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34 Facts About Black History That You Might Not Know

Celebrate the Black men and women who made history.

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  • A 2011 production of Alvin Ailey's 'Revelations'.Photo Credit: Wikipedia

1. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first Black woman to become a doctor of medicine in the United States.

2. The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” became the first commercially successful rap record.

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  • Photo Credit: Alchetron

3. The practice of vaccinations was brought to America by a slave.

4. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which changed the perception of American dance, was founded in 1958.

5. Bayard Rustin, an LGBTQ rights activist, orchestrated the Civil Rights Movement from behind the scenes.

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

8. 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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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

10. 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

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

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  • Photo Credit: Alchetron

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

14. 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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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

17. Octavia E. Butler was dyslexic.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

22. Allensworth, California was an all-Black township—and the first of its kind.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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  • Photo Credit: Columbia Records

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

John Baxter Taylor
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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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

27. Betty Boop was based on a Black woman.

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  • Photo Credit: L: "Do Tell". James Van Der Zee, 1930. R: Fleischer Studios

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

29. 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

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

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

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  • Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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