Learn about prominent history of people of color and their contributions and achievements
A Week with Carter
Carter G. Woodson was the son of former enslaved Africans James and Eliza Riddle
Woodson. He gained a master’s degree at the University of Chicago in 1908, and in 1912, he
received a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History” started Negro History week in 1926, which later became Black History Month.
The Power of Lost | Maya Angelou
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on friend Maya Angelou's birthday, on April 4, 1968.
Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for years afterward, and sent flowers to King's widow, Coretta Scott King, for more than 30 years, until Coretta's death in 2006
Ali, the self-proclaimed "greatest [boxer] of all time," was originally named after his father, who was named after the 19th-century abolitionist and politician Cassius Marcellus Clay.
Walk It Out
Chuck Berry's famous "duck walk" dance originated in 1956 when he attempted to hide wrinkles in his trousers by shaking them out with his now-signature body movements.
Brown vs Unrest
Legendary singer James Brown performed in front of a televised audience in Boston the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Brown is often given credit for preventing further riots with the performance.
When African American neurosurgeon Ben Carson was a child, his mother required him to read two library books a week and give her written reports, even though she was barely literate. She would then take the papers and pretend to carefully review them, placing a checkmark at the top of the page to show her approval. The assignments inspired Carson's eventual love of reading and learning.
Paul Cuffee, a philanthropist, ship captain and devout Quaker who supported a return to Africa for Black citizens, transported 38 free African Americans to Sierra Leone in 1815. He also founded one of the first American integrated schools in 1797.
A Day Before History
W.E.B. Du Bois died one day before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington (August 28, 1963)
Nancy Green, who was formerly enslaved, was employed in the 1890s to promote the Aunt Jemima brand by demonstrating the pancake mix at expositions and fairs. She was a popular attraction because of her friendly personality, storytelling skills and warmth. Green signed a lifetime contract with the pancake company, and her image was used for packaging and ads.
"Strange Fruit," the song about Black lynching in the south made famous by blues singer Billie Holiday, was originally a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx, New York.
Abolitionist Harriet Ann Jacobs published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent. The book chronicles the hardships and sexual abuse she experienced as a woman growing up in slavery. Jacobs fled slavery in 1835 by hiding in a crawlspace in her grandmother's attic for seven years before traveling to Philadelphia by boat, and eventually to New York.
Train A Coming
Rapper Jay-Z reportedly developed his stage name as a reference to New York's J/Z subway lines, which have a stop in his Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, neighborhood.
Chaka Kahn, dubbed the "Queen of Funk Soul," is also well known for singing the theme song to the public television's popular educational program Reading Rainbow.
Drafted Into History
Lewis Howard Latimer drafted patent drawings for Alexander Graham Bell's telephone while working at a patent law firm.
African American fashion designer Ann Lowe designed the wedding dress of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the bride of future President John F. Kennedy.
A Herd of Strength
Buffalo Soldiers— a name given by Native-American plainsmen—were the all-Black regiments created in the U.S. Army beginning in 1866. These soldiers received second-class treatment and were often given the worst military assignments but had the lowest desertion rate than their white counterparts. More than 20 Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their service. The oldest living Buffalo Soldier, Sergeant Mark Matthews, died at the age of 111 in 2005 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Garrett Morgan, the inventor of the three-way traffic signal, also became the first African American to own a car in Cleveland, Ohio.
A serious student, Condoleezza Rice entered the University of Denver at the age of 15 and earned her Ph.D. by age 26.
The Sport of Freedom
After retiring from baseball, Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson helped establish the African American-owned and -controlled Freedom Bank.
John Baxter Taylor, the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal, also held a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania.
Rapper Kanye West's father, Ray West—a former Black Panther—was one of the first Black photojournalists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, receiving accolades for his work.