On this day in black history: Cassius Clay converts to Islam, Alcorn University is founded and more Black History Month: The Undefeated edition


1871 — Alcorn University opens

Alcorn University, the oldest public historically black, land-grant institution in the country and second-oldest state-supported institution of higher learning in Mississippi, is founded by former slaves in 1871, named after Gov. James L. Alcorn. Seven years after the school’s opening, Alcorn University changes its name to Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College. In 1974, Alcorn A&M becomes Alcorn State University after Gov. William L. Waller signs House Bill 298.

1926 — Negro History Week, originated by Carter G.Woodson, is observed for the first time

Historian Carter G.Woodson leads the effort to commemorate the accomplishments of Negroes, because he believed that black people had been purposely written out of history and their full contributions were not acknowledged.

1945 — First African-American judge appointed to U.S. Customs Court

President Harry S. Truman appoints Irwin C. Mollison judge of the U.S. Customs Court, making him the first African-American appointed to a position in the federal judiciary.

1964 — Cassius Clay converts to Islam

Cassius Clay converts to Islam and renames himself Muhammad Ali. “Cassius Clay is a slave name,” he said. “I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it.”

“I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me,” Ali declared.

1967 — Chris Rock is born

Chris Rock, the comedian, actor and talk show host, was born in Andrews, South Carolina. He’d go on to enjoy tremendous success as a comedian, including hosting his self-titled show on HBO.

1974 — Grenada achieves independence from Great Britain

The Caribbean nation of Grenada attains its independence from Great Britain. The island was claimed as a French colony in 1674, and remained under French rule for 203 years. In 1877, the British proclaimed Grenada its colony until the natives achieved their independence 97 years later.

Rhiannon Walker is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a drinker of Sassy Cow Creamery chocolate milk, an owner of an extensive Disney VHS collection, and she might have a heart attack if Frank Ocean doesn’t drop his second album.


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