Now you know I wasn’t going to go the whole February without doing ANYTHING related to Black History Month 🙂 Here are some interesting facts I found at biography.com and other places on the net.
- Tice Davids, a runaway slave from Kentucky, was the inspiration for the first usage of the term “Underground Railroad.” Davids’ owner assumed the slave had drowned when he attempted his swim across the Ohio River. He told the local paper that if Davids had escaped, he must have traveled on “an underground railroad.” Davids, however, did live, giving the Underground Railroad its now-famous name.
- Buffalo Soldiers is the name given to the all-black regiments of the U.S. Army started in 1866. The name was respectfully given to the African–American cavalries during the 1800s by the Native American Kiowa tribe. More than 20 Buffalo Soldiers received the highest Medal of Honor for their service—the highest number of any U.S. military unit. The oldest living Buffalo Soldier, Mark Matthews, died at the age of 111 in 2005. These soldiers received second class treatment and were often given the worst military assignments, but had the lowest desertion rate compared to their white counterparts.
- Cathay Williams was the one and only female Buffalo Soldier, posing as a man named William Cathay to enlist in the 38th infantry in 1866. She served for two years before a doctor discovered that she was a woman, leading to her discharge.
- Allensworth is the only California community to be founded, financed and governed by African-Americans. Created by Allen Allensworth in 1908, the town was built with the intention of establishing a self-sufficient, all-black city where African-Americans could live their lives free of racial discrimination.
- Jazz, an African–American musical form born out of the Blues, Ragtime, and marching bands originated in Louisiana during the turn of the 19th century. The word Jazz is a slang term that at one point referred to a sexual act.
- Louis Armstrong bought his first coronet at the age of 7 with money he borrowed from his employers. He taught himself to play while in a home for juvenile delinquents. He earned the nickname “Satchmo” from his peers. The name was short for “satchelmouth”, a reference to the way he puffed his cheeks when he played his trumpet.
- In 1930, Valaida Snow captivated audiences with her professional singing and jazz trumpet playing. Her abilities earned her the name “Little Louis”, in reference to the style of trumpeter Louis Armstrong.
- Artist Charles Alston founded the “306 Group”, a club that provided support and apprenticeship for African-American artists during the 1940s. It served as a studio space for prominent African-American artists such as poet Langston Hughes; sculptor Augusta Savage; and mixed-media artist Romare Bearden.
- Renowned African-American architect Paul Williams mastered the art of rendering drawings upside-down so that his clients, who may have been uncomfortable sitting next to a black person, would see the drawings right side up.
- The banjo originated in Africa and up until the 1800s was considered an instrument only played by blacks.
- Musician Bo Diddley reportedly got his name from the diddley bow, an African instrument with one string.
- Nancy Green a former slave, was employed in 1893 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, great story-telling, and warmth. Green signed a lifetime contract with the pancake company and her image was used for packaging and billboards.
- Before there was Rosa Parks, there was Ida Wells Barnett. Journalist Ida Wells-Barnett refused to give up her railcar seat for a white man in 1884, and bit a conductor on the hand when he tried to force her. She was dragged off the train. She sued the railroad and initially won, but the decision was overturned.
- In the early 1940s in Fort Hood, Texas, future baseball legend Jackie Robinson refused to give up his seat and move to the back of a bus when ordered to by the driver. His excellent reputation, combined with the united efforts of friends, the N.A.A.C.P., and various black newspapers, probably helped save his life.
- John Baxter Taylor, the first African-American to win an Olympic Gold Medal, also held a degree from the University of Pennsylvania in veterinary medicine.
- Garrett Augustus Morgan, inventor of the traffic signal, also became the first African-American to own a car in Cleveland, Ohio.
- 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.
- Actor, singer, and civil rights activist Paul Robeson was once considered for a U.S. vice presidential spot on Henry A. Wallace’s 1948 Progressive Party ticket. An heirloom tomato variety, originating in Russia, is named after Robeson, who was fluent in 20 languages.
- African-American fashion designer Ann Lowe designed the wedding dress of Jacqueline Bouvier, the bride of future president, Senator John F. Kennedy.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. was stabbed by an African-American woman in 1958 while attending his book signing at Blumstein’s department store in Harlem. The next year, King and his wife visited India to study Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. He was assassinated on friend Maya Angelou’s birthday on April 4th, 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for many years afterward, and sent flowers to King’s widow every year until Mrs. King’s death in 2006.
- After friend and musical partner Tammi Terrell died of a brain tumor, Marvin Gaye left the music industry for two years. During this time, he tried out for the Detroit Lions football team, but didn’t make the cut. Instead, he returned to the studio to record his hit single, “What’s Goin’ On.”
- The “Dee” in actor Billy Dee Williams’ name is short for his middle name, “December.”
- Politician and educator Shirley Chisholm survived three assassination attempts during her campaign for the 1972 U.S. presidential election.
- Olympic medal winning athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith, made headlines around the world by raising their black-gloved fists at the 1968 medal award ceremony. Both athletes wore black socks and no shoes on the podium to represent black poverty in America.
- Al Sharpton preached his first sermon at the age of four.
- Female science fiction author Octavia Butler was dyslexic. Despite her disorder, she went on to win two Hugo awards and two Nebulas for her writing.
- According to the American Community Survey, in 2005 there were 2.4 million black military veterans in the United States -the highest number of any minority group.
One thought on “Black History Facts.”
WOW…DECEMBER! I love it.