Black History Month has been recognized every year since 1976. While it’s important to take this opportunity to look back and reflect as well as celebrate incredible milestones and victories, we don’t have to wait until February! Here are some Black History Month facts to share with kids all year round!
Black History Month Facts for Kids
1. Carter G. Woodson is the “Father of Black History.”
The historian was the second Black student to graduate from Harvard University with a doctorate degree. His incredible research led to the establishment of Black History Month in 1926. It later became a nationally recognized annual event in 1976.
2. Black History Month is in February in recognition of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
The month was chosen in recognition of the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. During the Civil War, Lincoln worked tirelessly to expand the rights of Black Americans. Douglass, a formerly enslaved man, became a leader who fought to end slavery during the abolitionist movement.
3. William Tucker was the first Black person born in the 13 colonies.
William Tucker was born in 1624 to indentured servants in Jamestown, Virginia. They were among the first group of Africans brought to the colonies by Great Britain.
4. The first novel published by a Black author was published in 1853.
Clotel: or, The President’s Daughter was written by lecturer and abolitionist William Wells Brown.
5. Claudette Colvin was the first Black woman known to refuse to give up her seat on a bus.
If you’re looking for Black History Month facts to surprise your students, try this one. While Rosa Parks is often given credit for being the first Black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus, Claudette Colvin was actually arrested nine months earlier for refusing to give up her seat for white passengers.
6. Lucy Stanton was the first Black woman to earn a four-year college degree.
Stanton earned a literary degree from Oberlin College in 1850.
7. Lucy Terry wrote the first known poem by a Black American.
After being enslaved in Rhode Island from the time she was a toddler until she was freed at age 26, Terry married a free Black man and penned “Bars Fight” in 1746.
8. Phillis Wheatley published the first book of poetry by a Black author in 1773.
A family in Boston purchased Wheatley, who was born in Gambia, when she was just seven years old. She was emancipated shortly after releasing Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.
9. Nat King Cole was the first Black American to host a television show.
The beloved jazz pianist and singer hosted The Nat King Cole Show on NBC in 1956.
10. Hattie McDaniel was the first Black person to win an Oscar.
In 1940, Hattie McDaniel took home the Academy Award for her supporting role in Gone with the Wind. It took 24 more years for Sidney Poitier to become the first Black man to win the Best Actor award (for Lilies of the Field), and 62 years for Halle Berry to win the Best Actress prize (for Monster’s Ball).
11. In the early 1770s, Quakers created the first public school for Black children.
It was founded by Anthony Benezet, a white Quaker, educator, and abolitionist.
12. Thurgood Marshall was the first Black justice to serve in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The longtime attorney was officially nominated in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Marshall served until 1991.
13. Barack Obama was the first Black president of the United States.
The lawyer and former senator was first elected in 2008.
14. Kamala Harris is the first Black vice president of the United States.
When she took office in 2021, Harris became the first woman and first person of African or Asian descent to step into the role of vice president. Her father immigrated from Jamaica and her mother immigrated from India.
15. “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugar Hill Gang was the first commercially successful rap record.
16. Stevie Wonder was the first Black artist to win a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.
Not only did he win for his 1973 masterpiece Innervisions, but he went on to become the first and only musician to take home the prize three years in a row!
17. Bryant Gumbel was the first Black person to host a morning show.
The broadcast journalist joined NBC’s Today show in 1981.
18. John Taylor was the first Black athlete to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
19. Madam C.J. Walker was the first Black female self-made millionaire.
The creator of a line of hair care products for Black women, Walker’s story is now being told through the Netflix series Self Made.
20. Robert Johnson was the first Black billionaire.
He founded Black Entertainment Television (BET) and amassed a fortune when he sold it in 2001.
21. Althea Gibson was the first Black tennis player to win a Grand Slam.
Gibson won her first in 1956 and went on to win another 11 Grand Slam tournaments throughout her career.
22. George Washington Carver’s work led to more than 500 products created from peanuts and sweet potatoes.
The agricultural scientist promoted alternative crops to cotton and his research greatly contributed to the economic growth of the rural South. He also invented techniques to avoid soil depletion.
23. Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall were the first Black athletes to play in the NFL.
The football players joined in 1920. Later, Pollard would go on to become the NFL’s first Black coach.
24. Sheryl Swoopes was the first player to sign with the WNBA.
The star athlete joined in 1996, and the league debuted the following year.
25. Gabby Douglas made history at the 2012 London Olympics.
The gymnast became the first Black woman to win the Individual All-Around title.
26. Septima Poinsette Clark helped found nearly 1,000 citizenship schools.
The efforts by the civil rights activist and campaigner helped Blacks register to vote.