Christmas, the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, is celebrated differently all over the world. Largely becoming a secular holiday, most people join in the celebrations, whatever their beliefs, with large-scale gatherings, fireworks and firecrackers, and other public festivities.
Sadly, for some families, every Christmas Day marks the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Some famous people, from singers, movie icons to civil rights leaders, have tragically lost their lives as people marked the seasonal celebration. Here are notable Black people who died on Christmas Day.
The Godfather of Soul James Brown died of heart failure at age 73 on Christmas Day 2006 in Georgia at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital Midtown. Prolific singer and songwriter Brown was known for his social activism, both in his songwriting and the fact that he hammered on the benefits of education to schoolchildren. The incredible dancer, who was also famous for his flashy outfits and shoes, and his signature hairstyle, had the ability to hold and command a crowd with his voice and moves. He revolutionized 20th-century music and his explosive stage performance left many stunned.
Producing hits like Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine, and Papa’s Got A Brand New Bang, he continued to perform and record music until his death from congestive heart failure on Christmas Day. Some family and friends, however, say there may have been foul play involved in his death.
Ten years after he died, the doctor who actually signed his death certificate said he thought something was strange. Dr. Marvin Crawford told CNN, “He changed too fast. He was a patient I would never have predicted would have coded … But he died that night, and I did raise that question: What went wrong in that room?” No autopsy was performed.
Noted for her sultry vocal style and slinky beauty, Kitt was born out of wedlock in 1927 in South Carolina to a White father and a mother who was African American. She began her career in 1942 and appeared in the 1945 original Broadway theatre production of the musical Carib Song. In the early 1950s, she had six U.S. Top 30 hits, including “Uska Dara” and “I Want to be Evil”. Her other outstanding recordings include the UK Top 10 hit “Under the Bridges of Paris” (1954), “Just an Old Fashioned Girl” (1956) and “Where Is My Man” (1983).
The singer is also noted for playing Catwoman in the 1960’s TV show Batman. But by 81, Kitt was suffering from advanced colon cancer. She died at her home on Christmas Day in 2008. Her daughter, Kitt Shapiro, later said in an interview in 2013, “I was with her when she died. She left this world literally screaming at the top of her lungs.”
“She screamed her way out of here, literally. I truly believe her survival instincts were so part of her DNA that she was not going to go quietly or willingly.”
Harry Tyson Moore
Harry Tyson Moore and his wife Harriette founded the NAACP in Brevard County, Florida. On Christmas Day in 1951, the home of the couple was bombed and the two were murdered. Harry Moore died on his way to the hospital, and Harriette Moore died nine days later. Their deaths led to protests across the U.S.
Years after the bombing, the State of Florida investigated the incident and found that three members of the Ku Klux Klan were responsible, but they had died at the time of the investigation.
The objective of the Ku Klux Klan was to reverse the policies of Radical Reconstruction and restore white supremacy in the South. The Moores were the first NAACP members to be murdered for civil rights activism.