Black History Month is a time to celebrate the achievements of Black Americans throughout US history. So, let’s take a look at some figures and facts that you might not already know.
Phyllis Wheatley was enslaved and sold to a family in Boston after she was abducted in Senegal/Gambia, West Africa at the age of seven. She was taught to read and write, and she proved to have lots of talent for writing. She went on to become the first African American author to be published and garnered fame for her work.
Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white man, Claudette Colvin along with three other Black students were told to give their seats to a white woman. She was arrested and put on probation when she refused. She said, in an NPR interview, “My head was just too full of Black history. It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn’t get up.” While she was not made the face of the Civil Rights Movement because of her status as an unwed mother, she, alongside Mary Louise Smith, Susie McDonald, and Aurelia Browder, played a significant role in Browder v. Gayle, the court case that overturned bus segregation in Alabama.
Madam C.J. Walker was born as Sarah Breedlove in 1867 on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. In the 1890s, she suffered from a scalp disorder that caused her to lose a lot of her hair which led her to start testing out different treatments and home remedies. She went on to invent a line of hair care products and became one of the first female self-made millionaires in the US. She went on to open a beauty school, found philanthropies, make donations to the NAACP, the National Conference on Lynching, and other organizations.
Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple, decided to marry, despite the ban on interracial marriage that existed at the time in their home state of Virginia. They left the state to get married and were arrested upon their return. Afterward, they contacted the ACLU and the case, Loving v Virginia, ultimately resulted in the 1967 Supreme Court ruling that bans on interracial marriage are unconstitutional.
While the Betty Boop character may have had a lot of influences, Esther Jones, a Black singer in Harlem who went by the stage name Baby Esther, was the first one to say “boop boop a doop.” Helen Kane, the woman most often attributed as Betty Boop’s inspiration, saw Baby’s act in the late 1928 and adopted the same style.
Homestead celebrates these lesser-known figures in Black History along with all the other incredible Black influences that have made this history so rich. We encourage you to do a deeper dive on these figures and others to learn more about Black History.
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