African American History Month Facts

  • Published
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

The Equal Opportunity office on base is recognizing African American history and heritage this month through various educational activities and facts of the day Feb. 17.

Some interesting facts about African American History are:

1. Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role they have played in the history of the United States. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History has selected the theme, Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories. –

2. In 1930, Thurgood Marshall was denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School because he was Black. After getting accepted to Howard University Law School, he began to develop an impressive track record of winning court cases against states that aimed to continue practicing discrimination. He later became the first Black American to sit on the Supreme Court, where he served from 1967 to 1991. –

3. Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist whose depiction of her own suffering focused attention on the plight of Blacks throughout the South. In 1964, she worked with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, organizing the Freedom Summer voter registration drive in Mississippi. Hamer’s tombstone is inscribed with her famous quote, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” –

4. Known as the “Father of Black History,” Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the celebration he called “Negro History Week” in 1926. He selected the second week of February because it fell between the birthdays of the famed orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. In 1976, the celebration expanded to include the entire month. –

5. On May 4, 1961, a group of 13 civil rights activists began the Freedom Rides, a series of bus trips through the American South to protest segregation in interstate bus terminals. The Freedom Riders departed from Washington, D.C. and attempted to integrate facilities at bus terminals along the way into the South. Before leaving for the trip, the young adults wrote their wills and said goodbye to loved ones. The group encountered tremendous violence from white protestors along the route, but were able to draw international attention to their cause. –

6. On March 7, 1965, a group of demonstrators began a march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights. They were stopped by state troopers and the Dallas County Sheriff's Department at the Edmund Winston Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The lawmen attacked the peaceful demonstrators and the day became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The march was the catalyst for the passage of the Voting Rights Act, passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson less than five months later. –

7. Founded in 1738, Fort Mose Settlement was the first community of free ex-slaves. It was located at a Spanish colony in Florida called Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose. Before the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves could escape to the colony and get their freedom when they declared their allegiance to the King of Spain and joined the Catholic Church. –

8. The largest plantation house in Florida is the Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island. The main house was built by slaves in 1738, and was sold to Zephaniah Kingsley and his African wife, Anta Madgigine Jai in 1815. When the U.S. gained possession of Florida in 1821, Kingsley fought against laws that greatly prohibited the activities of slaves and free Blacks, and even wrote a major treatise on the subject. Even though he owned slaves, he was a strong believer in treating people according to their abilities, not their color. –

9. Mary McLeod Bethune was the founder of the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach, Florida. It formally opened in October of 1904 with five students enrolled. In 1929, Bethune merged with the Cookman Institute and became co-ed. As of 2015, the Bethune- Cookman University has grown to enroll upwards of 4,000 undergraduate students each year. –

10. Jean Baptiste Point du Sable is known as the first settler of present-day Chicago. He was also the city’s first black resident. As merchant and farmer of the region, Point du Sable established both a prosperous farm in an area otherwise unsettled and an affable relationship with local Native American tribes. After the end of the Revolutionary War, his farm prospered greatly. Travelers as far as the East coast knew of the Point du Sable farm as one of the only sources of farmed produce in the area. –

11. When the U.S. military was segregated, there were myths that Black men were not successful fighters. The Tuskegee Airmen proved this misled theory wrong when they flew over 200 combat missions in World War II and lost none of their own to enemy fire. Their second-to-none fighting record was instrumental in burying myths about correlations concerning race and combat skills and paved the way to full integration of the U.S. military. –

12. The Underground Railroad was a loosely organized network of connections for slaves escaping to the North. Homes, or “stations” would provide food and shelter for escaping slaves, and the leader of the group, or “conductor”, ensured that they moved safely from station to station. It is estimated that close to 100,000 fugitive slaves used the railroad between 1810 and 1860, the majority of whom escaped from Kentucky, Virginia and Maryland. –

13. On April 5, 1945, the 477th Bombardment Group, the first Black bomber group, attempted to integrate an all-White officers’ club at Freeman Field, Indiana. As the officers attempted to enter, they were arrested. By the end of the evening, 103 officers had been arrested. The trials drew national attention. The Freeman Field Mutiny is regarded as an important step toward the integration of the U.S. military. –

14. Little Rock Central High School is widely regarded as the first Southern school to be integrated, but Clinton High School in Tennessee was integrated a year earlier. In 1957, three years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Bobby Cain graduated from Clinton High as the first Black graduate of an integrated high school in the South. In 1958, Gail Ann Epps became the first Black female to graduate. Later that year, Clinton High was bombed and the school was destroyed. –

15. The Montgomery Bus Boycott began when Rosa Parks, a Black protestor, refused to give up her seat for a White man on the bus. Parks was a politically active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People long before her actions on that day, and came from a family of activists. On that day in 1955, a simple act of the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” echoed throughout the country. –

16. When he escaped slavery in 1838, Frederick Douglass landed in New York and began to astonish America with his intellect and rhetorical skills. He used his knowledge and talents to change the way Americans thought about race, slavery, and American Democracy. Even after his death over a century ago, his legacy endures. Every day, people are inspired by his resilient advocacy for civil rights and political awareness. –

17. Seneca Village was a settlement in central Manhattan, and comprised a small part of present-day Central Park. It is thought to have been Manhattan’s first stable community of African American property owners from 1825 to the mid-1850s. -

18. Mulberry Row was the main road on Monticello – Thomas Jefferson’s 5,000-acre plantation in Virginia. A once-bustling hub of homes, workshops and sheds, the Row was where all walks of life – enslaved people, indentured servants, and free men and women- came together and worked as farmers, weavers, carpenters, gardeners, and blacksmiths. The plantation suggests the intricacy of labor at such a large, production-focused establishment. –

19. Ralph Abernathy was the pastor of Montgomery’s First Baptist Church and one of the most prolific Freedom Riders of the movement. Abernathy, a good friend of Martin Luther King, Jr. helped to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott and later took over as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLS) after King’s assassination. –

20. The NAACP is the nation’s largest and strongest civil rights organization. Founded in 1909 in New York City by a group of Black and White citizens committed to social justice, the NAACP’s principal objective is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of minority group citizens of United States and eliminate racial prejudice. –

21. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other Countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history. –

22. On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 Americans gathered in Washington, D.C., for a political rally known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Organized by civil rights and religious groups, the event was designed to shed light on the political and social challenges African Americans faced across the United States. The march became a key moment in the struggle for civil rights in the U.S., and it culminated in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. –