News & Politics  
comments_image Comments

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.

Continued from previous page

 
 
Share
 
 
 

The Montgomery court hearing about Colvin's seated stand for justice was named Browder vs. Gayle, in which she testified on May 11, 1956. By that time, the leaders of the Montgomery Improvement Association had drafted a more publicly suitable successor to Colvin, a transplanted Detroit activist named Rosa Parks who had been trained in nonviolent passive resistance at Tennessee's noted Highlander Folk School. Despite Parks' status as a sympathetic symbol, schoolchildren should be just as proud of Claudette Colvin. Montgomery was not even the site of the first organized boycott against racially segregated public transportation. Baton Rouge, Louisiana blacks protested Jim Crow seating laws in 1953, but local leaders abandoned the cause before victory could be won.

7. Many prominent civil rights activists and scholars were of West Indian descent.

Marcus Garvey, the father of Black Nationalism, was born in Jamaica in 1887. By 1919, his Universal Negro Improvement Association had two million members, the vast majority in the U.S. It was the largest "back to Africa" movement in U.S. history. Following in Garvey's philosophical footsteps, the two national spokespersons for the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan, share Caribbean roots. Malcolm X's mother was from Grenada, and Farrakhan was born to a Jamaican father, and a mother from Saint Kitts and Nevis. In addition, Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay (Jamaican), black history author J.A. Rogers (Jamaican), "Black Power" advocate Stokely Carmichael (Trinidadian), historian C.L.R. James (Trinidadian), Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (Barbadian), and of course entertainer-activist Harry Belafonte (father from Martinique, mother Jamaican), are or were West Indian.

Longtime director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Roy Innis, hails from St. Croix. It is worth noting that in many Caribbean American households such as Malcolm X's and Minister Farrakhan's, there were followers of Marcus Garvey, who influenced their children with Garvey's emphasis on race pride, economic autonomy and physical repatriation from the U.S.

8. The college president who ushered Georgetown University into the modern era was black.

Many Americans believe that when Dr. Clifton Wharton was named president of Michigan State University in 1970, he was the first black president of a major American university. Yet Wharton's perceived milestone had a century-old precedent. Born into slavery in Macon, Georgia in 1830, Patrick Healy became president of Georgetown University in 1874. Healy is credited with modernizing the science curriculum at Georgetown, and expanding and improving both the schools of medicine and law. Healy also created the university's alumni association. In 1901, the medical school added a dental school. President Clinton, and 11 other current or former heads of state graduated from Georgetown. Healy is often cited as Georgetown's second founder, after Archbishop John Carroll. The campus' most prominent building, the administrative center Healy Hall, bears his name.

9. America's first Secretary of the Treasury was black.

Alexander Hamilton, the man on the front of your $10 bill, was born on Nevis in either 1755 or 1757. His mother, Rachel Fawcett Lavain, was said to be of "mixed blood" and his father was James Hamilton Sr., the fourth son of a Scottish Duke. Rachel and James never married, so Alexander Hamilton was denied admission to schools run by the Anglican Church. James Sr. eventually abandoned Rachel and their two sons. Alexander's older brother, James Jr., by the same mother and father, was dark-skinned. James Hamilton Jr. migrated to the American colonies, where he was treated as a black man, including once being refused a seat on a Broadway coach because of his race. Alexander Hamilton went on to establish the first national bank in the American colonies, founded the U.S. Mint, and wrote the majority of the Federalist Papers. His is the only "black" face on U.S. currency.
 
Also considered black, by U.S. standards, were Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, whose paternal grandmother was a slave in what is now Haiti; Saint Augustine, the great Christian theologian born in 354 in modern-day Souk Ahras, Algeria; and that whitest of white actresses, Carol Channing, whose father was black.