Today in Black history: ‘Roots’ premieres on ABC, Klay Thompson’s 37-point quarter and more
The Undefeated’s Black facts: Jan. 23
1821 — Minister and missionary leader Lott Cary, a native of Charles City County, Virginia, leaves from Norfolk, Virginia, and heads to West Africa with a group of freed people on a ship chartered by the American Colonization Society, a group that encouraged the migration and resettlement of freed American enslaved people in Africa. Upon arrival at their final destination a year later, they laid the foundation for the establishment of the nation of Liberia. Cary became acting governor of the settlement in August 1828. He died later that year in November in a gunpowder explosion. Liberia declared independence on July 26, 1847. It is the only country in Africa never subjected to colonial rule and is the continent’s oldest republic.
1964 — The 24th Amendment, which prohibited federal and state governments from imposing poll taxes on citizens before they could participate in a federal election, is ratified. Poll taxes were begun in the 1890s as a legal way to keep African Americans from voting in Southern states. Voters were required to pay a poll tax before they could cast a ballot. Even though the 15th Amendment gave former enslaved people the right to vote in 1870 by prohibiting the government from denying or abridging a citizen’s right to vote “on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude,” many poor people, especially Black people, did not have the money to pay the tax. A grandfather clause excused some poor white people from payment if they had an ancestor who voted before the Civil War, but there was no such exemption for African Americans.
1976 — Actor, singer and global activist Paul Robeson dies in Philadelphia from complications of a stroke. He was 77. Robeson, a New Jersey native, attended Rutgers University (the third African American to do so), where he was an All-America football star and also won letters in baseball, basketball and track. He was accepted into the Phi Beta Kappa academic honors society and graduated from Rutgers in 1919 as valedictorian of his class. After receiving a law degree from Columbia University in 1923, Robeson began a career in acting. He joined the Provincetown Players, a New York theater group that included playwright Eugene O’Neill, and appeared in O’Neill’s play All God’s Chillun Got Wings in 1924. His subsequent appearance in the title role of O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones was critically acclaimed in both New York and London. He later became world famous as Joe in the musical Show Boat with his bass rendition of “Ol’ Man River.” His portrayal of the title role in Othello in London (1930) won high praise, and he later became the first African American to play Othello on Broadway. As an activist, Robeson regularly spoke out against racial injustice and was involved in world politics. He supported Pan-Africanism, sang for loyalist soldiers during Spain’s civil war, took part in anti-Nazi demonstrations and performed for Allied forces during World War II.
1977 — Roots, a miniseries based on Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, premieres on ABC, featuring John Amos, LeVar Burton, Lou Gossett Jr., O.J. Simpson, Madge Sinclair, Cicely Tyson, Leslie Uggams and Ben Vereen. The eight-episode miniseries, which was broadcast over eight consecutive nights, follows a family from its origins in West Africa through generations of slavery and the end of the Civil War. The cultural impact of Roots was immediate, as it broke several Nielsen ratings records for television and sparked difficult, yet necessary conversations about the slave trade and the turmoil that Black families faced in America. Roots received 43 Emmy nominations and received eight Emmy awards, including outstanding lead actor for Gossett Jr. and outstanding supporting actress for Olivia Cole. It still ranks as one of the most-watched television miniseries of all time.
2015 — Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson sets the NBA record for most points scored in a quarter (37), 3-pointers in a quarter (nine) and tied the league record for field goals made in a quarter by going 13-for-13 in a 126-101 win over the Sacramento Kings. Thompson scored 19 consecutive points over a five-minute, 26-second stretch and single-handedly outscored the Kings by 15 points in the quarter. He finished the game with what was then a career-high 52 points, despite sitting out the last 9½ minutes of the game.