I'LL BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW...
1. That the much heralded movie "The Count of Monte Christo"
based upon a novel by ALEXANDRE DUMAS, whose grandmother, Marie-Cesette Dumas was a black slave from, Jeremie, Saint-Domingue
(now part of Haiti). Alexandre grew up in Villers-Cotterets, and traveled to Paris when he was twenty years old and attempted
to make a living as a lawyer. Dumas wrote hundreds of plays, novels, and travel diaries, among them, "The Count of Monte-Christo,
"The Black Tulip", "The Three Musketeers" (yes!), "Queen Margot", "The Nutcracker"
(yes! again), and others.
We have all either read, heard, or seen those works before, but I'll bet you never
saw any reference to the author being Black. Now you know.
2. That the first monument to Abraham Lincoln was not the Lincoln Memorial which sits on the Mall, but the Freedmen's Memorial
Monument on Capitol Hill. The sculpture, which was dedicated in 1876, nearly 50 years before its famous counterpart, bears
extra significance because it was paid for entirely through the donations of freed slaves. The initial gift was that of a
Virginia slave woman, Charlotte Scott, who gave the first $5 she earned after being freed. The monument is located at Lincoln
Park on East Capitol Street between llth and 13th Streets. For more information click below.
The Original Lincoln Monument
3. That Hiram Revels, the son of former slaves became the first African American to serve in the United States Senate. Revels
was elected in 1870 to fill the seat left vacant by (of all people) Jefferson Davis, a champion of slavery who had resigned
from the Senate to become president of the Confederate States of America and to lead the South in the American Civil War (1861-1865).
A former minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Revels was one of the first in a long history of Black "Preacher-Politicians".
4. That in August 1983 Guion Bluford (top photo) became the first African American to go into space, while serving on
a mission aboard the Challenger space shuttle. Bluford said that the blastoff of the shuttle was like riding in a high-speed
elevator through a bonfire. He also recognized that, "From a Black perspective, my flight on the shuttle represented
another step forward". Astronaut Mae Carol Jemison became the first African American woman to travel in space when she
flew on the space shuttle Endeavor in a September 1992 mission.
5. That L. Douglas Wilder became the first African
American to be elected Governor of the State of Virginia when Virginia voters chose him to lead their state in 1989. A decorated
hero of the Korean War (1950-1953), Wilder began his political career as a Virginia State Senator (1969-1985) and later served
as Virginia's Lieutenant Governor (1985-1989) before being elected Governor. His success as a Democrat in a largely white,
Republican state stemmed from his position as a "healer" of racial strife, his moderate views on social policy,
and his fiscal conservatism. During Governor Wilder's term as Governor, the State of Virginia, for the first time in its
history, was acclaimed as the best fiscally run State in the Union for two successive years. Governor Wilder left a multi-million
dollar surplus when he left office.
6. That Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr. became the first African American Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia on February 10, 2003. Chief Justice Hassell is a graduate of Harvard Law School where
he was a classmate of Virginia's Democratic Governor Mark Warner and is the 24th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of
7. That there were three Popes known to be Black:
Pope St. Victor - Elected in 189 A.D. He was deacon when he became Pope, a rarity then and now. He established a set
date for the celebration of Easter yearly. He died a martyr for the faith in 199.
Pope St. Militiades - Reigned as Pope from 311-314. He signed the emperor Constantine's famous Edict of Milan in 313,
ending the persecutions, and making Christianity the established religion of the empire. He was considered an excellent
Pope, "a son of peace and father of Christians" according to St. Augustine.
Pope St. Gelaius - Reigned from 492-496. Born in Rome, he was renowned for his holiness, kindness and scholarship. He
saved Rome from famine, composed a book of hymns for church use, was renowned for his concern for the poor and clarified church
teaching on the Eucharist.
8. That one of the most significant contributions by an
African American slave in the construction of the Capitol was made by Philip Reid.
construction of the Capitol began in 1793, Washington, D.C., was little more than a rural landscape with dirt roads and few
accommodations beyond a small number of boarding houses. Skilled labor was hard to find or attract to the fledgling city.
Enslaved laborers, who were rented from their owners, were involved in almost every stage of construction. Philip Reid may
be the single best known enslaved person associated with the Capitol’s construction history.
Born around 1820,
Reid was an enslaved laborer in the foundry run by the self-taught sculptor Clark Mills, who cast the Statue of Freedom. Mills
was a former resident of South Carolina, where he had purchased Reid in Charleston for $1,200. Mills stated he purchased Reid,
“many years ago when he was quite a youth... because of his evident talent for the business in which your petitioner
was engaged, and paid twelve hundred dollars for him.” For the full story click on the link below or go to http://www.aoc.gov/philip-reid-and-statue-freedom
Phillip Reid and the Capital Dome
9. That African Americans created Memorial Day.
The first widely
publicized observance of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865.
During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Charleston Race Course; at least 257
Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves. Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents
of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, which was covered by the New York Tribune and other
national papers. The freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled, "Martyrs
of the Race Course." Nearly ten thousand people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the war dead. Involved
were about 3,000 school children newly enrolled in freedmen's schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers,
and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field. Today the site is used as Hampton Park. Years
later, the celebration would come to be called the "First Decoration Day" in the North.
David W. Blight a Professor of History at Yale University described the day:
"This was the first Memorial Day. African
Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from
slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically
were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”
Timeline: Highlights of African American History
Black History Month is an opportunity to officially celebrate
the key roles that African Americans have played in our country's history. It is fashionable for corporate America and
others who are otherwise silent on the issue to tout, during this month, all they are doing to promote our cause. It is up
to us, however to ensure that our story is told accurately and to keep it alive and relevant. Because we have left that responsibility
to others, we have become victims of omission, distortion, and revision of our history. The following timeline, which will
be updated from time to time, highlights just some of the chapters in this story.
1619: A Dutch frigate brings
20 African indentured servants to Jamestown, Virginia, the first Africans known to set foot in England's North American
1676: Black slaves join white indentured servants in an armed uprising against Native Americans and
the colonial government of Virginia; the incident will become known as Bacon's Rebellion.
1773: Phillis Wheatley,
a slave in Boston Massachusetts, published "Poems on Various Subjects", the first book published by an African American
1786: Philadelphia Quakers help fugitive slaves from Virginia reach freedom, in what is probably the first
"run" on the Underground Railroad
1807: Britain and the United States abolish the slave trade, effective
January 1808, although slavery itself will continue in British colonies until 1833 and the American south until 1863.
1831: Slave Nat Turner leads a rebellion that lasts three days and kills 57 whites (including his owner) before it
1839: African slaves held captive aboard the slave ship L'Armistad launch a rebellion.
1847: Abolitionist Fredereick Douglass publishes the first issue of his weekly newspaper, North Star, "wielding
my pen, as well as my voice" for "my enslaved and oppressed people".
1849: Harriet Tubman escapes
slavery, and soon undertakes daring trips back into the South to liberate other slaves.
1851: Sojourner Truth,
noted African American abolitionist, women's rights advocate, and religious visionary, delivers her groundbreaking feminist
speech, "Ain't I a Woman?"
1862-63: P.B.S. Pinchback became the first Black Governor when he served
as temporary Governor of Louisiana for 36 days while the sitting Governor was being impeached.
Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation, liberating slaves in the states rebelling against the Union.
1865: "Juneteenth", the commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Texas was born. It was on June
19, 1865, two months after the Union victory in the Civil War, and two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation
by President Lincoln, when Maj. General Gordon Granger read a proclamation in Galvestonk Texas, informing the slave population
that they were free. For more information on Juneteenth visit "www.juneteenth.com".
Americans gain expanded civil rights when the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, although many of its provisions
will not be enforced until the 20th Century.
1881: Booker T. Washington establishes Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee
University), the first U.S. institution of higher learning to have a black faculty.
1903: W.E. Du Bois publishes
"The Souls of Black Folk", advocating the artistic and expressive strengths-the soul-of African American culture.
1909: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded as a bi-racial organization
committed to fighting racial discrimination and segregation.
1911: The National Urban League is founded in New
York City to help African Americans find housing, employment, and education in northern cities.
1914: Marcus Garvey
founds the Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association and African Communities League, a pan-Africanist organization
that will win support from thousands of Blacks across the United States and in other countries.
cotton crop failures, and a reactivated Ku Klux Klan motivate Southern rural African Americans to relocate to the North in
search of employment, a process that will become known as the Great Migration.
1931: The Nation of Islam (initially
known as the Temple of Islam) is founded by Wallace D. Fard.
1932: Duke Ellington records the jazz classic "It
Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing".
1936: Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Olympic
Games in Berlin, Germany.
1942: James L. Farmer and George Houster founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
to challenge racial segregation through organized, nonviolent protest.
1947: Jackie Robinson signs with the Brooklyn
Dodgers, becoming the first African American to play major league baseball in modern times.
1951: The National
Basketball Association opens its ranks to African Americans, allowing Chuck Cooper to sign with the Boston Celtics.
1951: Lillie Mae Bradford was convicted of "disorderly conduct" for walking to the front of a bus in Montgomery,
Alabama and asking for a bus transfer. Fifty six years later,in 2007, The "Rosa Parks Act" was passed allowing Mrs.
Bradford to be pardoned.
1954: The Supreme Court rules in Brown V. Board of Education that the "separate
but equal" doctrine allowing racial segregation has "no place in the field of public education".
1955: Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery Alabama bus to a white person, spurring the
Montgomery bus boycott.
1955: Emmett Till, a 14-year old Black boy is lynched in Money, Miss. for allegedly whistling
at a white woman.
1957: Nine Black students, escorted by the National Guard, desegregate Central High School in
Little Rock, Arkansas.
1959: Miles Davis and his band record "Kind of Blue", which will become one of
the most influential and popular recordings in jazz history.
1960: Four Black college students hold a sit-in at
segregated Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C.
1960: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is
1961: The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)sends young "freedom riders" on missions to challenge
Jim Crow laws in the South.
1963: More than 250,000 people from all over the United States participate in the
March on Washington, led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr,demanding civil rights and economic equality for African Americans.
His "I have a Dream" speech became the rallying cry of all fair-minded Americans, and still resonates.
1963: NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers, then 37 is murdered in Jackson, Mississippi. Byron De LaBeckwith was convicted
for the murder in 1964.
1963: Four Black girls are killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church
in Birmingham, Alabama, a site of civil rights meetings. Riots followed.
1964: President Lyndon Johnson signs
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banning discrimination in voting, education, employment, and public accommodations.
1964: "Freedom Summer", a program to register Black southern voters, begins. Activists James Chaney, Andrew Goodman
and Michael Schwerner were killed in Philadelphia, Mississippi and buried in a mud bank.
1965: Malcolm X is assassinated
at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem just as he is about to address 400 followers.
1965: "Bloody Sunday"
in Selma, Alabama; 50 people marching for voting rights for Blacks are injured by police.
1965: Voting Rightrs
Act of 1965 passed.
1966: The Black Panther Party is founded in Oakland, California to combat police brutality
1968: The Civil Rights Act of 1968 is signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, Tennesee.
1969: The Nixon administration
develops the first affirmative action program, requiring that contractors on federally assisted projects set specific goals
for hiring minorities.
1971: Jesse Jackson founds Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity)in Chicago for
the economic advancement of poor people.
1973: Marian Wright Edelman founds the Children's Defense Fund, an
organization that lobbies for children's rights and welfare.
1977: "Roots", the serialization of
story of generations of his African and African American family, becomes the most popular television
program in history.
1982: Michael Jackson releases "Thriller", which will become the best-selling pop
album of all time.
1983: Harold Washington is sworn in as the first African American mayor of Chicago.
1983: President Ronald B. Reagan signs legislation establishing Martin Luther King, Jr Day. The first observance was in
1987: Colin L. Powell became the first African American to serve as National Security Advisor,
appointed by President George H. W. Bush. He left that position to advance to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff in 1989.
1987: Toni Morrison publishes her novel "Beloved", which is immediately hailed as
a major literary achievement and will win her a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.
1988: Congress overrides President Reagan's
veto and passed the Civil Rights Restoration Act.
1989: General Colin Powell becomes the first African American
to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
1990: L. Douglas Wilder became the first elected Black Governor
when he was elected Governor of the State of Virginia on January 13, 1990.
1992: Illinois congresswoman Carol
Moseley-Braun becomes the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
1995: Approximately 900,000
African American men come to the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. to draw attention to the social conditions of African
Americans and to urge African American men to assume control over their lives.
2001: Colin L. Powell became the
65th Secretary of State and the highest ranking African American government official in the history of the United States.
He was nominated by George W. Bush on December 16, 2000 and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate
Condoleezza Rice becomes the first woman and second African American (after Colin Powell) to hold the office of U.S. National
2003: Leroy Rountree Hassell, Sr. becomes the first African American to serve as
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia. He is the 24th person to hold that position.
2004: Barack Obama
(D. Illinois) is elected to the Senate of the United States and delivers the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National
Convention. Obama is only the second Black elected to the Senate since Reconstruction.
2005: Condoleeza Rice,
appointed by President George W. Bush, became the first African American female to be appointed to serve as Secretary of State,
again succeeding Colin L. Powell.
2005: Navy Captain Bruce E. Grooms is selected as the first Black Commandant
of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy, a position similar to Dean of Students at a civilian university. Grooms received the 2000
National Society of Engineers Golden Torch Award for Lifetime Service. This is a BIG DEAL considering that not too long ago
Blacks were not admitted to any of the service academies.
2005: After a delay of fifty years, Edgar Ray Killen,
now 80 years old is convicted for the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. Unfortunately, Emmett's mother, Mamie Till Mobley,
who fought unceasingly for justice for her son died on January 5, 2003. JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED!!
Coretta Scott King, widow of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. died on January 31, 2006 at age 78. Coretta Scott King
devoted her life to continuing the work of her slain husband and was a pillar of the Civil Rights Movement. After Martin Luther
King Jr. was killed in 1968, Coretta Scott King committed her life to raising their four children and seeing that his hope
for the country would come true. "I'm more determined than ever that my husband's dream will become a reality",
she said shortly after his death. She also worked to have her husband's birthday declared a National Holiday.
2007: Deval Patrick is sworn in as Governor of Massachusetts on January 4, 2007 becoming only the second elected Black Governor
in U.S. History.
2008: David Paterson became New York's first Black chief executive when he was sworn in as
Governor on March 17, 2008 by New York State Chief Justice Judith Kaye in Albany New York. Paterson, who is legally blind,
becomes the second Black Governor to take office by succession rather than by election. L. Douglas Wilder became the first
elected Black Governor when he was elected Governor of the State of Virginia on January 13, 1990. The second elected Black
Governor was Deval Patrick, who was elected Governor of Massachusetts on January 4, 2007. The first Black Governor was P.B.S.
Pinchback, who served as temporary Governor of Louisiana for 36 days in 1872-73 while the sitting Governor was being impeached.
2008: Barack Hussein Obama, Senator from Illinois, became the first African American of either political party
to win the Primary and become the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.
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