Sabrina Green, Chair, Solo and Small Firm Section
San Diego, CA
Each year in February we celebrate a very meaningful holiday. I know your minds immediately went to Valentine’s Day, but that is not it. I am talking about Black History Month, which celebrates African Americans, their extraordinary contributions, sacrifices and provides us with reflection on our slow progress towards African American rights and liberties during our nation’s history.
Black History Month was initially proposed in 1969 by black educators and the Black United Students at Kent State University, formal celebration first began a year later in 1970. A mere 6 years later, backed by President Ford, Black History Month was celebrated across all state of the USA. President Ford stated citizens should “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”. In celebration of Black History Month, I thought I would share some little-known facts about African Americans who made extraordinary contributions to the U.S.
- Phillis Wheatley was the first African American to publish a book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, in 1773
- After graduating from Oberlin College in 1850 with a literary degree, Lucy Stanton became the first Black woman in America to earn a four-year college degree.
- Stevie Wonder is not only the first Black artist to win a Grammy for Album of the Year for 1973’s Innervisions, but the first and only musician to win Album Of The Year with three consecutive studio albums.
- In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first Black person to win an Oscar for her supporting role in Gone With the Wind. 24 years later, Sidney Poitier became the first Black man to win an Oscar for his leading role in Lilies of the Field.
- Computer scientist Lisa Gelobter assisted with the 1995 creation of Shockwave, essential technology that led to the development of web animation. (So we have her to thank for GIFs).
- In 1908, after winning the 4 x 400 meter relay, John Taylor became the first African American to win gold in the Olympics. And in 1948, Alice Coachman became the first Black woman in the world to win an Olympic gold medal while competing in the high jump.
- In July 1777, Vermont became the first colony to ban slavery.
- In 1872, Charlotte E. Ray became the first female African American Lawyer in the U.S
If you would like to learn more about Black History Month, I invite you to check out these interesting links:
- African American History Month Resources
- National Endowment for the Humanities – African American History and Culture in the United States
- National Park Service – Black History Month
- Smithsonian Institution – National Museum of African American History and Culture
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – Black History Month
Have a wonderful and productive February and yes, Happy Valentine’s Day too!
Sabrina L. Green