February is Black History Month, a time to honor the achievements and contributions of African Americans to our country. To celebrate, we are sharing a list of some lesser-known moments and facts in Black History.
- Most people think of Rosa Parks as the first person to refuse to give up their seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Nine months prior, Claudette Colvin (a 15-year-old schoolgirl) refused to go to the back of the bus and was arrested. She and three other women challenged, and successfully overturned, the county and state bus segregation laws in the case of Browder v. Gayle (1956).
- Onesimus was a slave in the early 1700’s who introduced inoculation to America. He was a gift to Puritan church minister Cotton Mather in 1706 from his congregation. Onesimus told Mather about the centuries old tradition of inoculation practiced in Africa. This practice was ultimately used to inoculate American soldiers during the Revolutionary War and introduced the concept of inoculation to the United States.
- Martin Luther King Jr. improvised the most iconic part of his “I Have a Dream Speech". The night before the march, Dr. King began working on his speech with a small group of advisers in the lobby of the Willard Hotel. The original speech was more political and less historic, according to Clarence B. Jones, and it did not include any reference to dreams. After delivering the now famous line, “we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” Dr. King transformed his speech into a sermon. It is now recognized as one of the greatest speeches in American history.
- Quakers, also known as “The Society of Friends,” have a long history of abolition, but it was four Pennsylvania Friends from Germantown who wrote the initial protest in the 17th century. They saw the slave trade as a grave injustice against their fellow man and used the Golden Rule to argue against such inhumane treatment; regardless of skin color, “we should do unto others as we would have done onto ourselves".
- The Transatlantic Slave Trade was underway from 1500-1866, shipping more than 12 million African slaves across the world. By the time the United States became involved in the slave trade, it had been underway for two hundred years. The majority of its 388,000 slaves arrived between 1700 and 1866, representing a much smaller percentage than most Americans realize. Brazil was the last country to ban slavery in 1888.
- In the 1930s, when Jewish academics from Germany and Austria were dismissed from their teaching positions, many came to the United States looking for jobs. Due to the Depression, xenophobia and rising anti-Semitism, many found it difficult to find work, but more than 50 found positions at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) in the segregated South. The first of the HBCUs was Cheyney University in Pennsylvania, established in 1837 to educate freed slaves to read and write.
- One in four cowboys was Black, despite the stories told in popular books and movies. In fact, it's believed that the real “Lone Ranger” was inspired by an African American man named Bass Reeves. When the Civil War ended, freedmen such as Reeves came West, where the demand for skilled labor was high, with the hope of a better life. He ultimately became a Deputy U.S. Marshal, was a master of disguise, an expert marksman, rode a silver horse and had a Native American companion.
- The first licensed African American Female pilot was named Bessie Coleman. Coleman performed at numerous airshows, performing heart thrilling stunts, encouraging other African Americans to pursue flying, and refusing to perform where Blacks were not admitted.
- Interracial marriage (also known as miscegenation) in the United Sates was banned in 1664 and not overturned until 1967. In 2000, Alabama became the last state to officially legalize interracial marriage by removing the unenforceable ban that was still contained in their state constitution. Loving Day is an annual celebration held on June 12, the anniversary of the 1967 United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia which struck down all anti-miscegenation laws remaining in sixteen U.S. states.
This was compiled by Bolton Cares from information found at: http://www.pbs.org/black-culture/explore/10-black-history-little-known-facts/. Bolton Cares is an internal committee whose mission is to strengthen our communities by encouraging employee volunteerism and financial support.