoff in an impromptu interview by Larry Lubenow, a journalism student at the University of North Dakota and an employee at the hotel in Grand Forks where Armstrong and his band were staying. He also spoke about cancelling an upcoming concert tour in Russia sponsored by the State Department. “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell,” he said, offering further choice words about the secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. “The people over there ask me what’s wrong with my country. What am I supposed to say?”

On September 17, 1983, Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss America 1984, becoming the first African American to win the title. On July 23, 1984 she resigned after nude photos of her surfaced (taken before her pageant days).

Photo Gallery

Mrs. Sally Fickland, viewing the Emancipation Proclamation in the
 Freedom Train at Philadelphia, on September 17, 1947.

Black and white fourth graders at St. Martin School, Washington, DC,
dash for the playground at recess, September 17, 1954.

Pastor H.C. McClain looking over the burned ruins of his High Hope Baptist Church,
Dawson, Georgia. It was the fourth in a series of African American church burnings,
presumably to discourage Civil Rights activism. September 17, 1962

On September 17, 1968, the ABC sitcom Julia debuted.

September 17, 1970 “The Flip Wilson Show,” a variety show, premiered on NBC.

On September 17, 1984, Reggie Jackson hit his 500th home run, 17 years to the day after his first.


Jet Magazine, September 17, 1953

Jet Magazine, September 17, 1953

Jet Magazine, September 17, 1981

1 comment:

  1. Great Site! Who is the artist of the Harriet Tubman sculpture on September 17?