Brush up on your black history: 10 good-to-know facts, anecdotes

From origins of NAACP to Obama, we're filling you in on key groups, names

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group
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Retired astronaut Mae C. Jemison delivers a speech as she visits a research center of DuPont Company in 2005 in Shanghai, China (China Photos/Getty Images).

February goes hand in hand with Black History Month, as the country celebrates, recognizes and honors the contributions of African-Americans to U.S. history.

Whether you feel like you have a strong understanding of black history, or you're working to learn more, we've assembled 10 facts, or anecdotes, from history.com, to help you grow your knowledge base.

How many of these points did you know, coming in? Let us know when you finish reading -- in the comments below.


1.) Thurgood Marshall was the man who made Supreme Court history.

Associated Press

Supreme Court Justice Marshall became the first African-American ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justice Marshall became the first African-American ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him, and Marshall served from 1967 to 1991.

2.) Have you heard of John Mercer Langston? We'll remind you.

When he passed the bar exam in Ohio in 1854, he was the first black man to become a lawyer, history.com reminds us. One year later, Langston was elected as the town clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio -- essentially becoming one of the first African-Americans ever elected to public office in the United States.

Fun fact: Langston was the great-uncle of Langston Hughes, the famed poet of the Harlem Renaissance.

3.) The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, better known as the NAACP, recognized its 100th anniversary on Feb. 12, 2009.

The civil rights organization chose that particular date in February because in 1909, it was the centennial anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The group was prompted by growing racial violence in the early 20th century, and particularly by 1908 race riots in Springfield, Illinois. The NAACP still makes headlines nearly every day, most recently weighing in on the controversy surrounding the Virginia leaders who are under fire.

4.) One man derived nearly 300 products from the peanut.

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Club members march past the historic Carver Theater, named for former slave and famed botanist and inventor George Washington Carver, during the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club "second line" parade in New Orleans.

It was George Washington Carver who developed 300 derivative products from peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, marking quite the scientific feat -- especially considering the year was around 1921. Among those products? Cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, plastics, wood stains, soap, linoleum, medicinal oils and cosmetics. (Surprisingly enough, NOT peanut butter). Thank you, sir.

5.) The first black Senator was ...

Hiram Rhodes Revels, who represented the state of Mississippi in the U.S. Senate from February 1870 to March 1871.

6.) Madam C.J. Walker paved the way for self-made millionaires.

Walker, who was born on a cotton plantation in Louisiana, got rich in 1905 after inventing a line of hair care products for black women. She established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories and was also known for her philanthropy, according to history.com.

7.) Meet an incredible heavyweight boxing champion.

Jack Johnson became the first African-American man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion title in 1908. He kept the belt until 1915.

8.) And the first woman representative was ...

Shirley Chisholm, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1968, representing the state of New York. In 1972, she became the first major-party African-American candidate -- and the first female candidate -- for president of the U.S.

9.) It was Dr. Mae Jemison who went into space in 1992.

She became the first African-American woman to do so when she boarded the shuttle Endeavor. During her eight-day mission, she worked with U.S. and Japanese researchers, and was a co-investigator on a bone cell experiment, according to history.com.

10.) It wouldn't be a complete list without listing the country's first black president, Barack Obama.

Obama became the first African-American president in U.S. history in 2009. He was elected to two terms and occupied the White House from 2009 to 2017.

For more, check out the original article.

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