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Black History Month is celebrated each February to recognize the struggles and achievements of African Americans throughout the history of the United States of America. Black History Month originally started out as "Negro History Week," a time designated by Carter G. Woodson to bring awareness to Black peoples' role in American history. During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s the issue of the exclusion of African Americans from history being taught in school came to the forefront and spurred the expansion of "Negro History Week" in to Black History Month. President Gerald Ford made Black History Month a national observance in 1976, and each year since universities, schools, and libraries have used February to celebrate African American history, literature, and culture and raise awareness of ongoing issues of race in the United States. Check out this LibGuide to find information on some of the best African American authors -- past and present -- and their works, as well as wonderful films, podcasts, and websites which deal with Black History and African American culture!
Interesting Black History Facts
The inventor of the prototype of the stoplight was Garrett Morgan, an African American from Kentucky who also patented a hair-straightening product, and a breathing device for working with smoke and gases which became the prototype for the gas masks used in World War I.
Madam C. J. Walker, born to freed slaves in Louisiana, became the first American woman to be a self-made millionaire. She created a hair care treatment for African Americans which brought her recognition and great profits.
Liberia was created as a country for free blacks from the United States. It was established in 1821 by a group of free blacks and members of the American Colonization Society (ACS). Liberia declared its independence from the ACS in 1847 and became a sovereign state.
The first of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) was Cheyney University in Pennsylvania. It was established in 1837 to educate freed slaves.
The practice of inoculation was introduced by an American slave, Onesimus, in the early 18th century. Onesimus informed Cotton Mather, a Puritan church minister, about how inoculation was practiced in Africa, removing material from an infected person and scratching the skin of a healthy person to deposit the material, introducing a disease in order for the body to build up immunity. Mather managed to convince a local doctor to try this method, which was eventually used on soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
Daniel Hale Williams, a 19th-century African American doctor, was one of the first physicians to perform open-heart surgery in the United States of America. In 1891, Williams also opened the first hospital in the US which had a racially integrated staff.