60 Interesting Black History Month Facts

Black History Month Facts: Black History Month is celebrated in Canada and the United States each February. Black History Month was preceded by Negro History Week, celebrated during the second week of February. This black history celebration movement in the United States was initiated by Carter G. Woodson in 1926 to raise public awareness of the contribution of African Americans to their country's history.

Woodson chose February because that month was the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and Langston Hughes. At the founding time of Black History Month the history and traditions of the black population were rarely covered in history books. The portrayal of blacks in history books was limited to their low social status.

Many black radical/nationalist groups, such as the Nation of Islam, have criticized Black History Month. There were also Black History Month events in Germany in 2014 and in previous years. In the UK, Black History Month is celebrated in October. School principal and activist Betty Campbell was one of the co-initiators of the British version.

60 Interesting Black History Month Facts

Black History Month Facts for Kids

  • Canada also commemorates Black History Month in February. 
  • SALH has celebrated Negro History Week and Black History Month for 95 years.
  • Founded in 1984, The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is the only touring African American rodeo in the world.
  • In 1996, Sheryl Swoopes became the first player to sign with the WNBA, with the league debuting a year later.
  • It’s estimated that around 100,000 slaves escaped to the North via the Underground Railroad between 1810 and 1850.
  • In 2012, at the London Olympics, Gabby Douglas became the first Black gymnast to win the Individual All-Around title.
  • The Proud Family was Disney Channel’s first original animated series about the life of a young Black girl, 14-year-old Penny Proud. 
  • Robert Johnson became the first African American billionaire when he sold the cable station he founded, Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 2001.
  • By the late 1960s, Negro History Week — the precursor for this month's celebrations and events — changed into what is now known as Black History Month. 
  • American Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) speaks at a rally held at the Robert Taylor Houses in Chicago, Illinois, in the 1960s.
  • 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.
  • African American fashion designer Ann Lowe designed the ivory silk taffeta wedding dress of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis when she married President John F. Kennedy.

Black History Month Facts People to Know

  • Before former President Barack Obama took office, George Edwin Taylor paved the way when he ran for president as a member of the National Negro Liberty Party in 1904. 
  • The cartoon character Betty Boop was based on Esther Jones, a Harlem-based jazz singer. Jones was known for her use of “boops” in her singing which was called a child-like scat. 
  • This year's theme for Black History Month is Black health and wellness; past themes have included the family, Black migrations, and Black women in American culture and history, among others.
  • On July 2, 1777, Vermont became the first colony to ban slavery. Vermont’s legislature agreed to abolish slavery entirely, and it also moved to provide full voting rights for African American males. 
  • On September 7, 1960, Wilma Rudolph made Olympic history by becoming the first woman, and the first African American woman, to win three gold medals. She became known as the fastest woman in the world. 
  • Dr. Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” started the first Negro History Week in 1926 to ensure students would learn Black history. It grew into Black History Month starting in 1976. 
  • The Godfather of Soul James Brown performed in front of a televised audience in Boston the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Brown is credited for preventing further riots with the performance.
  • Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner patented the sanitary belt in 1957 even though she created it in the 1920s. The belt was adjustable and had a moisture-proof napkin pocket and helped to hold pads in place from causing leakage. 
  • The current population of Black and African Americans makes up 46.9 million, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Also, 89.4% of African Americans age 25 and older had a high school diploma or higher in 2020, as Fox10 Phoenix reported.

Black History Month Facts not Taught in School

  • Educator and abolitionist Lucy Stanton was the first Black woman to graduate from college. She completed a ladies literary program and graduated from Oberlin College in 1850. Her commencement speech was an appeal for anti-slavery. 
  • In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first Black person to win an Oscar for her supporting role in Gone With the Wind. 24 years later, Sidney Poitier became the first Black man to win an Oscar for his leading role in Lilies of the Field.
  • The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) opened in 2021 and is the only museum dedicated to preserving the legacy and celebrating the accomplishments of the many music genres created, influenced, or inspired by African Americans.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on Maya Angelou‘s birthday, on April 4, 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years afterward, and sent flowers to King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, for more than 30 years, until Coretta’s death in 2006.
  • Hailed as “Hip-Hop’s First Godmother,” singer and music producer Sylvia Robinson produced the first-ever commercially successful rap record: “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang. She co-owned the first hip-hop label, Sugar Hill Records with her husband.
  • Agricultural scientist George Carver was responsible for developing 300 new products made from peanuts including milk, flour, ink, soap, medicinal oils, and cosmetics. He created 118 products from sweet potatoes, including flour, vinegar, ink, and postage stamp glue. 
  • Cathay Williams was the first and only known female Buffalo Soldier. Williams was born into slavery and worked for the Union army during the Civil War. She posed as a man and enlisted as William Cathay in the 38th infantry in 1866, and was given a medical discharge in 1868.
  • Computer scientist and engineer Mark Dean is a co-inventor of IBM’s original personal computer, and the PC color monitor, changing the face of technology. He also co-created the technology that enables printers, keyboards, disk drives, and monitors to be plugged directly into computers.

100 Facts About Black History Month

  • Allensworth is the first all-Black Californian township, founded and financed by African Americans. Created by Lieutenant Colonel Allen Allensworth in 1908, the town was built with the intention of establishing a self-sufficient city where African Americans could live their lives free of prejudice. 
  • Fifty years after the first celebrations, then-President Gerald R. Ford officially recognized Black History Month at the country's 1976 bicentennial. Ford called on Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history," as History.com noted.
  • Former President Barack Obama has won two Grammy Awards. He was first honored in 2005 for the audio version of his memoir, Dreams from My Father(best-spoken word album), and received his second Grammy (in the same category) in 2007 for his political work, The Audacity of Hope. In 2022, he was nominated for the audio version of his book A Promised Land. 
  • William Tucker was the first known Black person to be born in the 13 colonies. He was born near Jamestown, Virginia in 1624. His parents were indentured servants and part of the first group of Africans brought to colonial soil by Great Britain. In 1634, his parents participated in the establishment of Elizabeth City County, Virginia which is now the city of Hampton.
  • In 1738, a group of newly freed men and women founded the town Gracia Real De Santa Teresa De Mose, Florida. There were an estimated 100 people in the town’s population. Just two miles away from St. Augustine, it’s considered to be the first-ever free Black settlement in the U.S. It was abandoned following the Seven Years’ War in 1763. In 1994, it was designated a National Historic Landmark.
  • In 1854, John Mercer Langston passed the Ohio State bar to become one of America's first Black lawyers, and the first African American to represent Virginia in the House of Representatives. He also became the first African American elected to public office in the United States when he became the township clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio, in 1855. Additionally, he was the first dean of Howard University's School of Law.
  • A founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History organization, Carter G. Woodson, first had the idea of this month-long celebration. Woodson was born in 1875 to newly freed Virginia slaves. He later earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. He worried that Black children were not being taught about their ancestors’ achievements in American schools in the early 1900s, as Fox 10 noted.
  • Black History Month is sponsored at the national level by the National Endowment for the Humanities, The National Gallery of Art, the National Park Service, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Archives and Records Administration, and many other prominent organizations. Every February these organizations honor Black history with commemorative events.
  • Alexander Miles’s elevator design made riding on elevators safer. Previously, elevators were operated manually; people had to consciously open and close the doors of both the elevator and the shaft every time. In 1887, Miles obtained the patent for his invention including a flexible belt attached to the elevator cage, allowing the doors to function automatically. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007.

Black History Month Facts for Each Day

  • According to ASALH, during the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-1960s, college students at Ohio's Kent State University led protests calling for the establishment of Black studies departments and courses focusing on the accomplishments of African Americans. Students also demanded that colleges extend Negro History Week into a month-long celebration. In 1976, President Gerald Ford established the month-long observance in the United States.
  • Garrett Morgan’s inventions continue to save lives. His take on the traffic signal, which he patented in 1922, was the first to offer a third “caution” signal which is now known as the yellow light. Take his traffic signal, which he patented in 1922. In 1912, Morgan received a patent for his “Breathing Device,” which was one of the earliest versions of a gas mask. He was also the first African American man to own a car in Cleveland, Ohio. 
  • Forty years after Ford's recognition of Black History Month, then-President Barack Obama delivered this message, in part, from the White House: "Black History Month shouldn't be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington or from some of our sports heroes … It's about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans."
  • In 1995, Dr. Jean Augustine — a Black Canadian member of Parliament — founded Black History Month in Canada. Celebrations take place in February, similar to those held in the United States. Augustine is thus known as the "Mother of Black History Month" in Canada. In the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, Black History Month takes place in October. While the UK's initial focus was on Black American history, the country now focuses on celebrating Black British history.
  • George “Crum” Speck, a chef and restaurant owner is said to have created the potato chip by accident during the summer of 1853. However, his sister, Kate, claimed she actually created the chip after a potato slice fell into a hot frying pan creating the famous Saratoga chips. Crum’s chips remained a local delicacy in New York until the 1920s when a salesman named Herman Lay (yes, of Lays chips) began traveling throughout the south and introducing potato chips to different communities.
  • Each year, ASALH selects an overarching theme for Black History Month. For 2022, ASALH selected Black Health and Wellness as its theme. Its website states that: "This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well."
  • In addition to Woodson, many civil rights activists and protestors contributed to Black history, including Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Mary White Ovington, and Martin Luther King Jr. Sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, a founding member of the civil rights organization the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was a prominent Black intellectual who wrote extensively on Black struggles. He described Black Americans as experiencers of double consciousness, which describes the "twoness" of the African American identity.
  • In 1957, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Until then, the federal government hadn't passed civil rights legislation since Reconstruction when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 established a federal Civil Rights Commission to investigate and discipline those who practice discrimination, as well as the Civil Rights Section of the Department of Justice, which applies federal statutes to protect underserved Americans from discrimination.
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were established to provide more higher education opportunities to Black Americans. The first HBCU, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, was established in 1837. Today, over 100 HBCUs exist. The Higher Education Act of 1965 defines an HBCU as "any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education."
  • Black History Month takes place in February for good reason. Woodson wanted to honor President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, who were both born in February. Lincoln is well known as the American President who, in 1863, issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This proclomation announced the freedom of American slaves in the Confederate States of America. Frederick Douglass escaped from American slavery in 1838 to become a renowned abolitionist, speaker, and writer. He wrote several speeches and books, including "A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave".
  • In 1926, Carter G. Woodson — an African American historian who graduated from Harvard with a Ph.D. — founded Negro History Week to highlight the history, lives, and contributions of Black Americans to American society. In 1976, Negro History Week stretched into a month-long celebration under President Gerald Ford. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), which was founded by Woodson, "Black teachers in segregated public elementary and secondary schools engaged their students in an array of festivities—plays, pageants, reciting of speeches, essay contests, concerts, and other events."

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