By: Jackie Warner
This month honors the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. The celebration began as “Negro History Week,” which was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher. It became a month-long celebration in 1976. The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
NAACP: On February 12, 2019, the NAACP marked its 110th anniversary. February 12, 1909, was chosen because it was the centennial anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.
Heavyweight Champ: Jack Johnson became the first African American man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion boxing title in 1908. He held onto the belt until 1915.
First Lawyer: John Mercer Langston was the first black man to become a lawyer when he passed the bar in Ohio in 1854. When he was elected to the post of Town Clerk for Brownhelm, Ohio, in 1855, Langston became one of the first African Americans ever elected to public office in America. John Mercer Langston was also the great-uncle of Langston Hughes, famed poet of the Harlem Renaissance.
Famous Protestors: While Rosa Parks is credited with helping to spark the Civil Rights movement when she refused to give up her public bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 – inspiring the Montgomery Bus Boycott — the lesser-known Claudette Colvin was arrested nine months prior for not giving up her bus seat.
Supreme Court Justice: Thurgood Marshall was the first African American ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and served on the court from 1967 to 1991.
Eminent Scientist: George Washington Carver developed 300 derivative products from peanuts among them cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, plastics, wood stains, soap, linoleum, medicinal oils, and cosmetics.
First Senator: Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He represented the state of Mississippi from February 1870 to March 1871.
First Woman Representative: Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives. She was elected in 1968 and represented the state of New York. She broke ground again four years later in 1972 when she was the first major party African American candidate and the first female candidate for president of the United States.
Self-Made Millionaire: Madam C.J. Walker was born on a cotton plantation in Louisiana and became wealthy after inventing a line of African American hair care products.
Oscar Winner: In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American performer to win an Academy Award—the film industry’s highest honor—for her portrayal of a loyal slave governess in Gone With the Wind.
First Black Billionaire: Before Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan joined the billionaire’s club, Robert Johnson became the first African American billionaire when he sold the cable station he founded, Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 2001.
First Black President: In 2008, Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States.