In honor of Black History Month, Education First is proud to present four little-known facts about African American history.
1. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King improvised the most historic part of his “I Have a Dream” speech.
On Aug. 28, 1963, more than 250,000 Americans stood spellbound at the Lincoln Memorial as King delivered his iconic address. Perhaps the most famous lines of his speech are those in which he describes his dream of a tolerant society.
Incredibly, those words were likely ad-libbed on the spot. His original version was a lot more political than inspirational — and made no reference to dreams. Onstage, singer Mahalia Jackson allegedly whispered to King, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.”
After intoning, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” Dr. King’s talk became more of a sermon. He continued with the now-famous lines, “Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”
2. Rosa Parks was not the first black woman to stage a sit-in
Before Rosa Parks was on the scene, there was Claudette Colvin. In March of 1955, the 15-year-old schoolgirl refused to move to the back of the bus. This was nine months before Rosa Parks’ famous stand.
The young girl had been studying the history of black leaders, like Harriet Tubman, in school, and those lessons triggered many heated discussions about the present-day Jim Crow laws. When the bus driver demanded that Claudette move to the rear of the bus, she refused.
3. The Quakers were the first to protest against slavery
The Quakers were known as “The Society of Friends.” Four of these men from Germantown, Pa., wrote the first protest against slavery in 1688. They wrote, “Pray, what thing in the world can be done worse towards us, then if men should rob or steal us away, and sell us for slaves to strange countries …”
4. One in four cowboys was black
After the Civil War ended, the Wild West attracted many newly freed slaves seeking freedom and paid work.
There are so many ways to celebrate Black History Month!
- Read the poem, I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes.
- Bake sweet potato biscuits, an African American-inspired soul food.
- Tune in to some blues music.
- Read On Beauty by contemporary author Zadie Smith.
- View Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series.
- Read the poem, A Pledge to Rescue Our Youth by Maya Angelou.
Your Turn: How will you celebrate black history and culture this month?