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Black Facts for August 17th

1882 - Ransier, Alonzo J. (1834-1882)

Alonzo Jacob Ransier, an African American Republican from South Carolina, held a series of political posts during the Reconstruction era.  Ransier was born a free black man in Charleston in 1834.  Little is known of his childhood and early education.  At the end of the Civil War he worked as a shipping clerk.  In 1865, at the age of 31, he was appointed state registrar of elections.  The following year, 1866, Ransier attended South Carolina’s first Republican convention and two years later was elected to the Constitutional Convention which established the state’s first racially integrated government.  Ransier served in that government when he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1868.  In 1870 Ransier was elected Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina.  Ransier was a delegate at the 1872 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.  That same year he was elected to the Forty-Third United States Congress from the 2nd Congressional District.

Ransier was actively committed to the cause of equality for the African American citizens of South Carolina and the nation.  While in Congress he fought for a civil rights bill, supported strong tariff laws, opposed arbitrary salary increases for federal officials, advocated term limits for politicians and petitioned for funds to improve the maintenance of Charleston harbor.

Ransier was defeated by white Independent Republican Edmund W.M. Mackey in his reelection bid.  Afterwards, he returned to Charleston and worked for the United States Internal Revenue Service and later for the Charleston municipal government.  Alonzo Ransier died in Charleston on August 17, 1882.

Science Facts

The life of MLK - Animated

1982 - Ruth First

Ruth First , in full Heloise Ruth First (born May 4, 1925, Johannesburg, South Africa—died August 17, 1982, Maputo, Mozambique), South African activist, scholar, and journalist known for her relentless opposition to South Africa’s discriminatory policy of apartheid. In 1982 she was assassinated while living in exile.

First was the daughter of Latvian Jewish immigrants Julius and Matilda First, who were founding members of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA); First herself would also become active in the party as she grew older. In 1946 she received a bachelor’s degree in social studies from the University of the Witwatersrand. While there, she organized the Federation of Progressive Students with Ismail Meer, Joe Slovo (her future husband), Yusuf Dadoo, J.N. Singh, and others, creating a radical multiracial student organization that opposed apartheid. From 1947 First worked for the progressive newspaper The Guardian, specializing in exposés of black labour conditions. In 1949 she married Slovo, and by 1954 they had three daughters.

After CPSA was banned (an apartheid-era legal action that was used to suppress organizations and publications and severely restrict the activities of a person) by the South African government in 1950, First was involved in organizing its successor, the underground South African Communist Party (SACP), which emerged in 1953. That same year she also was involved in the founding of the Congress of Democrats, the white wing of the Congress Alliance, a multiracial group of organizations that opposed apartheid. She edited the journal Fighting Talk, which supported the alliance. First also worked on drafting the alliance’s renowned Freedom Charter, which called for nonracial social democracy in South Africa, but she was unable to attend the Congress of the People gathering held in 1955, where the document was approved, because of her banning order—one of several such orders First was subjected to while living in South Africa. In 1956 First and her husband, along with Albert

1960 - Libreville, Gabon (1848-- )

Libreville is the largest city and capital of Gabon, a small country on the western coast of Africa.  In 2005 its population was 578,156.  It is a tropical city that has a port on the Komo River.  The city is the trading center for the nation of Gabon.  Timber, the country"s most important export,  comes through the Libreville port, down the Komo River and then into Gulf of Guinea. The official language in Libreville is French due to its previous colonization by France.

Before the French acquired the land in 1839, Libreville was populated by the oldest indigenous  ethnic group in Gabon, the Mpongwe, who had inhabited the area for about 2,000 years.  In 1839 French traders first acquired control of a coastal strip that now includes the city.  In 1846 the French Navy captured L"Elizia, a Brazilian ship carrying slaves for sale near Loango in present-day Angola.  The slaves were freed in Gabon and in 1848 they founded the city of  Libreville, which literally meant "free town," naming it as the symbol of their own liberation.

As the French colonial presence grew in central Africa they declared Libreville the capital of their largest colony in the region, French Equatorial Africa in 1888.  It remained the capital until 1904.  Libreville also served as the chief port of the colony from 1934 to 1946 and was the central objective in the Battle of Gabon in 1940, which pitted colonial supporters of Vichy, France against those who allied with the Free French under General Charles DeGaulle.

When Gabon gained its independence from France on August 17, 1960, Libreville was declared the capital.  The city had grown slowly under French colonial administration and at the time of independence had a population of 32,000.  Since its independence, Libreville has grown exponentially. It is the home of the nation"s shipbuilding, brewing, and lumber industries.  It also exports wood, rubber and cocoa through its port.  Libreville is now the education center in Gabon and serves as the home of a number of schools, libraries, and

1945 - Jazz in Occupied China: Black Jazzmen at the Japanese Prison Camp in Weihsien, China during World War II

Desmond Power, a third generation British subject born in Tientsin (now Tianjin), China in 1923, was incarcerated along with 1,500 other foreign nationals in 1943 in Weihsien, a Japanese Prisoner of War camp in North China during World War II.  In the article below, Power recalls Earl Whaley and other African American jazz musicians who were placed there as well and how their music lifted the morale of the prisoners.

I do not write this as a historian, nor do I have sources to which I can refer readers. I write simply as a contemporary and close comrade of some black jazz musicians with whom I was incarcerated in a Japanese prison camp in China during World War II. The war ended 67 years ago, yet most of my memories of the time and place remain intact though somewhat generalized.

Few need reminding that the Shanghai of the 1920s and 30s was called the "Paris of the Orient" for its profusion of extravagant nightclubs, cabarets, casinos, and bordellos, and that while the US was dragging itself out of the Great Depression, Shanghai was enjoying a boom, its nightlife going full tilt, attracting big names in the U.S. jazz world eager to cash in on the opportunities there.

As jazz band leader Earl Whaley told it, by the time he arrived there in 1934, most of the big names had come and gone, but there was no stopping him from cashing in. His seven man group, the Red Hot Syncopators, that had set Seattle, Washington’s jazz world ablaze was now doing the same at St. Anna’s Ballroom at 80 Love Lane, close by the Shanghai Race Course.

His popularity zoomed, not only with jazz lovers among the city’s 100,000 foreign residents, but also with the modern set among the local Chinese. For three long years, everything went Whaley’s way. Money was good, living cheap, and the racial demeaning of blacks so common in the U.S. at that time, was practically unheard of.

Then in 1937 disaster struck when Japan began its subjugation of China. Japan was not quite yet ready to take on the U.S. and its Allies (that would happen 4½ years

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