February may be Black history month, but does this awareness month really tell the entire story of Black history in the United States? The truth is there is a lot about Black history that society doesn’t know or understand – not only in February but all year long. There are many topics and lessons not taught in schools, and mainstream media doesn’t always highlight important events.
9 Black History Facts You Didn't Know
If you are interested in learning more about Black history and African American culture, look no further. Take a look at these 9 little-known black history facts.
1. The History of Black History Month
Black History Month was established in 1970 by historian Carter G. Woodson. Woodson is known as the “Father of Black History.” He was the second African American to attend Harvard University and graduate with a doctorate degree. He is one of the first scholars to study, research, and support the history of African Americans.
2. The First African American Public School was founded by a White Quaker
Anthony Benezet was a White Quaker, educator, and abolitionist. He is credited with establishing the first public school for African American children. It was established in the 1770s.
3. First Black Woman to Earn a Four-Year Degree
Lucy Stanton was the first Black woman in America to earn a four-year college degree. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1850 after studying literature.
4. The First Black American to Host a TV Show
Nat King Cole is well known for his singing and ability to play the piano. But he also played a notable part in Black history. He was the first Black American to host a television show – The Nat King Cole Show.
5. We Can Thank a Black Computer Scientist for GIFs
In 1995, computer scientist Lisa Gelobter helped create Shockwave. Shockwave is a technology that played a significant part in the development of web animation.
6. Vaccinations Were Introduced to America by a Slave
In 1721, the city of Boston was stricken with a smallpox outbreak. The virus was killing hundreds of people and there were no known treatments at the time. That is until a slave known as Onesimus changed history. Onesimus confided to his owner, Cotton Mather, that there was a practice of inoculating individuals in Africa. It had been used for centuries. Mather then took this information to Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, who eventually inoculated 240 people.
7. A Black LGBTQ Activist Organized the Civil Rights Movement
One of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s key advisers was a man named Bayard Rustin. Rustin was an openly gay Black man who supported the Civil Rights Movement. He educated Dr. King on civil resistance tactics – tactics he learned from a trip to India. He was also instrumental in organizing the infamous March on Washington led by Dr. King. He was, however, kept out of the spotlight due to his sexuality.
8. One Couple was Responsible for Overturning the Ban on Interracial Marriage
Richard and Mildred Loving left their home in Virginia after officials warned they're getting married would violate state law. At the time, interracial marriage was illegal. Mildred was Black and Richard was White. When the couple returned to Virginia married, Mildred was arrested. The couple then sought the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In the case Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court ruled that bans on interracial marriage were unconstitutional.
9. There was an All-Black Township in California
In 1908, Colonel Allen Allensworth founded Allensworth Township, California. The township was a refuge for Black Americans away from the oppression of segregation. The goal was for the township to be completely self-reliant. It had its own school district and businesses. By the 1920s, around 300 people lived in Allensworth. Drought and high arsenic levels in the water led to most residents leaving the area by the 1970s. In 1976, the township was mostly empty and later became a historic park.
Of course, there are many well-known events and figures celebrated during Black History Month. But as you can see, there are many important and interesting facts about Black history that are not always at the forefront of media and education.