1964 – Malcolm X founded the Organization for Afro American Unity to seek independence for blacks in the Western Hemisphere.


Malcolm X, OAAU foundation rally, Audubon Ballroom, New York City, 1964

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The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) was founded by Malcolm XJohn Henrik Clarke, and other black nationalist leaders on June 24, 1964 in Harlem, New York. Formed shortly after his break with the Nation of Islam, the OAAU was a secular institution that sought to unify 22 million non-Muslim African Americans with the people of the African Continent. The OAAU was modeled after the Organization of African Unity (OAU), a coalition of 53 African nations working to provide a unified political voice for the continent. In the coalition spirit of the OAU, Malcolm X sought to reconnect African Americans with their African heritage, establish economic independence, and promote African American self-determination. He also sought OAAU representation on the OAU.

The OAAU was designed to encompass all peoples of African origin in the Western hemisphere, as well those on the African continent. Malcolm X insisted that progress for African Americans was intimately tied to progress in Africa, and outlined a platform of five fronts for this progress called “The Basic Unity Program.” This program called for Restoration, Reorientation, Education, Economic Security, and Self-Defense as a means of promoting Pan-African unity and interests. With a strong focus on education as the primary means of repairing the damages of slavery, economic discrimination, and physical violence directed towards African Americans, the OAAU hoped to foster pan-African consciousness. Among the more controversial positions taken by the OAAU was the suggestion that leaders of African states held more legitimate political power for African Americans than did the American government.

At the founding conference, Malcolm X stressed the importance of escaping terms like “negro,” “integration,” or “emancipation,” insisting that such language was inherently pejorative and antithetical to the ideology of the OAAU. The OAAU called for African American-run institutions within the black community as well as increased participation in mainstream politics. In order to keep the OAAU strictly in African American hands, Malcolm X insisted that there be no monetary donations from non-African sources. The organization also refused membership to whites.

After Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom on February 19, 1965, the fledgling movement died. Malcolm’s half-sister Ella Collins took over the OAAU, but without his charismatic leadership, most members deserted the organization. Nonetheless the OAAU became the inspiration for hundreds of “black power” groups that emerged during the next decade.

1776 Congress appoints Committee of Five to draft the Declaration of Independence


Image result for draft of declaration of independenceOn this day in 1776, the Continental Congress selects Thomas Jefferson of VirginiaJohn Adams of MassachusettsBenjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert R. Livingston of New York to draft a declaration of independence.

Knowing Jefferson’s prowess with a pen, Adams urged him to author the first draft of the document, which was then carefully revised by Adams and Franklin before being given to Congress for review on June 28.

The revolutionary treatise began with reverberating prose:

When, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.