Black History is often reduced to a handful of memorable people, moments, and events.
Just as black history is more than a month, so too are the numerous people, scientific findings, and events that are often overlooked during it.
Before Rosa Parks
On March 2, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Claudette Colvin, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, refused to move to the back of the bus, nine months before Rosa Parks. When the bus driver ordered Claudette to get up, she refused. “It felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down, and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn’t get up.”
Arrested and thrown in jail, she was one of four women who challenged the segregation law in court.
Inoculation Was Introduced to America By a Slave
Onesimus was born in Africa in the late seventeenth century and was gifted to Puritan church minister Cotton Mather from his congregation in 1706 in Boston, Mass.
Onesimus told Cotton Mather about the centuries-old tradition of inoculation practiced in Africa by extracting material from an infected person and scratching it into the skin of an uninfected person. Considered extremely dangerous at the time, the procedure was used against the smallpox epidemic of Boston in 1721, inoculating over 240 people. American soldiers were also inoculated during the Revolutionary War. Onesimus’s traditional African practice introduced the concept of inoculation to the United States.
Esther Jones Was the Real Betty Boop!
Betty Boop was inspired by an African American jazz singer named Esther Jones who performed at the Cotton Club of Harlem during the 1920s. Esther’s trademark vocal style of using “boops” and other childlike cooing scats made her singing style original. Esther’s “baby-boop-style” did little to bring her mainstream fame and she died in relative obscurity, but a piece of her lives on in the iconic character Betty Boop.
There Would Be No Madam C.J. Walker If It Weren’t for Annie Turnbo-Malone
The youngest of 11 children born to former enslaved Africans, Turnbo-Malone became a self-taught chemist after being inspired by her herbal doctor aunt.
During a time when black women used things like goose fat and scalp-damaging sheep’s carding combs to straighten their hair, Turnbo-Malone developed a chemical product that straightened black hair. After launching her hair care line in Brooklyn, IL, she created the “Wonderful Hair Grower.” She also patented the hot comb, which continues to heat-straighten black women’s hair to this day.
Madam C. J. Walker, her employee, would later go on to release her own line of haircare products and become credited as the country’s first female black millionaire. Despite financial setbacks, Tumbo-Malone remained in business, becoming a millionaire by the end of World War I, and one of the most successful black women in the beauty business.
University of the Virgin Islands is an HBCU
The University of the Virgin Islands (or UVI) is located in the United States Virgin Islands, with its main campus on St. Thomas. UVI was founded as the College of the Virgin Islands on March 16, 1962. In 1986, it officially became one of several US historically black colleges and universities. The institution changed its name in 1986 to the University of the Virgin Islands to reflect the growth and diversification of its academic curriculum, research programs, and regional community services.