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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

1. Phillis Wheatley was only 12 when she became the first female African American author published.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

2. MLK improvised the most iconic part of his “I Have a Dream” speech. 

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3. Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar, wasn’t allowed to attend Gone With the Wind's national premiere.

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4. Josephine Baker was a spy for the French during WWII.

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5. The ban on interracial marriage in the U.S. was overturned because of one couple in 1967.

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  • Photo Credit: The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait

6. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on Maya Angelou’s 40th birthday.

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  • Photo Credit: Alchetron

7. Nine months before Rosa Parks, there was a young woman named Claudette Colvin.

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8. Anna Murray was the first African-American woman to be ordained as an Episcopal priest.

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9. Matthew Henson was a key member of the first successful expedition to the North Pole and made seven separate voyages to the Arctic.

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10. Madam C.J. Walker was an African American entrepreneur who became America's first female self-made millionaire.

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11. Billie Holiday’s famous “Strange Fruit” was originally a poem written by a school teacher.

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12. Octavia E. Butler was dyslexic.

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13. Benjamin Banneker taught himself astronomy and math to become America's "First Known African American Man of Science".

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14. During her run for president, three separate assassination attempts were made on Shirley Chisholm.

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15. Dr. Mayme Clayton founded the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum in 1975.

Mayme Clayton
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16. The 6888th Battalion was an all-Black, all-female unit of the military that delivered mail to World War II troops across England.

6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion
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17. Allensworth, California was an all-Black township—and the first of its kind.

Allen Allensworth
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18. The charity single "We Are the World" owes its creation and success to Black artists.

We Are the World
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  • Photo Credit: Columbia Records

19. John Baxter Taylor was the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal.

John Baxter Taylor
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20. Langston Hughes’s great-uncle, John Mercer Langston, was the first Black man admitted to the Ohio bar.

21. Black U.S. soldiers were recognized for their service by the French in WWI 90 years before the U.S. did the same.

22. Betty Boop was based on a Black woman.

black history facts; baby esther jones and betty boop
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  • Photo Credit: L: "Do Tell". James Van Der Zee, 1930. R: Fleischer Studios

23. Cathay Williams, once enslaved, disguised herself as a man to serve in the U.S. Army after the Civil War.

24. Ralph Bunche was the first person of color and the first African-American to receive a Nobel Peace Prize.

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  • Bunche, right, with Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.

    Photo Credit: Public Domain

25. Harriet Tubman was the first woman to lead a U.S. military operation.

26. Ida B. Wells’s anti-lynching pamphlets helped usher in a new era of journalism.

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27. Jackie Robinson’s brother was also an elite athlete.

28. Thurgood Marshall’s journey to the Supreme Court began as a child.

29. Lincoln University was the first historically Black public university to grant degrees in the United States.