February is Black History Month, which was started as a one-week celebration about 100 years ago in 1926. Here are five facts to know about the historic month.
1 How it started
Historian Carter G. Woodson is known as the creator of what now is honored as Black History Month. Woodson worked hard to establish the event as a way to provide an education on the origins, struggles and achievements of African-Americans in United States history. Originally in 1926, it existed as seven days of commemoration and was called “Negro History Week.”
2 A series of firsts
We recently witnessed the first African-American woman to be sworn in as vice president of the United States. Here are some other firsts.
• John Mercer Langston was the first Black man to become a lawyer when he passed the bar in Ohio in 1854.
• On April 5, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.
• In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American performer to win an Academy Award (“Gone With the Wind”).
• In 1967, Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
• The first state to abolish slavery was Vermont in 1777.
3 Population growth
In 1870, the Black population of the United States was 4.8 million. In 2018, the number of Black residents of the United States was 43.8 million.
4 A lesser-known story
Rosa Parks is known for igniting the Civil Rights movement when she refused to give up her public bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955 — which inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott. However, nine months before, the lesser-known Claudette Colvin was arrested for not giving up her bus seat to white passengers.
5 Celebrations around the world
In both the United States and Canada, Black History Month is honored in February. However, in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands, it is honored in October. In 2014, Ireland became only the fourth country in the world to celebrate Black History Month.