February is Black History Month, which means celebrating and reflecting on a rich history of Black American culture, innovation, and revolution. Cities across the country and abroad are observing Black History Month with events and celebrations like Detroit’s Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation hosting a month long Celebrate Black History event, Toronto’s Mackenzie House hosting the A Glimpse of Black Life in Victorian Toronto exhibit, Baltimore’s MLK Day Celebration at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, and the Pan African Film & Arts Festival in Los Angeles, to name a few.

Black History Month was preceded by a weeklong celebration that started in 1926 in the United States. Historian Carter G. Woodson and The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History chose the second week of February for the observance due to the birth dates of Frederick Douglass (February 14th) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12th). The change to a longer celebration was first proposed by professors at Kent State University in 1969, and eventually recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. Now Black History Month is observed by not only the U.S., but by Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

Did you know?

Martin Luther King’s original draft of his “I Have Dream Speech” did not feature any mention of his dream. King actually ended up improvising much of his speech, reportedly following the suggestion of singer Mahalia Jackson who was nearby on stage saying, “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin”.

Despite the traditional portrayal of cowboys in movies and television as White men, one in four cowboys was Black. It is suspected that even the “Lone Ranger” was based off of a Black man named Bass Reeves who had escaped slavery during the Civil War.

“Buffalo Soldiers” – all-Black regiments in the U.S. Army in the late 19th Century – were typically given the worst military assignments, but had a lower desertion rate than their White counterparts. Over 20 Buffalo Soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their service.

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