5 Days in June

The five days of June 19-23 are notably rich with Black history birthdates in the fields of arts, communications and sports; over a span of 89 years, nine prominent African-Americans were born on these consecutive dates.  While each individual displays an amazing genius his/her respective careers—some more acclaimed than others—what is equally laudatory is their life’s intersection with social and political justice.

June 19

  • Harlem Renaissance illustrator, painter and social activist Ernest Crichlow was born June 19, 1914 in Brooklyn, New York; he will study and teach at the Arts Students

    Ernest Crichlow

    League and New York University; His work Lovers produced in 1938 is viewed as part of a strategy of targeted activism against racism by the Harlem artists of his time.


  • Communications entrepreneur John H. Johnson is also born on this date in Arkansas City, Arkansas in 1918; he will become the founder of Johnson Publications and the editor and publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines which focus on the achievements of successful African Americans; in 1996, he is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton.

June 20

  • Charles Chestnutt, essayist, lecturer, lawyer and biographer of Frederick Douglas is born in Cleveland, Ohio on June 20, 1858; his writings often explored complex socio-political issues and he was a consistent voice against

    Charles Chestnutt

    the repressive Jim Crow laws of the era. At age 70, he received the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal for his life work.


  • André Watts

    Born on the same day (1946) is piano virtuoso André Watts who made his New York Philharmonic debut in at age nine; he will go on to be the first classical pianist to have a solo recital broadcast on national television (PBS); he is currently a professor of music at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and is well known for his philanthropic work on behalf of people with HIV/AIDS.

June 21

  • In 1859, Henry Ossawa Tanner is born on the 21st of June in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; he will become a highly-praised painter in the U.S. and abroad and elects to live in France to escape America’s racism; his later paintings

    Henry Ossawa Tanner

    focus on religious themes but he is also known for his dignified portrayal of Black America in works such as The Banjo Player painted in 1893, a response to the stereotypical portrayal of blacks in the art and literature of the time.

June 22

  • On June 22, 1909, extraordinary dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham is born in Joliet, Illinois; her life-long passion with the ethnographic study of dance would greatly influence the world of dance and the Dunham

    Katherine Dunham

    technique is established; she was a tireless advocate for the people, and cultures, of the African Diaspora; in 1983 she was awarded a Kennedy Center Honor.


  • Pioneer broadcaster Ed Bradley is also born on this date (1941); during his long career at CBS news he will win a Peabody, nineteen Emmys and a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Black Journalists for his wide ranging reports about inner-city race riots, the

    Ed BradleyVietnam War, the AIDS crisis and Black culture in America. Dunham and Bradley share this birth date with science fiction author Octavia Butler (1947) born in Pasadena, California who will win numerous awards, Octavia Butler

    including the Hugo, Nebula and MacArthur Fellowship for her creative writing which placing race, gender, environmental issues and class struggle at the center of her work.

June 23

  • And on the final day of this 5-day span of historic black births, Wilma Rudolph is born in Clarksville, Tennessee (1940); twenty years later she will become the most celebrated woman athlete in the world by winning three gold medals in track and field at the Summer Olympic

    Wilma Rudolph

    Games in Rome; and she will go on to become a lifelong teacher, coach and advocate for student athletes.

5 thoughts on “5 Days in June

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