15 Facts You Didn’t Know About Black History Month
In honor of Black History Month, here are some facts about black history in America that even history buffs may not know.
Black History Month
The U.S. has observed Black History Month in February as a month-long celebration honoring the contributions made by African-Americans in our country. How well do you know this annual event? Here are some facts even history buffs may have missed. This is why Black History Month shouldn’t be a single month.
The man with the plan
Historian Carter G. Woodson, the creator of what we presently know as Black History Month, worked passionately to establish the event in an effort to provide an education on the origins, struggles, and achievements of African-Americans in United States history. Originally, it existed as seven days of commemoration, first established in 1926 and called “Negro History Week.” Woodson penned more than a dozen books, including 1933’s Mis-Education of the Negro. Learn the truth about some historical figures you’ve been picturing all wrong.
This year marks an anniversary
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On February 12, 2020, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) celebrated its 111th birthday. The date of February 12, 1909, was chosen for the NAACP’s inception because it also marked the 100th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln. It’s America’s oldest civil rights organization, as well as its largest. This is why Black History Month is more important than ever.
Black men had a strong presence in the Wild West
You’d be hard-pressed to find much diversity in old-time Western films; however, according to Smithsonian Magazine, one in four cowboys was black. In fact, it’s believed that the fictional character of The Lone Ranger was based on was Bass Reeves. Reeves was born into slavery but he fled westward during the Civil War. In time, Reeves became a Deputy U.S. Marshal. Find out some more legendary figures you never knew were inspired by real historical people.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination coincided with an icon’s birthday
It was on Maya Angelou’s birthday, April 4, 1968, that her friend, civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated. After this heinous act, Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday. However, she sent flowers to King’s wife Coretta Scott King on that date until Mrs. King passed in 2006. Check out these 14 rarely seen photos of Dr. King.
Betty Boop was inspired by a black jazz singer
She may have been drawn as an old Hollywood pinup girl, but cartoon Betty Boop was actually based on Esther Jones, a Harlem-based jazz singer. Jones was known for her use of “boops” in her singing as well as what was called a child-like scat, similar to that of her illustrated counterpart.
The practice of vaccination in America has fascinating roots
A slave by the name of Onesimus, brought to the Massachusetts colony, told church minister Cotton Mather about the way inoculations were practiced in Africa for centuries to prevent people from getting sick. Mather took this information to Dr. Zabdiel Boylston when smallpox became a severe issue in Boston in 1721, reports PBS. Boylston inoculated 240 people, despite a large opposition to the practice. Find out the history lessons your teacher lied to you about.
By the numbers
According to the United States Census Bureau, the black population in the U.S. includes 46.8 million people; this is either alone or in combination with one or more races. A 2018 report asserts that there are 2.1 million black military veterans across the U.S. In 2015, the bureau counted 113,643 black-owned businesses nationwide.
Civil rights solidarity in sports has deep roots
Many years before Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, two other athletes sent a powerful message about their unity with black America. During the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City, competitors Tommie Smith and John Carlos wore black gloves and gave a salute during the anthem. Read about more American history facts you never learned in school.
Black History Month is celebrated differently around the world
In the United States and Canada, we celebrate black history in February. However, in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands, they honor it during the month of October. In 2014, Ireland became only the fourth country in the world to celebrate Black History Month.