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BLACK HISTORY FACT – BLACK HISTORY FIRSTS
First Black Person Arrested For Not Giving Up Bus Seat
While Rosa Parks is credited with helping to spark the civil rights movement when she refused to give up her public bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955—inspiring the Montgomery Bus Boycott—the lesser-known Claudette Colvin was arrested nine months prior for not giving up her bus seat to white passengers.
At age 15, on March 2, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white woman. Colvin was motivated by what she had been learning in school about African American history and the U.S. Constitution.
“I could not move, because history had me glued to the seat. . . It felt like Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on another shoulder, and I could not move.”
— Claudette Colvin
First Black Lawyer
John Mercer Langston was the first Black man to become a lawyer when he passed the bar in Ohio in 1854. When he was elected to the post of Town Clerk for Brownhelm, Ohio, in 1855 Langston became one of the first African Americans ever elected to public office in America. John Mercer Langston was also the great-uncle of Langston Hughes, famed poet of the Harlem Renaissance.
First Black Billionaire & Pro Sports Majority Owner
Before Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan joined the billionaire’s club, Robert Johnson became the first African American billionaire when he sold the cable station he founded, Black Entertainment Television (BET) in 2001.
Johnson also made history as the first African American to become the majority owner of a professional sports organization when the NBA Board of Governors granted him the expansion Charlotte NBA franchise on January 10, 2003. Johnson also immediately assumed ownership of the WNBA’s Charlotte Sting.
First Supreme Court Justice
Thurgood Marshall was the first African American ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and served on the court from 1967 to 1991.
First Black Heavyweight Champ
Jack Johnson became the first African American man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion boxing title in 1908. He held onto the belt until 1915.
First Black Senator
Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He represented the state of Mississippi from February 1870 to March 1871.
First Black Woman Representative
Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives. She was elected in 1968 and represented the state of New York. She broke ground again four years later in 1972 when she was the first major party African American candidate and the first female candidate for president of the United States.
First Black Oscar Winner
In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American performer to win an Academy Award—the film industry’s highest honor—for her portrayal of a loyal slave governess in Gone With the Wind.
First Black Female AD At A Power 5 School
Carla Williams is the current Athletic Director at the University of Virginia. When she began her appointment at Virginia in October of 2017, she became the first female African American athletics director at a Power Five conference institution.
First Professional Black Baseball Player
On April 5, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. He led the league in stolen bases that season and was named Rookie of the Year.
First Black Professional Bowlers Association Champion
George Branham III is best known as the first African American to win a major Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) title and one of the very few men of color in professional bowling.
Branham won the Brunswick Memorial World Open in 1986 where he became the first African American to win a major PBA event.
BLACK HISTORY FACT – HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES OR UNIVERSITIES (HBCUs)
Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs) are schools that were founded on the belief that every individual deserves access to a college or higher education. More specifically, the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended defines an HBCU as:
“any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans, and that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association determined by the Secretary of Education.”
After the Civil War (1861-1865), HBCUs emerged to provide Black Americans the most basic of human rights — access to a full education.
Prior to the Civil War, the education of Black Americans was prohibited in most Southern states and often discouraged in Northern states resulting in only a few Black schools being in existence — Cheyney University (est. 1837), University of the District of Columbia (1851), Lincoln University (1854), and Wilberforce University (1856).
Most of our nation’s HBCUs were started by philanthropists and free Blacks; Southern states at the behest of the federal government; and religious organizations such as the American Missionary Association (AMA) and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
By and large, the first HBCUs were established to educate the children of formerly enslaved people and train them to teach other Black Americans.
Because HBCUs were the only schools available to most Black Americans, they often provided primary, secondary, and postsecondary education.
From the late 1800s to the late 1900s, HBCUs thrived and provided refuge from laws and public policy that prohibited Black Americans from attending most colleges and universities.
Before higher education was desegregated in the 1950s and 60s, almost all Black college students enrolled at HBCUs.
Legal segregation had prevented Black Americans from attending college in the South, and quotas limited the number of Black students that could attend college in the North.
There are currently 101 HBCUs in the nation.
Across the board, HBCUs outperform non-HBCU institutions in retaining and graduating first-generation, low-income African American students. HBCUs represent only three percent of all four-year nonprofit colleges and universities, yet they enroll 10 percent of all African American students nationwide.
BEST HBCU’S OF 2022 (RANKED BY USNEWS.COM)
NOTABLE HBCU ALUMNI
On February 25, 1837, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania became the nation’s first HBCU
BLACK HISTORY FACT – MADAM C.J. WALKER
Entrepreneur. Activist. Philanthropist. The FIRST female self-made millionaire in America.
Madam C.J. Walker (1867-1919) was “the first female self-made millionaire in America” and made her fortune thanks to her homemade line of hair care products for Black women. She is remembered as a pioneering Black female entrepreneur who inspired many with her financial independence, business acumen and philanthropy.
Madam C.J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove on December 23, 1867. Her parents were Louisiana sharecroppers who had been born into slavery. Sarah, their fifth child, was the first in her family to be born free after the Emancipation Proclamation. Her early life was marked by hardship; she was orphaned at six, married at fourteen (to Moses McWilliams, with whom she had a daughter, A’Lelia, in 1885) and became a widow at twenty.
Walker and 2-year-old A’Lelia moved to St. Louis, where Walker balanced working as a laundress with night school. She sang in the choir of the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church and became active in the National Association of Colored Women. It was in St. Louis that she first met Charles J. Walker, the man who would become her second husband—and inspire the name of her eventual empire.
Walker was inspired to create haircare products for Black women after a scalp disorder caused her to lose much of her own hair. She came up with a treatment that would completely change the Black hair care industry.
Walker’s method, known as the “Walker system,” involved scalp preparation, lotions and iron combs. Her custom pomade was a wild success. While other products for Black hair (largely manufactured by white businesses) were on the market, she differentiated hers by emphasizing its attention to the health of the women who would use it. She sold her homemade products directly to Black women, using a personal approach that won her loyal customers. She went on to employ a fleet of saleswomen to sell the product whom she called “beauty culturalists.”
Walker moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1905, with just $1.05 in savings in her pocket. Her products like Wonderful Hair Grower, Glossine and Vegetable Shampoo began to gain a loyal following, changing her fortunes. Charles J. Walker moved to Denver in 1906 and they were married soon after. At first, her husband helped her with marketing, advertising and mail orders, but as the business grew, they grew apart and the two divorced.
In 1908, Walker opened a beauty school and factory in Pittsburgh named after her daughter. In 1910, she moved her business headquarters in Indianapolis, a city with access to railroads for distribution and a large population of African American customers. She left the management of the Pittsburgh branch to A’Lelia. At the height of production, the Madame C.J. Walker Company employed over three thousand people, largely Black women who sold Walker’s products door-to-door.
Walker became one of the best-known African Americans and was embraced by the Black press. The success of her business enabled her to live in homes that were a far cry from the one she had grown up in; her Manhattan townhouse became a salon for members of the Harlem Renaissance when her daughter inherited it in the 1920s.
Walker’s reputation as an entrepreneur was matched only by her reputation for philanthropy. She established clubs for her employees, encouraging them to give back to their communities and rewarding them with bonuses when they did. At a time when jobs for Black women were fairly limited, she promoted female talent, even stipulating in her company’s charter that only a woman could serve as president. She donated generously to educational causes and Black charities, funding scholarships for women at Tuskegee Institute and donating to the NAACP, the Black YMCA, and dozens of other organizations.
Madam Walker died at her country home in Irvington-on-Hudson on May 25, 1919, at the age of fifty-one, of hypertension.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH FACT – 2022 BLACK HISTORY MONTH THEME
The BHM theme for 2022 focuses on the importance of Black Health and Wellness.
Black Health and Wellness not only includes the physical body, but also emotional and mental health.
The stigma of mental health isn’t new to the Black community. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly had severe depression during periods of his life and refused psychiatric treatment, even when urged to seek care by his staff. Unfortunately, that scenario continues to be common today, with African Americans not seeking mental health care because of stigma.
The root of mental health stigma among Black people can be traced back to slavery. At that time it was commonly thought that slaves were not sophisticated enough to develop depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders.
From those historic misconceptions, Black people learned to ignore mental illness or call it other terms, like ‘stress’ and ‘being tired’. These descriptions for depression and other mental illnesses that the Black community adopted and passed on from generation to generation led to underestimating the effects and impact of mental health conditions. Also, it strengthened beliefs that a psychiatric disorder is a personal weakness.
According to Mental Health America, Black people experience direct traumatic stressors (including being heavily policed or being the victims of physical and verbal attacks), indirect stressors (such as the effects of viewing the video of the killing of George Floyd), and transmitted stressors (from traumatic stress passed from one generation to the next).
Despite these challenges, Black people are far less likely to seek care.
Statistics tell us that about 25% of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites.
2018 National Survey Statistics
BLACK HISTORY MONTH FACT – WAYS TO HELP CELEBRATE BHM
February is Black History Month, a time to honor the essential contributions of Black people in the story of America. National and local events and online celebrations will take place throughout the month to focus attention on Black people’s achievements and history.
Since 1976, the US has officially marked the contributions of Black people and celebrated the history and culture of the Black experience in America every February.
Here are a few simple ways to help celebrate Black History Month, not just this month, but all year round:
We are going to focus on ‘Supporting and shopping Black-owned businesses’. Becoming a customer of local Black businesses helps protect livelihoods and supports Black entrepreneurs.
If you aren’t sure which businesses in your area are owned and operated by your Black neighbors, several resources can help. Start off by learning how to find Black-owned restaurants where you live.
Several directories have now been created to highlight and promote Black businesses. Official Black Wall Street is one of the original services that list businesses owned by members of the Black community.
Support Black Owned uses a simple search tool to help you find Black businesses, Shop Black Owned is an open-source tool operating in eight US cities, and EatOkra specifically helps people find Black-owned restaurants. Also, We Buy Black offers an online marketplace for Black businesses.
The online boutique Etsy highlights Black-owned vendors on its website — many of these shop owners are women selling jewelry and unique art pieces. And if you’re searching for make-up or hair products, check CNET’s own list of Black-owned beauty brands.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH FACT – THE FIST
The clenched, raised fist. You’ve seen it before—on television and in movies, on posters, in textbooks, maybe even in-person at a rally. Throughout history, the black community has used it as a simple symbol that signifies:
Perhaps the most famous use of the clenched, raised fist by African Americans was at the 1968 Olympic games. American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who took 1st and 3rd place in the 200-meter race, protested racial discrimination during the award ceremony by bowing their heads and raising a fist with a black glove during the U.S. anthem.
For their peaceful protest, Smith and Carlos were suspended from the U.S. Olympic team and forced out of the Olympic Village.
In the decades that passed, Smith took care not to describe the gesture he and Carlos made as a Black Power salute. Rather, Smith said the act “stood for the community and power in Black America”.
In 2008, 40 years after they raised their fists during their Olympic medal ceremony, Smith and Carlos were honored with Arthur Ashe Award for Courage. Eight years later, then-President Barack Obama recognized them during a White House ceremony.
“Their powerful silent protest in the 1968 Games was controversial, but it woke folks up and created greater opportunity for those that followed,” Obama said of Smith and Carlos, who were asked to become U.S. Olympic Committee ambassadors in 2016.
Their gesture is considered one of the most political in the history of the modern Olympic Games. But Smith remarked in the HBO documentary ‘Fists of Freedom: The Story of the ’68 Summer Games’ that the act did not symbolize a hatred for the U.S. flag but an acknowledgement of it.
Historian Edward Widmer, a professor in the Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York, says it embarrassed the leadership of the United States. “It was a real reminder to the world that the U.S., which preaches human rights and democracy, was not always so strong on human rights in its own country.” But, Widmer adds, “It’s clear it was actually a very patriotic gesture. [Smith and Carlos] wanted America to be better and to be just for all of its people, so it was calling on America to be a better country.”
For his part, Smith has described the raised fists as “a cry for freedom and for human rights,” adding, “We had to be seen because we couldn’t be heard.”
BLACK HISTORY FACT – CHARLEY PRIDE
Country Music’s First Black Superstar And The First Black Member Of The Country Music Hall Of Fame.
One of 11 children born to poor Mississippi river delta sharecropper, Charley Pride overcame crushing poverty and Jim Crowe racism to become one of country music’s best-selling and most decorated artists.
Baseball was Charley’s initial path off the cotton farm in Sledge, Mississippi where he was born in 1934. A pitcher, he had a hot start to his career in the Negro Leagues but an injury in his 1953 season caused his fastball to lose some of its zip and later that season he and a teammate were traded. That wasn’t quite the end of his baseball career though, as he’d go on to play for various minor league and semi-pro teams until the early 1960s and even won an all-Army championship while serving as a quartermaster from 1956-1958.
It was baseball that helped to get Pride’s music career going too. In 1960, Charley and his young family moved to Helena, Montana where he was recruited to play for a local semi-pro baseball team, the East Helena Smelterites, and the team manager set him up with a job at a local lead smelting factory which kept 18 jobs open specifically for the baseball team. Having taught himself to play guitar starting at age 14, Charley took to singing in local bars and the team manager, recognizing his talent, began paying him an extra $10 per outing to sing before each game. For seven years Charlie shoveled coal into a 2400° furnace while avoiding molten lead slag. He sang by night and played baseball on Fridays. Later, Charley became friends with a local businessman who owned radio stations in Montana, and who agreed to start playing Charley’s songs on the radio and that’s when his music career began to take off.
Charley’s career took off after the release of his song “Just Between You and Me” and he was booked for his first major show in Olympia Stadium in Detroit. Pride was still an unknown at the time and very few of the 10,000 people in attendance knew that he was Black until he walked onto the stage, at which point the applause reportedly dimmed to stunned silence. Charley took the microphone and said “Friends, I realize it’s a little unique, me coming out here with a permanent suntan- to sing country and western to you. But that’s the way it is.”
His label, RCA Victor, never submitted a photo with his music when they sent it to radio stations, but Charley disputes that this was a deliberate attempt to hide his race from country music fans. With songs like “I’m Just Me” and “Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town” it’s clear that Charley never shied away from his race and heritage. He was happy to be a conspicuous trailblazer and it’s a role that served him well. Over his career he sold more than 70 million records, had a number one hit with “Kiss an Angel Good Morning”, has 52 Top-10 Billboard singles, he’s one of only three Black artists to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry (1993), he was given a start on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1999), he won a Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award (2020), and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (2000).
In 1997, Pride had a tumor removed from his vocal cord at the University of Arkansas and when he came back for a checkup in 2009, he surprised the State Senate with an unplanned performance, for which he was joined by Governor Mike Beebe.
Pride died of COVID-19 at his home in Dallas in December 2020, but his life shows us what can be achieved when you ignore people’s idea of what you’re supposed to be, and instead be what you want to be.
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