On This Day
1865 – The steamboat Sultana is destroyed by boiler explosions and fire near Memphis, Tennessee, killing over 1,100, mostly Union prisoners of war returning North.
Sultana was a Mississippi River side-wheel steamboat, which exploded on April 27, 1865, in the worst maritime disaster in United States history.
Constructed of wood in 1863 by the John Litherbury Boatyard  in Cincinnati, she was intended for the lower Mississippi cotton trade. The steamer registered 1,719 tons and normally carried a crew of 85. For two years, she ran a regular route between St. Louis and New Orleans, and was frequently commissioned to carry troops.
Although only designed with a capacity of only 376 passengers, she was carrying 2,137 when three of the boat’s four boilers exploded and she burned to the waterline and sank near Memphis, Tennessee, killing 1,168.  The disaster was overshadowed in the press by events surrounding the end of the American Civil War, including the killing of President Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth just the day before, and no one was ever held accountable for the tragedy.
Born On This Day
1882 – Jessie Redmon Fauset, American author and poet (d. 1961)
Jessie Redmon Fauset (April 27, 1882 – April 30, 1961) was an African-American editor, poet, essayist, novelist, and educator. Her literary work helped sculpt African-American literature in the 1920s as she focused on portraying a true image of African-American life and history. Her black fictional characters were working professionals which was an inconceivable concept to American society during this time Her story lines related to themes of racial discrimination, “passing”, and feminism. From 1919 to 1926, Fauset’s position as literary editor of The Crisis, a NAACP magazine, allowed her to contribute to the Harlem Renaissance by promoting literary work that related to the social movements of this era. Through her work as a literary editor and reviewer, she discouraged black writers from lessening the racial qualities of the characters in their work, and encouraged them to write honestly and openly about the African-American race. She wanted a realistic and positive representation of the African-American community in literature that had never before been as prominently displayed. Before and after working on The Crisis, she worked for decades as a French teacher in public schools in Washington, DC, and New York City. She published four novels during the 1920s and 1930s, exploring the lives of the black middle class. She also was the editor and co-author of the African-American children’s magazine The Brownies’ Book. She is known for discovering and mentoring other African-American writers, including Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Countee Cullen, and Claude McKay.
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