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BIO Classroom

Black History Little Known Facts 65 to 128

Check out 124 little known facts in Black History. 1-64 | 65-124
Fact #65

Nat "Deadwood Dick" Love, a renowned and skilled cowboy, wrote his autobiographical work The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as Deadwood Dick, published in 1907.

Fact #66

African-American fashion designer Ann Lowe designed the wedding dress of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the bride of future President John F. Kennedy.

Fact #67

Jazz pianist and composer Alice McLeod married pioneering saxophonist John Coltrane in 1965. She played with his band and appeared on his later recordings.

Fact #68
  • Thurgood Marshall

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said that he was punished for misbehavior in school by being forced to recite the Constitution, ultimately memorizing it.

Fact #69

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was a classmate of jazz vocalist Cab Calloway, Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes and future Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah during their studies at Lincoln University.

Fact #70

Buffalo Soldiers— a name given by Native-American plainsmen—were the all-black regiments created in the U.S. Army beginning in 1866. These soldiers received second-class treatment and were often given the worst military assignments, but had a lowest desertion rate than their white counterparts. More than 20 Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their service. The oldest living Buffalo Soldier, Sergeant Mark Matthews, died at the age of 111 in 2005, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Fact #71

The Loew's Grand Theatre on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia, was selected to air the premiere of the film Gone with the Wind in 1939. All of the film's black actors, including future Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel, were barred from attending.

Fact #72

George Monroe and William Robinson are thought to be two of the first African Americans to work as Pony Express riders.

Fact #73

Pony Express rider George Monroe was also a highly skilled stagecoach driver for U.S. presidents Ulysses S. Grant, James Garfield and Rutherford B. Hayes. Monroe, who was known as "Knight of the Sierras," frequently navigated passengers through the curving Wanona Trail in the Yosemite Valley. As a result, Monroe Meadows in Yosemite National Park is named after him.

Fact #74

Garrett Morgan, inventor of the three-way traffic signal, also became the first African American to own a car in Cleveland, Ohio.

Fact #75

Jockey Isaac Burns Murphy was the first to win three Kentucky Derbies and the only racer to win the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks and the Clark Handicap within the same year. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame in 1956.

Fact #76
  • Barack Obama

For a time during his youth, future U.S. President Barack Obama used the moniker "Barry."

Fact #77

Barack Obama has won two Grammy Awards. He was first honored in 2005 for the audio version of his memoir, Dreams from My Father (best spoken word album), and received his second Grammy (in the same category) in 2007 for his political work ,The Audacity of Hope.

Fact #78

In 1881, Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles founded what would become the first college for black women in the United States. The school was named Spelman College after Laura Spelman Rockefeller and her parents, who were abolitionists. Laura was also the wife of John D. Rockefeller, who made a significant donation to the school.

Fact #79

Legendary baseball player Satchel Paige would travel as many as 30,000 miles a year to pitch as a free agent, to locales that included Cuba and the Dominican Republic. In 1971, Paige also became the first African-American pitcher to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fact #80

Bill Pickett, a renowned rodeo performer, was inducted into the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1971, the first African American to receive the honor. He was also recognized by the U.S. Postal service as one of the 20 "Legends of the West" in a series of stamps.

Fact #81
  • Sidney Poitier

Since 1997, actor and director Sidney Poitier has served as non-resident Bahamian ambassador to Japan.

Fact #82
  • Condoleezza Rice

In addition to her career in Washington, D.C., Condoleezza Rice is an accomplished pianist who has accompanied cellist Yo-Yo Ma, played with soul singer Aretha Franklin and performed for Queen Elizabeth II.

Fact #83

A serious student, Condoleezza Rice entered the University of Denver at the age of 15 and earned her Ph.D. by age 26.

Fact #84

At the very peak of his fame, rock 'n' roll pioneer Little Richard concluded that his music was the Devil's work and subsequently became a traveling preacher, focusing on gospel tunes. When the Beatles revived several of his songs in 1964, Little Richard returned to the rock stage.

Fact #85

Actor, singer and civil rights activist Paul Robeson was once considered for a U.S. vice presidential spot on Henry A. Wallace's 1948 Progressive Party ticket.

Fact #86

An heirloom tomato variety originating in Russia is named after actor, athlete and civil rights activist Paul Robeson, who enjoyed and spoke highly of Russian culture.

Fact #87

Performer Paul Robeson was conversant in many different languages.

Fact #88
  • Jesse Owens

African-American baseball legend Jackie Robinson had an older brother, Matthew, who won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash at the 1936 Olympics. He came in second to Jesse Owens.

Fact #89

Before Branch Rickey offered future Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson the contract that integrated professional baseball, he personally tested Robinson's reactions to the racial slurs and insults he knew the player would endure.

Fact #90
  • Jackie Robinson

After retiring from baseball, Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson helped establish the African American-owned and -controlled Freedom Bank.

Fact #91

In 1944 in Fort Hood, Texas, future baseball legend Jackie Robinson, who was serving as a lieutenant for the U.S. Army at the time, refused to give up his seat and move to the back of a bus when ordered to by the driver. Robinson dealt with racial slurs and was court-martialed, but was ultimately acquitted. His excellent reputation, combined with the united efforts of friends, the NAACP and various black newspapers, shed public light on the injustice. Robinson requested to be discharged soon afterward.

Fact #92

Before becoming a professional baseball player, Jackie Robinson played football for the Honolulu Bears.

Fact #93
  • Ray Charles

Ray Charles Robinson, a musical genius and pioneer in blending gospel and the blues, shortened his name to Ray Charles to prevent confusion with the great boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. Ray Charles began losing his sight at an early age and was completely blind by the time he was 7, but never relied upon a cane or guide dog. He was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at its inaugural ceremony in 1986.

Fact #94

Reverend Al Sharpton preached his first sermon at the age of 4, and later toured with world-famous gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.

Fact #95

Joseph "Run" Simmons of Run-D.M.C. is the brother of hip-hop promoter and mogul Russell Simmons.

Fact #96

Upon her death in 2003, singer Nina Simone's ashes were spread across the continent of Africa, per her last request.

Fact #97

African-American tap dancer Howard Sims was known as the "Sandman" because he often sprinkled sand onstage at the Apollo Theater to amplify his steps. Sims was an acclaimed dancer and footwork master whose students included Muhammad Ali, Gregory Hines and Ben Vereen.

Fact #98

Mamie Smith is considered to be the first African-American female artist to make a blues record with vocals—"Crazy Blues," released in 1920, sold 1 million copies in half a year.

Fact #99

Olympic medal-winning athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith made headlines around the world by raising their black-gloved fists at the 1968 award ceremony. Both athletes wore black socks and no shoes on the podium to represent black poverty in America.

Fact #100

Walker Smith Jr. became known as Sugar Ray Robinson when, as an under-aged boxer, he used fellow boxer Ray Robinson's Amateur Athletic Union card to fight in a show. Smith won a Golden Glove featherweight title in 1939 under the assumed name and continued using it thereafter, with the additional "Sugar" coming from a reporter.

Fact #101

Considered one of the greatest boxers of all time, Sugar Ray Robinson held the world welterweight title from 1946 to 1951, and by 1958, he had become the first boxer to win a divisional world championship five times.

Fact #102

In the 1920s and '30s, multi-instrumentalist Valaida Snow captivated audiences with her effervescent singing and jazz trumpet playing. Her abilities earned her the nicknames "Queen of the Trumpet" and "Little Louis," in reference to the style of musician Louis Armstrong.

Fact #103

John Baxter Taylor, the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal, also held a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Pennsylvania.

Fact #104

African-American Olympic figure skating medalist Debi Thomas attended Stanford University and later studied medicine at Northwestern University, becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

Fact #105
  • Madam C. J. Walker

In addition to being a millionaire entrepreneur, Madame C.J. Walker was a civil rights activist. In 1917, she was part of a delegation that traveled to the White House to petition President Woodrow Wilson to make lynching a federal crime.

Fact #106

Muddy Waters, known for his infusion of the electric guitar into the Delta country genre, is considered the "Father of Chicago Blues." Waters influenced some of the most popular rock acts, including the Bluesbreakers and the Rolling Stones, who named themselves after his popular 1950 song, "Rollin' Stone."

Fact #107

Rapper Kanye West's father, Ray West—a former Black Panther—was one of the first black photojournalists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, receiving accolades for his work.

Fact #108

The mother of rapper and producer Kanye West was an English professor before switching careers to serve as her son's manager.

Fact #109

Phillis Wheatley became the first published African-American poet in 1774 with her collection Poems on Various Subjects, a work of distinction that looked to many literary classical traditions.

Fact #110

Before Forest Whitaker was a film star, he was accepted into the music conservatory at the University of Southern California to study opera as a tenor.

Fact #111

Jesse Ernest Wilkins Jr., a physicist, mathematician and engineer, earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1942, at age 19.

Fact #112

The "Dee" in actor Billy Dee Williams's name is short for his middle name, "December."

Fact #113

Cathay Williams was the first and only known female Buffalo Soldier. Williams was born into slavery and worked for the Union army during the Civil War. She posed as a man and enlisted as William Cathay in the 38th infantry in 1866, and was given a medical discharge in 1868.

Fact #114

NFL player John Williams won the Super Bowl as part of the Baltimore Colts before he eventually quit the league to become a dentist.

Fact #115

Renowned African-American architect Paul R. Williams mastered the art of rendering drawings upside-down so that his clients would see the drawings right side up. Williams's style became associated with California glamour, beauty and naturalism, and he joined the American Institute of Architects in 1923.

Fact #116

Because he worked during the height of segregation, most of the homes designed by African-American architect Paul R. Williams had deeds that barred blacks from buying them.

Fact #117
  • Stevie Wonder

Musician Stevie Wonder recorded the cries of his newborn daughter, Aisha Morris, for his popular song, "Isn't She Lovely?"

Fact #118

In 1926, Carter Godwin Woodson established Negro History Week, which later became Black History Month. The month of February was chosen in honor of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, who were both born in that month.

Fact #119

Explorers Lewis and Clark were accompanied by York, an African American enslaved by Clark, when they made their 1804 expedition from Missouri to Oregon. York was an invaluable member of the expedition, connecting with the Native American communities they encountered. He is considered the first African-American man to cross what would become U.S. territory.

Fact #120

The Selma to Montgomery marches marked the peak of the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama. Of the three marches, only the last made it all the way to the capital of Montgomery, Alabama, which paved the way for 1965's Voting Right Act. The path is now a U.S. National Historic Trail.

Fact #121

Wilberforce University is one of the first historically African-American institutions of higher learning. Located in Wilberforce, Ohio, and named after British abolitionist William Wilberforce, the school's notable graduates include famed composer William Grant Still and James H. McGee, the first African-American mayor of Dayton, Ohio.

Fact #122

Owned by African-American designer, entrepreneur and television personality Daymond John, the popular FUBU clothing line has won various awards, including an Advertising Age award, an NAACP award, the Pratt Institute Award, the Essence Achievement Award, the Asper Award for social entrepreneurship and a citation of honor from the Queens Borough President.

Fact #123

According to the American Community Survey, in 2005, there were 2.4 million black military veterans in the United States—the highest of any minority group.

Fact #124

In the 1800s, Philadelphia was known as the "Black Capital of Anti–Slavery" because of its strong abolitionist presence, which included groups like the Philadelphia Anti–Slavery Society.

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