10 Facts About Black History You Probably Never Knew Until Now

African, American, History, Month, Black

In February, it’s easy to hear the repetition of the dream from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks not giving up her seat, or even what great things George Washington Carver did with the peanut. It isn’t often we get to learn or hear about the unpopular stories and movements from Black History that made significant changes and impacts on American culture. Usually, most people just stick to what they know. However, there is an abundance of little-known facts that many people still aren’t aware of. Here are just a few:

  1. Black Wall Street: During a time of renaissance and rebuilding after WWI in the 1920s, the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma flourished with black-owned businesses, churches, hotels, theatres, and even vibrant residential areas. Like many other racially motivated horrific events in our history, this too began with an accusation from a white female about a black male and on June 2, 1921, ended with the death of over hundreds of black residents, burned and bombed more than 1,250 homes, 35 blocks burned to the ground and erased years of black success in a massacre motivated purely by hatred.
  2. The Black Steve Jobs: Mark Dean is one of technology’s top innovators. The computer engineer helped design the IBM personal computer, introduced in 1981, that became a staple on desktops. He, along with co-inventor and IBM colleague Dennis Moeller, helped develop the interior hardware that would allow computers to connect to printers, monitors, and more.
  3. The Original Betty Boop – Esther Jones: The notable cartoon character was inspired by this Harlem black jazz singer. Also known as “Baby Esther,” Jones’ child-like voice and use of “boop” scat sounds were copied by another popular singer who later sued the cartoon created claiming that was her singing style and catch phrase. The singer eventually lost the lawsuit.
  4. 1811 German Coast Uprising: Contrary to popular belief, slaves didn’t just “take” the lives they were forced into. There were many occasions in which they attempted to escape with revolutions. Although all unsuccessful, one attempt to freedom almost was accomplished. Led by Charles Deslondes, what ended up being a group of around 500 slaves made their way along the coast towards New Orleans. Before making it there, they were met with U.S troops and a militia of slave owners becoming outnumbered and eventually ended in a horrendous battle.
  5. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Established as a way to provide higher education to African Americans during segregated eras, these institutions have created their own collegiate culture and experience. Most were established after the Civil War and primarily provided studies in education and farming, HBCUs have now significantly contributed to graduating over half of all African American working professionals. Now at 106 public and private institutions, HBCUs have over a $10.2 billion positive impact on the nation’s economy.
  1. Gil Scott Heron: A poet, recording artist, and the voice of black protest culture … His spoken style and mordant critiques of politics, racism, and mass media made him a founding father of the spoken word and an important early influence on hip-hop artists. During the 1970s, Scott-Heron was seen as a prodigy with significant potential, although he never achieved more than cult popularity. He recorded 13 albums from 1970 to 1982 and was one of the first acts that the music executive Clive Davis signed after starting Arista Records in 1974.
  2. The Middle Passage Voyage: Described as the route taken from Africa to America for slave ships, this journey began in Europe, traveled to Africa, and then headed back to North America. It was during this 40–150-day trip, African men and women endured the most horrendous conditions on slave ships. After stripping their lives of everything they had ever known, Africans were shackled by ankles or wrists and packed like sardines. The more captains could fit into below deck spaces, the more they did. Food ranged from once to twice a day and physical exercise was known as “dancing.” The lack of movement, ventilation, and overall sanitation became the breeding ground for diseases. Some slaves could not stand the horrible conditions, being separated from families, seeing others suffer and die as well as being tied in chains, they soon went mad or took their own lives. The Middle Passage voyages to the Caribbean did not end until 1807. Even then, the slave trade in North America continued for years.
  3. Stepin Fetchit: Although he never won an Academy Award, there was a black actor making history in film and reaching superstar status in the 1930s. Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry (whose stage name was “Stepin Fetchit”) was one of the most controversial movie actors in American History. His characters were always lazy, slow-witted, “coon” despite Perry being a very literate and intelligent man. White audiences thought his character was the true representation of a negro. Perry reached the climax of his career co-starring with Will Rogers in several films. He was the first African American actor to become a millionaire although unfortunately, he mishandled his fortune through overspending and was bankrupt by 1947.
  4. Janet Jackson: Rhythm Nation 1814 released in 1989 addressed social & political topics. The supporting Rhythm Nation World Tour became the world’s most successful debut concert tour by a recording artist, ever. The album was the first and only album to generate seven top-five Billboard hits; including singles such as “Miss You Much”, “Rhythm Nation”, “Escapade”. This album sold over fourteen million copies worldwide and was named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  5. Barack Obama’s Two Grammy Awards: Other than being known worldwide as the first “black” president, former President Barack Obama won two Grammys, first in 2005 for the audio version of his memoir, Dreams from My Father (best-spoken word album) and a year later received the second prestigious award for the album The Audacity of Hope.


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