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Style Magazine

Little Known Black History Facts

Feb 06, 2013 01:38AM ● By Style

In honor of Black History Month, we share some of the lesser-known facts about African American notables:


  1. Allensworth is the only California community to be founded, financed and governed by African-Americans. Created by Allen Allensworth in 1908, the town was built with the intention of establishing a self-sufficient, all-black city where African-Americans could live their lives free of racial discrimination.


  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on friend Maya Angelou's birthday on April 4th, 1968. Angelou stopped celebrating her birthday for many years afterward, and sent flowers to King's widow every year until Mrs. King's death in 2006.


  1. Jackson Beard invented the "Jenny Coupler" in 1897, a device that allowed train cars to hook themselves together when they are bumped into one another. The device saved the lives of many railroad workers, who originally had the dangerous job of hooking the moving cars together by hand.


  1. Thomas L. Jennings was the first African-American to receive a patent in 1821. It was for a dry-cleaning process in 1821. He used the money earned from the patent to purchase relatives out of slavery and support abolitionist causes.


  1. Henry Blair, the second African-American to receive a patent, invented a corn seed planter in 1834 and a cotton planter in 1836. Blair could not read or write and signed his patent with an X.


  1. After African-American performer Josephine Baker expatriated to France, she smuggled military intelligence to French allies during World War II. She did this by pinning secrets inside her dress, as well as writing them in invisible ink on her sheet music.


  1. African-American Matthew A. Henson accompanied Robert E. Peary on the first successful U.S. expedition to the North Pole on April 6, 1909. In 2000, he was posthumously awarded the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal.


  1. Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion, patented a wrench in 1922.


  1. Elijah McCoy invented an automatic lubricator for oiling steam engines in 1872. The term "the real McCoy" is believed to be a reference about the reliability of Elijah McCoy's invention.


  1. History has credited Thomas Edison with the invention of the light bulb, but fewer people know about Lewis Latimer's innovations toward its development. Until Latimer's process for making carbon filament, Edison's light bulbs would only burn for a few minutes. Latimer's filament burned for several hours.


  1. Lonnie G. Johnson, an engineer who performed spacecraft system design for NASA, invented the Super Soaker water gun—the number one selling toy in America in 1991.


  1. The first sociology department in the U.S. was established by educator and civil rights leader, W.E.B. Du Bois.