• Laiken Howard

Honoring Black History Month

photo source: biography.com/activist/frederick-douglass

Honor and Reflect

Black History Month is an annual month-long celebration in February that marks the achievements of the African American community and recognizes their central role in U.S. History.


In 1926, the historian and scholar Carter G. Woodson chose February 7th for the first celebration of Black History Week. He chose this date because the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (above)—two Americans who shaped African American history in the U.S.—fell in February: on 12 and 14, respectively. President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month in 1976. Along with the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK have annual celebrations that commemorate Black history.

A Few Notable Historical Figures

Photo source: businessinsider.com

Famous Protestors and Social Activists: While Rosa Parks is credited with helping to spark the civil rights movement when she refused to give up her public bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955—inspiring the Montgomery Bus Boycott—the lesser-known Claudette Colvin was arrested nine months prior for not giving up her bus seat to white passengers.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a social activist and Baptist minister who played a key role in the American civil rights movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. King sought equality and human rights for African Americans, the economically disadvantaged and all victims of injustice through peaceful protest. He was the driving force behind watershed events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the 1963 March on Washington, which helped bring about such landmark legislation as the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and is remembered each year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a U.S. federal holiday since 1986.

Jackie Robinson - First African American to play Major League Baseball. Photo source: jackierobinson.com

First Professional Black Baseball Player: On April 5, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. He led the league in stolen bases that season and was named Rookie of the Year.

Eminent Scientist: George Washington Carver developed 300 derivative products from peanuts; among them cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, plastics, wood stains, soap, linoleum, medicinal oils and cosmetics.

Madam C.J. Walker, self-made millionaire. Photo source: history.com

Self-Made Millionaire: Madam C.J. Walker was born on a cotton plantation in Louisiana and became wealthy after inventing a line of African American hair care products. She established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories and was also known for her philanthropy.

Mathematician for NASA: Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. During her 35-year career at NASA and its predecessor, she earned a reputation for mastering complex manual calculations and helped pioneer the use of computers to perform the tasks. The space agency noted her "historical role as one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist".

Katherine Johnson, part of a small group of African-American women mathematicians who did crucial work at NASA, in 1966. Photo source: nytimes.com

We remember and honor these and many other African Americans who have made wonderful contributions to the greatness of our country.

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