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Notable African Americans in U.S. History

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Every February, people in the United States celebrate Black History Month. Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month, is an annual observance where we honor and celebrate the significant contributions that black men and women have made to U.S. history.

Originally a week-long event, February officially became Black History Month in 1976, when U.S. president Gerald Ford extended the recognition to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” In honor of Black History Month, we’ve highlighted African Americans that have made monumental contributions in the United States.

Dorothy Height

Hailed as the “godmother of the women’s movement,” Dr. Dorothy Height used her background in education and social work to champion for women’s rights. She was also one of the few women who was on the speaking platform during the 1963 March on Washington.

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall sitting in front of wood paneled wall

Thurgood Marshall was an American lawyer and civil rights activist who became the first African American Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. During his time as an Associate Justice, he strived to protect the rights of all citizens, which earned him the nickname, "Mr. Civil Rights." He also founded and became the executive director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Mae C. Jemison

In 1992, Mae C. Jemison embarked on an eight-day space flight aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, which made her the United States' first female African-American space traveler. Jemison also served on the board of directors of the World Sickle Cell Foundation and founded The Jemison Group Inc.

George Washington Carver

sack and heart shaped dish of peanuts on gray surface

George Washington Carver was an American agricultural scientist and inventor who found hundreds of uses for peanuts. He experimented with the legumes to make lotions, flour, soups, dyes, plastics, and gasoline. Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton and was a leader in promoting environmentalism.

Bessie Coleman

Though history has favored Amelia Earhart or the Wright brothers, Bessie Coleman was a pioneer in aviation and the first licensed Black pilot in the world. After attending flight school in 1919, Coleman paved the way for a new generation of diverse fliers like the Tuskegee airmen, Blackbirds, and Flying Hobos.

Jesse Owens

Jesse Ownes was a track-and-field athlete, who set a world record in the long jump at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. During the games in Berlin, he won four gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, along with the 100-meter relay. In 1976, Owens received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Although this national celebration only takes place during the month of February, we encourage you to study the achievements made by African Americans year-round!