15 Facts You Didn’t Know About Black History Month
For 43 years, 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.
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, 2019, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will celebrate its 110th 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.
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.
The first state to abolish slavery might surprise you
Considering Abraham Lincoln hailed from Illinois and was the president who would eventually abolish slavery, you might expect that the first state to do away with the practice was his Midwestern state of origin. However, it was Vermont that led the way in 1777. Here are famous historical moments that didn’t actually happen.
The Grammy-nominated music man
Quincy Jones hits the history books as the most nominated artist in Grammy history. He has scored a total of 79 nominations and 27 awards. Not surprisingly, he was presented with the Grammy Legend Award back in 1992. Jones is also one of the founders of the Institute for Black American Music.
The first African-American woman was elected to the House of Representatives in 1968
Paving the way for women of color in Congress was Shirley Chisolm, who represented New York in the House of Representatives. Just four years after she entered the House, in 1972, she became the first black candidate for a major party’s nomination in the race for President of the United States. Don’t miss these 58 other famous, inspiring female firsts.
Interracial marriage was banned in the US until 1967
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Way back in 1664, marriage between races was banned in the United States; this law was first enacted in the colony of Maryland, with others quickly following suit. It seems unbelievable in our modern-day society that this took more than 300 years to overturn. Find out the dumbest law in every state.
Jackie Robinson broke baseball barriers in 1947
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson played in his first game as one of the Brooklyn Dodgers. During his first season in the major leagues, he led the National League with the most stolen bases and then was honored as Rookie of the Year. Despite his talent and skill, Robinson faced adversity from fans and colleagues; he later became an outspoken member of the civil rights movement for black equality.
Claudette Colvin pre-dated Rosa Parks in refusing to give up her seat on public transportation
Before there was Rosa Parks fighting for desegregation on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, there was Claudette Colvin. At just 15 years old, she stayed seated and refused to move to the back of the bus. According to PBS, Colvin had previously learned about the plight of Harriet Tubman and other early activists. It’s believed she said, “It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn’t get up.” Next, find out some of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month.