Did you know countries worldwide observe Black History Month? While the United States, Canada, and Germany observe this month in February, other countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom celebrate the month in October.
Let’s have a look at some black history facts that you may not have learned in school
What is Black History Month?
Black history month is a celebration to honor African Americans as well as raise awareness about Black history facts. In the US, the observance has been taking place since 1926 to honor the success and contribution of the black people in US history.
Similarly in Canada, the month-long celebration takes place to honor the contributions and achievements of Black Canadians, share black history facts as well appreciate making Canada culturally diverse.
Why is Black History Month Observed?
The idea to celebrate Black history month was conceived by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who is often known as the Father of Black History.
Dr. Carter was the second African American to graduate from Harvard with a doctorate. In 1926, Carter Woodson realized that the students were not aware of African American history or black history facts. Thus, the Negro history week was born which was changed to a month-long celebration in 1976.
Why February? Why October?
In 1863 Abraham Lincoln, a former US president was one of the first world leaders to make slavery illegal with a law called the “Emancipation Proclamation”.
Frederick Douglas was an African American speaker, writer, and activist.
The Negro History Week was celebrated in the US in February which is also the birth month for both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially accepted to celebrate a month-long African American history.
In the UK, the month-long observation takes place in October to honor the people of the black community and their contribution throughout history.
African Americans and Civil War
African Americans made a lot of contributions during the Civil war in the United States between 1861 and 1865. However, most of these contributions went unnoticed. One such contribution was made by Cathay Williams.
Cathay Williams was the first woman and only African American woman who participated in the civil war as a Buffalo soldier. She was born into a slave family and served the Union Army as a man named William Cathay.
Some Successful African American Leaders
African Americans have always been a part of the civil rights movement. We are going to discuss some of them briefly.
Martin Luther King Jr
Whenever we think about black history civil rights leaders the first person that comes to mind is Martin Luther King Jr. He was a reverend, founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and a civil rights activist of the civil rights movement from 1955 till his death in 1968.
Martin Luther King jr. was a believer in nonviolence and his major activism was against slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws through nonviolence. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968.
Coretta Scott King
She was an African American woman and the wife of King Jr. Before she met her husband in Boston, Massachusetts, Coretta was a well-known singer and violinist. After she met her husband she was part of his civil rights activism for the rest of her life.
She is very difficult to define. She is a poet, author, actress, dancer, and civil rights, activist. Her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman.
Maya Angelou received a scholarship to study dance and acting at California Labor School during World War II. At this time, she also became the first African American woman to become a cable car conductor in San Francisco.
Angelou and King became friends when they met during an SCLC. Unfortunately, King Jr was assassinated on Maya Angelou’s birthday after which she stopped celebrating it. Although, she kept on sending flowers to King’s widow until she died.
President Barack Obama
He was the first African American man to be the President of the United States. However, he is also a two-time Grammy award winner, He won two Grammy awards in the year 2005 and 2007 in the same category for his memoir, Dreams from my Father and Audacity of Hope respectively in the Best-Spoken Word Album category.
John Mercer Langston
He was the first black man who became a lawyer in the state of Ohio, He was also given the responsibility of the dean of the law department and Vice president of Harvard University. John Mercer Langston is also the first African American to be elected to represent Virginia in the US House of Representation.
George Washington Carver
He was an agricultural scientist to develop over 300 different products from peanuts, cheese, milk, coffee, etc. Agricultural scientist George carver was given the responsibility to create 5 00 new products from peanuts sweet potatoes, cooking oil paints, etc.
First African American Woman in Sports
African Americans had a huge part to play in sports. Some of the earliest successes that the US saw in sports were because of African American women and men.
Alice Coachman was the first African American woman and the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the high jump category all over the world.
Gabby Douglas was the first African American gymnast to win the Individual All-Around title in 2012 during the London Olympics
African American Men in Sports
John Baxter Taylor was the first black man to have a degree in Veterinary medicine and win an Olympic gold medal in the 1600-meter medley relay. Unfortunately, he soon died from the complications of typhoid fever.
Jackie Robinson was the first black man chosen to play for Brooklyn Dodgers and play major league baseball.
Mathew “Mack” Robinson is the older brother of Jackie Robinson who won the silver medal for the 200-meter dash coming second by only 0.4 seconds.
The Bill Picket Invitational Rodeo has a unique characteristic. It is the only touring African American rodeo worldwide.
African Americans in Showbiz
There have been many black women and men who have been involved in music, arts, and other performance arts.
Josephine Baker was not only a black woman and an African American performer but also a spy for her adopted country, France. She used to feed military intelligence to French allies during World War II.
Sylvia Robinson is the first black woman to own the first hip-hop label called Sugar Hill Records. She is also considered the Godmother of Hip-hop.
Hattie McDaniel’s was the first African American lady to win an Oscar in the best-supporting actress category for her role in the movie “Gone with the Wind” in 1939. Shockingly, Hattie was allowed to enter her movie premiere in Atlanta.
Robert Johnson became the first African American billionaire in 2001. This happened after sold his cable network which he founded called Black Entertainment Television.
Stevie Wonder is the first and only musician to win a Grammy for three consecutive years in a row for Album of Year.
Some random Black history facts
Most works of African Americans go unnoticed. We are trying to put them into the limelight as much as possible.
Phyllis Wheatley was sold as a slave when she was seven years old to a family in Boston. Her new family encouraged her to read and write and thus at the small age of twelve, she became the first African American author to publish a book. Although Phyllis was a good writer, unfortunately, we do not know much about her early life.
In 1968, Shirley Chisholm was the first African American lady to be chosen to represent New York in the House of Representatives. In 1972, she became the first female candidate who was African American and was nominated to be the President of the United States.
In 1967, Thurgood Marshall was nominated by the president of the United States to become the first-ever Supreme Court justice.
Benjamin Banneker was born to a family of a former slave and a free mother in 1731. According to Wikimedia, he is considered the first known African American Man of Science.
Alice Ball was a young black girl and a woman of science. She was the first black lady to graduate with a Master’s degree from the University of Hawaii. She is the inventor of the treatment of leprosy. Sadly, she died at the young age of 24.
Lincoln University formerly known as Ashmun Institute is a `university in Pennsylvania to issues degrees to the black people.
African Americans are culturally very rich. Thus, there are plenty of facts to share. However, if someone needs more information on black life you can visit the National Museum of African American history.