Written by Selina

Modified & Updated: 28 Apr 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

black history facts
  1. When: Black History Month is February in North America, October in the UK
  2. Synonyms: African American history
  3. Definition: The part of history that deals with black ethnic groups
  4. Activists: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks
  5. Athletes: Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Althea Gibson
  6. Authors: Maya Angelou, Lorraine Hansberry, Toni Morrison
  7. Entertainers: Oprah Winfrey, Sammy Davis Jr., Dorothy Dandridge
  8. Musicians: Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Hendrix, Ray Charles
  9. Politicians: Barrack Obama, Thurgood Marshall, Andrew Jackson Young
  10. Inventors: Charles R. Drew, Bessie Coleman, Madam C.J. Walker
  1. Origins: Most African Americans Descend from Slaves from Africa
  2. History: Black History Has Been Honored in the USA since 1926
  3. Slavery: African American History Originates in Slavery
  4. Revolution: Around 5,000 African American Men Fought in the Continental Army
  5. War: The Origins of the Civil War Lie in Slavery
  6. Freedom: The Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment Ended Slavery
  7. Rights: The 15th Amendment Gave African American Men the Right to Vote
  8. Movement: Martin Luther King Jr. Was Only One of the Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement
  9. Awareness: Today’s American Youth is Well-Educated about Black History
  10. Presidents: Barack Obama is the First African American US President
  1. About 4,000 African Americans Left America after the Revolutionary War
  2. Freedom’s Journal Was the First African American Newspaper
  3. Old Slave Mart Museum is the Oldest African American History Museum in the US
  4. The First African American Governor Was P.B.S. Pinchback
  5. Mahalia Jackson Is Responsible for the Famous “I Have a Dream”
  6. Sigma Pi Phi Is the first African American Greek-Lettered Organization
  7. John Taylor Was the First African American Athlete to Win an Olympic Gold Medal
  8. Ralph Bunche Was the First African American Nobel Peace Prize Winner
  9. Juneteenth Is One of the Most Popular African American Holidays
  10. The Harlem Hellboys Were the First African American Regiment
Table of Contents

Most African-Americans Descend from Slaves from Africa

Slave Trade Map
Slave Trade Map

Black history facts reveal that the first slaves were brought to America in the 16th century as a low-cost labor force for plantations that were established in the New World in the decades that followed European discovery of the continent. Most of them came from West Africa and Central Africa.

Black History Has Been Honoured in the USA since 1926

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week in February would be “Negro History Week”. That was the official beginning of a systematic celebration of black history, art and culture in the US.

A few decades later, in 1969, Black United Students from Kent State University suggested the expansion of a week honouring black history to a full month and named it the Black History Month.

It was recognised by the government in 1976, accompanied by President Gerald Ford’s famous words, “seize the opportunity to honour the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavour throughout our history.”

African-American History Originates in Slavery

Jamestown Location
Jamestown Location

In 1607, England established its first permanent colony on the new continent: Jamestown. Tobacco was the main driving force behind the colony and soon the need for additional labor force arose. Indentured servants of British aristocracy were first used to work in Jamestown (usually for seven years and then they became free citizens of the colony), but the plantation owners found this labor too costly and thus the first slaves from Africa were brought over. The first recorded arrival of slaves to English colonies occurred in 1619 when the Dutch brought 19 slaves to Jamestown.

But black history facts show that the first Africans to be used as slaves came to the continent long before then to the Spanish colony San Miguel de Gualdape (now South Carolina) in the first decades of 1500s. By the year 1700, about 25,000 African slaves worked in American colonies, representing about 10% of total population.

Around 5,000 African-American Men Fought in the Continental Army

There would have been more, but when George Washington took command in 1775, he barred any additional recruitment of blacks. Many free and enslaved blacks fought for the Patriots in the Revolutionary War; Prince Hall and Agrippa Hull are probably the most famous names among them. But there were also many blacks who fought for the British – Colonel Tye, Thomas Peters and Boston King are three of the most well-known.

The Origins of the Civil War Lie in Slavery

After the Revolutionary War, use of slavery gradually decreased through anti-slavery laws and, by 1840, virtually all African-Americans were free citizens in the North. But the South was still inclined to use slavery and these differences ultimately led to the secession of seven slave states in the South from the Union, starting the 4-year long Civil War. The Union eventually won and slaves were freed all across the nation.

The Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil Rights Act and the 14th Amendment Ended Slavery

Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln
Emancipation Proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln

The Emancipation Proclamation that was issued in 1863 by President Lincoln turned slaves into free citizens, but the order could be fully enforced only in the years after the Civil War had ended. Although the 13th Amendment from 1865 prohibited slavery, black history facts reveal that there were two other important documents that actually gave African-Americans their freedom: the Civil Rights Act in 1866 and the 14th Amendment in 1868, which made African-Americans full citizens of the USA.

The 15th Amendment Gave African-American Men the Right to Vote

This gave black men in the US the right to vote in 1870, but unfortunately their rights didn’t last for very long. After the Reconstruction Era had ended in 1877, the enforcement of basic civil rights of African-Americans became erratic and inconsistent. Various voting restrictions were enforced in the decades that followed and it was not until 1965 – with the signing of the federal Voting Rights Act – that the right of African-Americans to vote was fully enforced.

Martin Luther King Jr. Was Only One of the Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King Jr
Martin Luther King Jr

Although the African-American Civil Rights Movement between the years of 1954 and 1968 was centred on the philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr., he was not the only driving force behind the movement. Other very determined and visionary African-Americans such as Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, James Bevel, James Farmer, Medgar Evers, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young all helped the African-American community in the US to greatly improve their status in society.

Today’s American Youth is Well-Educated about Black History

Black history facts reveal that the history of the African-American community is riddled with repression, exploitation and violence, but the youth of America seems to appreciate and understand their struggle nowadays, although the inequality still hasn’t been eliminated completely.

According to a study carried out in 2005, American students were asked to name 10 most notable Americans, excluding presidents. The three most frequently mentioned individuals were Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman.

Barack Obama is the First African-American US President

Barack Obama
Barack Obama

The US added an important chapter to black history facts on January 20 2009 when Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated as the first African-American President in the almost 250-years long history of USA Presidents. In November 2012, Obama was re-elected President, becoming one of 17 re-elected Presidents in the history of the United States.

About 4,000 African-Americans Left America after the Revolutionary War

There were probably many more, but 4,000 are documented to have been helped by the British to flee to Jamaica or Britain instead of returning to slavery in the colonies.

Freedom’s Journal Was the First African-American Newspaper

The newspaper was founded by Reverend Peter Williams, Jr. and other free African-American people in New York in 1827. Eventually, there were more than 100 newspapers intended primarily for the African-American community – dozens of them still exist today.

Old Slave Mart Museum is the Oldest African-American History Museum in the US

Old Slave Mart Museum
Old Slave Mart Museum

Operating on and off ever since 1938 in Charleston, South Carolina, the Old Slave Mart Museum nowadays showcases the history of the city’s slave trade. Initially, the museum displayed African and African-American art, and, prior to the establishment of the museum, the building was used as an auction gallery – slaves were once sold off in this very place.

The First African-American Governor Was P.B.S. Pinchback

P.B.S. Pinchback was never officially elected, since he succeeded his predecessor, who was removed from office, as the Governor of Louisiana in 1872. The first elected African-American governor of any state came to his position 118 years after this time, when Douglas Wilder became the 66th Governor of Virginia.

Mahalia Jackson Is Responsible for the Famous “I Have a Dream”

Although the speech was, of course, written (together with Stanley Levison and Clarence Benjamin Jones) and read by Martin Luther King Jr. himself, it originally didn’t contain the famous “I Have a Dream” section. Those iconic words came about as part of Luther King’s improvisation after Mahalia Jackson, the famous gospel singer, cried out “Tell them about the dream, Martin!”

Sigma Pi Phi Is the first African-American Greek-Lettered Organisation

Black history facts reveal that it was founded in Pennsylvania in 1904 by two doctors, a dentist and a physician. Nowadays, Sigma Pi Phi has over 5,000 members and over 120 chapters all over the US. Among the organisation’s famous members are Kweisi Mfume, Andrew Young, Kenneth Chenault, Hank Aaron and many others.

John Taylor Was the First African-American Athlete to Win an Olympic Gold Medal

In the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, John Baxter Taylor Jr. was the only black member of the USA medley relay team. Less than five months after his triumphant return from London, he tragically died from a typhoid fever at the age of just 25.

Ralph Bunche Was the First African-American Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Ralph Bunche
Ralph Bunche

Bunche, who was a political scientist and diplomat, won the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation in Israel in 1940s. In 2008, nearly 37 years after his death, it was revealed that he had worked for the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA) during World War II.

Juneteenth Is One of the Most Popular African-American Holidays

The unusual name is a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth”, and refers to a holiday honouring the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865. 43 US states recognise Juneteenth as a state holiday nowadays. The seven states that don’t are Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah.

The Harlem Hellboys Were the First African-American Regiment

Officially known as the 369th Infantry Regiment, the Harlem Hellboys were the first regiment that allowed the enlistment of black soldiers. Before the regiment was formed, African-Americans who wanted to fight in the war had to enlist in the Canadian or French armies. These fearless soldiers of the first black regiment, known for their toughness and camaraderie, helped pave the way for thousands of brave African-American soldiers who later proudly fought and died for their country.

Black History Facts – Little Known Facts about Black History Summary

Black History Facts

Paved in slavery, bravery and determination, African-American history is full of heroes who were ready to dedicate their lives to improving the status of African-Americans in society. Famous human rights activists, athletes, entertainers, musicians, politicians, scientists and many others helped make the African-American community what it is today. Although some inequalities still exist, African-American history is a respected and cherished part of mostly white-dominated United States history. Black History Month, celebrated annually in February in North America, is the biggest celebration of African-American struggles from the 16th century until today.


Was this page helpful?

Our commitment to delivering trustworthy and engaging content is at the heart of what we do. Each fact on our site is contributed by real users like you, bringing a wealth of diverse insights and information. To ensure the highest standards of accuracy and reliability, our dedicated editors meticulously review each submission. This process guarantees that the facts we share are not only fascinating but also credible. Trust in our commitment to quality and authenticity as you explore and learn with us.