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In this last week of Black History Month, we celebrate the important events in history and the achievements of Black trailblazers that occurred this week. As the month winds down, we reflect on President Obama's remarks from the White House in February 2016:

Now, we gather to celebrate Black History Month, and from our earliest days, black history has been American history.  We’re the slaves who quarried the stone to build this White House; the soldiers who fought for our nation’s independence, who fought to hold this union together, who fought for freedom of others around the world. We’re the scientists and inventors who helped unleash American innovation.  We stand on the shoulders not only of the giants in this room, but also countless, nameless heroes who marched for equality and justice for all of us.  ……..


So, we are so proud to honor this rich heritage.  But Black History Month shouldn’t be treated as though it is somehow separate from our collective American history -- or somehow just boiled down to a compilation of greatest hits from the March on Washington, or from some of our sports heroes. There are well-meaning attempts to do that all around us, from classrooms to corporate ad campaigns.  But we know that this should be more than just a commemoration of particular events. 


It’s about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous, and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America.  It’s about taking an unvarnished look at the past so we can create a better future.  It’s a reminder of where we as a country have been so that we know where we need to go. 

Happy Black History Month!

February 25:

In 1871, Hiram Revels becomes the first Black United States Senator and first Black representative sworn into office in Congress.  He was a Reconstruction-era Mississippi Senator, elected to fill out the unexpired term of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States.

In 1948, Martin Luther King, Jr. is ordained as a Baptist minister at the age of 19.  That same year, he graduated from Morehouse College with a B.A. in sociology.  That fall, he entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester Pennsylvania, and studied at the University of Pennsylvania.  Three years later, in 1951, he received a bachelor’s degree in divinity from Crozer, and went on to graduate studies and a Ph.D. in Theology at Boston University. 

February 26:

In 1964, iconic professional boxing legend Cassius Clay changes his name to Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam. Ali stated: “Cassius Clay is a slave name.  I didn’t choose it and I don’t want it.  I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me.” 

February 27:

In 1988, Debi Thomas becomes the first Black figure skater to win a medal (bronze) at a Winter Olympic Games (Calgary, Canada).  A college student at the time, Thomas resumed her studies after the Olympics and graduated from the Engineering School at Stanford University in 1991, and Northwestern University Medical School in 1997.  Thomas completed her surgical residency at Charles Drew University Medical Center in Los Angeles, and went on to practice orthopedic surgery, specializing in hip and knee replacement. 

February 28:

In 1932, Richard Spikes invents and patents the automatic gear shift.  Spikes was a talented inventor and was awarded at least eight patents between 1907 and 1946.  His best-known inventions are related to automobile technology.  His gear-shift device was designed to keep gears for various speeds in constant mesh to further the development of the automatic transmission.  He also developed an automatic break safety system.

February 29:  

In 1940, Hattie McDaniel becomes the first Black actress to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.  She won for her role as Mammy in the film Gone with the Wind.  The film won eight Oscars, including for Best Picture.  In addition to acting, McDaniel was a talented singer-songwriter and comedian.  She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, and was the first black Oscar winner honored with a U.S. postage stamp.  Despite her immense talent, she was subjected to racism and racial segregation.  She was barred from attending the premier of Gone with the Wind in Atlanta because it was held at a whites-only theater.  At the Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles, she was placed at a segregated table at the side of the room.  When she died from breast cancer in 1952, her wish was to be buried at the Hollywood Cemetery.  Her final wish was denied because the Cemetery was for whites-only. 


March 1:

In 1780, Pennsylvania becomes the first state after the Revolution to abolish slavery by legislative enactment. "An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery" applied to black and mulatto children born after 1780, who would be freed after serving their mothers’ masters for 28 years.


March 2: 

In 1955, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat on a crowded, segregated bus to a white woman.  Colvin’s arrest was nine months before Rosa Parks’ arrest in Montgomery, which triggered the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.   Colvin’s efforts to defy racial segregation on public buses were not publicized by black civil rights leaders initially.  It has been said that her individual case was dropped because she was unmarried and pregnant during her court proceedings.  Colvin was one of four plaintiffs in the civil rights case, Browder v Gayle, filed in 1956 that challenged bus segregation as unconstitutional.  Colvin testified as a witness in the case.  The U.S. district court determined that state and local laws requiring racial segregation in public buses in Alabama were unconstitutional.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that ruling.  Years later, Colvin’s arrest record and delinquency adjudicated were expunged by the district court years later in 2021.

In 1962, Wilt Chamberlain scores 100 points in a single game.  Chamberlain made 36 baskets and 28 foul shots for a total of 100 points playing for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169-147 win against the New York Knicks.  At 100 points, Chamberlain still holds this highest single game scoring record in the NBA.   

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