February 1

Langston Hughes (born James Mercer Langston Hughes, February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was a leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance. His poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", was published in Crisis Magazine in 1921 and is a prime example of the newly-expressed racial pride of the era. Following poems include "I, Too", "A Dream Deferred", and "Let America Be America Again". He also wrote novels, short stories, two autobiographies, and a column in the Chicago Defender for 20 years. He was the grandson of  Charles Henry Langston and the great-nephew of John Mercer Langston.


Charles Lenox Remond (February 1, 1810 – December 22, 1873) was an American orator, activist and abolitionist based in Massachusetts. He lectured against slavery across the Northeast, and in the British Isles on an 1840 tour with William Lloyd Garrison. During the American Civil War, he recruited blacks for the United States Colored Troops, helping staff the first two units sent from Massachusetts. From a large family of African American entrepreneurs, he was the brother of Sarah Parker Remond, also a lecturer against slavery.
Henry McNeal Turner (February 1, 1834–May 8, 1915) was a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. During the Civil War he was appointed Chaplain to one of the first Federal regiments of black troops (Company B of the First US Colored Troops). Turner was the first of only fourteen African Ameican chaplains to be appointed and the first to be made a commissioned officer. After the war he served in the Freedmen's Bureau in Macon, Georgia, and was elected to the state legislature. At the end of reconstruction he became a proponent of black nationalism and supported emigration of African Americans to Africa.
Francis L. Cardozo (February 1, 1835 - July 22, 1903) was the first African American elected to statewide office as South Carolina's Secretary of State. The son of a free black mother and Portuguese father, he attended the University of Glasgow in preparation to become a Presbyterian minister. After Reconstruction he served as principal of the Colored Preparatory High School in Washington DC, and was the grandfather of Eslanda Cardoza Goode, who was married to Paul Robeson.

J. Ernest Wilkins, Sr. (February 1, 1894 – January 19, 1959) was the first African American sub-cabinet member in U.S. history when President Eisenhower appointed him Undersecretary of Labor in 1954. He also served as acting chairman of the President's Committee on Government Contracts and member of the Equality Committee. In 1953, Wilkins became the first African American to serve on the nine-member Judicial Council of the Methodist Church, when he was elected its secretary. He was the father of physicist J. Ernest Wilkins Jr. and attorneys John Robinson Wilkins and Julian B. Wilkins.

Edgar Newton Duncan (born February 1, 1932 - December 17, 2011) was the first pharmacist to be named surgeon general in 1972. He later served as Associate Dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, working with Pitt’s Partners in Education Consortium and other programs to encourage black and other minority youth to pursue health professions. In 1990, he earned his Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.

Azie Taylor Morton (February 1, 1936 - December 7, 2003) served as Treasurer of the United States during the Carter administration and is the only African American to have held that office. Her signature was printed on U.S. currency during her tenure; this is an honor she shared with four African American men. She is a graduate of Huston-Tillotson College and served on President John F. Kennedy's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity and from 1972 to 1976, she was a special assistant to Robert Schwarz Strauss, then chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Joseph Leslie (Joe) Sample (February 1, 1939 – September 12, 2014) was a pianist, keyboard player and composer who was one of the founding members of the Jazz Crusaders, the band which became simply The Crusaders in 1971, and remained a part of the group until its final album in 1991 (not including the 2003 reunion album Rural Renewal). Beginning in the 1970s, he enjoyed a successful solo career and guested on many recordings by other performers and groups, including Miles Davis, George Benson, Jimmy Witherspoon, B. B. King, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, and the Supremes


On February 1, 1893, Henry Smith was tortured and murdered at a heavily attended lynching in Paris, Texas. He was accused of murdering a white child named Myrtle Vance on January 26, and had escaped to Arkansas before being returned. The lynching was covered by the New York Times and by Ida B. Wells, who wrote about it at length in her pamphlet, The Red Record . The crowd was estimated to be as large as 10,000, with special trains from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma bringing spectators. It was considered to be one of the first "public" lynchings with souvenirs being sold, and was among the first to receive international coverage.

On February 1, 1941, Mildred Carter of Tuskegee became Alabama’s first licensed black female pilot. With 150 hours of flight time logged, she flew in a two-plane formation with her husband,Tuskegee Airman, Herbert Carter. In a campus publication, Mildred Carter had been given the title of “Miss Tuskegee Army Flying School” by her colleagues at Tuskegee Air Field. As the years passed, Mr. and Mrs. Carter became the "first family" of the Tuskegee Airmen organization and represented the group at functions around the world.

On February 1,1951, Aaron Albert Mossell passed away. He was born in 1863 but the exact date is not known. He was the first African American to graduate from the University of Pennsylvania Law School (1888). He was solicitor of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Hospital, where his brother Nathan was medical director. He was said to have defended some African-American men after the racial riots of 1917-1919 in Philadelphia. He was the father of pharmacist Aaron Albert Tanner III, educator Elizabeth Mossell Anderson, and attorney Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander.
On February 1, 1960, Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Joseph McNeill, and Franklin McCain, all students at North Carolina A&T University, sat down at a segregated lunch counter in a Greensboro Woolworth's store, ordered coffee, and stayed in their seats, despite being refused service, until the store closed. Five days later, over 500 students filled that store and others in downtown Greensboro. From there the sit-ins spread across the state and across the South, transforming the Civil Rights movement. Other sit-ins had been held as early as 1942 but this was the first to receive widespread publicity.

Photo Gallery

Students protest segregation at the state capitol building in Atlanta on February 1, 1962.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last college address at Manchester University on February 1, 1968. In this picture he is seen walking in to the Union with President A. Blair Helman.

Eartha Kitt, February 1, 1984. Photograph by Kenn Duncan

Michelle Obama, February 1, 2012, at the future site of Gonzalez Northgate Market to discuss the California FreshWorks Fun in Inglewood, California. 


Black Officer in a Buffalo Soldier Regiment: The Military Career of Charles Young by Brian G. Shellum. $16.99. Publisher: Bison Books (February 1, 2010).

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