For over forty years, the month of February in America has been designated as Black History Month: an annual observance recognizing African Americans and celebrating their achievements. But the pre-cursor to Black History Month began in 1926, when The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) sponsored a national Negro History Week. The founders chose the second week of February for their celebration, since it coincides with both Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays. In honor of Black History Month, here are some fascinating facts about African American history in America.
W.E.B. Du Bois Ultimately Left America
American activist, historian, sociologist, author and editor William Edward Burghardt Du Bois is known for writing literary landmarks such as The Souls of Black Folk and The Talented Tenth, and helping to create the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. In this video clip, Georgetown’s Robert Patterson tells us a few lesser-known facts about W.E.B. Du Bois: one of the most important Black protest leaders during the first half of the 20th century.
Harriet Tubman… Soldier?
As University of Maryland’s Rick Bell states in this clip, Harriet Tubman is truly an American hero. But, as you will see, her bravery extended beyond those harrowing journeys along the Underground Railroad — to the battlegrounds of the Civil War.
The First Sit-In (nearly 250 years ago)
Long before the Greensboro Four staged their famous 1960 sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in North Carolina, black activist Richard Allen led the very first sit-in for racial justice in America. It took place at a church in Philadelphia… in 1787!! Rochester Institute of Technology history Professor, Richard Newman, tells this story about an early fight for desegregation.
Jim Crow America
We’ve all seen the signs for segregated restrooms and water fountains in the 60’s, but there also were Jim Crow laws segregating traffic, baseball games, and much, much more. As Georgetown’s Marcia Chatelain suggests, you can view displays of these state and local statutes at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
An “Accidental Activist?”
While many of us are taught that Rosa Parks’ entry into the Civil Rights Movement began on a Montgomery bus, that could not be farther from the truth. According to Wellesley Professor Brenna Greer, Rosa Parks was an active and public “career activist” long before the famous bus boycott made her a household name.
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