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Now that we are in Black History Month, we thought it would be insightful to give some interesting facts about events in Black History.  In this blog, we cover the second full week of the month with these moments in Black History and the significant achievements of early Black trailblazers.

February 11: 



In 1977, Clifford L. Alexander, Jr. became the first African American to be confirmed as Secretary of the Army.  He was appointed to the position by President Jimmy Carter, and marked the first time that an African American civilian became the head of any U.S. military branch.  Mr. Alexander was a top legal advisor to Presidents Johnson and Nixon.  He graduated from Harvard University where he was the first Black student body president. 

In 1990, Nelson Mandela, the head of the African National Congress (ANC) and leader of the movement to end apartheid in South African, is released from prison after 27 years.  He subsequently led the ANC in its negotiations to end racial apartheid and to establish a multiracial government.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and in 1994 he was elected President in the country’s first free election. 

February 12:

In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded following a deadly race riot in Springfield, Illinois.  Anti-black violence and lynchings were common, but the Springfield riot, occurring in 1908, was a tipping point that led to the establishment of the NAACP.  The NAACP was established to secure for all people the rights guaranteed in the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution.  The organizational mission is to ensure the political, educational, and equality of minority group citizens of States and eliminate race prejudice. The NAACP works to remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes.


In 1865, Henry Highland Garnet became the first Black speaker to preach a sermon in the House of Representatives.  Garnet was an African American abolitionist born in 1815, in Kent County, Maryland. Born as a slave, Garnet’s family escaped to New York when he was about 9 years old.  He became an abolitionist in the 1840s, and in 1843 made his “Call to Rebellion” speech, where he encouraged slaves to free themselves by revolting against their owners. 

In 1962, the bus boycott in Macon, Georgia began.  Blacks in Macon began a campaign to end segregation on city buses and to promote the hiring of blacks as bus drivers and mechanics.  The boycott lasted three weeks. 

February 13:

In 1980, Joseph Searles III became the first black member and broker on the New York Stock Exchange.  At Newburger, Loeb & Co, Searles became the first black partner at a Wall Street brokerage firm.    

February 14:

In 1817 (or 1818), Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in the Eastern Shore, Talbot County, Maryland. He escaped Maryland and purchased his freedom in 1845.  He became a prominent leader, orator, and writer advancing the abolitionist movement in the country.    

February 15:

In 1968, Henry Lewis became the first black conductor of a major orchestra in the United States – the New Jersey Symphony.  Lewis competed against 150 other candidates for the position.  Under Lewis’ leadership, the New Jersey Symphony transformed from a regional ensemble giving about 24 performances annually, to a nationally recognized orchestra performing 100 concerts each year.  The Symphony played at the largest concert halls in the United States, including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  Lewis held his position as music director and conductor until 1976. 

February 16:

In 1972, Wilt Chamberlain became the first professional basketball player to hit 30,000 career points.  Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, Chamberlain reached this historic point marker during a game against the Phoenix Suns, and during his 13th year playing in the NBA.  Chamberlain’s accomplishment was seven years before the NBA added the 3-point shot line in 1979.  By the time of his retirement a year later, in 1973, Chamberlain reached 31,419 career points.

February 17:

In 1997, the Virginia House of Delegates voted unanimously to retire the state song, "Carry Me Back To Old Virginia." The song had long been criticized as racist and a glorification of slavery.  The House vote was 100-0, and there was no debate.  “This puts the song where it belongs -- in history -- and it won't be troubling us any further,”' said Delegate William P. Robinson Jr., Democrat of Norfolk.


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