Every year in February, we celebrate Black History Month. From themed events and lectures to trivia nights with just a little more Black history than the average month, it’s important to be in the know when it comes to the facts. With the abundance of knowledge at our fingertips, it can be overwhelming to learn everything about Black History Month on our own, which is why we’re here!
The United States first started celebrating “Negro History Week,” created by historian Carter G. Woodson, in 1926, which eventually led to Black History Month. However, it took 44 years to change from a week to a month in 1970 thanks to Black educators and students at Kent University. But what else are the must-know trivia facts about Black History Month?
Famous Firsts in Black History Trivia
- Madam C.J. Walker is the first Black self-made millionaire thanks to her product, ‘Madam Walker’s Wonderful Hair Grower,’ from 1907.
- America’s first Black president, Barack Obama, was the Senator of Illinois before he was elected president in 2008.
- Tyra Banks was the first Black model on the cover of GQ Magazine in 1996.
- Ketanji Brown became the first Black woman to serve as a US Supreme Court justice in 2022.
- The first Black American to appear on a US postage stamp was Booker T. Washington, a writer and orator essential to the civil rights movement of the late 19th century.
- Ralph Bunche was the first Black person to win a Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation in Israel in the late 1940s.
- The first HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to award degrees in America was the Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1854.
- Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first Black Senator, elected in 1870 to represent Mississippi during the Reconstruction Era.
- Mae Jemison became the first Black woman to go to space in 1992 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
- Alexa Irene Canady was the first Black woman to become a neurosurgeon after completing her residency at the University of Minnesota in 1981.
Important Dates in Black History Trivia
- Interracial marriage wasn’t legalized in the US until 1967.
- Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech on Sept. 9, 1965.
- The first state to elect a Black governor was Virginia in 1989.
- Rosa Parks, famous for refusing to sit in the back of the bus, performed her boycott of separatist practices in December 1955.
Famous Black Athletes Trivia
- Serena Williams won her first U.S. Open at 17 years old. She’s won 23 Grand Slam women’s singles titles, the most in the Open Era.
- Muhammed Ali, born Cassius Clay, was nicknamed “the Greatest” as the undisputed boxing champion from 1974 to 1978 and a 1960 Olympic gold medalist.
- Jesse Owens is famous for winning four gold medals in the 1936 Olympic Games for track and field.
- Simone Biles is the most decorated athlete in gymnastics history with seven Olympic medals and numerous World Championships gold medals.
- Shaquille O’Neal won several MVP nods among other awards during his 1992–2011 NBA career, playing for the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and finally the Boston Celtics.
- The first Black baseball player, Jackie Robinson, started his MLB career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
Black People in Culture Trivia
- Whoopi Goldberg became the first Black person to achieve an EGOT in 2002. John Legend followed in 2018, and then Jennifer Hudson and Viola Davis added their names to the shortlist in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
- Chadwick Boseman portrayed T’Challa, the first Black Avenger, in Black Panther, before he passed away in 2020 from cancer.
- The Black National anthem, titled “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” was written in 1900 by brothers James Weldon Johnson and J. Rosamond Johnson.
- The first rap song to win Grammy Awards for Song and Record of the Year was “This Is America” by Childish Gambino.
- Beyoncé became the first Black woman to headline Coachella in 2018.
- The television show, A Different World, is known for showing students at HBCU Hillman University.
- “Queen of Jazz” Ella Fitzgerald worked with artists like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and The Ink Spots, winning 14 Grammy Awards among other accolades.
- The best-selling memoir, I Know Where the Caged Bird Sings, was written by Maya Angelou in 1969 and garnered international acclaim.
- The first Black woman to win five Grammy Awards in one year was Lauryn Hill in 1999, the same year in which she was the first rapper on the cover of Time magazine.
General Black History Trivia
- Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were the founders of the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970, an organization providing shelter to unhoused LGBTQ+ youth and sex workers in Lower Manhattan.
- President Gerald Ford was the first POTUS to recognize Black History Month as a National celebration in 1976.
- Founded in 1925, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) was a labor union imperative to the nation’s Black middle class and civil rights movement.
- In 1863, President Lincoln signed The Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free.”
- Garrett Morgan invented the three-way traffic light in 1923, which he sold to General Electric for $40,000.
- Black History Month is always celebrated in February because it contains the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
- Activist Bayard Rustin received a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 for his work in civil and LGBTQ+ rights.
Now that you've read up on your Black History month trivia, we recommend reading some more in-depth perspectives of Black history in books such as How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, and more.