January 1

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which called for the freedom of approximately three million enslaved people in 10 states of the Confederacy. It did not apply to border states (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware) or some areas under Union control, although it did have the effect of freeing those who escaped to those areas and inspired many to do so. It was not enforceable in most places but had the impact of making the eradication of slavery an explicit military goal of the Union. It also called for the recruitment of African American men as Union soldiers.


Randall Albert Carter (January 1, 1867 - February 6, 1954) was ordained an elder in the Colored (now Christian) Methodist Episcopal Church in 1887 and served as a presiding elder from 1894 to 1898 and 1903 to 1914 before being elected bishop in 1914 with the largest vote any candidate had received to that time. He was President of the Board of Trustees of Texas College and a member of the Executive Committee of the Association for Study of Negro Life and History. Bishop Carter was born in Fort Valley, Georgia, and held BA, MA, and DDiv degrees from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia.
Muriel Petioni (January 1, 1914 - December 6, 2011) was a Harlem physician and activist. Her family emigrated from Trinidad when she was 5, and her father graduated from Howard Medical School in 1925, establishing a practice at their home on 131st Street. She joined him in 1937, after graduating from Howard as the only woman in her class. She was also a school physician and active in many community organizations promoting health care, housing development and education.

John Henrik Clarke (January 1, 1915 - July 16, 1998) was a self-educated writer, editor, and historian of the African Diaspora. He came from Alabama to Harlem in 1933, becoming a member of the Harlem History Club and the Harlem Writers' Workshop. He taught at Cornell and Hunter College where he was founding chairman of the Department of Black and Puerto Rican Studies. He also founded the  African Heritage Studies Association and the Black Caucus of the African Studies Association.

Milt Jackson (January 1, 1923 – October 9, 1999) played guitar, piano, drums and violin before took up the vibraphone at 16 after hearing Lionel Hampton play the instrument in Benny Goodman's band. He was discovered by Dizzy Gillespie, who hired him for his sextet in 1945, then his larger ensembles. He and  pianist John Lewis, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Kenny Clarke formed the Modern Jazz Quartet in 1952, playing together for over 20 years, and reuniting during the 1980s.
Matthew Beard, Jr. (January 1, 1925 – January 8, 1981) was most famous for portraying the character of Stymie in the Our Gang short films from 1930 to 1935. The character's trademark was a bald head crowned by an oversize derby hat, a gift to Beard from comedian Stan Laurel, who had also worked under Our Gang creator Hal Roach. After leaving the series at age ten he appeared in several films including Captain BloodJezebel, and The Return of Frank James. He was addicted to heroin for most of his adult life but after successful rehab he resumed acting, appearing on television and in a cameo appearance in The Buddy Holly Story as a member of the backstage crew at the Apollo Theatre, wearing his trademark bowler hat.

James Reeb (January 1, 1927 – March 11, 1965) was severely beaten by white supremacists on "Turnaround Tuesday", the day of protests after the "Bloody Sunday" violence toward voting rights activists in Selma, Alabama, as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Rev. Reeb survived brain surgery but died two days after the attack. He was a Unitarian Universalist minister who also served as community relations director for the American Friends Service Committee's Boston Metropolitan Housing Program and had traveled to Alabama in response to a nationwide plea from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for faith leaders to personally join the protests. People across the country were outraged at the killing, and President Johnson invoked Rev. Reeb’s memory on March 15 when he delivered a draft of the Voting Rights Act to Congress. Four men were indicted for the murder; three were acquitted and the fourth fled the state and was not returned.

Matthew Thomas (Matt) Robinson, Jr. (January 1, 1937 – August 5, 2002) was the first actor to portray the character of Gordon Robinson on the long-running PBS children's TV program Sesame Street. When Sesame Street began in 1969, not only did Robinson play Gordon, but he also provided the voice of the puppet Roosevelt Franklin and also was one of the show's producers. After leaving the show in 1972  he wrote and produced the films Save the Children and Amazing Grace, and wrote scripts for Sanford and Son and Eight Is Enough. In 1983, he joined the staff of the NBC's The Cosby Show as a producer and staff writer. He is the father of actress Holly Robinson Peete and a 1958 graduate of Penn State University where he was president of  Omega Psi Phi fraternity.


On January 1, 1808, the importation of slaves into the United States was formally abolished. Although this had been a goal of abolitionists since the Constitutional Convention of 1787, it was not until March 1807 that a bill was passed outlawing the trade, taking effect the following year. However the trade continued illegally, primarily between U.S. ports on the Gulf of Mexico and those in the Caribbean.
On January 1, 1916, The Journal of African American History, formerly The Journal of Negro History, was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Since then, the Journal has evolved into the leading scholarly source on African American life and history. The Journal of African American History in still in publication and continues to explore "African Americans and Movements for Reparations: Past, Present, and Future," and the articles and reviews shed new light on past activities and point to new directions.

Photo Gallery

January 1, 1864: Parker Robbins of Bertie County, a free person of color of mixed African and Native American descent, enlisted in the 2nd United State Colored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Monroe, Va.

Lena Horne, with a group of Tuskegee Airmen on January 1, 1945, left. There are countless photos of Ms. Horne visiting Tuskegee Airmen and other military personnel to show her support for their service. She also showed her support for them by refusing to perform for segregated military audiences during World War II  

Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali in Harlem January 1, 1964.

To curb his fear of flying, Rosey Grier picked up a hobby that would keep him preoccupied: needlepoint. On January 1, 1973 he released “Rosey Grier’s Needlepoint for Men” thereby making it okay for the hypermasculine to sit down and needlepoint a picture of themselves on a pillow case.

January 1, 1980: Diana Ross and Mary WIlson (The Supremes) buying shoes, Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

(L-R) Spike Lee, Randy Jackson, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston at The United Negro College Fund in New York City, January 1, 1999

Shirley Robinson and Ernest Brown, Jr. The First Negro Couple to be Wed on Television - Jet Magazine, January 1, 1953

Errol Garner and Eartha Kitt on Voices of Firestone - Jet Magazine, January 1, 1959

Jet Magazine, January 1, 1976 On the cover: Sherman Hemsley


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