Dylan Ebs

Written by Dylan Ebs

Published: 10 Jun 2024

Source: Blackgirlnerds.com

Ever wondered why some chapters of Black history seem to slip through the cracks of our school textbooks? Well, you're not alone! Many fascinating and pivotal facts about Black history aren't typically covered in classrooms, leaving huge gaps in our understanding of the past. From unsung heroes to groundbreaking achievements that have shaped our society, there's a wealth of knowledge waiting to be uncovered. OhMyFacts is here to bridge that gap, bringing to light 20 overlooked Black history facts that schools don't teach. Ready to get a fresh perspective on history? Let's dive into these hidden gems and give credit where it's long overdue. Join us as we uncover the stories and achievements that have been left out of the mainstream narrative, proving once again that history is far richer and more diverse than we've been led to believe.

Key Takeaways:

  • Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926 to honor the accomplishments of black Americans. It expanded to a full month in 1976 to recognize neglected achievements.
  • From the first black patent holder to the first black woman in space, black history is filled with trailblazers who overcame barriers and made significant contributions to American society.
Table of Contents

The Origins of Black History Month

Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926. Historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History chose the second week of February for this observance because it coincides with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The expansion to a full month didn't happen until 1976, when President Gerald Ford urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

The First African American to Hold a Patent

  1. Thomas L. Jennings was the first African American to receive a patent, securing it in 1821 for a dry-cleaning process. This was a significant achievement, considering laws of the time restricted black individuals from holding patents.

Hidden Figures of the Space Race

  1. Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson were instrumental at NASA during the Space Race. Their calculations helped launch the first Americans into space. Despite their critical contributions, their stories remained largely untold until the 2016 film "Hidden Figures."

The Real Lone Ranger Was Black

  1. Bass Reeves, born into slavery in 1838, became the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. His life and career inspired the character of the Lone Ranger, a fact not widely known until recent years.

A Revolutionary War Hero

  1. Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Native American ancestry, was the first person killed in the Boston Massacre in 1770. His death made him the first casualty of the American Revolution, highlighting the involvement of African Americans from the very beginning of the nation's history.

The Harlem Hellfighters

  1. The Harlem Hellfighters were an all-black National Guard unit that served with distinction during World War I. They spent more time in combat than any other American unit but received most of their recognition from the French, not the United States.

A Pioneering Surgeon

  1. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the first successful open-heart surgery in 1893. He founded Provident Hospital, the first non-segregated hospital in the United States, providing training and opportunities for black medical professionals.

The Birth of Rock and Roll

  1. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a black woman, is considered by many to be the "Godmother of Rock and Roll." Her electric guitar playing and unique vocal style in the 1930s and 1940s influenced many of the genre's legends, including Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry.

The Inventor of the Super Soaker

  1. Lonnie G. Johnson, an engineer and former NASA scientist, invented the Super Soaker water gun. His invention became one of the most popular toys of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The First Black Billionaire

  1. Robert L. Johnson became the first African American billionaire when he sold the cable channel BET (Black Entertainment Television) to Viacom in 2001. His success paved the way for future generations of black entrepreneurs.

A Hidden Architectural Genius

  1. Paul R. Williams overcame racial barriers to become a celebrated architect. Designing more than 2,000 buildings, his work includes homes for Hollywood stars and public buildings such as the Los Angeles County Courthouse. Despite his success, he had to learn to draw upside down because many clients were uncomfortable sitting next to him due to his race.

The Integration of Professional Sports

  1. Jackie Robinson is well-known for breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier in 1947. Less known is Charles Follis, who became the first black professional football player in 1904, playing for the Shelby Blues of the "Ohio League," a direct predecessor to the NFL.

A Trailblazer in Literature

  1. Phillis Wheatley became the first African American author of a published book of poetry in 1773. Kidnapped from West Africa and sold into slavery, Wheatley's profound literary talent challenged prevailing attitudes about race and education.

The Underground Railroad's "Moses"

  1. Harriet Tubman is celebrated for her role as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, leading slaves to freedom. What's less known is her service as a scout, spy, and nurse during the Civil War, further cementing her legacy as a leader and warrior.

The First African American Woman to Travel in Space

  1. In 1992, Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African American woman to travel in space aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Before her historic flight, Jemison was a doctor and served in the Peace Corps.

A Pioneer in Education

  1. Booker T. Washington was one of the foremost African American educators of the 19th and 20th centuries. He founded the Tuskegee Institute, a black school in Alabama, in 1881, focusing on teaching practical skills rather than academic subjects alone.

The First Black Supreme Court Justice

  1. Thurgood Marshall was the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Before his appointment in 1967, Marshall was best known for his victory in Brown v. Board of Education, which led to the desegregation of public schools.

A Leader in Environmental Justice

  1. Hazel M. Johnson, known as the "mother of environmental justice," began her activism in the 1970s after noticing the high incidence of cancer and other diseases in her predominantly black Chicago neighborhood. Her efforts led to greater national awareness of environmental racism.

The Father of Black History

  1. Carter G. Woodson, often called the "Father of Black History," dedicated his life to African American historical research and was instrumental in the establishment of Black History Month. His work laid the foundation for the study and appreciation of African American history as an integral part of American history.

A Voice for Civil Rights

  1. Ida B. Wells was a pioneering African American journalist and activist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s. Her investigative journalism laid bare the horrors of lynching and helped mobilize the anti-lynching movement.

The First Black Woman to Run for President

  1. Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress, also became the first black candidate for a major party's nomination for President of the United States in 1972. Her campaign, under the slogan "Unbought and Unbossed," broke new ground for women and African Americans in politics.

A Fresh Perspective on Black History

Diving deep into Black history reveals a rich tapestry of stories, achievements, and struggles that are often left out of mainstream education. From the pioneering intellect of Benjamin Banneker to the revolutionary tactics of Queen Nanny, these narratives offer a more comprehensive understanding of history. They challenge us to question and expand what we think we know. Recognizing the contributions and resilience of Black individuals throughout history isn't just about filling gaps in our knowledge; it's about reshaping our perception of the world and acknowledging the diverse forces that have shaped it. Let's carry these stories forward, not just during Black History Month but every day, as a testament to the indomitable spirit and enduring impact of Black people throughout history.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why aren't these Black History facts taught in schools?
Many reasons contribute to this oversight. Sometimes, curriculum developers might not be aware of these lesser-known events and figures. In other cases, there's a limited amount of time to cover a vast amount of history, leading educators to focus on more widely recognized topics. Efforts to include a broader range of facts in educational materials are growing, though, as awareness increases.
How can I learn more about overlooked Black History?
Diving into books written by Black historians or watching documentaries focused on Black history are great starting points. Visiting museums dedicated to Black history and culture can also offer in-depth insights. Online platforms and social media groups focused on history can provide daily bits of knowledge too.
Are there any resources for teaching these facts in schools?
Yes, indeed! Numerous educational organizations and websites offer lesson plans, activity guides, and comprehensive resources aimed at integrating these facts into school curriculums. Teachers can find a wealth of materials online to help bring these important stories into their classrooms.
What impact might learning these facts have on students?
Learning about these overlooked aspects of Black history can enrich students' understanding of the past, fostering a more inclusive perspective. It helps build empathy and respect for diverse cultures and experiences, contributing to a more well-rounded education.
Can these facts change perceptions of Black History?
Absolutely. By highlighting achievements, struggles, and contributions of Black individuals and communities that are often left out of mainstream narratives, we can paint a fuller, more accurate picture of history. This, in turn, can challenge stereotypes and change perceptions.
How often are new Black History facts discovered?
Historians and researchers are constantly uncovering new information as they delve into archives, conduct interviews, and re-examine historical events. This means that our understanding of Black History continues to evolve, offering fresh perspectives and stories that enrich our knowledge.
What can I do to help include these facts in educational curriculums?
Advocating for curriculum changes in your local school district is a powerful step. Supporting organizations that work to expand educational materials to include a wider range of histories can also make a big difference. Engaging in community discussions about the importance of inclusive education helps raise awareness and can lead to positive changes.

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