5 Black Victories To Remember This July
From Civil Rights to WWII to Wimbledon, the month of July has featured several important achievements throughout history.
July 19, 2022 at 5:33 pm
Although February is Black History Month, every month of the year is notable for a variety of accomplishments from Black people. July, in particular, has seen several important Black firsts and Black victories that bear remembrance. Here are a few of the most notable achievements that have happened during this month.
1. Vermont Abolishes Slavery (1777)
Though slavery in the U.S. endured across the American South until the Civil War, it gradually died out in the North, which was far from perfect but served as a haven for free Black people. The abolition of slavery began in Vermont, which officially eliminated slavery on July 2, 1777, nearly a year after the Declaration of Independence marked the birth of the U.S. Vermont’s elimination of slavery was part of a larger political shift, as the former British colony declared itself independent during the American Revolution. By the time Vermont became a state in 1791, it had set off a trend of slavery being abolished across northern states.
2. Amistad Rebellion (1839)
On July 2, 1839, more than 50 enslaved Africans overpowered their captors aboard the Spanish slave ship Amistad. Led by Sengbe Pieh, also known as Joseph Cinque, the rebels demanded that the ship’s crew sail away from Cuba, where the captives had been destined for lifetimes of slavery. Instead of returning to West Africa, the crew instead steered the ship to the United States, where the people aboard Amistad ended up in the center of a major court case over whether they should be returned to Cuba or allowed to go back to Africa. Eventually, Pieh and the other people aboard the ship won their case with the U.S. Supreme Court, gaining a rare win against slavery in the American judicial system.
3. First Tuskegee Airmen Victory (1943)
World War II saw the debut of the 99th Pursuit Squadron, who trained at the Tuskegee Institute before protecting allied planes in Europe. The Tuskegee Airmen became one of the U.S. military’s most elite aerial units. On July 2, 1943, Lieutenant Charles B. Hall achieved the first aerial victory for the Tuskegee Airmen when he shot down a German fighter plane over Sicily, Italy, the first time a Black man had achieved such a victory. Hall — who was given a Coca-Cola as a reward for his victory — went on to be one of the most successful fighter pilots during the war, shooting down four plans in total.
4. Civil Rights Act Signed Into Law (1964)
After years of activism during the Civil Rights Movement, President John F. Kennedy proposed a Civil Rights Act in 1963 that would be the most significant advance for recognizing Black rights since Reconstruction. Kennedy’s bill was blocked by conservative opposition, but after JFK was assassinated, President Lyndon B. Johnson had the opportunity to push legislation in Kennedy’s honor.
Top Civil Rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. pushed the president to pass the act, and even skeptics like Malcolm X were interested in the debate. Malcolm and King met for the only time when they both watched the Senate debate over the legislation. In a great victory for the movement, the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress and signed into law on July 2, 1964. Among many provisions, the Act banned discrimination “on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.”
5. Gibson, Ashe and the Williams Sisters Win Big at Wimbledon
For many sports fans, July is best known for Wimbledon, the most prestigious tournament in professional tennis. Held every summer at the All England Club in London, winning the tournament is generally held to be the greatest victory in professional tennis. In 1957, Althea Gibson became the first Black player to win a singles title at Wimbledon.
Arthur Ashe became the first Black man to win the tournament in 1975. Their victories paved the way for the dominance of sisters Venus and Serena Williams in the tournament during the 21st century. Since 2000, Serena has won the tournament seven times and Venus five times — the sisters have also won six doubles championships at the All England Club.
These are just a few of the many times that Black people achieved victory in a host of contexts in American history. As July continues, let’s take a moment to remember the achievements of this month in years past.