Black History Month was set aside to honor the sacrifices and accomplishments of African-Americans in the United States. The celebration was started by noted historian, Carter G. Woodson in 1926 and was originally known as “Negro History Week”. Since 1976, every U.S. president has designated February as the month to pay homage to African-Americans.
Here are a few firsts by African-Americans:
- Jack Johnson became the first African-American man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion boxing title in 1908. He held on to the belt until 1915.
- John Mercer Langston was the first black man to become a lawyer in Ohio when he passed the Bar 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.
- Thurgood Marshall was the first African American ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and served on the Supreme Court from 1967 to 1991.
- 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.
- 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.
- In 1992, Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African American woman to go into space aboard the space shuttle Endeavor. During her 8-day mission she worked with U.S. and Japanese researchers, and was a co-investigator on a bone cell experiment.
- In 1940, Booker T. Washington was the first African American to be portrayed on a U.S. postage stamp.
- Dr. James McCune Smith was the first African American to earn a medical degree and practice medicine in the United States in 1837.
Tell us about some pivotal moments in Black History that have strongly impacted you.