By the Numbers: Black History Month


Poverty rate for blacks (in 2014), compared to the national rate of 14.58 percent.


The percentage of the population in Washington, D.C., that is black.


The year the first Africans arrived as slaves in Virginia.


Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin dramatically increases the demand for slave labor.


Congress bans the importation of slaves from Africa.


Frederick Douglass launches his abolitionist newspaper, The North Star, in Rochester, N.Y.


Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery and becomes one of the most effective leaders of the Underground Railroad.


The Dred Scott decision holds that Congress does not have the right to ban slavery and that slaves are not citizens.


President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, which gives freedom to slaves.


The 13th Amendment to the Constitution prohibiting slavery is ratified (on Dec. 6).


The Dred Scott decision is nullified by the ratification of the 14th Amendment.


Howard University’s law school becomes the country’s first black law school.


The 15th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified and gives blacks the right to vote. That was also the year Hiram Revels of Mississippi is elected as this country’s first black U.S. Senator.


The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is founded in New York and led by W.E.B. DuBois.


Year of the first celebration of Black History Week, which was set for the second week in February to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.


Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier in major league baseball when Branch Rickey signs him to the Brooklyn Dodgers.


The year President Harry Truman issued an executive order integrating the U.S. armed forces.


The year of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., which declares that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional.


The year Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man, causing a yearlong bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. The city’s buses were desegregated on Dec. 21, 1956.


The civil rights group called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is established by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Charles K. Steele and Fred L. Shuttlesworth.


James Meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. After rioting breaks out, President Kennedy dispatches 5,000 federal troops to Mississippi.


250,000 people attend the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (where King delivered his “I have a dream” speech).


The year black history got its own month. It was recognized along with the nation’s bicentennial.


Guion Bluford, Jr., becomes the first African American in space during a flight of the space shuttle Challenger.


Colin Powell becomes the first black U.S. Secretary of State.


Condoleezza Rice becomes the first black female U.S. Secretary of State.


Democratic Sen. Barack Obama of Chicago becomes the first black to be nominated as a major party nominee for president. On Nov. 4 he became the first black elected to the U.S. presidency.


The annual median income of black households (in 2014), compared with the national average of $53,657.

1.3 million

The black population of Cook County, Ill., making it the most black-populated county in the nation.

2.2 million

The number of black U.S. military veterans.

2.6 million

The number of black-owned firms in the country (2012 figure).

3.8 million

The black population in New York state, which makes it the most black-populated state in the nation.

45.7 million

The number of blacks in the United States (2014 figures).

74.5 million

The projected black population by July 1, 2060, or 17.9 percent of the nation’s total population.

Source: U.S. Census,