January 20

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. He had previously served as a U.S. Senator from Illinois and was the first African American to be president. The Washington Post estimated the attendance at 1.8 million people, and surprisingly there were no arrests. Based on the combined attendance numbers, television viewership, and Internet traffic, it was among the most-observed events ever by the global audience. Ten inaugural balls were held that evening, including the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball, the first ever with free or affordable tickets.


David Wilmot (January 20, 1814 - March 16, 1868) served in Congress from 1845 to 1851 and in the Senate from  1861 on 1863.  He is primarily remembered as a sponsor of the Wilmot Proviso (1846), intended to ban slavery in western lands gained from Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1846–1848. The proposal repeatedly passed the House of Representatives, but was defeated in the Senate, and never became law. However, it caused great anger and consternation in the South, and increased the prominence of the slavery issue on the national stage.
Eva Jessye (January 20, 1895 - February 21, 1992) was the first African American woman to receive international distinction as a professional choral conductor. She is notable as a choral conductor during the Harlem Renaissance, who created her own choral group featured widely in performance. Her professional influence extended for decades through her teaching as well. She collaborated in productions of groundbreaking works, directing her choir and working with Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein on Four Saints in Three Acts (1933), and serving as musical director with George Gershwin on his innovative opera Porgy and Bess (1935).

Lead Belly (born Huddie William Ledbetter, January 20, 1888 - December 6, 1949) was an iconic American folk and blues musician, notable for his strong vocals, his virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar, and the songbook of folk standards he introduced. He also wrote songs about people in the news, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Jean Harlow, Jack Johnson, the Scottsboro Boys and Howard Hughes. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

Loren Miller (January 20, 1903 - July 14, 1967) was a Los Angeles attorney specializing in housing discrimination. He argued some of the most historic civil rights cases ever heard before the U.S. Supreme Court and was chief counsel before the court in the decision that led to the outlawing of racial covenants. In 1964 he was appointed California Superior Court Justice for the County of Los Angeles, serving until his death in 1967.

Carl Gordon (January 20, 1932 – July 20, 2010) was best known for his role in the Fox TV series Roc as the father of the Charles Dutton's title character. He began acting in his late 30s, appearing on Broadway and in the national tour of Happy Ending / Day of Absence, a pair of one-act plays by Douglas Turner Ward, and performed on stage in 30 productions by Ward's Negro Ensemble Company. He also worked in films, most notably Gordon's War (1973) and Brother From Another Planet (1984).


On January 20, 1758, Haitian revolutionary Macandal was burned at the stake for united thousands of escaped slaves along with many still enslaved, and proclaimed that he would lead them all to independence and freedom. He is the first known black to proclaim he would end slavery. Taken from the Congo region at the age of 12 to the Caribbean, he was fluent in Arabic and was sought far and wide by slaves and aristocrats for his use of plants in the treatment of disease .

On January 20,  1954, The National Negro Network was a black-oriented radio programming service in the United States by Chicago advertiser W. Leonard Evans, Jr. It was the first black-owned radio network in the country, and its programming was broadcast on up to 45 affiliates. An article in the trade publication Broadcasting said that the network was expected "to reach approximately 12 million of the 15 million Negroes in America." Evans was the network's president. Reggie Schuebel was vice president-treasurer, and John M. Wyatt was executive vice president.

On January 20, 1955, Read's Drugstore Baltimore, MD,  a chain of drug stores in Baltimore, became the site of one the first peaceful desegregation sit-ins. Students at Morgan State University and with the local chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) joined forces on January 20.The event was peaceful and lasted about an hour.

Photo Gallery

Delta Sigma Theta was the first Black sorority in Evanston, Illinois. The charter was issued on January 20, 1948 as Gamma Omicron, a mixed chapter comprised of undergraduates and alumnae members.

Malcolm X Issued: January 20, 1999 Malcolm X spoke out about the concepts of race pride and black nationalism in the early 1960s.


Jet Magazine, January 20, 1955

Edee Smith and Lingerie Go to the Beach - Jet Magazine, January 20, 1955

Interracial Couple Snubbed in London – Jet Magazine, January 20, 1955 Tony & Sylvia Overman.

From Slavery to Freedom by John Hope Franklin. $35.91. 736 pages. Publisher: Humanities & Social Science; 9 edition (January 20, 2010)

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