January 31

Jack Roosevelt (Jackie) Robinson (January 31, 1919 - October 24, 1972) was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball since color lines were drawn in the 1880s. He had been an all-sport athlete at UCLA, an Army officer, athletic director at Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University), and a member of the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs before being signed by Dodgers' General Manager Branch Rickey in 1945. He was with the the AAA affiliate Montreal Royals for two seasons before his major league debut on April 15, 1947. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. After his playing career, he was the first black television analyst in MLB, and the first black vice president of a major American corporation, Chock Full o'Nuts.


Jersey Joe Walcott (born Arnold Raymond Cream, January 31, 1914 - February 25, 1994) won the World Heavyweight Championship from Ezzard Charles, whom he knocked out in the 7th round of their 1951 title bout in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Walcott had 69 professional fights. He won 30 of them by knock-out and was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1969. He held the world heavyweight title from 1951 to 1952, and broke the record for the oldest man to win the title, at the age of 37. That record would eventually be broken in 1994 by 45-year-old George Foreman.

Carol Elaine Channing (born January 31, 1921) began her acting career as a Broadway musical actress, starring in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in 1949, and Hello, Dolly! in 1964, when she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. She revived both roles several times throughout her career, most recently playing Dolly in 1995. During her career, she had won or been nominated for a Tony Award for every Broadway show she ever played. She grew up in a German-American household in San Francisco and did not know until just before she left for college that her paternal grandmother was African American.

Benjamin Lawson Hooks (January 31, 1925 – April 15, 2010) was an American civil rights leader. A Baptist minister and practicing attorney, he served as executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) from 1977 to 1992, and throughout his career was a vocal campaigner for civil rights in the United States.

Ernest "Ernie" Banks (January 31, 1931 – January 23, 2015), nicknamed "Mr. Cub" and "Mr. Sunshine", was an American professional baseball player who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a shortstop and first baseman for the Chicago Cubs between 1953 and 1971. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, and was named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999. He began playing professional baseball in 1950 with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro leagues. He served in the U.S. military for two years, played for the Monarchs again, and began his major league career in September 1953. The following year, Banks was the National League Rookie of the Year runner-up.

Kerry Washington (born January 31, 1977) is an African American actress. She is known for her roles as Ray Charles's wife, Della Bea Robinson, in the film Ray (2004), as Idi Amin's wife Kay in The Last King of Scotland, and as Alicia Masters, love interest of Ben Grimm/The Thing in the live-action Fantastic Four films. She has also starred in the critically acclaimed independent film as the lead actress in the 2012 ABC drama Scandal playing Olivia Pope and as Broomhilda von Shaft in the movie Django Unchained.


On January 31, 1865, Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States. The amendment was ratified by the required number of states on December 6, 1865. On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William H. Seward proclaimed its adoption. It was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments adopted following the American Civil War.

On January 31, 1934, Etta Moten sang for President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt at a White House Dinner, the first time an African American actress performed at the White House.

On January 31, 1964, Herbert Lee was shot and killed by E.H. Hurst, a white member of the Mississippi Legislature. Lee worked with civil rights leader Bob Moses to help register black voters. Louis Allen, who witnessed the murder of civil rights worker Herbert Lee, endured years of threats, jailings and harassment. Allen was among a dozen witnesses of the murder of Herbert Lee by E.H. Hurst, a white state legislator, in September 1961. Civil rights activists had come to Liberty that summer to organize for voter registration; essentially no black had been allowed to vote since 1890, when the state disfranchising constitution was passed.

Photo Gallery

The Ashanti Golden Stool with its immediate caretaker January 31, 1935

Sammy Davis, Jr. laughing with Senator Robert F. Kennedy backstage at a benefit for the senator at Ford's Theater. Date Photographed:31 January 1968

Shirley Verrett (left), Marian Anderson, Grace Bumbry (right) January 31, 1982 Photographer: Henry Grossman

W.E.B. Du Bois Issued: January 31, 1992


An arrival in Camp–under the Proclamation of Emancipation. --- Alfred Waud worked up this sketch from a photograph, probably made in his presence by David B. Woodbury on January 1, 1863. It was published in Harper’s Weekly, January 31, 1863, p. 6. Library of Congress image. .. When compared with the photograph, it shows that the photo is actually an reversed stereograph.

Jet Magazine, January 31, 1952

Are Black Women Getting Sexier - The Full Story - Jet Magazine, January 31, 1952

The Black Panther (January 31, 1970)

Time magazine, January 31, 1973 — Flip Wilson

All-White Jury in Fred Hampton Murder Case? The Black Panther (January 31, 1976)

Black Exodus: The Great Migration from the American South by Alferdteen Harrison. $14.93. 128 pages. Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (January 31, 1991)

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