January 17

Michelle Obama (born January 17, 1964) is the wife of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and is the first African American First Lady of the United States.

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr.; January 17, 1942 - June 3, 2016) was one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century. He began training as an amateur boxer when he was 12 years old. At age 18, he won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, and as a professional won the title in 1964, 1974 and 1978. He is the only boxer to be named The Ring magazine Fighter of the Year six times. In 1964 he converted to Islam and changed his name from Cassius Clay, which he called his "slave name", to Muhammad Ali. He set an example of racial pride for African Americans and resistance to white domination during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. In 1966 he refused to be drafted, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested, found guilty of draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing titles. He successfully appealed in the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971, by which time he had not fought for nearly four years—losing a period of peak performance as an athlete. In 1984 he was diagnosed with Parkinson's syndrome, which his doctors attributed to boxing-related brain injuries.


Paul Cuffee (January 17, 1759 – September 9, 1817) was a Quaker businessman, sea captain, patriot, and abolitionist. He was of Aquinnah Wampanoag and West African Ashanti descent and helped colonize Sierra Leone. Cuffe built a lucrative shipping empire and established the first racially integrated school in Westport, Massachusetts. He became involved in the British effort to resettle freed slaves, many of whom had moved from the US to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution, to the fledgling colony of Sierra Leone and helped establish The Friendly Society of Sierra Leone, which provided financial support for the colony.

Abram Lincoln Harris, Jr. (January 17, 1899 – November 6, 1963) was an economist, academic, anthropologist and a social critic of blacks in the United States. Considered by many as the first African American to achieve prominence in the field of economics, he was also known for his heavy influence on black radical and neo-conservative thought in the United States. As an economist, he is most famous for his 1931 collaboration with political scientist Sterling Spero to produce a study on African-American labor history titled The Black Worker and his 1936 work The Negro as Capitalist, in which he criticized black businessmen for not promoting interracial trade.

Jewel Plummer Cobb (born January 17, 1924) was president of California State University, Fullerton from 1981 to 1990. She received her M.S. degree from NYU in 1947 and her Ph.D. degree in cell physiology in 1950. Her dissertation “Mechanisms of Pigment Formation” examined the way melanin pigment granules could be formed in vitro using the enzyme tyrosinase. In 1949 she was appointed an independent investigator at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory. She also held post-doctoral positions at the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Foundation, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and the National Cancer Institute.

Eartha Mae Kitt (January 17, 1927 – December 25, 2008) was best known for her highly distinctive singing style and her 1953 recordings of "C'est si bon" and the enduring Christmas novelty smash "Santa Baby", which were both US Top 10 hits. She starred in 1967 as Catwoman, in the third and final season of the television series Batman. began her career in 1943 and appeared in the 1945 original Broadway theatre production of the musical Carib Song. She later received Tony Award nominations for Timbuktu! (1978) and The Wild Party (2000).

James Earl Jones (born January 17, 1931) is known for being the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars and of Mufasa in The Lion King as well as for over fifty years as a stage and film actor. He won Tony awards in 1969 for The Great White Hope and in 1987 for Fences, and has also portrayed Lennie in Of Mice and Men and the title roles in Othello and King Lear. His  first film role was as Lt. Lothar Zogg, the B-52 bombardier in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb in 1964, and his first starring film role was as boxer Jack Jefferson in 1970's The Great White Hope.

Lawrence Douglas Wilder (born January 17, 1931) was the first African American to be elected as governor of Virginia and first African American governor of any state since Reconstruction, serving as the 66th Governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994. When earlier elected as Lieutenant Governor, he was the first African American elected to statewide office in Virginia. His most recent political office was Mayor of Richmond, Virginia, which he held from 2005 to 2009. He served in Korea, winning the Bronze Star during the battle of Pork Chop Hill, and is a 1959 graduate of Howard Law School.
Michelle Obama (January 17, 1964) is the wife of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and was the first African American First Lady of the United States. She graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School before returning to Chicago to work at the law firm Sidley Austin where she met her future husband when he was an intern at the firm, and they were married on October 3, 1992. She also worked for the City of Chicago, as as associate dean of student services for the University of Chicago, and as vice president for community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center before taking a leave of absence to campaign for her husband. As First Lady she was known for her commitment to education and childrens' fitness.


On January 17, 1961, Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was executed by Katangan secessionists. Belgium, the United Kingdom, and the United States have all been accused of involvement in Lumumba's death, the latter due to American commercial interests in the Congo and as part of Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union, a country the Americans were determined should not gain access to Congo's uranium riches used to make nuclear bombs.

On January 17, 1969, "Bunchy" Carter and fellow Panther John Huggins were shot to death in UCLA’s Campbell Hall by members of the rival black radical group Us. Their deaths were actual set up by the FBI and its COINTELPRO program. Both were founders of the Los Angeles chapter of the BPP the previous year.

On January 17, 1991, Wilhelmina Delco became the first woman to serve as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Texas House. Delco was also the first African American elected to the board of the Austin Independent School District and the first African American elected to represent Travis County in the Texas House of Representatives.

On January 17, 1996, U.S. Representative Barbara Jordan passed away from Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 60. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among numerous other honors. On her death she became the first African-American woman to be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.

Photo Gallery

Gen. Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, fighting off the Austrian army, at the bridge of Clausen in Tyrol, on 17 January 1797.

Huey Newton: “The racist dog policemen must withdraw immediately from our communities, cease their wanton murder and brutality and torture of black people, or face the wrath of the armed people.” January 17, 1969


Jet Magazine, January 17, 1952

SOUL — America's Most Soulful Newspaper, January 17, 1977 — George Clinton of Parliament, Gil Scott-Heron & LaBelle

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