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Black Facts for June 19th

1948 - Phylicia Rashad

Phylicia Rashad , née Phylicia Ayers Allen (born June 19, 1948, Houston, Texas, U.S.), American actress who first gained fame for her work on the television series The Cosby Show (1984–92) and later became the first black woman to win (2004) a Tony Award for best actress; she won the honour for her performance in the play A Raisin in the Sun.

Allen was the second of four children born to Andrew Arthur Allen, a dentist, and Vivian Ayers Allen, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet. Her older brother, Andrew Arthur (“Tex”) Allen, Jr., went on to become a jazz musician, and her sister, Debbie Allen, was a dancer, actress, and television producer and director. In 1970 she graduated from Howard University, Washington, D.C., with a B.F.A. in theatre. Soon thereafter she found work with the Negro Ensemble Company in New York City. Allen made her first appearance on Broadway in 1972 and had minor roles in the hit musicals The Wiz (1975) and Dreamgirls (1981) before making the transition to television.

In 1982 Allen landed a regular role on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live. Two years later comedian Bill Cosby chose her for the role of his wife, attorney Clair Huxtable, in the groundbreaking situation comedy The Cosby Show, which ran from 1984 to 1992. After marrying (1985) sports broadcaster Ahmad Rashad, she began using his name professionally (the couple divorced in 2001). Her role as Clair—graceful but assertive, dignified but devoted—became a defining one for Rashad and earned her two Emmy Award nominations. She also played Cosby’s wife in the series Cosby (1996–2000).

During the 1990s and early 2000s, Rashad returned to the stage while continuing to work steadily on television. Her portrayal of the semimythical Aunt Ester in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean (2003) in productions in Los Angeles and on Broadway won enthusiastic praise. In 2004 she starred as Lena Younger, the matriarch of a struggling African American family in 1950s Chicago, in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. In addition to earning a

1857 - Twilight, Alexander (1795-1857)

Reputed to be the first African American in the United States to graduate from college, Alexander Twilight was born on a farm in Corinth, Vermont to a white or fair-skinned mother, Mary Twilight, and a mixed-race father, Ichabod Twilight, who had served as a private in the American Revolution.  The young Alexander was forced to work as an indentured servant on a farm neighboring his parents’ farm from the ages of eight to 21. Nonetheless, he managed to graduate from Middlebury College in 1823, after which he taught school in Peru, New York, where he studied for the Congregational ministry and, in 1826, married Mercy Ladd Merrill.  Called successively to pastor congregations in Vergennes and Brownington, Vermont, Twilight also became the headmaster of the Orleans County Grammar School.  To meet growing enrollment needs, he designed, raised funds for, and built the first granite public building in Vermont, Athenian Hall, which contained classrooms and a dormitory.   

Elected to the Vermont General Assembly in 1836, Twilight became the first African American to serve in a state legislature in the United States. In 1847, after conflicts with the Orleans County school administrators, Twilight moved to Quebec, Canada for five years, but then returned to serve as headmaster in Brownington.  He died on June 19, 1857 and is buried in the Brownington churchyard.  His historic Athenian Hall, renamed the Old Stone House, now serves as the Orleans County Historical Society and Museum.

State University of New York at Buffalo

1865 - The Texas Emancipation Proclamation (June 19, 1865)

HEAD-QUARTERS, DISTRICT OF TEXAS

Galveston, Texas

June 19, 1865

The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with the proclamation from the executive of the United States. All slaves are free. This involves absolute personal rights, and rights of property between former masters and slaves; and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.

The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts, and that they will not be supported in idleness either here or elsewhere.

2nd: As a result of said liberation, persons formerly slaves are guaranteed their right to make contracts disposing of their services to their former owners or other parties, but with the distinct understanding that they are employees, and shall be held responsible for the performance of their part of the contract to the same extent that the employer is bound to pay for the consideration for the labor performed.

3rd: Unless other regulations are promulgated by the Freedman"s Bureau, the amount and kind of consideration for labor, shall be a matter of contract between employer and employee.

4th: All colored persons are earnestly enjoined to remain with their former masters until permanent arrangements can be made and thus secure the crop of the present season and at the same time promote the interests of themselves, their employer and the Commonwealth.

by order of Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger

signed F.W. Emery

Major & A.A.G.

Sources:

1932 - Solomon Tshekiso Plaatje

Solomon Tshekiso Plaatje , (born 1877, Boshof, Orange Free State, South Africa—died June 19, 1932, Kimberley?), linguist, journalist, politician, statesman, and writer whose mind and activities ranged widely both in literary and in African affairs. His native tongue was Tswana, the chief language of Botswana, but he also learned English, Afrikaans, High Dutch, German, French, Sotho, Zulu, and Xhosa.

Plaatje used his knowledge of languages in his various roles as war correspondent during the South African War (1899–1902), editor of Koranta ea Becoana (“The Tswana Gazette”) from 1901 to 1908, editor of Tsala ea Batho (“The Friend of the People”) beginning in 1912, secretary-general of the South African Native National Congress and member of subsequent delegations to Europe, and contributor to various South African English-language newspapers and British journals. He traveled in Europe, Canada, and the United States with the intent of enlightening the public on the black African’s situation in South Africa.

To preserve the traditional Bantu languages, stories, and poetry, Plaatje published his famous Sechuana Proverbs and Their European Equivalents (1916), the Sechuana Phonetic Reader (with the linguist Daniel Jones) in the same year, and the collection Bantu Folk-Tales and Poems at a later date. He also translated a number of Shakespeare’s plays into Tswana. His novel Mhudi (1930), a story of love and war, is set in the 19th century. The characters are vivid and the style that of a traditional Bantu storyteller (a mixture of song and prose).

Near the end of Plaatje’s life the people of Kimberley gave him a gift of land in recognition of his outstanding public service.

1865 - Freedmen's Town, Houston, Texas (1865- )

Freedmen’s Town is a nationally registered historical site. The site was originally a community located in the fourth ward of Houston, Texas that began in 1865 as the destination for former enslaved people from surrounding plantations in Texas and Louisiana after the Civil War.

Freedmen’s Town is located southwest of downtown. After emancipation was proclaimed in Texas on June 19, 1865, former slaves began migrating to Austin, Dallas, Galveston, and other cities but the largest migration was to Houston. Many of these newcomers traveled along San Felipe Road into the city from Brazos River Plantations south and southwest of Houston.  Once there they paved many of the streets in brick. These new residents established a community where they were able to live mostly without the daily onslaught of racism and discrimination.

Freedmen’s Town quickly developed as a cultural center with the establishment of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church (1866) followed by other churches and social and cultural institutions, The community and the larger fourth ward black community that grew around it, was prosperous well into the early 20th Century.  By 1930, Fourth Ward held approximately one third of Houston’s 36,000 African Americans and was famous for its many businesses that included restaurants and jazz night clubs which attracted even white Houstonians to the area.

Despite this apparent social and economic prosperity, black Houstonians and especially Freedmen’s Town residents were limited by a segregated environment which denied access to most city services and formal rules and informal practices that prevented them from gaining better jobs. In 1929, the Houston City Planning Commission proposed a permanent geographical and racial segregation of Houston that limited black residence to the Second, Fourth, and Fifth Wards. While the Houston City Council refused to adopt such a plan (partly because it was illegal), blacks in Freedman’s Town and the Fourth Ward faced restrictive covenants and redlining practices that prevented

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