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Black History Is Everybody's History: 10 Little-Known Contributions by African Americans - Quicken Loans Zing BlogWhen Black History rolls around in February, many people spend a significant amount of time recalling the contributions of civil rights greats like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. However, in doing so, many of us miss the many lesser-known contributions and unsung heroes who have shaped the world today.

Truth is, black history is really just everyone’s history. No one thinks about color when it comes to crucial inventions that have significantly impacted world progress such as the cotton gin, the stoplight, the bicycle, air conditioning and cell phones. These are all inventions created by African Americans, but the significance isn’t the race of the inventor; it’s the value that each idea contributed to our society.

Historically, many African Americans and their contributions have been left out of history books and have unfortunately gone unrecognized. Here are 10 little-known facts about historical events and the contributions of African Americans.

Black Cowboys Were on the Frontier

Did you know that of the estimated 35,000 cowboys who worked ranches and rode trails on the American West frontier, 5,000–9,000 or more were black? They participated in the drives northward and could hold any ranching position except that of trail boss.

Astronaut and Trailblazer

Did you know that in 1967, Robert Lawrence Jr. became the first African American to be trained as an astronaut? Unfortunately he died in a plane crash during flight training before he could be sent on his first space mission. Sixteen years later, Guion Bluford carried on Lawrence’s legacy by becoming the first African American in space.

The First Chicago Resident

Did you know that Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable, a black man living in the 1700s, is considered by historians to be the first permanent resident of Chicago? He is recorded as living in Chicago in early 1790, but is believed to have settled there earlier. Today, the city boasts a school, a museum, a harbor, a park and a bridge named in his honor.

More Than a Peanut Connoisseur

Did you know that George Washington Carver is responsible for inventing 118 products made with sweet potatoes? He also created 75 products with pecans. Carver is better known as the inventor of peanut butter and 300 peanut products. A well-respected college professor and botanist, he also worked with three U.S. presidents.

Serious Presidential Candidate

Did you know that Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to be elected to Congress and the first black major-party presidential candidate? Well before President Barack Obama became a politician, this Democratic candidate survived three assassination attempts during her 1972 campaign.

Inventor of Dry Cleaning

Did you know that Thomas L. Jennings, the inventor credited for inventing the dry cleaning process, was also the first African American to hold a U.S. patent? The patent was issued in 1821. Jennings, who was a free man living in New York City, is also credited for his work as an early abolitionist and for his leadership in the NAACP.

The Exodusters Settled in Kansas

Did you know that the Exodusters are credited for integrating the West? Exodusters is the nickname for the group of blacks who fled the South and settled in Kansas for freedom and jobs. This group of brave former slaves is rarely mentioned compared to those in the Great Migration to the North and the Northeast. But the Exodusters actually fled the South earlier – between 1879 and 1880. This migration brought more than 30,000 blacks to the state by the late 1800s.

Ended Segregation in the Army

Did you know that Joe Louis is more than a heavyweight boxing champion? He is credited for helping to end segregation in the U.S. armed forces while serving in the Army during World War II. He fought a charity bout that raised $47,000 for the Naval Relief Society in 1942, and he volunteered to enlist in the military the next day. After completing his training in an all-black unit, he served in a Special Services Division until 1945.

The Holder of 61 Patents

Did you know that Frederick Jones invented the ticket dispensing machine in 1943? This invention revolutionized the transportation and entertainment industries. This Ohio inventor is credited for 61 patents, including the portable X-ray machine, the portable refrigeration unit and the two-cycle gasoline engine.

States That Led the Way for Abolition

Did you know that Vermont was the first U.S. territory to abolish slavery in 1777? Vermont, the 14th state, didn’t actually become a state until 1791, so Pennsylvania, the second to become a state, is credited as the first state to abolish slavery in 1780.

There are so many interesting things we can learn about the contributions of African Americans to our society and the world. We can all learn more and share more about these and other important contributions every day – and not just in February. In the spirit of Black History Month, do you have any facts to share with other Zing readers?

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Thanks, but we are all “AMERICANS” who love and bless this great land that “GOD” has so blessed us with through Abraham and his seed, but please remember, we are Human Beings first, and children of “GOD”!!!!!!!

    1. Of course we’re all Americans! In this instance, we chose to highlight the contributions and achievements of a particular group, but that’s not to diminish the accomplishments of millions of others who are here today and those who came before them. This is a great country where we can celebrate both our differences and what brings us together. Everyone has a part in that.

  2. As a white minister, of a predominantly black congregation, it is important for me to acknowledge the contributions of great Americans in our nations history. I do this throughout the year at those times when it is most poignant. I find that in almost every instance a black man, or woman, is in the historic moment.
    We are blessed to have men and women who, in spite of their often horrific historical plight, contributed, and continue to contribute, to our great nation and her place in the world.
    Pastor Jeff.

      1. I am from the horn of Africa. No one in this world fills me with pride more than Black Americans. Not only their contribution to society, but their accepting behaivior, their giving caracter and their inclusive attitude. I acknowledge them, I appreciate them, respect, so lute and thank them. They are the source of light in this dark world of ours.

  3. I, Juliamay Antoine, want to bring up this important fact that seems to be omitted whenever Jean-Baptiste name is mentioned; he was an Haitian immigrant who settled in Chicago as ~ The First Chicago Resident

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