LITTLE KNOWN BLACK HISTORY FACTS THAT SHOULDN'T BE LITTLE KNOWN
February 16, 2023
Black history is American history. Everyone should learn it and not only be relegated to the 28 (or 29) days in February. There are some little-known but very important black history facts that help to illustrate the beautiful, brilliant and indisputably useful contributions African Americans have made to the United States and the world.
HISTORY OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Celebrating the important people, events and achievements related to people of African diaspora is not new. Back in 1926, historian and author, Carter G. Woodson created "Negro History Week".
In conjunction with his work with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Woodson chose the second week of February for this annual observance as it coincided with the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass (February 14) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12).
Woodson understood the innate need for African Americans to know their own varied and colorful history beyond the centuries of forced servitude. He also knew people who were not of African descent needed to know how much stronger and better the country is because of the efforts of many African Americans.
Even though the United States has been observing Black History Month since 1970, there are still so many little-known Black history facts to be shared. From Thurgood Marshall to Barak Obama, from the Underground Railroad to the Great Migration, from Montgomery, Alabama to Tulsa, Oklahoma, the contributions of African Americans to the United States are many.
To help you understand more about the history of African Americans and their contributions, we've put together this list of 12 little-known Black history facts. While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it may be able to give you an idea of the depth and breadth of achievement, courage, and resilience African Americans have demonstrated for centuries.
THERE WAS A BLACK WALL STREET IN TULSA
Tulsa, Oklahoma was the home of one of the most affluent African American communities in the early 1900's. The area was dubbed Black Wall Street because it was filled with African American doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs, even though Jim Crow was still the law of the land.
With 15,000 residents, 600 black-owned businesses were thriving, but they also drew a dangerous amount of envy from area Whites. On June 1, 1921, Black Wall Street was destroyed by bombs and fire, killing nearly 300 people. The neighborhood never recovered.
THE FIRST BLACK WOMAN RAN FOR PRESIDENT IN 1972 AND WAS ALMOST ASSASSINATED THREE TIMES
Shirley Chisholm has the honor of being the first Black person to do a lot of things. She was the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress. She was the first Black woman member of the Congressional Rules Committee. She even was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Women's Caucus. She was also the first Black woman to run for president.
She garnered 10 percent of the vote at the Democratic National Convention in 1972, though she failed to win the nomination. She was forced to survive three assassination attempts during this presidential run.
Some say her bid laid the groundwork for future presidential bids by women.
THE FIRST SELF-MADE FEMALE MILLIONAIRE WAS A BLACK WOMAN
Madame C.J. Walker developed her hair care business out of her own needs as well as those around her. She spent her life traveling the country to introduce proper hair care to African American women as well as to sell her own products.
She opened a facility to manufacture and develop many of the hair care products that are used today.
HATTIE MCDANIEL WAS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN TO WIN AN OSCAR BUT SHE COULDN'T ATTEND THE PREMIER
Gone with the Wind was a hit movie in 1939, thanks in part to the acting skills of Hattie McDaniel. She was rewarded with an Academy Award that year for Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first African American to win the coveted prize.
She was also the first African American nominated for an Oscar. However, when the movie premiered in Atlanta at a star-studded gala, she, nor any of the Black actors in the film, were allowed to attend because of Georgia's strict segregation laws. She did go to the Hollywood premiere.
AN AFRICAN AMERICAN HELPED MAKE A GAMING SYSTEM LINE X-BOX POSSIBLE
Jerry Lawson was a Black man and an engineer during the 1970's, a time when there were very few people who looked like him in that field. Despite not graduating from college, his creativity and technology skills helped him invent the interchangeable video game cartridge.
Prior to this, games were hard-wired into the gaming console and could not be changed. This invention single-handedly changed the video game industry and made the video game systems we have today possible.
IN 1992 MAE C. JEMISON BECAME THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN IN SPACE
It took until 1992 for the first African American woman to be sent to space. Mae C. Jemison was more than just an astronaut though. She was also a medical doctor and an accomplished dancer.
Always interested in and inspired by science and space, Jemison applied to be in the NASA astronaut corps and was selected. When she went into space she brought West African artifacts symbolizing the idea that space belongs to all nations. She also brought an Alvin Ailey Dance Company poster, having danced with the troupe for a time.
Jemison was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and succeeded despite the obstacles her race and gender created. She is currently a professor-at-large at Cornell University and the founder of a company that develops technology for daily use.
The remaining list will be published in next week's issue.