A Brief History
Apparently there is something about the first day of December that makes it significant to the history of civil rights concerning persons of African ancestry.
Digging deeper we find, first, that in 1768 the former slave ship Fredensborg sank from unknown causes (maybe cosmic karma?) of the coast of Tromoy, Norway. Although not carrying slaves at that time, it had previously been involved in the “triangular trade” of slaves and goods in the Caribbean.
Second, in 1834 in accordance with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, slavery was abolished in the Cape Colony (now South Africa).
Third, in 1862, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered a State of the Union speech in which he reaffirmed the need to abolish slavery as stated in his Emancipation Proclamation 10 weeks prior.
Fourth, in 1865 just after the end of the American Civil War, which ultimately resulted in the end of state-sanctioned slavery in the United States of America, Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina was established by Reverend H.M. Turner of the American Baptist Home Mission Society as the first primarily “colored” (term used then for African-Americans) university in the southern U.S.
Fifth, finally, and most famously, in 1955, Rosa Parks, the celebrated civil rights pioneer, triggered the “Montgomery Bus Boycott” in Alabama by refusing to sit in the back of the bus as decreed by segregation laws of that time. She held her nerve even when threatened with arrest. She later recalled, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” For her courageous actions, she has been hailed as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”, while being labeled the fourth most influential woman in history.
So there you have it: five groundbreaking events in civil rights history all of which happened on December 1st! Question for students (and subscribers): Now, what will be the next milestone in civil rights to occur on that day? Perhaps some of our readers may be brave and noble enough to help bring about such changes! Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
Most of the above events have been the subject of numerous scholarly works. For some good starting places, please consider our suggestions below to be preferably read in the order listed below:
Bolden, Tonya. Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty (Carter G Woodson Award Book (Awards)). Harry N. Abrams, 2013.
Kalal, Dan and Connie Rose Miller. Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott (Graphic History). Capstone Press, 2006.
Svalesen, Leif. The Slave Ship Fredensborg. Indiana University Press, 2000.
Thomson, Andrew. An Analysis of the imperial act for the abolition of slavery: passed August 28th, 1833, and of the acts of the Jamaica legislature for carrying the same into effect. Cornell University Library, 1833.