Black History Month
As a child Muhammad Ali was refused an autograph by his idol, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. When Ali became a prize-fighter, he vowed never to deny an autograph request, which he has honored to this day.
Muhammad Ali the self-proclaimed "greatest [boxer] of all time" was originally named after his father, who was named after the 19th century abolitionist and politician Cassius Marcellus Clay
Allensworth is the only California community to be founded, financed and governed by African-Americans. Created by Allen Allensworth in 1908, the town was built with the intention of establishing a self-sufficient, all-black city where African-Americans could live their lives free of racial discrimination.
Jazz, an African-American musical form born out of the Blues, Ragtime, and marching bands originated in Louisiana during the turn of the 19th century. The word Jazz is a slang term that at one point referred to a sexual act.
Artist Charles Alston founded the "306 Group", a club that provided support and apprenticeship for African-American artists during the 1940s. It served as a studio space for prominent African-American artists such as poet Langston Hughes
Before Wally Amos became famous for his "Famous Amos" chocolate chip cookies, he was a talent agent at the William Morris Agency, where he worked with the likes of The Supremes and Simon & Garfunkel.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on friend Maya Angelou's birthday on April 4th, 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for many years afterward, and sent flowers to King's widow every year until Mrs. King's death in 2006.
Louis Armstrong bought his first coronet at the age of 7 with money he borrowed from his employers. He taught himself to play while in a home for juvenile delinquents.
Musician Louis Armstrong earned the nickname "Satchmo" from his peers. The name was short for "satchelmouth", a reference to the way he puffed his cheeks when he played his trumpet.
After a long career as an actress and singer, Pearl Bailey earned a bachelor's in theology from Georgetown University in 1985.
After African-American performer Josephine Baker expatriated to France, she famously smuggled military intelligence to French allies during World War II. She did this by pinning secrets inside her dress, as well as writing them in invisible ink on her sheet music.
Scientist and mathematician Benjamin Banneker is credited with helping to design the blueprints for Washington, D.C.
Before he was a renowned artist, Romare Bearden was also a talented baseball player. He was recruited by the Philadelphia Athletics on the pretext that he would agree to pass as white. He turned down the offer, instead choosing to work on his art.
Due to his acclaimed "Banana Boat" song, most people assume Harry Belafonte was born in the Caribbean; in fact, the internationally renowned entertainment icon and human rights activist was born in Harlem, New York.
Musician and activist Harry Belafonte originally devised the idea for "We Are the World," a single that he hoped would help raise money for famine relief in Africa. The single became the fastest selling in history, making more than $20 million worldwide.
Before becoming a professional musician, Chuck Berry studied to be a hairdresser.
Chuck Berry's famous "duck walk" dance originated in 1956, when Berry attempted to hide wrinkles in his rayon suit by shaking them out with his now-signature body movements.
The parents of actress Halle Berry chose their daughter's name from Halle's Department Store, a local landmark in her birthplace of Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1938, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt challenged the segregation rules at the Southern Conference on Human Welfare in Birmingham, Alabama, so she could sit next to African-American educator Mary McLeod Bethune, whom she referred to as "her closest friend in her age group."
Legendary singer James Brown performed in front of a televised audience in Boston the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Brown is often given credit for preventing riots with the performance.
Chester Arthur "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett was one of the most important blues singers, songwriters and musicians, influencing popular rock groups like The Beatles. Unlike many blues artists, Howlin' Wolf maintained financial success throughout his life, held a stable marriage, and avoided drugs and alcohol.
Female science fiction author Octavia Butler was dyslexic. Despite her disorder, she went on to win two Hugo awards and two Nebulas for her writing.
When neurosurgeon Ben Carson was a child, his mother required him to read two library books a week and give her written reports, even though she was barely literate. She would then take the papers and pretend to carefully review them, placing a checkmark at the top of the page showing her approval. The assignments gave Carson his eventual love of reading and learning.
Politician and educator Shirley Chisholm survived three assassination attempts during her campaign for the 1972 U.S. presidential election.
Rap artist Chuck D has a bachelor's degree in graphic design.
Mayme Clayton, a Los Angeles librarian and historian, amassed an extensive and valuable collection of black Americana, which houses an estimated 3.5 million items, including a signed copy of the first book published by an African-American.
Before lawyer Johnnie Cochran achieved nationwide fame for his role in the O.J. Simpson trial, actor Denzel Washington interviewed Cochran as part of his research for the award-winning film Philadelphia (1993).
Revenue from musician Nat 'King' Cole's record sales financed a majority of Capitol Records' success during the 1950's so much so, that the distinctive Capitol Records building on in Los Angeles became known as 'the house that Nat built.'
The St. John Coltrane African Orthodox Church in San Francisco uses jazz musician John Coltrane's music and philosophy as sources for religious discovery.
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby is also an avid musician. The jazz drummer has served as master of ceremonies for the Los Angeles Playboy Jazz Festival off and on since 1979.
Paul Cuffee an African-American, philanthropist, ship captain, and devout Quaker transported 38 free African-Americans to Sierra Leone, Africa in 1815 in the hopes of establishing Western Africa. He also founded the first integrated school in Massachusetts in 1797.
Tice Davids, a runaway slave from Kentucky, was the inspiration for the first usage of the term "Underground Railroad." Davids' owner assumed the slave had drowned when he attempted his swim across the Ohio River. He told the local paper that if Davids had escaped, he must have traveled on "an underground railroad." Davids, however, did live, giving the Underground Railroad its now-famous name.
At a time when universities did not typically offer financial assistance to black athletes, African-American football star Ernie Davis was offered more than 50 scholarships.
Musician Bo Diddly reportedly got his name from the diddley bow, an African instrument with one string.
Thomas Andrew Dorsey was considered the "Father of Gospel Music" for combining sacred words with secular rhythms. His most famous composition, "Take My Hand Precious Lord" was recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Mahalia Jackson and many others.
W.E.B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter started The Niagara Movement, a black civil rights organization which got its name from the group's first meeting location, Niagara Falls. This collective later became the N.A.A.C.P.
W.E.B. Du Bois died one day before Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his 'I Have a Dream' speech at the 1963 March on Washington.
Before he wrote the acclaimed novel, Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison served as cook in the Merchant Marines during World War II.
Shortly before his mysterious disappearance in 1934, W.D. Fard founded the Nation of Islam.
Ella Fitzgerald had a three-octave range - a range greater than most professional Opera singers.
After friend and musical partner Tammi Terrell died of a brain tumor, Marvin Gaye left the music industry for two years. During this time, he tried out for the Detroit Lions football team, but didn't make the cut. Instead, he returned to the studio to record his hit single, "What's Goin' On."
As a young girl in Harlem, Althea Gibson was a local table tennis champion. Her skills were eventually noticed by musician Buddy Walker, who invited her to play tennis on local courts.
Nancy Green a former slave, was employed in 1893 to promote the Aunt Jemima brand by demonstrating the pancake mix at expositions and fairs. She was a popular attraction because of her friendly personality, great story-telling, and warmth. Green signed a lifetime contract with the pancake company and her image was used for packaging and billboards.
Famed guitarist Jimi Hendrix was known by close friends and family members simply as "Buster."
Josiah Henson fled slavery in Maryland in 1830 and founded a settlement in Ontario, Canada for fugitive slaves. His autobiography "The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself" (1849) is believed to have been Harriet Beecher Stowe's inspiration for the main character in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
African-American Matthew A. Henson accompanied Robert E. Peary on the first successful U.S. expedition to the North Pole on April 6, 1909. In 2000, he was posthumously awarded the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal.
"Strange Fruit", the song about black lynching in the south made famous by blues singer Billie Holiday, was originally a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx.
Langston Hughes' father discouraged his son from writing, agreeing to pay for his college education only if he studied engineering.
Jesse Jackson successfully negotiated the release of Lieutenant Robert O. Goodman, Jr., an African-American pilot who had been shot down over Syria and taken hostage in 1983.
The "King of Pop," Michael Jackson, co-wrote the single "We Are the World" with Motown legend Lionel Richie. The single became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with nearly 20 million copies sold and millions of dollars donated to famine relief in Africa.
Harriet Ann Jacobs was a slave who published Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent. The book chronicles the hardships and sexual abuse she experienced as a female growing up in slavery. Jacobs fled slavery in 1835 by hiding in a crawlspace in her grandmother's attic for nearly seven years before traveling to Philadelphia by boat, and eventually to New York.
Rapper Jay-Z allegedly developed his stage name as a reference to New York's J/Z subway lines that have a stop in his Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, neighborhood.
The popular FUBU clothing line stands for "For Us By Us." It was originally created by designer Daymond John, who wanted to create a company that would give back to his Queens, New York, community.
Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion, patented a wrench in 1922.
After the success of Negro Digest, publisher John H. Johnson decided to create a magazine to depict the positive side of black life and black achievement. The first issue of his publication, Ebony, sold out in a matter of hours. An additional 25,000 copies had to be printed immediately to meet the demands of the public.
The theme song for the groundbreaking African-American sitcom Sanford and Sons was composed by music great Quincy Jones.
Before he became a basketball legend, Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team during his sophomore year for being undersized.
Chaka Kahn, the "Queen of Funk Soul" is also well known for singing the theme song to public television's popular educational program, Reading Rainbow.
Alicia Keys was accepted into Columbia University, but decided to pursue a full-time music career instead.
In her early life, Coretta Scott King was as well known as a singer as she was as a civil rights activist. The young soprano won a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where she met future husband, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was stabbed by an African-American woman in 1958 while attending his book signing at Blumstein's department store in Harlem. The next year, King and his wife visited India to study Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence.
Lewis Howard Latimer drafted patent drawings for Alexander Graham Bell's telephone, while working at a patent law firm.
In 1967, Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. became the first black man to be trained as an astronaut. Unfortunately, he died in a plane crash during flight training, and never made it into space.Fact #64
Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis led protests against the U.S. Armed forces policies of segregation while he served in the Army during WW II.
; sculptor Augusta Savage; and mixed-media artist Romare Be