December 25

Cab Calloway (December 25, 1907 - November 18, 1994) was a singer and band leader best known for his scat style in songs such as Minnie the Moocher. He led a house band at Harlem's Cotton Club, as did Duke Ellington, and both men appeared regularly on Walter Winchell's radio program. Calloway appeared in movies from The Singing Kid in 1936 to The Blues Brothers in 1980, and in stage productions including Porgy and Bess and Hello Dolly (opposite Pearl Bailey).


Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George (sometimes erroneously spelled Saint-Georges) (December 25, 1745 – June 10, 1799) was an important French-Caribbean figure in the Paris musical scene in the second half of the 18th century as composer, conductor, and violinist. Prior to the revolution in France, he was also famous as a swordsman and equestrian. Known as the "black Mozart", he was one of the earliest musicians of the European classical type known to have African ancestry.

Charles Bennett Ray (December 25, 1807 – August 15, 1886) attended Wesleyan Seminary in Wilbraham, Massachusetts studying theology, and then in 1832 enrolled as the first black student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut although his enrollment was revoked less than two months later after white students protested. He  became a Methodist minister and later a Congregational minister, He was a prominent promoter of the Underground Railroad, a co-founder and director of the New York Vigilance Committee, and a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, assisting runaway slaves. In 1838 Ray and Phillip A. Bell became co-owners of The Colored American, the fourth weekly periodical published by African Americans, and Ray became the sole owner and editor in 1839. His daughters included the first female African-American attorney, Charlotte E. Ray; her sister Florence Ray, who also became an attorney; as well as poet Henrietta Cordelia Ray, known for her eighty-line ode, Lincoln.

Benjamin Tucker Tanner (born December 25, 1835 - January 14, 1923, Washington D.C.) served as a Bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church  In 1868 he was elected chief secretary of the general conference of the AME church and founded and became editor of the church newspaper, the Christian Recorder, a role he served for 16 years. In 1884 he was made editor of the A. M. E. Review, and he was the author of a number of books and pamphlets in the 1870s and 1880s, including: 'Apology for African Methodism;' 'The Negro's Origin; and Is He Cursed of God,' 'An Outline of our History and Government;' 'The Negro, African and American.' He was a participant in the March 5, 1897 meeting to celebrate the memory of Frederick Douglass which founded the American Negro Academy led by Alexander Crummell. Bishop Tanner was the father of artist Henry Ossawa Tanner and the grandfather of attorney Sadie Mossell Tanner Alexander.

John Henry Murphy (born December 25, 1840 - April 5, 1922) was a member Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Baltimore when he was appointed District Sunday School Superintendent. He used a manual printing press to produce a weekly church publication, the Sunday School Helper, to make copies of materials for students and in 1897 Murphy purchased the printing presses of the Afro-American for $200. He merged the Sunday School Helper with the Afro and in 1900 acquired another newspaper, The Ledger, renaming the paper the Afro-American Ledger. By 1922, the Afro-American Ledger had become the largest black-owned newspaper along the Atlantic coast and the third largest in the nation after the Chicago Defender and the Negro World, with a circulation of 14,000.

Henry McKee Minton (December 25, 1870 - December 29, 1946) graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 1891 and then earned a Ph.G. degree in 1895 from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. An inheritance from his grandfather, Philadelphia businessman Colonel John McKee, he attended Jefferson Medical College, graduating in 1906 and becoming first pharmacist for the Douglass Hospital, which had been founded in 1895 by Dr. Nathan F. Mossell and was the first hospital in Philadelphia for African Americans. In 1920 he became Director of Mercy Hospital until his retirement in 1946. He was also a founder of Sigma Pi Phi, the oldest African American Greek letter organization.

Edward "Kid" Ory (December 25, 1886 – January 23, 1973) had one of the best-known bands in New Orleans in the 1910s, hiring many of the great jazz musicians of the city, including cornetists Joe "King" Oliver, Mutt Carey, and Louis Armstrong, who joined the band in 1919;[1] and clarinetists Johnny Dodds and Jimmie Noone. In 1919, he moved to Los Angeles, one of a number of New Orleans musicians to do so near that time, and he recorded there in 1921 with a band that included Mutt Carey, clarinetist and pianist Dink Johnson, and string bassist Ed Garland.

Oscar Polk (December 25, 1899 – January 4, 1949) was an American actor, best known for his portrayal as the servant "Pork" in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. He was married to Ivy V. Polk (née Ivy Parsons), who also had an uncredited role in Gone with the Wind. On January 4, 1949, he was fatally struck by a taxi cab as he stepped off a curb in Times Square ten days after his 49th birthday. At the time of his death he was scheduled to have a major role in the play Leading Lady, and he was replaced by Ossie Davis.

William Demby (December 25, 1922 - May 23, 2013) wrote for the Army publication Stars and Stripes while serving in North African during World War II. After the war he graduated from Fisk University and moved to Rome where he worked for Italian film directors, including Federico Fellini, translating Italian screenplays and films into English. He was assistant director of dialogue on Roberto Rossellini's film Europa 51 starring Ingrid Bergman. He also wrote for various American magazines, among them The Reporter. In Italy, he wrote his first, existentialist, novel, Beetlecreek (1950), and then his second, more experimental novel, The Catacombs (1965). He began teaching English in 1969 at the College of Staten Island (CUNY)  and published his third novel, Love Story Black, in 1978.

Mabel King (December 25, 1932 – November 9, 1999)  played the role of Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West in the all-African American cast of the Broadway musical The Wiz. The role earned her a Drama Desk Award nomination for outstanding featured actress in a musical. In 1976, she was offered the role of Mabel Thomas on the sitcom What's Happening!!, a role she played from 1976 to 1978.

 Michael P. Anderson  (December 25, 1959 – February 1, 2003) was a United States Lieutenant Colonel (USAF) and NASA astronaut, who was killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster when the craft disintegrated after reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. Anderson was born in Plattsburgh, New York, but considered Spokane, Washington to be his hometown. In 1981, Anderson earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Washington in Seattle, and in 1990 he was awarded Master of Science degree in physics from Creighton University in Omaha.


On December 25, 1760 Jupiter Hammon wrote the poem "An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries" which early the next year became the first published work by an African American. Hammon took part in Revolutionary War groups such as the Spartan Project and on September 24, 1786 delivered his "Address to the Negroes of the State of New York" saying, "If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black, or for being slaves."

On December 25, 1951 the home of Harry Tyson Moore and his wife, Harriette Vyda Simms Moore, was firebombed by the KKK. Mr. Moore died on the way to a hospital, and Mrs. Moore died nine days later. It was their 25th wedding anniversary. They were founders of the first branch of the NAACP in Brevard County, and Mr. Moore was Executive Director of the Florida NAACP, and had been involved in the successful appeal of a wrongful conviction case. He has been called the first martyr in the Civil Rights Movement and was the first NAACP official murdered in the civil rights struggle.

On December 25, 1954, Johnny Ace, an up-and-coming R&B singer whom the press has picked as a star in the making, was killed backstage at his concert in Houston. Although official reports say Ace was playing Russian Roulette, other theories maintain he was murdered, perhaps by his manager, whose contract Johnny had recently tried to break out of. Earlier that month he had been named the Most Programmed Artist of 1954 according to the results of a national poll of disc jockeys conducted by the U.S. trade weekly Cash Box.
December 25, 1956: The home of Birmingham minister and civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth is bombed. Although the structure is severely damaged, Shuttlesworth emerges uninjured, to the amazement of the gathering crowd. Undaunted, and interpreting his survival as a sign of God's favor, Shuttlesworth and other local activists proceed with plans to challenge Birmingham bus segregation the next day.

Photo Gallery

Boxing legend Joe Louis and pioneering beauty entrepreneur Rose Morgan on their wedding day, December 25, 1955.

Ella Fitzgerald singing with children at at a Christmas party in Watts, California, December 25, 1975

President Obama holds a one month old baby on December 25, 2011. [Photo: Getty Images}


Pearl Dreux and Mrs Marguerite Belafonte, Harry's Ex, at the Maryland Debutante Ball - Jet Magazine, December 25, 1958


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