50 Black History Facts (2024)

Black history is vital to the global story, full of inspiring stories of resilience, ingenuity, and determination. This list covers figures from trailblazing leaders who broke down barriers to renowned artists, scientists, activists, and athletes who made a lasting impression on society. Black history is an existing testament to the legacy of Black people at various times in history who willed to change the world and did.

This fact collection illustrates the numerous contributions, accomplishments, and crucial moments that have shaped Black history and continue to inspire future generations. It also honors the incredible achievements of black people in various fields and facets of life.

We hope that the knowledge of these Black history facts will give you a better awareness of the significant impact that black people have had on our shared global history and inspire a renewed appreciation for this ongoing legacy.

Remarkable Firsts in Black History

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1

Historian Carter G. Woodson, the originator of Black History Month, earned the moniker “Father of Black History” and is recognized as the second African American to attain a doctorate from Harvard University. His pioneering work delved into the history of African Americans, marking a significant scholarly contribution.

2

Anthony Benezet, a Quaker advocate for abolition and education, is recognized for establishing the first public school for African-American children in the early 1770s.

3

William Tucker was the first Black individual born in the 13 colonies, with his birth occurring in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1624. His parents served as indentured servants and were among the first Africans transported to colonial lands by Great Britain.

4.

John Mercer Langston became Ohio’s first African-American lawyer in 1854. He later assumed roles as the dean of Howard University’s law department and vice president. Furthermore, he became the first African American from Virginia to secure a seat in the U.S. Congress.

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5

James McCune Smith, a graduate of Glasgow University in 1837, was the first African American to attain a medical degree. He also initiated the country’s first Black-owned pharmacy and was the first African American to have his contributions published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

6

In 1983, Guion Bluford achieved the historic milestone of becoming the first African American to journey into space, lasting 688 hours.

7

Hiram Rhodes Revels, in 1870, was the first African American U.S. senator.

8.

Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives, representing New York in 1968. In 1972, she was also the first major party African-American presidential candidate and the first female presidential candidate in the United States.

9

Lucy Stanton, who graduated from Oberlin College in 1850 with a degree in literature, was the first African-American woman in the United States to attain a four-year college degree.

10

Lila Fenwick was the first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Law School in 1956. She further pursued studies at the London School of Economics and subsequently entered a career at the United Nations.

11

Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court justice, formally nominated by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, and served until 1991.

12.

Cathay Williams, a black woman who posed as a man, enlisted in the 38th Infantry Regiment in 1866, making her the first and only documented female Buffalo Soldier.

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13

In 2001, Robert Johnson became the first African-American billionaire when he sold Black Entertainment Television (BET), the cable station he founded.

14

Barack Obama made history in 2008 when he became the first elected Black president of the United States.

Black History Sports Facts

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15

In 1908, Jack Johnson made history as the first African-American to win the World Heavyweight Champion in boxing and kept the belt until 1915.

16

Althea Gibson made history by becoming the first African-American woman to win a Grand Slam tennis championship in 1956. She was also the first African-American woman to compete on the professional women’s Pro Golf Tour.

17.

Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play Major League Baseball when he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

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18

John Taylor, in 1908, became the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal after winning the 4 x 400 meter relay.

19

Alice Coachman, in 1948, made history by becoming the first African-American woman to claim the gold medal in the high jump at the Olympic Games.

20.

Fritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall made NFL history as the first African-American players in 1920.

21

George Coleman Poage, a hurdler in 1904, was the first Black person to win an Olympic medal.

22

Sheryl Swoopes was the first player to sign with the WNBA in 1996 and gained visibility in 1997 when the league debuted.

23.

Gabby Douglas was the first Black person to win the Individual All-Around title in gymnastics at the 2012 London Olympics.

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24

Wilma Rudolph won three gold medals at the 1960 Summer Olympics, making her the first woman and the first African-American woman to do so. She was named the world’s fastest female athlete.

25

Willie O’Ree was the first Black player in the history of the National Hockey League.

Black History Literature, Arts, and Fashion Facts

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26

Lucy Terry, a poet, and activist, wrote the first documented Black American poem, “Bars Fight,” in 1746.

27

Phillis Wheatley, in 1773, published “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral,” making her the first African American to publish poetry.

28

Published in 1853 by William Wells Brown, “Clotel: The President’s Daughter” was the first novel written by an African-American author.

29.

In 1859, Harriet Wilson became the first African American female author when she released the autobiographical novel “Our Nig: Sketches from the Life of a Free Black.”

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30

After releasing a photo essay on the life of a Harlem gang leader, Gordon Parks became the first Black staff photographer at Life magazine in 1948, earning him the title of “first African American professional photographer.”

31

In 1950, Gwendolyn Brooks became the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for her novel “Annie Allen.”

32

Ann Lowe was the first well-known African-American fashion designer, gaining notoriety for designing the iconic wedding dress worn by Jacqueline Bouvier on her wedding day to John F. Kennedy in 1953.

33.

Esther Jones, a jazz vocalist from Harlem, inspired the cartoon character Betty Boop.

34

Penny Proud, a 14-year-old African-American girl, was the protagonist of Disney Channel’s first original animated series, “The Proud Family.”

35

“The Nat King Cole Show,” hosted by the legendary singer and jazz pianist Nat King Cole, premiered on NBC in 1964, making him the first Black American to host a TV show.

36

Hattie McDaniel, in 1940, was the first Black woman to win the Academy Award for her performance in “Gone With the Wind.”

37.

Sidney Poitier became the first Black man to win the Academy Award in 1963 for the lead role in Lilies of the Field.

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38

Bryant Gumbel, an African-American journalist, joined NBC’s “Today Show” in 1981, making history as the first Black man to host a network morning show.

39

Sylvia Robinson, a vocalist and music producer, nicknamed “Hip-Hop’s First Godmother,” helped produce the first commercially successful rap record, the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” and co-owned Sugar Hill Records, the pioneering hip-hop label, with her husband.

Black Scientists, Inventors, and Technology Facts

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40

Lisa Gelobter, a computer scientist, collaborated in 1995 on the development of Shockwave, a pivotal technology that paved the way for the advent of web animation.

41

George Carver, the first Black student at Iowa State University who graduated to become an agricultural scientist, invented more than 500 uses for peanuts and sweet potatoes.

42.

In 1922, Garrett Morgan developed a new traffic light design that was the first to include the third “caution” signal—the yellow light. Morgan was also granted a patent in 1912 for his “Breathing Device,” the earliest design for the gas mask.

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43

In 1887, Alexander Miles patented the elevator’s modern, safer design. In 2007, his name went into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

44

The sanitary belt, which changed women’s health, was invented by Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner in 1957. It was adjustable, included a napkin pocket, and kept pads in place.

45.

Mark Dean was a computer scientist and engineer who changed the course of history as a co-creator of IBM’s first personal computer and the PC color monitor. He also helped develop the technology that allows external devices like hard drives to connect to computers.

46

Madam C.J. Walker became the first female African-American self-made millionaire after developing a line of hair care products specifically for black women.

47

Alice Ball, the first African American woman to get a master’s degree from the University of Hawaii, developed the first effective treatment for Hansen’s illness (leprosy) in 1916.

48.

After graduating from college in 1956, Gladys West was a mathematician at the United States Naval Proving Ground, where she developed the precise model of Earth that would later serve as the basis for the development of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

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49

Lewis Howard Latimer invented the carbon filament, which vastly improved the longevity of light bulbs compared to Thomas Edison’s original paper filament.

50

Katherine Johnson started her career in aeronautics at age 18, following the founding of NASA, and did the mathematical calculations that put humans on the moon in 1969.

50 Black History Facts (2024)
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