By the Numbers: Black History Month


The year of the first recorded protest of the slave trade in America, made by Quakers at a meeting in Philadelphia. In their written protest, the Quakers wrote, “Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should robb or steal us away, & sell us for slaves to strange Countries, separating housband from their wife and children …”


The year the first higher-education institution was established for blacks: Cheyney University in Cheyney, Pennsylvania.


The year John Mercer Langston passed the bar in Ohio, making him the first black man to become a lawyer in the United States. The next year he set another milestone when he was elected town clerk of Brownhelm, Ohio, making him one of the first African-Americans elected to office. He was the great-uncle of poet Langston Hughes.


The year Hiram Rhodes Revels was elected to represent the state of Mississippi in the U.S. Senate, making him the first African-American elected to the Senate.


The year Jack Johnson became the first African-American man to be crowned the World Heavyweight Champion in boxing. He held on to the title until 1915.


The year the civil-rights organization the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was formed. The group was officially established on Feb. 12, 1909, marking the centennial anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.


The year African-American historian and educator Carter G. Woodson proposed “Negro History Week.”


The year 29-year-old Bessie Coleman earned her international pilot’s license, making her the first African-American woman pilot. She died in an airplane accident in 1926.


The year cartoonist Max Fleischer introduced his jazz flapper character Betty Boop, who was based on Cotton Club performer “Baby Esther” Jones, known for her “baby” singing style. In 1932, white performer Helen Kane sued Fleischer Studios for $250,000, claiming the Betty Boop character was modeled after her. The studio defended itself with an early sound recording of “Baby Esther” Jones, which proved to the court that Kane was not the original Boop girl.


The year Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American performer to win an Academy Award. She won the Oscar for her role as Mammy, the loyal house slave in Gone With the Wind. However, she and all the other black actors in that movie were barred from attending the 1939 premiere at Loew’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta.


The year Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. The day was Aug. 28. The most iconic part of that speech was improvised in the moment: “Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream …”


The year Thurgood Marshall was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to the U.S. Supreme Court, the first African-American to serve on the nation’s highest court. He served through 1991.


The year Shirley Chisholm was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, representing New York. She was the first African-American woman elected to the House.


The year Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman in space, aboard space shuttle Endeavor.


The year Barack Obama was elected as the first African-American president in U.S. history. He served two terms, 2009-17.