#BlackHistoryFacts | Michelle Obama

I could not think of a better person with whom to finish off my series of black history facts, and enter into Women's History Month, than First Lady Michelle Obama.

Black history fact #28

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is a lawyer, writer, and First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Married to the 44th President of the United States, she is the first black First Lady.  Born in Chicago, Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She spent the early part of her career practicing law at the Sidley Austin Law Firm, where she met her future husband Barack Obama while serving as his advisor. After two years of dating, the couple got married on October 3, 1992. As first lady, Obama focused on military families, healthy living, and education. She often made appearances at public schools, stressing the importance of education. Committed to health and wellness, Obama worked planted a garden of fresh vegetables and installed beehives on the South Lawn of the White House. She was particularly focused on fighting childhood obesity. In 2012, she launched the Let's Move initiative, a fitness program for kids. Obama is also widely recognized for her sense of fashion, having appeared twice on the cover of Vogue Magazine and featured on numerous best dressed lists. During her time as first lady, Michelle Obama maintained a high approval rating among the American public, soaring over her husbands, and remains one of the most liked first ladies.

Thank you Michelle Obama for being a great role model, strong woman, and OUR FIRST LADY!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Barack Obama

Because he finally resurfaced after a well-deserved fun and relaxing vacation from being OUR PRESIDENT, I am spotlighting President Barack Obama and his contribution to black history.

Black history fact #27

Barack Hussein Obama Jr. is an American lawyer, author, Nobel Peace Prize winner, politician, and 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017. He is the first person of African descent to serve as President of the United States. Born in Honolulu in 1961, Obama excelled in school and became the first black editor of the "Harvard Law Review" in 1990. The following year he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School. After graduating, he moved to Chicago, where he worked as a civil rights lawyer and taught constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago Law School. In 1995, he published an autobiography, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," which was later reprinted in 2004 and adapted into a children's book. He started his political career in 1996, after he ran for and won a seat in the Illinois State Senate. In 2004, Obama ran for and won a vacant seat in the US Senate representing Illinois. Four years later, on November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, making him the first black person to hold this office. During his first 100 days in office, he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to improve America's foreign policy. In 2011, he approved a covert Navy Seals operation in Pakistan that led to the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden. Obama won a second term of presidency in 2012.

Thank Barack Obama for being OUR PRESIDENT!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Hattie McDaniel

In honor of tonight's Oscars, I am spotlighting the achievements of actress Hattie McDaniel.

Black history fact #26

Hattie McDaniel (1895 - 1952) was an actress, singer, and radio performer. She is the first black actor to win an Academy Award. In 1940, McDaniel won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for role as Mammy in the film "Gone with the Wind." She began singing at an early age. In high school, she started performing professionally as part of the The Mighty Minstrels. She eventually dropped out of school to focus on her performing career. At the urging of her brother and sister, McDaniel moved to Los Angeles in the early 1930s and started getting minor film roles. In 1935, she got the part of Mom Beck in "The Little Colonel," starring opposite Shirley Temple. This part was an important landmark in McDaniel's film career, as it gained her the attention of Hollywood directors and a steady stream of movie role offers. In 1939, McDaniel appeared in her award-winning role of Mammy in "Gone with the Wind." Ironically, all of the black actors in the film, including McDaniel, were barred from attending the film's 1939 premiere in Atlanta, Georgia. When her acting career started to decline, she moved to radio and took a starring role on CBS Radio's "The Beulah Show" in 1947. After her death in 1952 from breast cancer, McDaniel has been awarded posthumously two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame (in 1975), and honored with a commemorative stamp by the US Postal Service (in 2006).

Thank you Hattie McDaniel for being the first to take home the golden Oscar statue and opening the door for Whoopi, Monique, Lupita, Jennifer, and Viola to win one too!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Jesse Owens

Black history fact #25

James "Jesse" Owens (1913 - 1980) was an American track and field star and four-time gold medalist in the 1936 Summer Olympics. Born the son of sharecroppers and the grandson of slaves, he was recognized in his lifetime as the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history. In high school, Owens quickly made a name for himself as a sprinter. He set records in the 100m and 200m dashes as well as the long jump. As a college student competing for Ohio State University, Owens became known as the "Buckeye Bullet" and at the 1935 Big Ten Championships, tied a world record in the 100m dash and set a new world record in the 220m dash, in the 220m low hurdles, and in the long jump, which would stand for 25 years. That same year he competed in and won 42 events, including the NCAA Championships and the Olympic trials. At the 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, Owens won four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, long jump, and 4x100m relay. He broke nine Olympic records and set three new world records. He was undoubtedly the most successful athlete at the games, and as a black man, defied Adolf Hitler's theory of Aryan racial superiority. In 1976, Owens received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford and in 1990 was posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal.

Thank you Jesse Owens for shattering records and showing the world we are not inferior!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Bessie Coleman

Black history fact #24

Bessie Coleman (1892 - 1926) was an American aviator. Born to sharecroppers, she became the first black to hold a pilot's license.  At early age, Coleman developed a love for flying. But, because neither blacks nor women were allowed entry into flight schools in the US, she saved money, learned French, and moved to France to achieve her goal. Within seven months, she earned her international pilot's license in 1921, specializing in stunt flying. parachuting, and barnstorming. In 1922, Coleman became the first black woman to stage a public flight in the US. She was a popular flyer at aerial shows. Speaking at schools and churches, Coleman was an advocate for blacks to become interested in flying and to become pilots. Before her death, she was raising funds to create a school for black flyers. Three years after her death in 1926, the Bessie Coleman Aero Club was established and trained many black pilots, including Tuskegee airmen. In 1995, the US Postal Service honored Bessie Coleman with a commemorative stamp.

Thank you Bessie Coleman for showing us how to soar!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Arthur Ashe

Black history fact #23

Arthur Ashe (1943 - 1993) was a professional tennis player and AIDS activist. He is the first black man to be recruited by the US Davis Cup team. Ashe won 3 Grand Slam titles over his career. In 1968, he became the first black man to win the US Open title. Two years later, he won the Australian title. In 1975, he won the singles title at Wimbledon. That same year, Ashe became the first black man to be ranked No. 1 in the tennis world. On top of his accomplishments, Ashe is the first, and remains the only, black male player to win the singles title at Wimbledon and the US Open. In 1985, he became the first black man to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Ashe used his success and fame to create inner city tennis programs for youth and to found the Association of Men's Tennis Professionals. When he learned that he had contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion during heart surgery, Ashe turned his efforts to raising awareness about the disease.

Thank you Arthur Ashe for being a trailblazer! 

#BlackHistoryFacts | Althea Gibson

Black history fact #22 

Althea Gibson (1927 - 2003) was an American professional tennis player and golfer. She was the first black athlete to compete at the US National Championships in 1950, and the first black player to cross the color line of international tennis and compete at Wimbledon in 1951. At an early age, she developed a love for sports and displayed a great talent in tennis. However, in the 1940s and 1950s, most tennis tournaments were closed to nonwhites. Undeterred, she kept playing until her skills could no longer be denied.  In 1956, Gibson became the first person of color to win a Grand Slam title. The following year she won both the singles and doubles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open in 1958. Over her career, Gibson won 11 Grand Slam titles, including 6 doubles titles and was voted Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in 1957 and 1958. She also broke color barriers in professional golf and became the first black woman to compete on the pro tour. After retiring from tennis in 1971, Gibson was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. 

Thank you Althea Gibson for breaking racial barriers and dominating in the sports world!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Malcolm X

52 years ago today, Malcolm X was killed while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.  I think it is fitting to honor him by spotlighting parts of his life. 

Black history fact #21

Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little and later known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, (1925 - 1965) was an orator, civil rights activist, and  a leader of the Nation of Islam. He challenged the mainstream civil rights movement and its nonviolent pursuit of integration championed by Martin Luther King Jr. He advocated for self-defense against white aggression and the liberation of black people "by any means necessary," including violence. A gifted and passionate orator, Malcolm was admitted by the black community across the US. Due largely to his efforts, the Nation of Islam grew from 400 members in 1952 to 40,000 members by 1960. However, he broke with the group in 1964 and then traveled through North Africa and the Middle East, most notably making a a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia,  where he experienced a turning point in his political and spiritual views. He returned to the US more optimistic about the prospects for peaceful resolution to America's race problems and founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity, which advocated black identity and argued that racism, not white people, was the greatest foe of the black community. Malcolm X's legacy as a civil rights leader was further cemented by the posthumous publication in 1965 of "The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley." 

Thank you Malcolm X for your fearlessness and leadership!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Booker T. Washington

Black history fact #20

Booker T. Washington (1856 - 1915) was an educator, author, and advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft. Born into slavery, he became one of the most prominent black leaders in the US prior to World War I. In 1881, Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute, a college in Alabama dedicated to moral and industrial education and to training black teachers. His public advice to blacks in the South was to be patient, to accommodate to the Jim Crow system for the time being, to raise their levels of education and job skills, and to take full advantage of whatever opportunities became available. However, in private, he financed several court cases challenging segregation and preached economic self-determination and self-reliance among black Americans.

Thank you Booker T. Washington for pushing us to be self-reliant!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Huey P. Newton

Black history fact #19

Huey P. Newton (1942 - 1989) was a political activist and revolutionary. Along with Bobby Seale, he cofounded, in 1966, and led the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in Oakland, California. The Panthers was central to the Black Power Movement and took a more militant stance than other social movements on the plight of black communities in America. The party laid out their goals in a document called the "Ten-Point Program," which called for better housing, jobs, and education for black Americans. They actively took a stance against police brutality in urban neighborhoods by mostly white cops and would go to arrests in progress and watch for abuse. In the 1970s, Newton aimed to take the Panthers in a new direction that emphasized nonviolence, democratic socialism, and services for the poor, including free lunch programs and urban clinics. At the height of its popularity, the Black Panther Party had 2,000 members in chapters in several cities. Later in his life, Newton, who graduated high school as a functional illiterate, returned to school and earned a PhD in Social Philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1980.

Thank Huey P. Newton for advocating for better treatment of our communities!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Rosa Parks

Black history fact #18 

Rosa Parks (1913 - 2005) was a civil rights activist, whom is considered the "First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement." On December 1, 1955, she famously refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, spurring the Montgomery Bus Boycott and nationwide efforts to end segregation of public facilities. The boycott, which started on December 5, 1955 (the day of Rosa Park's trial) and lasted for 381 days, successfully pushed the city of Montgomery to lift the the enforcement of segregation on public buses. Although being the symbol of the civil rights movement, Parks experienced several hardships due to actions, including both her and her husband losing their jobs. Things got so bad that they moved from Montgomery to Detroit, Michigan, where they were able to start a new life. On September 9, 1996, Parks was award the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor awarded. She has received many other honors in recogintionn of her contrubuton to the Civil Rights Movement, including a commemorative US Postal Stamp, a statue in the nation's Capitol building, and a Congressional Gold Medal. 

Thank you Rosa Parks for standing your ground!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Maya Angelou

Every since I read her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" in the 9th grade, I have felt connected to Maya Angelou and her works. I live by her famous words: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." I also have the line "Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave" from her well-known poem "Still I Rise" as part of my email signature. So, it seems appropriate that I celebrate and honor her this Black History Month. 

Black history fact #17 

Maya Angelou, born Marguerite Ann Johnson, (1928-2014) was a poet, writer, producer, director, performer,  and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and a list of plays, movies, and television shows. She is known for her critically acclaimed autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969)," which she was encouraged to write by fellow black writer James Baldwin. The book is critically-accalime and taught widely in schools. Angelou also was very good friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and worked with him as the northern coordinator for his Souther Christian Leadership Council (SCLC).  Wanting to stretch her creative talents, Angelou made her directorial debut in 1998 with the film

Down in the Delta

, starring Alfre Woodard.  She has received several honors; Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton in 2000 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (the highest civilian honor in the US) by President Obama in 2010. 

Thank you Maya Angelou for being unapologetically you! 

#BlackHistoryFacts | Harry Belafonte

Black history fact #16

Harry Belafonte is a singer, actor, and social activist. The oldest son of Caribbean immigrants, he was dubbed the "King of Calypso" for popularizing the Caribbean musical style among American audiences in the 1950s. He achieved fame for his take on traditional Calypso songs "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)," "Jump in the Line,"and "Jamaica Farewell." A multi-talented performer, Belafonte's career took off with his role in the film

Carmen Jones

 (1954). He is also known for his humanitarian work. Belafonte met Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1950s and they became good friends. Always outspoken, he emerged as a strong voice of the civil rights movement. He was with King when he delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington, D.C. In 1980s, Belafonte came up with the idea for the recording of the celebrity-filled song "We Are the World" to raise money to provide famine relief in Ethiopia. The song, released in 1985, became an international hit and raised millions of dollars. In 1987, he became a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. Belafonte continues to be outspoken and socially active.

Thank you Harry Belafonte for being one of our voices!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Lorraine Hansberry

Black history fact #15

Lorraine Hansberry (1930 - 1965) was a playwright. She was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway. Hansberry was also the first black playwright and youngest American to win a New York Critic's Circle award. Her best know work, the play "A Raisin in the Sun,"which  focuses on the struggles of a black family living in a racially segregated Chicago, was staged in 1959. The title of the play was taken from the Langston Hughes poem "Harlem:" "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up  like a raisin in the sun?" The film version of the play was completed in 1961, starring Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee, and received an award at the Cannes Film Festival. nto a film. It was also developed into a musical in 1973, which ran for three years and won a Tony award. "A Raisin in the Sun" continues to reach new audiences, as it has been revived on Broadway in 2004 and 2014 (winning Tony Awards both years) and has been produced on television in 1989 and 2008.  

Thank you Lorraine Hansberry for your beautifully honest portrayal of black American lives!

#BlackHistoryFacts | Carter G. Woodson

Black history fact #14

Carter G. Woodson (1875 - 1950) was a historian and writer, and he is also considered the "Father of Black History Month." He earned a doctorate from Harvard University in 1912, becoming the second black person to earn a doctorate from the institution (after W. E. B. DuBois). Woodson dedicated himself to the study of black American history and lobbied to have the subject taught in schools and studied by scholars. In 1915, he cofounded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and established  The Journal of Negro History. He wrote over a dozen books, including his most noted work "The Mis-eduaiton of the Negro" (1933),  which focused on black self-empowerment. In February 1926, Woodson launched the celebration "Negro History Week," a special program in collaboration with schools and organizations to highlight black contributions to civilization. He created the "Negro History Bulletin" in 1937 and developed literature to help teachers with black studies. This program was later expanded and renamed Black History Month.

Thank you Carter G. Woodson for making sure we celebrate our history!