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10 Black History Facts Everyone Should Know

Black History Month is a time of celebration, a time of reflection, and a time to learn something new. Even though I’ve grown up embracing and learning about my history, there are so many things that I still have yet to learn. So, here are a few interesting things about Black history that were new to me this year, and maybe they’ll be new to you too. 

1. The use of vaccines was an idea brought to the U.S. by a slave 

Given the current pandemic we’re in and the anticipation of a successful vaccine roll-out for COVID-19, this fact really surprised me. Onesimus, a slave of Puritan Minister Cotton Mather, introduced Mather to the “centuries old tradition of inoculation practiced in Africa”. Once Cotton passed this information on to a doctor who conducted experiments with a smallpox vaccination, the practice was eventually used during the revolutionary war and was later used in the U.S. (pbs.org

2. Shirly Chisolm was the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Congress 

Kamala Harris making history has caused many of us to look back and appreciate those who paved the way for this monumental moment in our nation’s history. In 1968, Shirley Chisolm became the first Black female house representative, representing the state of New York in the U.S. Congress. Chisolm was also the first Black person to run for a major political party’s presidential nomination. (womenshistory.org

3. Charlotta Bass was the first Black Woman to run for VP 

Even before Chisolm, there was Charlotta Bass. Bass was the first Black woman to run for Vice President of the United States, running with presidential nominee Vincent Hallinan for the Progressive Party. (nytimes.com

4. Rosa Parks actually wasn’t the first to refuse to give up her seat on the bus 

In 1955, a then fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat, was arrested, and then later went to court to try to fight the law that kept buses segregated. (pbs.org

5. Barack Obama: Former President and Grammy Award Winner 

I remember my family gathering around the television watching in awe as Barack Obama was sworn into office in 2008. It was definitely a proud moment for me, little me, overwhelmed with excitement, eagerly watching someone who looked like me make history. But Barack Obama’s presidency is just one of many other accomplishments, one of them being the two Grammys he has won for his audiobooks. (biography.com

6. Next time you go to brush your hair, thank Lyda Newman 

At age thirteen, hairstylist Lyda Newman patented her unique hairbrush design made with easily removable synthetic bristles, ventilation for airflow, and a compartment for debris-collection. At that time, Newman was only the third Black woman in history to patent a product. Her brush design was important because it made it much easier to style natural hair and the synthetic materials she used brought the cost down, making it affordable for a larger group of people. Thank you, Lyda Newman!!! (blackpast.org

7. Next time you turn your lights on, thank Lewis Latimer 

Although Thomas Edison created the actual lightbulb, Latimer’s patented carbon light bulb filament made the light bulb work even better. Latimer’s invention helped light bulbs last longer, instead of burning out after just a few days of use and made the light bulb more practical. (history.com

8. And who’s to thank for keeping your food nice and cold? Frederick McKinley Jones is the one to thank for that one 

Patented in 1940, Jones invented a system for keeping food refrigerated as it was transported on trucks–something all grocery shoppers can appreciate for sure. (history.com

 

9. Jackie Robinson isn’t just known for breaking barriers in the world of baseball 

In addition to his baseball career, Jackie Robinson is known for his help in founding the Black-owned Freedom National Bank. (biography.com

10. Performer Josephine Baker was basically an international spy 

Apart from being an entertainer with an amazing stage presence and incredible singing voice, Baker is also known for carrying secret military intelligence to french allies, using both her dress and sheet music to conceal the information. (biography.com

Did you learn something new?

Jayda Lawlah is a senior at Loyola University Maryland studying Psychology. In addition to her interest in Psychology, she also has a love for all things studio art and graphic design. On campus, she is an RA and peer mentor, and she is also currently the Vice President of Loyola's Black Student Association.
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