Black and African-American history have been celebrated with some capacity in the U.S. for close to a century. To quote Carter Woodson, who started the original celebration of black history in the U.S. in 1926, “What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate and religious prejudice.” In honor of Black History Month, here are some important moments and events in African-American history that you may be interested in learning more about.
Turner’s Revolt: Aug. 21, 1831
On Aug. 21, 1831, in Southampton County, Virginia, a group of slaves led by Nat Turner fought against their enslavers, the Travis family, killing them and about 60 others. Seventy-five of Turner’s followers were killed during the revolt by the state militia. Prior to the revolt, Turner escaped and evaded capture for six weeks before being tried and sentenced to death by hanging. The Turner Revolt was used by southern states that eventually became the Confederacy as propaganda as reports of the revolt were greatly exaggerated.
Founding of the NAACP: June 1905-1909
The Niagara Movement was founded in June of 1905 at Niagara Falls. The organization, originally led by W.E.B. Du Bois, met to continue the spirit of the abolitionist movement in the early 20th century. In 1909, the Niagara Movement merged with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to advocate for the enforcement of the 14th and 15th amendments as well as equality in education. Du Bois was the editor for The Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP, until 1934. The Crisis is regarded for its efforts to help spread literature created during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.
Robinson becomes the first African-American player in the MLB: April 15, 1947
Jackie Robinson played his first game with a major league baseball team on April 15, 1947. Playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson became the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. That season, he held the record for stolen bases and received the title of Rookie of the Year. Integration in other sports followed after Robinson joined the MLB, with tennis and basketball both integrating in 1950.
Brown v. Board of Education: May 17, 1954
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the racial segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th amendment. This verdict overturned the “separate but equal” ruling from the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896. In the case’s decision, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” By 1955, southern states were expected to fully integrate, but there was notable resistance to this ruling in Alabama and Arkansas where federal intervention was required to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Photo: O. Odunsi