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Pivotal Moments in History: 28 Facts

When someone thinks of black history, he or she may envision slavery, as this image has been imprinted in our brains from classical conditioning throughout history. Our mindset is affected by many outlets such as national and international news, social media, and more.

I challenge you to consider shifting your mindset to the positive aspects of black history. It's okay to acknowledge that slavery existed and still exists today in modern forms; however, choose to focus on the astronomical achievements that African Americans, black people, and people of color have made despite the brick wall that was there every step of the way. Below are a few well-known and little-known facts that have shaped our history.

  1. The month of February is recognized as a time to celebrate black history. Dr. Carter G. Woodson began the tradition as a week in 1926 to ensure students had the opportunity to learn about black history. It was not until 1976 that it grew into Black History Month.

  2. In 1624, William Tucker was the first black person to be born in the 13 colonies. 10 years later, his parents participated in the establishment of Elizabeth City County, Virginia.

  3. Harriet Tubman helped nearly 100,000 slaves escape by way of the Underground Railroad between 1810 and 1850.

  4. Lucy Stanton was an educator, abolitionist, and the first black person to graduate from college in 1850.

  5. In 1922, the yellow caution light was patented by Garrett Morgan. Can you imagine driving down the highway and only having the option of stopping and going without a pause in between? This invention continues to save thousands of lives today.

  6. Speaking of Garrett Morgan, he was also responsible for patenting a breathing device in 1912. We now recognize it as a gas mask.

  7. Before automatic elevators were available, people had to physically open and close elevator doors. With Alexander Mile's patented invention in 1887, elevator rides became safer due to his vision for attaching a flexible belt to the elevator cage.

  8. We thank agricultural scientist George Carver for developing 300 new products made from peanuts such as soap, flour, and ink along with 118 products made from sweet potatoes such as vinegar and postage stamp glue.

  9. Founded in 1984, The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is the only African American rodeo in the world.

  10. American artistic gymnast, Gabby Douglas, became the first black gymnast to win the Individual All-Around title at the London Olympics.

  11. Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American ever elected to the U.S. Senate. After serving from February 1870 to March 1871, he pursued the role of president of a historically black college.

  12. George Edwin Taylor was the first African American to run for president in 1904. He ran as a candidate for the National Negro Liberty Party.

  13. African American couturier, Ann Lowe, was responsible for designing Jackie Kennedy's wedding dress. Lowe was also known for catering to New York's elitists such as The Rockefellers, the Roosevelts, and the du Ponts. Unfortunately, Lowe was never given credit for what should have been a highlight in her career.

  14. Betty Boop's cartoon character was based on real-life Harlem-based jazz singer, Esther Jones.

  15. Civil rights lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, became the nation's first black United States Supreme Court Justice. He is best known for dismantling segregation in America and for arguing the 1954 historic case: Brown v. Board of Education.

  16. Madame C.J. Walker was the first self-made woman millionaire.

  17. In the early 1900s, Tulsa, OK was home to one of the most affluent African American communities. It was filled with doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs. There were nearly 15,000 residents and over 500 thriving black businesses. Unfortunately, on June 01, 1921, it was destroyed with bombs and fire by less fortunate white neighbors who resented the African Americans' lifestyles. After the horrible incident, the neighborhood never recovered. It has been dubbed the Black Wall Street.

  18. In 1773, the first book of poetry was published by an African American woman, Phillis Wheatley.

  19. Not only was Dr. Mae Jemison the first African American woman in space, but she was also a medical doctor and dancer.

  20. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is considered the most influential African American in history.

  21. Former president Barack Obama served as the United States' first African American president.

  22. Elbert Frank Cox was the first black person in history to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics.

  23. Alena Maze is the first ever African-American to receive her Ph.D. in the field of Survey Methodology.

  24. Jack (Jackie) Robinson became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball.

  25. Founded in 1909 in New York, NY the NAACP was formed and founded by an American sociologist, W.E.B Du Bois, an American journalist, Ida B Wells, and others. The NAACP strives to ensure the equality of minority groups and to eliminate prejudices that are so prevalent in today's society.

  26. The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), based in Nashville, TN, opened in 2021. NMAAM integrates history and interactive technology to clearly depict and preserve the evolution of Black music in America.

  27. Dr. Alexa Canady, born in Lansing, MI, was the first African American woman in the United States to become a pediatric neurosurgeon. She also played a vital role in developing the shunt which was invented to treat hydrocephalus, a condition in which there is a build-up of fluid in the cavities within the brain.

  28. Dr. Keith Black, born in Alabama to educators, is one of the world's leading neurosurgeons and serves as the department chair of neurology at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA.

Though many positive aspects of black history were omitted in multiple ways, I hope that you walk away more insightful, confident, and empowered to achieve whatever your heart desires because unlike many of our ancestors before us who achieved these remarkable feats, you have every tool needed to survive and succeed.