December 8

Wifredo Lam (December 8, 1902 – September 11, 1982), was a Cuban artist whose work shows the influence of European cubism combined with Caribbean themes.

Henry H. Proctor (December 8, 1868 - 1933) was pastor of First Congregational Church in Atlanta from 1894 until 1920. In 1903, he and George Washington Henderson, president of Straight University, a black college in New Orleans, founded the National Convention of Congregational Workers Among Colored People to promote the mission work of the denomination in the south, and served as its first president. After the Atlanta race riots of 1906 he and white attorney Charles T. Hopkins formed an interracial committee of 40 men to ease conflicts in the city. To provide resources for African Americans he created a community center at the church, providing a library, a kindergarten, an employment bureau, a gymnasium, a ladies’ reading parlor, a music room, counseling services, and a model kitchen and sewing room for girls. He also helped open the first housing facility for young employed black women, and founded the Atlanta Colored Music Festival Association, with concerts attended by both races, segregated but under one roof, believing that music could quell racial animosity. This festival currently continues as the Atlanta Music Festival. Rev. Proctor held a B.Div. degree from Yale (1894), where he was a classmate of W. E. B. Du Bois. His thesis was on the theology of southern slave songs, asserting their grounding in orthodox Christianity.


Eli Whitney (December 8, 1765 - January 8, 1825) received a patent for the cotton gin in 1794 but it was not validated until 1807. Because of the state of patent law at the time and the simplicity of the machine, which removed seeds from cotton by drawing the fibers through a mesh which retained the seeds, it was copied with various improvements and he did not profit from it. The cotton gin turned cotton into a valuable crop and reinforced the demand for chattel slavery in areas where it could be grown. Cotton exports grew from under 500,000 pounds in 1793 to 93 million in 1810. Between 1820 and 1860 cotton accounted for half of the value of U.S. exports.

Clinton B. Fisk (December 8, 1828 – July 9, 1890), served as assistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau for Kentucky and Tennessee.  He worked through the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands and the American Missionary Association to establish the first free schools in the Southern United States for both African American and white children. He made the abandoned barracks in Nashville, Tennessee available to the American Missionary Association for the creation of the Fisk School, and endowed it with a total of $30,000. During the Civil War he commanded first the District of Southeast Missouri and later the Department of North Missouri, opposing raids into Missouri by Confederate States of America cavalry and guerrillas.

Wifredo Lam (born Wifredo Óscar de la Concepción Lam y Castilla, December 8, 1902 – September 11, 1982), was a Cuban artist who sought to portray and revive the enduring Afro-Cuban spirit and culture. Inspired by and in contact with some of the most renowned artists of the 20th century, most notably Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro, he melded his influences and created a unique style, which was ultimately characterized by the prominence of hybrid figures. His best known work, The Jungle, has been compared to Picasso's Guernica. Lam's father was a Chinese immigrant and his mother was born to a Congolese former slave mother and a Cuban mulatto father.

The Jungle, 1943

Samuel George (Sammy) Davis Jr. (December 8, 1925 – May 16, 1990) was an American entertainer and was also known for his impersonations of actors and other celebrities. Primarily a dancer and singer, Davis started as a child vaudevillian who became known for his performances on Broadway and Las Vegas. He went on to become a world famous recording artist, television and film star. Davis was also a member of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack".

Jimmy Smith (December 8, 1925 or 1928 – February 8, 2005) was an African-American jazz musician who achieved the rare distinction of releasing a series of instrumental jazz albums that regularly charted on Billboard. Smith helped popularize the Hammond B-3 electric organ creating an indelible link between sixties soul and jazz improvisation..

Clerow Wilson, Jr. (December 8, 1933 – November 25, 1998), known professionally as Flip Wilson, was an American comedian and actor. In the early 1970s, Wilson hosted his own weekly variety series, The Flip Wilson Show. The series earned Wilson a Golden Globe and two Emmy Awards. In January 1972, Time magazine featured Wilson's image on their cover and named him "TV's first black superstar".


On December 8, 1969, a four-hour shootout took place at the Southern California Headquarters of the Black Panther Party. The massive exchange of gunfire was between a cluster of six Panther members who happened to be inside the headquarters and what would ultimately grown to be a force of 200 Los Angeles police officers, including a newly created LAPD SWAT team that would have its first real outing on that day.

On December 8, 1987 Kurt Lidell Schmoke is inaugurated as the first African American mayor of Baltimore, Maryland. He would later generate controversy by calling for the decriminalization of certain drugs arguing that the so-called war on drugs was counter-productive and unfairly harmful to Blacks. Schmoke currently heads the Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C.

On December 8, 1999, a Memphis jury unanimously ruled that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a conspiracy that included agencies of his own government. Almost 32 years after King’s murder at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968, a court extended the circle of responsibility for the assassination beyond the late scapegoat James Earl Ray to the United States government.

Photo Gallery

December 8, 1896 J.T. White patents the lemon squeezer.

The wounded being cared for aboard the hospital train, December 8, 1943. CSU Archives/Courtesy Everett Collection

December 8, 1956 Jackie Robinson, baseball great, received the 41st NAACP Spingarn Medal

December 8, 1991 Tap dancing legends Fayard and Harold Nicholas and six others receive Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, DC

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey (L) listens as Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) addresses a crowd gathered for a campaign rally December 8, 2007 in Des Moines, Iowa


University of Pittsburgh May Play First Black in Sugar Bowl - Jet Magazine, December 8, 1955

Pearl Bailey in Hello, Dolly -- Life Magazine, December 8, 1967

Richard Pryor on the cover of Soul, December 8, 1975

Black History: History in an Hour by Rupert Colley. $1.99. Publisher: HarperPress (December 8, 2011). 80 pages. 


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