September 29

On September 29, 1864, several U.S. Colored Infantry Regiments fought in the Battle of Chaffin's Farm and New Market Heights outside Richmond, Virginia. Of the 23 Medal of Honor winners from the battle, 14 were African American. Two, Sgt. Major Thomas Hawkins and 1Sgt. Alexander Kelly of the 6th Infantry, are shown in Don Troiani's 2015 Painting, Three Medals of Honor, along with their white commanding officer, Lt. Nathan Edgarton. Flagbearers from the 4th Inf., Sgt. Major Christian Fleetwood, Sgt. Alfred Hilton, and Pvt. Charles Veale won the medal as well.


Fern Gayden (September 29, 1904 - May 27, 1986) attended Kansas State Teachers College at Emporia and moved to Chicago at the age of 23. She had a 50-year career as a social worker but became best known as a literary, fine arts, and political activist. A founding member of the South Side Writers Group in the 1930s and founder of Negro Story Magazine, her career included leadership roles in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom and the South Side Community Art Center.

Thomas Edward (Eddie) Tolan (September 29, 1908 – January 30/31, 1967) won gold medals in 100 and 200 meter events at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, setting records in both and becoming the first African American to win two gold Olympic medals. Because of the depression he couldn't find work after the games, and performed in vaudeville with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson which caused him to lose his amateur status. He competed in the 1935 World Professional Sprint Championships in Melbourne, becoming the first man to win both the amateur and professional world sprint championships. Tolin worked as an assistant county registrar of deeds and later taught at the Irving Elementary School on Detroit's West Side for several years.

Edna Mae Harris (September 29, 1910 - September 15, 1997) began her film career with a part in The Green Pastures (1936), portraying Zeba, starring with Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson. She went on to star in other films of the era, and also toured with Noble Sissle's Orchestra as a featured vocalist along with Lena Horne and Billy Banks.  She announced a weekly radio show over station WMCA in New York City and also did character dialect parts on many broadcasts for the Columbia Workshop Program. Edna Mae Harris got to tell her story in her later years in the documentary, Midnight Ramble (1994), about independently produced black films.

Charles "Chuck" Cooper (September 29, 1926 -  February 5, 1984) was a four-year starter for Duquesne University where he was was the first African American to participate in a college basketball game south of the Mason–Dixon line. On April 25, 1950, Cooper was selected in the second round of the NBA draft by Boston Celtics owner Walter Brown, becoming the first African American drafted by the NBA. After his basketball career, he was Director of Pittsburgh's Parks & Recreation Department and also led community development initiatives at Pittsburgh National Bank for 13 years.

Bryant Charles Gumbel (born September 29, 1948) is best known for his 15 years as co-host of NBC's Today from 1982 to 1997. He is the third longest serving co-host of Today, after current host Matt Lauer and Katie Couric. Since 1995, he has hosted HBO's acclaimed investigative series Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, which won a Peabody Award in 2012. He is the younger brother of sportscaster Greg Gumbel.


On September 29, 1784 the Grand Lodge of England issued a charter for the African Lodge No. 1 later renamed African Lodge No. 459.The lodge, founded by Prince Hall was the country's first African Masonic lodge. African Lodge  No. 459 grew to such a degree that Worshipful Master Prince Hall was appointed a Provincial Grand Master in 1791, and out of this grew the first Black Provincial Grand Lodge. In 1847 they changed their name to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, the name it carries today.

On September 29, 1865, five months after the close of the Civil War, the “Convention of the Freedmen of North Carolina,” a statewide assembly of African Americans, gathered at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Raleigh. The convention lasted four days with 106 men in attendance. James Walker Hood of New Bern was elected president of the Freedmen’s Convention. Hood stressed that “equal rights before the law” should be the convention’s watchwords.

The Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes was established on September 29, 1910 in New York City. A year later, the Committee merged with the Committee for the Improvement of Industrial Conditions Among Negroes in New York (founded in New York in 1906), and the National League for the Protection of Colored Women (founded in 1905) to form the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes. In 1920, the name was later shortened to the National Urban League.

On September 29, 1942 the SS Booker T. Washington was launched with a christening by Marian Anderson. It was the first of seventeen Liberty Ships that were named after African Americans. In 1942, the ship had an integrated crew of 18 nationalities, and it made 22 round trip voyages ferrying troops and supplies to Europe and the Pacific before being sold to a private owner in 1947. Its first captain was Hugh Melzak, the first African American to command a ship in the United States Merchant Marine.

On September 29, 1950, The Hazel Scott Show was cancelled a week after its star appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee. She denied that she was "ever knowingly connected with the Communist Party or any of its front organizations, but said that she had supported Communist Party member Benjamin J. Davis' run for City Council, arguing that Davis was supported by socialists, a group that "has hated Communists longer and more fiercely than any other." She continued to perform in the United States throughout the fifties but then moved to Paris for a decade to escape more political and racial prejudice.

On September 29, 1954, Willie Mays, centerfielder for the New York Giants, made an amazing over-the-shoulder catch of a fly ball hit by Cleveland Indians first baseman Vic Wertz  in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. The score was tied 2–2 in the top of the 8th inning with runners on first and second when Wertz hit a 2-1 pitch from Don Liddle approximately 420 feet to deep center field. In many stadiums the hit would have been a home run, giving the Indians a 5–2 lead. The Giants went on to win the game in the bottom of the 10th inning.
On September 29, 1975, WGPR-TV (Where God’s Presence Radiates) became the first television station in the United States owned and operated by African Americans. The station, located in Detroit, Michigan, was founded by William Venoid Banks. minister and prominent member of the International Free and Accepted Modern Masons, an organization he founded in 1950. The station was sold in 1995 and became a CBS affiliate.

WHMM -TV (Channel 32) was founded on September 29, 1980 as the first African American owned and operated public educational station in the United States. In 1998, the station changed its call letters branding to WHUT (for Howard University Television). Since its founding, WHUT has won 11 Emmys and 8 Communications Excellence to Black Audiences Awards. Despite this success, budget cuts have forced the station to roll back programming hours in recent years.

Photo Gallery

Photograph of African-American Women with Brooms of Bambusa, September 29, 1899
Photographs Relating to Farm Management Investigations National Archives,
Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Record Group 83
(National Archives Identifier 521043)

Duke Ellington and President Harry Truman comparing musical notes at the White House on
September 29, 1950. During another visit to Truman’s White House, the president “wanting to converse
as one piano player to another,” dismissed his guards and, as Mr. Ellington described
 it, he and the president acted like “a couple of cats in a billiard parlor.”

Margaret Tynes, taken by Carl Van Vechten  September 29, 1959.
 (Via the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Voter Registration, September 29, 1964, Richmond, Virginia

Flip Wilson and Gail Fisher guest starring on an episode of “Love,
American Style” called “Love and the Hustler,” on September 29, 1969

Leontyne Price, Amsterdam, September 29, 1996, Interview during her world tour to
promote her Red Box CD set 'The Essential Leontyne Price'. Photographer unknown

Clarence Baugh, presidential motorcade driver, had served every president since
George H.W. Bush but had never met one before meeting President Obama on September 29, 2014


Jet Magazine, September 29, 1955

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