February celebrates Black History Month, but do you know the people who paved the way? From Toni Morrison and Gabby Douglas to Harriet Tubman and George Washington Carver, we’re here to celebrate the influence that all these people have on American culture and more importantly, African American culture. Here are some interesting Black History Month facts to help you better understand the years of oppression that have led to this celebration! You may recognize some of these historical and monumental names while others may be the first time you read about them.
20 Facts for Black History Month
- February became the official Black History Month in 1976. It was initially a week-long celebration started in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a famous African American figure.
- Carter G. Woodson, the creator of “Negro History Week”, which later turned into Black History Month, was the second African American to get their doctorate from Harvard.
- The month of February was chosen to honor Black History Month because of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. Both historical figures’ birthdays fall in the month of February.
- Thurgood Marshall was the first African American to become a member of the Supreme court and served from 1967 to 1991.
- Madam C.J. Walker created a line of African American hair products and became a philanthropist with all her wealth.
- Gone With the Wind was such a famous movie but did you know that Hattie McDaniel, the governess in the movie, was the first African American to win an Academy Award?
- Famous for his time with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in the MLB.
- Barack Obama was the first Black president of the United States. He was elected in 2008.
- Black History Month features a new theme every year. The 2022 Black History Month theme was Black Health and Wellness and the previous year was The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. The theme for 2023 is Black Resistance.
- The Smithsonian Institution, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Library of Congress, and National Park Service all sponsor events during Black History Month to commemorate historical Black figures.
- Claudette Colvin was arrested less than a year before Rosa Parks for not giving up her seat to a white passenger on a bus. Both of these women were driving forces for the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.
- Jack Johnson was the first Black man to win the World Heavyweight Championship for boxing in 1908 and had the title until 1915.
- The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was created in 1909 to combat the challenges that African Americans faced. This organization worked hard to ban segregation in public transportation, ban segregation in educational spaces and helped pass civil rights legislation that paved the way for future generations.
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were created to educate African Americans. The number one HBCU in America is Howard University. Though they are historically Black universities, anyone can apply to attend.
- Juneteenth celebrates the freeing of the enslaved in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1865. Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021!
- Abraham Lincoln signed The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to free slaves. But, it was not immediately put into place since it was only relevant to Confederate states.
- Kamala Harris was the first Black woman Vice President of the United States. She is also the first woman to take on the role.
- Black musicians shaped Jazz music in the early 1900s. Artists like Loius Armstrong, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and Thelonious Monk are known for their influence on jazz.
- Katherine Johnson was an aerospace technologist whose calculations were used to send Americans into space. The movie Hidden Figures was based on her work with NASA and the struggles of other Black women who worked with her there.
- Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. were both strong forces during the Civil Rights Movement. Malcolm X and MLK Jr. advocated for their people’s rights but were often seen as opposers because of their different approaches to using violence during this time period.
There are so many historical black figures that offer interesting facts for Black History Month. Black history is American history and February celebrates those who have paved the way for future generations. People widely known by the world, and some by only their communities, worked together to gain rights and fight for the equality of Black people. Take the time during February to learn more about Black history and how it has shaped America into the nation it is today.