28 Little Known Facts on Black History

As a community, it is important we recognize and reflect on our strengths during Black History Month. It is a reminder of how far we have come and that there is no limit on how far we will go.

In that spirit, we have put together a list of facts that may not be the most well known in history. However, they demonstrate notable achievements that deserve recognition and can serve as inspiration both now and in the future:

1.      The celebration of Black History Month began as “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 1976.1

2.      Thurgood Marshall was the first African American ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and served on the court from 1967 to 1991.1

3.      Chuck Berry's famous "duck walk" dance originated in 1956 when he attempted to hide wrinkles in his trousers by shaking them out with his now-signature body movements.2

4.      John Mercer Langston was the first Black man to become a lawyer when he passed the bar in Ohio in 1854.1

5.      Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the three-way traffic signal, also became the first African American to own a car in Cleveland, Ohio.2

6.      Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter, was the first novel published by an African American, in 1853. It was written by abolitionist and lecturer William Wells Brown.3

7.      It's estimated that around 100,000 enslaved people escaped to the North via the Underground Railroad from 1810 to 1850.3

8.      After African American performer Josephine Baker expatriated to France, she famously smuggled military intelligence to French allies during World War II. She did this by pinning secrets inside her dress, as well as hiding them in her sheet music.2

9.      In 1920, Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall became the first Black athletes to play in the NFL.3

10.   Scientist and mathematician Benjamin Banneker is credited with helping to design the blueprints for Washington, D.C.2

11.   Before Wally Amos became famous for his "Famous Amos" chocolate chip cookies, he was a talent agent at the William Morris Agency, where he worked with the likes of The Supremes and Simon & Garfunkel.2

12.   The theme song for the groundbreaking African American sitcom Sanford and Sons was composed by music great Quincy Jones.2

13.   Nancy Green, who was formerly enslaved, was employed in the 1890s to promote the Aunt Jemima brand by demonstrating the pancake mix at expositions and fairs. She was a popular attraction because of her friendly personality, storytelling skills and warmth. Green signed a lifetime contract with the pancake company, and her image was used for packaging and ads.2

14.   After the success of Negro Digest, publisher John H. Johnson decided to create a magazine to showcase Black achievement while also looking at current issues affecting African Americans. The first issue of his publication, Ebony, sold out in a matter of hours.2

15.   Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He represented the state of Mississippi from February 1870 to March 1871.1

16.   In 1981, Broadcast journalist Bryant Gumbel became the first Black person to host a network morning show when he joined NBC's Today Show.3

17.   In 1908, after winning the 4 x 400 meter relay, John Taylor became the first African American to win gold in the Olympics.3

18.   In 1881, Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles founded what would become the first college for Black women in the United States. The school was named Spelman College after Laura Spelman Rockefeller and her parents, who were abolitionists. 2

19.   Agricultural scientist George Carver was responsible for creating over 500 new products made from peanuts and sweet potatoes, including cooking oils, paint, and soap.3

20.   Mamie Smith is considered to be the first African American female artist to make a blues record with vocals—"Crazy Blues," released in 1920, sold 1 million copies in half a year.2

21.   African American fashion designer Ann Lowe designed the wedding dress of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the bride of future President John F. Kennedy.2

22.   Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives. She was elected in 1968 and represented the state of New York.1

23.   Jack Johnson became the first African American man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion boxing title in 1908. He held onto the belt until 1915.1

24.   In the 1800s, Philadelphia was known as the "Black Capital of Anti–Slavery" because of its strong abolitionist presence, which included groups like the Philadelphia Anti–Slavery Society.2

25.   After graduating from Oberlin College in 1850 with a literary degree, Lucy Stanton became the first Black woman in America to earn a four-year college degree.3

26.   Record sales from musician and singer Nat King Cole contributed so greatly to Capitol Records' success during the 1950s that its headquarters became known as "the house that Nat built."2

27.   Robert Johnson became the first African American billionaire when he sold the cable station he founded, Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 2001.1

28.   In addition to her career in Washington, D.C., Condoleezza Rice is an accomplished pianist who has accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma, played with soul singer Aretha Franklin and performed for Queen Elizabeth II.2


Sources (1-3):

  1. Biography.com Editors. (2021, January 06). Little Known Facts About Black History. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://www.biography.com/news/black-history-facts
  2. History.com Editors. (2009, October 27). Black History Facts. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-facts
  3. Jean-Philippe, M. (2021, January 25). 26 Black History Facts You May Not Have Learned In School. Retrieved February 01, 2021, from https://www.oprahmag.com/life/a35181062/black-history-facts/

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published