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When you think of Black History Month, you probably only think about the same five influential figures, the same three exceptional inventions and the same two prominent authors. What people fail to realize is that there is way more to Black history than what we typically learn in school. Here’s a list of ten Black history facts about ten influential Black people that you may not know.

1. Hattie McDaniel

Smokey Oscar Award
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Hattie McDaniel was an American actress. She is most known for her work in Gone with the Wind, where she played the character named Mammy. McDaniel’s work as Mammy earned her an Oscar award, making her the first African American to win an Oscar award.

2. Thurgood Marshall 

The first African American Supreme Court Justice in the United States was Thurgood Marshall. Before he was on the Court, he was a lawyer and a civil rights activist. Marshall was appointed by Lyndon B. Johnson, president No. 36, and served as an Associate Justice from 1967 to 1991. 

3. Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder is a musician that is mainly known for his ability to play the piano despite the fact that he’s blind. What many people don’t know is that he is the first black artist to win a Grammy for Album of the Year. He’s also the first and only artist to win Album of the Year three consecutive times.

4. Lisa Gelobter 

Lisa Gelobter is a computer scientist who helped with the creation of the shockwave. This technology ultimately leads to the creation of web animations. So, we basically have her to thank for gifs. We also have to thank Gelobter for a streaming service that we all know and love: Hulu.

5. Cathay Williams

Cathy Williams was the first and only female Buffalo Soldier. In 1866, she posed as a man and for two years, she was successful. It was a required checkup that outed her and lead to her immediate discharge. Black version of Mulan? I think yes!

6. Gabby Douglas 

Gymnastics rings
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When you hear the name Gabby Douglas, there is almost a 100 percent chance that you know who she is. She’s the 2012 American Olympic all-around champion gymnast and is also the 2015 World all-around silver medalist. An interesting fact about her 2012 title is that she was the very first Black gymnast to win the all-around title. Talk about Black Girl Magic!

7. Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin has definitely earned her respect! That’s what happens when you’re ranked first amongst female vocalists with the most hits on Billboard’s charts, 88 to be exact. To top that off, Franklin was not only the first Black woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but the first woman ever!

8. Halle Berry

Halle Berry not only has a song written after her and was the first runner-up for Miss U.S.A. in 1986, but she’s also the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. It was her work in Monster Ball that landed her this win.

9. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant Jersey
Photo by Oliver Collet from Unsplash

Kobe Bryant was a legendary basketball player and an important figure for many individuals around the world. But did you know that he’s also the first athlete and first Black person to win an Oscar for Best Animated Short? His film Dear Basketball won this title for him and his teammates in 2018.

10. Claudette Colvin 

Rosa Parks is a name that we all know very well, and although I respect her courage, she’s not who this final fact is about. It’s about a young girl named Claudette Colvin. She actually refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus before Mrs. Parks did. Parks just got more recognition because her arrest led to the start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. People did not see Colvin, a 15-year-old girl, as a good enough reason to start a boycott.

Those common facts and figures that are typically taught and highlighted during Black History Month are extremely valid and do deserve to be talked about, but there is so much more to Black history than those same things we are taught over and over again, and it’s time that we acknowledge that.

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Hi!! I’m Elysa (El-issa)? I am a Junior at Florida State majoring in Sociology and minoring in Law and Philosophy. I love fashion, shopping second-hand, music, and cheesecake!!! ??‍♀️
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