This month, we remember and celebrate Black history.
We’ve all heard about a lot of important moments in Black American history – the speeches, protests and events that helped to shape a nation. But, like so much of our history, there are also moments that shaped us that are lesser known.
Here are 5 moments in Black history that you should know about:
- The Establishment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
The history of HBCUs goes back to 1865, the year the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in America. Before the Civil War, the education of Black children was prohibited in some states – and discouraged in others. Most of the first HBCUs educated the children of the formerly enslaved and trained them to teach other Black Americans.
HBCUs are extremely effective. Here are the facts. HBCUs provided undergraduate training for 75% of all Black Americans holding a doctorate degree; 75% of all Black officers in the armed forces; and 80% of all Black federal judges.
- Double V Campaign
During World War II, the Double V Campaign focused on victory both at home and abroad. While victory abroad referred to military success, victory at home was focused on equality for Black Americans.
“While World War II represents a benchmark in the modern civil rights movement, it also reflects a decisive moment in the personal and collective histories of millions of African Americans throughout the South as they sought to escape white supremacy and oppression in pursuit of employment and enfranchisement opportunities,” writes the National World War II Museum. “Thus, the contributions of African Americans to the Home Front during the war became a key factor in America’s arsenal of democracy and its ability to defeat its enemies.”
- March on Washington
In August of 1963, nearly a quarter of a million people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC to call for an end to racial inequality. Officially called The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the event was planned by A. Philip Randolph, a key member of the civil rights movement.
However, it was a young up-and-coming speaker who was most remembered that day. It was at this event that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. His speech was the last one of the day because no one else wanted that speaking slot, thinking that the media would have lost interest and gone home by then. Instead, it is a speech that has lived on for more than 50 years and is one of the most-known speeches in history.
- Beatrice International Foods takeover
In 1987, Reginald Lewis became the first Black businessman to build a billion-dollar company, after taking over Beatrice International Foods (which he renamed TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc).
Lewis grew up in an upper-middle-class neighborhood of Baltimore, before attending Virginia State University on a football scholarship and attending Harvard Law School. After working as a corporate lawyer, he created a private equity firm and took the business world by storm.
- Juneteenth becomes a national holiday (2021)
Juneteenth commemorates the date – June 19, 1865 – when the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas finally learned they had been freed. They were the last to be freed in America. While this has been an important date to remember in Black communities, many Americans were not familiar with Juneteenth. That changed in 2021 when the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act was signed into law, making it a national holiday and making this important piece of Black history an official day of celebration in America.
These 5 dates share the American story through the lens of the Black experience. By understanding these milestones, we understand each other even better and connect more deeply through what unites us.