February is recognized for numerous health-related and socially charged observances, like American Heart Month, for instance, but none more important than spotlighting, Black History Month.
The monthlong observance launched in 1970 after being proposed just a year earlier by black educators on the campus of Kent State University. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, who is hailed as the ‘Father of Black History’, founded Negro History Week, which served as a driving force behind the inception in the 70s, more specifically, in 1976, in which President Gerald Ford honored the U.S. Bicentennial by giving his official presidential endorsement in naming February, African American History Month.
If there is one thing that each-and-every country on this planet has in common, it is that history inspires the future. If something is inspiring, then we take fascination in the extraordinary circumstances and embrace it. A nation can always learn from its past and, if the last four years have been indicative of anything, is that we still have much to learn in regard to privilege, tolerance and acceptance.
(Just a Few) Interesting Black American History Facts
- Jackie Robinson paved the way for future generations to play professional baseball, while Hank Aaron endured much racism on his way to shattering the homerun record, but it was Satchel Paige who was the first black player to be inducted in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
- The first U.S. Senator of African American decent was Hiram Revels, in 1870.
- Rosa Parks is revered for her efforts in refusing to move to the back of the bus, but the act of revolutionary defiance was first practiced by then 15-year-old Claudette Colvin.
- Phyllis Wheatley was just 12 years old when she penned her first published poem in 1773, To the University of Cambridge in New England.
- Because of Richard and Mildred Loving, in 1967, the ban on interracial marriage was overturned in the United States. The couple lived in Virginia and, despite breaking the law, still got married. Upon returning from their honeymoon, Mildred was arrested, but in the case, Loving v. Virginia, the ACLU helped instill a landmark reversal to an anti-miscegenation law.
- Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to have won an Oscar, in 1939, for her work in Gone with the Wind, but was not invited to attend the national premiere.
- In 1909, Matthew Henson, was a key member of the first successful expedition to the North Pole. Over time, he also made seven separate voyages to the Arctic as well.
- Anna Murray was the first person of African American descent to be ordained as an episcopal priest, which she accomplished in 1977.
- The first African American to become a self-made millionaire was entrepreneur, C.J. Walker. She founded the Madam C.J. Walker Company, which specialized in manufacturing cosmetics and haircare products, specifically for black women.
- The first black woman elected to congress was Shirley Chisholm in 1968. In fact, she also ran for president in 1972 and three-different attempts were made on her life.
Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Black History Month
- Visit a Museum, library, community center or historical society which includes a showcase dedicated to the contributions of the black community. Try participating and reading about the historical significance of the culture, as well as the triumphs of black leaders. After acquiring the knowledge, spread the love, appreciation and celebrate BHM, every month!
- Donate or volunteer to black nonprofit organizations that are leading the charge in an effort for positive change. A few prominent ones include the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, SisterLove, Black Male Voter Project and Black Girls Code. Find more organizations, HERE.
- Support black-owned small businesses in impacting economic equality and empowerment. If you are looking to find some in your area, check out Black Owned Biz and Support Black Owned.
- Support black artists and creatives, which can open up a wonderful and expressive world for your eyes, ears and mind. Whether that may include musicians or poets, visual or spoken artists, you are still playing a vital role in helping sustain the importance of black culture and embrace it.
- Volunteer as a mentor to help a child-in-need, a teenager seeking guidance or even a younger coworker. By doing so, you are playing a vital role in the encouragement of embracing his or her skill, passion and talent, while igniting a fire inside of them to pursue what inspires them. Keep in mind, you can also garner knowledge from the mentee as well. Unsure about the first steps in mentoring? We got you covered. Check out Young Black & Giving Back, as well as the National Mentoring Resource Center.
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