By: Vivian Shillingsburg
Black History Month is usually only focused on significant stories and events in history. Schools may teach about slavery or notable activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King. Schools aren’t teaching about a lot of the most important people in Black History before during and after the civil rights movement. These stories are fascinating and worth knowing about. Here are some of the stories, moments, and events in black history that you may not know about.
Loving v. Virginia
“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man’, fundamental to our very existence and survival. …Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State. These convictions must be reversed.”
In 1664 there was a law against interracial marriages in the state of Maryland. If the law was broken, the black perpetrator could be enslaved and the white perpetrator could be imprisoned or exiled from the country. Of course, this law didn’t stop people from being with the one they loved or from couples finding loopholes. The case that made the biggest impact was Loving v. Virginia. Mildred and Richard Loving had fallen in love, despite Richard’s family’s disapproval, and decided to travel to Washington D.C. where interracial marriage was legal. They eloped in the year of 1967. When they came home, however, they were arrested and were convicted of breaking the anti-miscegenation law. Their case was taken to the Supreme Court, where it was decided that banning interracial marriages was unconstitutional and it was legal all over the country for the first time since 1664 and has been ever since. Their story is truly incredible, there was even a movie made about their journey. You can find Loving on Hulu, Amazon Prime, and YouTube.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
On April 4, 1968, a celebrated writer, Maya Angelou was celebrating her birthday, but on that same day, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, TN while waving to the crowd below him on the balcony outside of his room at the Lorraine Motel. Angelou, having been a friend and a follower of MLK, decided to stop celebrating her birthday, and instead sent flowers to his wife, Coretta Scott King every year until she died in 2007. Maya Angelou never celebrated her birthday again, even to her death in 2014.
William Edward Burghardt Du Bois
“Education is that whole system of human training within and without the school house walls, which molds and develops men.”
W.E.B Du Bois was a sociologist with a passion for equal education among children of all colors. He was the co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization in that focused on– among other things– giving colored people are same educational opportunities as white people in America. The NAACP was one of the most successful organizations during the civil rights movements creating equal opportunities in schools, workplaces, and even the government for colored people. W.E.B Du Bois was also a role model for the black community, as a black person with a lot of power. It was comforting to know that there was someone on their side who knew what they needed. Here in Wake Forest, we have a building named after him, which once served as an all-black school for the area. It was then integrated in 1971 and known then as Rolesville High School until the current building was built.
“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.”
Known as the First Lady of Song and the Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald was one of the most popular singers of her time. She was known for her improvisational skills, intonation, diction, and her wide vocal range. She was the first black female to win a Grammy and make it to the Grammy Hall of Fame. She is notable because she overcame so much discrimination and racism that could have stopped her from following her passion. She was an inspiration to anyone who has ever faced injustice.
“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me!”
This is one of my favorite stories in all of history. Sojourner Truth was an escaped slave who lost her family, the love of her life, and her children to the brutality of enslavement. After losing everything, she turned to her faith to guide her through her life as a freed slave. She was extremely passionate about equal rights for women–especially black women who were not treated as it was said women should have been treated at that time. Along with this, she helped to recruit black troops for the Union Army during the Civil War and was given an opportunity to speak with Abraham Lincoln. She was a powerful woman who made a huge impact during her time that undoubtedly has carried on to the rights that women have today. She is a true inspiration for how we should all live our lives: making a change in something we are passionate about to help others and have a long-lasting impact to make the world a better place.
My hope is that you are inclined to tell these stories, and maybe even find more stories this Black History Month that interest you. There are thousands, upon the usual, of inspiring and life-changing stories that everyone can learn from. Remember that all of these stories contributed to what the world is today and these are examples you should follow to continue to make a change.