September 23

Athenian Hall, now known as the Old Stone House, a dormitory Alexamder Twilight designed, raised funds for, and had built while he was principal of the Orleans County School in Brownington, Vermont. It was the first granite public building in the state and is now part of a historical district and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Alexander Lucius Twilight (September 23, 1795 – June 19, 1857) was born in Corinth, Vermont, to free parents of European and African descent. His father, Ichabod Twilight, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Although Twilight didn't attend school at all until he was 20, he graduated from Middlebury College in 1823, becoming the first African American with a college degree. He became a teacher, and was named principal of  Orleans County Grammar School in 1829. While there he built a four-story dormitory, Athenian Hall, which was the first granite public building in the state. He was elected to the Vermont General Assembly in 1836, making him the only African American until Reconstruction to serve in a state legislature.


Mary Church Terrell (September 23, 1863 - July 24, 1954) was one of the first African American women in the country to earn a college degree. She then taught at Wilberforce College in Xenia, Ohio and at M Street High School (now Dunbar High) in Washington DC. She was president of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, a founder of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and with Ida Wells-Barnett was one of the two African American women involved in creating the NAACP in 1909.

Albert Ammons (September 23, 1907 - December 2, 1949) played the piano at age 10, often practicing with childhood friend Meade Lux Lewis. The two played piano on the Chicago boogie-woogie club scene and were reunited in From Spirituals to Swing at Carnegie Hall in 1938 and were two of the first artists signed to the new Blue Note Records. In 1941, Ammons' boogie music was accompanied by drawn-on-film animation in the short film Boogie-Doodle by Norman McLaren. He played himself in the movie Boogie-Woogie Dream (1944), with Lena Horne and Pete Johnson. He ended his career touring as a solo performer and as staff pianist with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra. He performed at President Harry S. Truman's inauguration in 1949.

Wade Watts (September 23, 1919 - December 13, 1998) was a Baptist minister and state president of the Oklahoma NAACP for sixteen years, challenging the Ku Klux Klan through Christian love. He worked with Thurgood Marshall in helping Ada Lois Sipuel gain admission to the University of Oklahoma and developed a friendship with Martin Luther King during the American civil rights movement, joining King and other leaders on the Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965. He was the uncle of former congressman J. C. Watts of Oklahoma but did not approve of the younger Watts's membership in the Republican party.

John William Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967) was a jazz saxophonist and composer.He helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and later was at the forefront of free jazz. He organized at least fifty recording sessions as a leader during his recording career, and appeared as a sideman on many other albums, notably with trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Thelonious Monk. As his career progressed, Coltrane and his music took on an increasingly spiritual dimension.

Ray Charles (born Ray Charles Robinson, September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004) pioneered the genre of soul music during the 1950s by combining blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel styles into the music he recorded for Atlantic Records. While he was with ABC, Charles became one of the first African American musicians to be granted artistic control by a mainstream record company. He was one of the first inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at its inaugural ceremony in 1986, and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award the following year. He was portrayed in the 2004 film Ray by Jamie Foxx, who won an Oscar for the role. (Painting by Debra Hurd)

George Jackson (September 23, 1941 - August 21, 1971) was sentenced to one year to life in prison for a $70 armed robbery. While in prison he read Marxist and Maoist ideology and joined the Black Panther Party. His letters from prison were published in the book Soledad Brother. In January 1971 he and two other inmates were charged with murdering a guard. On August 21, 1971 he was killed by guards during a suspected prison uprising.


On September 23,1905, the Western Library of Louisville, KY opened. Founded by Albert Ernest Meyzeek, it was the first library to serve Louisville’s Black community, and of the first of its kind in America. Western’s first librarian was Thomas Fountain Blue, Sr., who was assisted by Ms. Rachel Harris. Joseph S. Cotter, poet and playwright was involved with its early programs and is credited for the early storytelling contests for young people.

On September 23, 1955 Roy Bryant and his half brother, J.W. Milam were found not guilty of the murder of Emmett Till the previous month. In a 1956 Look interview they admitted killing Till, with Milam saying "Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. 'Chicago boy,' I said, 'I'm tired of 'em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddam you, I'm going to make an example of you just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand.'"

Photo Gallery

Julius Warren Scott. born September 23, 1921 – “I don’t remember anything about the Tulsa
riot, but I remember my mother telling me about it. Mother remembers running down
 the street, six months pregnant with me, dodging bullets that were dropping all around
 her. She said that it was a miracle that she escaped alive and that I was later allowed
 to come into this world. She always thanked God for our safety.” Photographer: Paula Olree

Jackie and Rachel Robinson with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson -- September 23, 1947 -- Brooklyn, NY

Little Rock: reporter L. Alex Wilson being attacked by a mob, September 23, 1957

On September 23, 1961, "Whites only" signs were ordered to be
removed from interstate bus terminals by the ICC.
On September 23,1979 Lou Brock stole second base in the fifth inning of a 7-4 victory over the Mets at
New York, giving him a record 938 career thefts. It was Brock’s last stolen base of his 19-year career. 

On September 23, 1998, President Bill Clinton presented President Nelson Mandela
 with the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his life-long dedication to the abolition of
 apartheid and the promotion of reconciliation among the people of South Africa. 

On September 23, 2006 in Milwaukee, Barry Bonds hit his 734th home run to break
 Hank Aaron’s National League all-time home run record.

President Obama hugging an admirer in Milwaukee, September 23, 2013

Photo Gallery

The Emancipation Proclamation on the front page of The New York Herald, September 23, 1862
Jet Magazine, September 23, 1954

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