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Black History Month Facts

Previously published Feb 28. 2021

Previously published Feb 28. 2021

Black History Month Origins

Black History Month originated in 1926 as a week-long celebration of Black people’s contributions to history, society, politics, culture, and innovation, among other fields. The modern month-long incarnation began in 1976.

The United Kingdom commemorates Black History Month in October. Akyaaba Addai-Sebo, a Ghanaian activist who was active in the American effort to transition from Negro History Week to Black History Month, collaborated with the Greater London Council to institute Black History Month in the UK.

Addai-Sebo invited Maulana Karenga, a Los Angeles community organizer and the creator of Kwanzaa, to speak at the inaugural Black History Month celebration in the UK in 1987.

Some, including the actor Morgan Freeman, have expressed concerns over the designation of one month as Black History Month; in a 2005 60 Minutes interview with Mike Wallace, Freeman declared, “Black history is American history.” Others feel that Black History Month is essential to uplift people whose stories have been—and often still are—neglected.

First Black American Cardiologist

Illinois doctor Daniel Hale Williams, the first Black American cardiologist, performed the first open-heart surgery in 1893!

The Harlem Hellfighters

Flickr (Harry Kidd)

The Harlem Hellfighters (the 369th Infantry Regiment) was the most decorated Black regiment in World War I, with its soldiers spending 191 days in France’s trenches. The unit earned the French Croix de Guerre (War Cross), and some of the regiment’s members were recognized by the US government with a Medal of Honor and a few Distinguished Service Crosses.

“Black Wall Street”

The thriving Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was known as “Black Wall Street” because of its high concentration of Black-owned businesses and its affluence relative to the surrounding city. The district was burned down during the 1921 Tulsa massacre. With urban renewal programs and the construction of a freeway bisecting the neighborhood, the community is merely a shadow of its former self.

First Black Nobel Prize Laureate

Ralph Bunche, a diplomat and political scientist earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for his central role in mediating the early stages of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was the first Black person of any nationality to receive the distinguished prize.


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