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Black History Month 2016: 15 interesting facts about famous African-Americans and the February celebration

By Julia Glum,

Are you ready to learn? Black History Month begins in the U.S. Monday, and the observance, celebrating African-Americans’ achievements and contributions to the country, runs throughout February. Although some chapters of the national story are famous — such as the one centered on Jackie Robinson’s debut as the first black Major League Baseball player — others are less well-known.

Here are 15 bits of information you should know about Black History Month.

1. Black History Month started in 1926. The observance was proposed by Carter Godwin Woodson, an author and historian, as Negro History Week. It expanded in the 1970s.

2. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909. It’s now considered “the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil-rights organization,” according to its website.

3. The U.S. isn’t the only country to celebrate Black History Month. Canada also observes it in February, while the U.K. recognizes it in October.

4. There are more than 45 million African-Americans living in the U.S., according to Census Bureau data. That’s about 15 percent of the nation’s population.

5. In 2013, New York had the most African-American residents, with 3.7 million.

6. There are more than 2 million black veterans.

7. By 2060, the black population is forecast to make up almost 18 percent of the U.S. population.

8. In 2005, actor Morgan Freeman said Black History Month was “ridiculous” because “black history is American history.” More than 10 years later, actress Stacey Dash expressed a similar opinion.

9. The first black birth on record in what would become the U.S. happened in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1606. And the first African-American birth occurred in 1624, according to the African American Registry.

10. The first black NBA player was Earl Lloyd in 1950. He played for the Washington Capitols and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame more than half a century later, in 2003.

11. African-Americans were responsible for the invention of 3D graphics, blood banks, gas masks, potato chips and Super Soaker water guns, according to HowStuffWorks and the Atlanta Black Star.

12. One out of every four cowboys in the 1800s was black, CNN reported.

13. The 114th Congress, the current one, is the most diverse ever. Forty-six House and Senate members are black, according to the Pew Research Center.

14. The first black U.S. senator was Hiram Revels in 1870. The day he officially joined Congress, “visitors in the Senate galleries burst into applause as … [he] entered the chamber to take his oath of office,” according to the Senate website.

15. President Barack Obama proclaimed February to be Black History Month Friday, writing that as the nation observes it, “we recognize these champions of justice and the sacrifices they made to bring us to this point, we honor the contributions of African-Americans since our country’s beginning, and we recommit to reaching for a day when no person is judged by anything but the content of their character.”


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