7 Facts to Deepen Your Knowledge of Black History

February 1, 2021

Yen Pham, Eco Rep

Caitlin Griffith, Sustainability Coordinator


Mary Hamilton and James Farmer

Mary Hamilton (left) and James Farmer, a civil rights activist.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

1. During the 1960s, White people in positions of authority were regularly given honorifics (Mr., Ms., Mrs.). Mary Hamilton, a Black woman arrested for picketing in Gadsden, Alabama in 1963, refused to answer questions on the witness stand unless she was addressed with the same honorific titles. Her case eventually landed before the Supreme Court and changed the way courts behave today. Before this landmark case, Hamilton was a civil rights activist and Freedom Rider. She went on to become a union organizer and teacher. Read more about Miss Mary.

Three athletes, one White and two Black, standing on a podium. The two Black athletes raise their fists.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists on the Olympic Games medal stand together to bring light to racial discrimination and violence in the U.S.

2. There are many Black athletes who transformed the way we think about sports activism. Before Colin Kaepernick kneeled to protest police brutality, other prominent athletes spoke out against systemic racism in the United States. Muhammed Ali spoke out against the Vietnam War, and Tommie Smith and John Carlos engaged in silent protest at the Olympic Games to condemn racial inequality.

John Baxter Taylor

John Baxter Taylor

3. John Baxter Taylor, a track and field athlete, was the first African American to win the Olympic gold medal.

Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

4. Jazz is a musical genre born out of the blues, ragtime, and marching bands which originated out of the African-American community in New Orleans, Louisiana during the 19th century. Jazz was used as a political outlet for African Americans, able to reach across the racial divide and allowed for Black musical talent the best chance of social advancement in a society that presented few opportunities to minorities.

Four drawings for patent number 1,475,024 filed in February 27, 1922 describing a Traffic Signal.

3-way traffic signal blueprint by Garrett Morgan

5. Garrett Morgan is the inventor of the three-way traffic signal and was also the first African American to own a car in Cleveland, Ohio.

6. There are activists fighting anti-blackness and racism around the world. In Colombia, one of the most recognizable characters on TV was portrayed by a mestizo (white Colombian) actor in blackface. Many activists began to condemn the character, and it ignited a national conversation about racism in the country. This conversation also brought attention to the racist stereotypes and media portrayals of Afro-Colombians. Listen to a podcast episode about this story.

Benjamin Banneker

Benjamin Banneker

7. Benjamin Banneker is a Black architect who was credited for helping design the city of Washington, D.C. The former designer who left the job took all the design plans with him, but Banneker was able to reproduce the layout of all the streets and major buildings by memory in just 2 days! During his life, he also used his reputation to advocate social change for issues such as racism, slavery, and war.


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