Today, Feb. 20, has special meaning in Black history.
On this day in 1895, Frederick Douglass died at the age of 78. Douglass escaped from slavery and became the leading abolitionist spokesman for almost fifty years. His prolific writings and “dazzling oratory” are unparalleled in the anti-slavery movement.
This day also marks the birth of award winning actor and director Sidney Poitier, born in Miami in 1927; and the opening of Wallace Thurman’s play “Harlem” in New York in 1929.
Willie Mays, the first African American to be named captain of a major league baseball team, signed a $100,000 contract with the San Francisco Giants on Feb. 20, 1963 — the very same day that marked the birth of NBA Hall of Famer and Olympic Gold medalist Charles Barkley.
Grammy Award winning singer Rihanna was born on Feb. 20, 1988; and the NFL’s first black quarterback, Willie Thrower, died on Feb. 20, 2002.
It is also worth noting that on Feb. 20, 1864, Florida’s largest Civil War battle was fought in Baker County. The Battle of Olustee saw the clashing of about 5,000 Confederates with 5,500 Union soldiers, and left 93 and 203 dead, respectively. By percent of men lost, this was the second bloodiest battle of the War for the Union. The battle was a turning point for Union strategists who questioned whether it was worth investing further effort in the “insignificant state of Florida.” The reenactment of Olustee is an annual event, held in Osceola National Forest.