As we all know, February is Black History Month. This is a well-known fact but many of us do not know how Black History Month came about. Black History Month honors the contributions of Black Americans to U.S. history. It was originally celebrated the second week of February to coincide with two important figures who have greatly influenced the Black American population, Abrahan Lincoln whose birthday is February 12th and Fredrick Douglass whose birthday is February 14th. Then, it was called “Negro History Week”, which was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator and publisher. It became a month-long celebration in 1976. The primary emphasis was placed on encouraging the coordinated teaching of the history of American Blacks in the nation’s public schools “to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race with the broader society”. In 1995 Canada recognized Black History Month and in 2008 the Senate unanimously approved it. The United Kingdom first celebrated Black History Month is 1987.
Many of us are very familiar with several Black Americans who have contributed greatly to the history of the United States, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and others. Since these famous people are well-known for their contributions, I am not going to discuss them in this piece. Although I respect them greatly and will never forget what they have done, I want to make others aware of some other great people in U.S. History (who are Black) who don’t get the attention they so well deserve. This listing is brief and there are so many more which I would love to mention but it’s impossible to do so on this blog.
Everyone knows George Washington Carver as the “peanut guy” but his discovery runs deeper than just peanuts. He was able to derive nearly 300 derivative products from peanuts. Among them cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, plastics, soap, wood and stains among other things.
Madam C.J. Walker is known for primarily for Black hair care products, but she is also the first self-made woman to become a millionaire.
Jack Johnson was the first African-American man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion boxing title in 1908. He held onto the belt until 1925.
In 1940, Hattie McDonald became the 1st African-American performer to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of a loyal slave governess in Gone With the Wind.
Dr. Mae Jemison, in 1992, was the first African-American woman to go into space aboard the space shuttle Endeavor.
1983: Guion Bluford, Jr. was the 1st African-American in space. He took off from Kennedy Space Center on the space shuttle Challenger on August 30.
1869: Howard University’s law school becomes the country’s 1st Black law school.
1881: Spelman College, the 1st college for Black women in the U.S., is founded by Sohia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles.
Leotyne Price was the 1st African-American opera singer to gain worldwide recognition(https://www.youtube.com/embed/xGfP38nd-U0“>Watch Here).
1988: Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams was the 1st African-American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl game and the only one until Russel Wilson won Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.. He was named MVP in Super Bowl XXII.
Samuel L. Garvey became the 1st Black person to command a U.S. warship in 1962.
1933: Etta Moten sings for President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt at a White House Dinner. It was the 1st time an African-American actress performed at the White House.
Richard Theodore Greene became the first African-American to graduate from Harvard University in 1870.
Charles Mahoney was the first Black delegate to the United Nations.
Violette Neatley Anderson was the first African-Americal woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Matthew Henson received a joint medal from Congress as codiscoverer of the North Pole.
Crystal Byrd Fauset was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as the first Black woman elected to the state legislature.
On January 26, 1990, Elaine Weddington Steward was named general manager of the Boston Red Sox, making her the first Black woman executive of a professional baseball organization.
Sarah E. Goode was the 1st Black woman to receive a U.S. patent (for the cabinet bed, which later her idea became the Murphy Bed).