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Michelle Obama Is Not Our First Black First Lady? 10 Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About Black History

Though February has long been replete with special curriculum in schools, many elements of the past remain obscured.

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In a carryover from slavery, blacks served not only as jockeys, but as grooms and thoroughbred trainers, the latter a skill set valued in West Africans forcibly removed from certain tribes to perform labor in the North American colonies. Isaac Murphy was the first jockey to ride three Kentucky Derby winners. Alonzo Clayton and James Perkins won the grandest race when each was only 15. The last black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby was Jimmy Winkfield who won in both 1901 and 1902. As racing purses grew and jockeys earned more money, black men were phased out of the profession and confined to support roles such as grooms and stable hands.

5. Haiti's battle for independence precipitated the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the United States.

Haiti was the second Western nation to gain its independence from Europe. Successful campaigns by freedom fighters Henri Christophe and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, under the leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture, drove the vaunted general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to demand in 1803 that his ministers sell the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. for an original figure of $22,500,00. Napoleon sought not only to recover financially from the outlay involved in fighting the slave armies, he also realized the territory in question, under the circumstances, was indefensible by the French from the British.

The ministers Barbe-Marbois and Talleyrand, further frustrated, adjusted the sale during the months it took to reach President Thomas
Jefferson to $15,000,000, or four cents an acre. The acquisition not only doubled the size of the country, it tripled the area of fertile land. Due to the heroism of a vastly outnumbered slave rebellion, present-day Louisiana, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North and South Dakota, and Wyoming were purchased by the U.S. The same year, Napoleon withdrew a majority of his forces from then-Saint Domnigue to prepare for a possible invasion of vulnerable France by England, Prussia and Spain. Though L'Ouverture was captured and imprisoned near Switzerland, where he was starved to death, Dessalines claimed official victory and independence on January 1, 1804, when he changed the nation's colonial name, Saint-Domingue, to the indigenous Arawak name Haiti.

Haiti was the first independent Caribbean nation, the first post-colonial independent black nation in the world, and the only country whose independence was brought on by a successful slave revolt. The repercussions for the North American slave trade were significant, as wealthy planters and the U.S. government grew concerned a similar rebellion could occur in the former 13 colonies. Slaveholders were banned from bringing Haitians into the States, for fear they would incite resistance. Suppressive laws were passed, aimed at thwarting insurrection. This atmosphere led to the little-known German Coast Uprising of 1811 in Louisiana, in which 200 to 500 escaped Louisiana slaves, in ever growing bands as they traveled from town to town, burned down five estates and several sugar houses, for which 44 of them were later hung or beheaded. Inspired by the Haitian independence, Charleston, South Carolina's Denmark Vesey scheduled his unsuccessful slave rebellion on Bastile Day (July 14), 1822. Word of Vesey's plot leaked, and his effort was put down. The Haitian Revolution was a turning point in European and Western geography, economics, military history, and regarding the control of American slaves.

6. Rosa Parks was not the first black woman arrested in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

What most U.S. schoolteachers and media proclaim as the spark of the modern Civil Rights Movement was delayed by a teenage pregnancy. Rosa Parks was not originally intended to be the test case for integrated seating on the public buses of Montgomery, Alabama. That distinction was reserved for a 15-year-old girl named Claudette Colvin. Why isn't Colvin's name emblazoned on the American memory? Montgomery activists downplayed Colvin's refusal to give up her front seat on March 2, 1955 (nine months before Parks), and subsequent arrest, because Colvin soon became pregnant, and with a baby so fair-skinned, some wondered aloud if the father was white.