In 1969, Black educators and students at Kent State University proposed the month of February to be celebrated as Black History Month. The first ever celebration took place at Kent State University a year later. The occasion invited Americans to reflect on the significant roles of African Americans that have contributed in shaping US history.
Now, Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, has official recognition from governments not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
In celebration of Black History Month, Bored Panda invites you to look at and learn a bit more about some of the most remarkable African Americans who played an important role in changing the world for the better.
Claudette Colvin - Refused To Give Up Her Bus Seat To A White Woman In 1955
When Claudette Colvin was 15 years old, she refused to give up her bus seat to a white woman and move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama on March 2, 1955. Many have no idea that she did it nine months before Rosa Parks famously did the same.
Colvin got arrested, was taken to an adult jail and put in a small cell where she stayed for three hours until her mother arrived and bailed her out. "Whenever people ask me: 'Why didn't you get up when the bus driver asked you?' I say it felt as though Harriet Tubman's hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth's hands were pushing me down on the other shoulder. I felt inspired by these women because my teacher taught us about them in so much detail," the woman told BBC. Claudette Colvin is currently 81 years old.
Shirley Chisholm - The First Black Woman To Be Elected To The United States Congress
Shirley Anita Chisholm was an American politician, educator, and author who, in 1968, became the first-ever Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress. In 1972, she became the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties.
Jane Bolin - The First Black Judge In The US
Jane Matilda Bolin is known for being the first Black woman to graduate from Yale Law School. In addition, she was the first Black female to join the New York City Bar Association and the first to join the New York City Law Department. In 1939, Bolin became the first Black woman to serve as a judge in the United States and, for 20 years, was the only Black female judge in the whole country.
James Baldwin - Artist Who Explored The Subject Of Race
James Baldwin was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, and activist. Many of his works explored intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western society.
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler - The First African American Woman To Become A Doctor Of Medicine In The US
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was an American physician and author. In 1864, after studying at the New England Female Medical College, Crumpler became the first African American woman to become a doctor of medicine in the US.
Henrietta Lacks - Woman Whose Cancer Cell Samples Played A Huge Role In Medical Research
In 1951, 31-year-old Henrietta Lacks got diagnosed with cervical cancer. A sample of her cancer cells was sent to Dr. George Gey's tissue lab where Dr. Gey, prominent cancer and virus researcher, was collecting cells from patients with this type of cancer. Unfortunately, each cell would quickly die. However, Lacks' cells proved themselves to be quite different—they not only didn't die, but doubled every 20 to 24 hours. Today, the famous cells are known as "HeLa" cells and are used to study the effects of toxins, drugs, hormones, and viruses on the growth of cancer cells without experimenting on humans.
Mae C. Jemison - The First African American Female Astronaut
Mae C. Jemison is the first African American female astronaut. On June 4, 1987, Jemison became the first African American woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program. In 1992, she finally became the first African American woman in space, serving as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
Prince - One Of The Greatest Musicians Of His Generation Who Pioneered The Minneapolis Sound
Prince was an American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, dancer, and actor, and is often regarded as one of the greatest musicians of his generation. Prince was well-known for his innovative work across multiple genres, incredibly wide vocal range, and for being able to play almost any instrument. In addition, Prince pioneered the Minneapolis sound—a subgenre of funk rock with elements of synth-pop and new wave.
George Washington Carver - The First African American To Earn A Bachelor Of Science Degree
George Washington Carver was an American agricultural scientist and inventor. In 1894, he became the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. In 1896, Carver became a part of the newly organized Tuskegee Institute Movable School, introducing farmers to new techniques and advancements.
Daisy Lee Gatson Bates - Became An Advocate For A Group Of 9 Black Students Known As “The Little Rock Nine” And Fought For Their Right To Attend An All-White High School
Daisy Bates was an American activist, civil rights advocate, and publisher. In 1941, she and her husband moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, and started a weekly newspaper devoted to advocating civil rights for African Americans called Arkansas State Press. In 1957, she became an escort and advocate for a group of nine black students known as “The Little Rock Nine” and fought for their right to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. She continued to be an advocate for the group throughout their time at the school.
Ruby Bridges - The First African-American Child To Desegregate The All-White William Frantz Elementary School In Louisiana In 1960
Ruby Bridges is an American civil rights activist who, back in 1960, was the first African American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana. At the time, Bridges was 6 years old. The famous photo captures Bridges being escorted to class by her mother and US marshals due to violent mobs.
Kimberly Bryant - Founded A Non-Profit Organization "Black Girls Code" Teaching Basic Programming Concepts To Black Girls
Kimberly Bryant is an African American electrical engineer. In 2011, Bryant founded a non-profit organization called "Black Girls Code" which is a training course that teaches basic programming concepts to Black girls. She came up with the idea for such a course after her daughter became interested in learning computer programming but wasn't able to find a course in the Bay area that would be well-suited for an African American girl.
Business Insider listed Kimberly Bryant as one of the "25 Most Influential African-Americans In Technology."
Gladys Bentley - Prominent Blues Singer
Gladys Bentley was a prominent American blues singer, pianist, and entertainer during the Harlem Renaissance. In the 1920s, she started performing at Harry Hansberry’s Clam House—one of New York City’s most well-known gay speakeasies. The artist was openly lesbian, and during performances, was usually dressed in her signature men’s style of tuxedo and top hat.
Benjamin O. Davis Sr. - The US' First Black General
Benjamin O. Davis Sr. was a US Army officer and in 1940, he became the first-ever African American to rise to the rank of brigadier general. Davis served in the US military for 50 years before retiring in 1948.
Mary Ellen Pleasant - One Of The First African-American Female Self-Made Millionaires In The Us
Mary Ellen Pleasant was a 19th-century American entrepreneur who is known to be one of the first African American female self-made millionaires in the US. Pleasant was also an active human rights activist. For instance, her 1866 lawsuit ended segregation on public transportation in San Francisco, California.
Alice Allison Dunnigan - The First Black Woman To Serve As A White House Correspondent
Dunnigan was an African American journalist, civil rights activist, author, and the first Black woman to serve as a White House correspondent. She was also the first Black female member of the Senate and House of Representatives press galleries. Alice Allison Dunnigan has a monument dedicated to her residing in a park named after her, which is located in Russelville.
Matthew Henson - One Of The First Two People To Ever Reach The North Pole
Matthew Alexander Henson was an American explorer. In 1909, Henson and Robert Peary became the first people to ever reach the North Pole.
John Lewis - Civil Rights Activist
John Lewis was an American politician, statesman, and civil rights activist. Lewis served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia's 5th congressional district and was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In addition, he was one of the "Big Six" group who organized the 1963 March on Washington.
Edward Alexander Bouchet - The First African American To Earn A Ph.d. From An American University
Edward Bouchet was an American physicist and educator. After completing his dissertation in physics at Yale in 1876, Bouchet became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from any American university.
Tarana Burke - The Founder Of The #metoo Movement
Tarana Burke is an American activist who started the #MeToo movement. In 2003, after working with sexual abuse victims, Burke started a non-profit organization called JustBe, empowering young Black girls through unique programming and workshops. In 2006, she started using the phrase "Me Too" to raise awareness of women who have been sexually abused. In 2017, the hashtag went viral after Alyssa Milano wrote about it on Twitter.
John Horse - Fought For The Freedom Of The Seminole People
John Horse was a Seminole slave of African American, American Indian, and Spanish descent, who was the leader of the Black Seminoles and fought in the Second Seminole War in Florida. For almost half a century, Horse struggled to obtain land and a permanent home for Seminoles.
Stormé Delarverie - A Gay Civil Rights Icon
Stormé DeLarverie was a gay rights activist and drag performer. She performed at the Apollo Theater and Radio City Music Hall. According to many eyewitnesses, Delaverie was the spark that ignited the Stonewall riots, spurring the crowd to action.
Jesse Owens - Track And Field Athlete Who Set 3 World Records
Jesse Owens was an American track and field athlete who specialized in the sprints and the long jump. At the 1935 Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Owens set three world records (in the long jump, 220-yard sprint, and 220-yard low hurdles) and tied a fourth (100-yard dash). The long jump record held for 25 years.
Shirley Weber - The First African American Person To Serve As California Secretary Of State
Shirley Weber is the California Secretary of State. In 2021, Weber became the first African American person to serve as Secretary of State and the fifth to serve in a statewide position. Prior to that, Weber was a member of the California State Assembly for the 79th Assembly District, served on the San Diego Board of Education, and was a Professor of African-American Studies at San Diego State University.
Stacey Abrams - The First Black Woman To Become The Gubernatorial Nominee For A Major Party In The Us
Stacey Abrams is an American politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and New York Times bestselling author. Abrams has served 11 years in the Georgia House of Representatives, 7 as Democratic Leader, and in 2018, became the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, winning at the time more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history. She was the first Black woman to become the gubernatorial nominee for a major party in the US. In addition, Abrams has founded multiple organizations focusing on voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues.
Audre Lorde - A Civil Rights Activist
Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. Lorde dedicated her life and talent to addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, capitalism, heterosexism, and homophobia. She was a self-described "Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet."
Brehanna Daniels - The First Black Female Tire Changer In Nascar
Brehanna Daniels is a 27-year-old pit crew member, a tire changer, affiliated with NASCAR Racing. In June 2017, Daniels became the first African American woman to pit a vehicle in a national NASCAR series race.
Alvin Ailey - The Founder Of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Alvin Ailey was an African American dancer, director, choreographer. In 1958, Ailey founded a dance company based in New York City, called Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and its affiliated Ailey School for nurturing Black artists.
Langston Hughes - The Leader Of The Harlem Renaissance
James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, and playwright. His works mostly focused on portraying the joys and hardships of working-class Black lives. Hughes became a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance—an intellectual and cultural revival of African American music, dance, art, fashion, literature, theater, and politics centered in Harlem, Manhattan in the 1920s and 1930s.
Claressa Gwoat Shields - Arguably The Greatest Female Boxer Of All-Time
Claressa Gwoat Shields is an American professional boxer and MMA fighter. She is a three-division world champion having multiple titles in the super-welterweight, middleweight and super-middleweight. In addition, Shields is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist in the US.
Note: this post originally had 42 images. It’s been shortened to the top 30 images based on user votes.