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The month of February is dedicated to the commemoration and celebration of the important contributions African Americans have brought to the United States. American historian Carter G. Woodsen introduced Black History Week on Feb 12, 1926, which was continually celebrated every second week of February, coinciding with the birth dates of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
The United States expanded the week to a month as part of the nation’s bicentennial, and February remains National African-American History Month to this day. In recognition of this month, here are some history facts courtesy of the History Channel.
African-American History Facts
- Jack Johnson became the first African American man to win the World Heavyweight Champion title in 1908—a belt he held onto for the following seven years.
- In 1854, John Mercer Langston, great-uncle of Langston Hughes, became the first African-American lawyer after passing the bar exam in Ohio. He also became the first African American elected to public office in 1855.
- In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American actor to win an Academy Award for her role in Gone With the Wind.
- Thurgood Marshall was the first African American justice appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, serving from 1967 to 1991.
- Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate, and represented the state of Mississippi from 1870 to 1871.
- The first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives was Shirley Chisholm in 1968 for the state of New York. She later became the first female candidate for United States President in 1972.
The African American population has made a significant impact in the nation we live in today through their social, political and cultural contributions. It is important to recognize and leverage the unique strengths and skills African Americans, and other diverse groups, bring to the economy as business owners, entrepreneurs, innovators and executive leaders. African American women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs; the number of businesses owned by this group grew an astounding 322 percent in the last 20 years.
This February, let’s not only remember the past, but also create opportunities for all Americans to continue shaping our diverse nation. NAWRB wishes our community a happy National African-American History Month!