December 26

Jean Toomer (born Nathan Pinchback Toomer, December 26, 1894 - March 30, 1967) was best known for his 1923 novel Cane, and its reprint soon after his death led to an increased interest in his poetry, essays, and other writings. The setting for the novel is based on his experience in 1921 as principal of Sparta Agricultural and Industrial Institute in Sparta, Georgia, although he was primarily raised in mostly- white neighborhoods in Washington D.C. and New York by his maternal grandfather, P. B. S. Pinchback, the first African American governor in the United States. His estranged father's family lived in the Sparta area and many appear as thinly-disguised characters in the novel.  Toomer was published in literary and socialist political journals during the Harlem Renaissance. His writing took on more of a spiritual nature as he studied under Russian mystic George Gurdjieff and read the works of Carl Jung. He became a Quaker in 1940, and wrote little more for publication.


Bazoline Estelle Usher (December 26, 1885 - February 8, 1992) graduated from Atlanta University and had a 40-year career in the Atlanta public school system as a teacher, principal, and Supervisor of Education for Minority Pupils. She also led a group of about 25 women who created the first African American Girl Scout troops in Atlanta.

Una Mae Carlisle (December 26, 1915 - November 7, 1956) played piano at the age of three and was performing publicly by the time she was 10. She was discovered at 16 by Fats Waller while she worked as a local Cincinnati performer live and on radio. Her piano style was much influenced by Waller's; she played in a boogie-woogie/stride style and incorporated humor into her sets. She played solo from 1937, touring Europe repeatedly and recording with Waller late in the 1930s. In the 1940s Carlisle recorded as a leader for Bluebird Records, with sidemen such as Lester Young, Benny Carter, and John Kirby.

Lonne Elder III (December 26, 1927 - June 11, 1996) first received acclaim for his play, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, produced in 1969 by the Negro Ensemble Company. It won him a Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Playwright and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Subsequent productions of the play nurtured the stage careers of several prominent actors, including Denzel Washington, Billy Dee Williams, Keith David, and Laurence Fishburne. Elder also wrote the screenplay for the film Sounder, based on the novel by William H. Armstrong. The film was nominated for four academy awards including Best Adapted Screenplay. Elder was the first African American male to receive this honor and went on to write the sequel.

Harold Cash (born December 26, 1948) retired from bull and bronco riding in 1995 and currently serves as president of The Over The Hill and Future Cowboys Rodeo Association, which puts on two rodeos a year with proceeds used to place new head stones on cowboys' graves. He also sponsors the annual Harold Cash Spring Rodeo Roundup, held at the Galveston County Fairgrounds in Hitchcock. Proceeds from the rodeo go to scholarships for underprivileged children. Cash holds a degree in Industrial Technology from Prairie View A&M and in 1982 he and Myrtis Dightman opened the first black country-western club in Houston.

Osborne Earl "Ozzie" Smith (born December 26, 1954) is a former shortstop who played for the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals from 1978 to 1996. Nicknamed "The Wizard" for his defensive brilliance, Smith set major league records for career assists (8,375) and double plays (1,590) by a shortstop (the latter since broken by Omar Vizquel), as well as the National League (NL) record with 2,511 career games at the position; Smith won the NL Gold Glove Award for play at shortstop for 13 consecutive seasons (1980–92). He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2002.


On December 26, 1908 Jack Johnson became the first African American to win the world heavyweight boxing title. Johnson knocked out Canadian Tommy Burns in the 14th round in a championship fight near Sydney, Australia. Whites hated Johnson, who held the heavyweight title until 1915, for his defiance of the "Jim Crow" racial segregation and oppression of early 20th-century America.

On December 26, 1944, First Lieutenant John Robert Fox of the 366th Infantry Regiment was killed in action when he deliberately called for artillery fire on his own position, after his position was overrun, in order to defeat a German attack in the vicinity of Sommocolonia, northern Italy during World War II. Fox's sacrifice gained time for the U.S. forces to organize a counterattack and retake the village. When they did so, they found Fox’s body as well as about one hundred dead German soldiers. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor in 1997 after it was determined that African American soldiers had been denied consideration for the Medal of Honor because of their race.

On December 26, 1966 Kwanzaa was first celebrated by Ron Karenga. His goal was to "give Blacks an alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and their history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society." It is a 7-day celebration inspired by African "first fruit" traditions, and the name is derived from the name for the Swahili first fruit celebration, “matunda ya kwanza.” The principle represented by the first day is Umoja (unity).


Myra Rigaud, A Xavier University Graduate, Covers Jet - Jet Magazine December 26, 1963

James Brown, Jet Magazine, December 26, 1968

Diahann Carroll and Fred Williamson on the cover of the Dec. 26-Jan 1, 1971 issue of TV Guide.

Jet Magazine, December 26, 1974: Esther Rolle

Words with Wings: A Treasury of African-American Poetry and Art by Belinda Rochelle. $14.24. 48 pages. Publisher: Amistad (December 26, 2000).  

From Private to General: An African American Soldier Rises Through the Ranks by Jerry Curry. $13.49. Publisher: Believe Books (December 26, 2006).


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