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Top 5 Overlooked Black History Facts

VO: Chris Masson

Written by Briana Lawrence Top 5 Overlooked Black History Facts

Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks are frequently (and rightfully) talked about during Black History Month, but there are plenty of interesting facts and fascinating figures that are too often overlooked! Have you ever heard about Claudette Colvin, or Allensworth, California? Can you name any of the notable achievements in black geekery? Check out this episode of WatchMojo's Top 5 Facts for these facts and more!

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Written by Briana Lawrence

Top 5 Black History Facts

Say it loud. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts, a series where we discuss interesting bits of information that may have been glossed over in history class. In this instalment, we’ll be counting down 5 facts about black history that celebrate three simple words: Black is Beautiful.

#5: Black History Month Started As Black History Week

28 -- or 29 -- days isn’t nearly enough time to discuss the accomplishments of the black community... so we can’t imagine only having 7. That was the case back in 1926 when author and historian, Carter G. Woodson, launched the celebration of “Negro History Week” in the hopes of highlighting the community during a time when their efforts were being ignored. In 1969, the leaders of the Black United Students at Kent State University proposed an extension, and 7 years later -- 50 years after the week’s inception -- the U.S. government made the month official. Honoring black excellence isn’t exclusive to the U.S., both the UK and Canada participate, with the UK celebrating in October and Canada following suit with the U.S.’s February recognition.

#4: Black Colleges Offered Opportunities to Other Discriminated Communities

Black History has had an impact on, well... everyone. We don’t just mean the majority, we mean other minority groups who have had to deal with oppression. Black institutions have a history of opening their doors to other groups who, at the time, didn’t have anywhere else to go, a prime example being the Jewish community. In the 1930s, Jewish teachers came to the U.S. in hopes of finding jobs after losing their positions in Austria and Germany. Unfortunately, the words of the day were xenophobia and anti-Semitism, but black historical colleges ignored those words and employed over 50 Jewish academics. Not only did this create a safe environment for them to work in, but it allowed black and white individuals to engage in important conversations.

#3: Allensworth Was the First All-Black Township in California

If you build it, they will come, especially if it means getting away from racial discrimination. That was the goal for Allen Allensworth, a man who was born into slavery and who’d later become the first African American to become a Lieutenant Colonel. After his army days, him and his family moved to California where he began to implement his dream: creating an all-black community where they would be allowed to thrive and be free of discrimination. The town had many great successes, including having California’s first African American school district. Even after Colonel Allensworth’s death in 1914 and people leaving to pursue jobs during WWII, the town continued on and is still around today. Its downtown area now stands as the “Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park” and there are still residents who live outside of it.

#2: Claudette Colvin Did Rosa Parks before Rosa Parks

Despite their impressive history, black women don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Of course, there are women we talk about every February, such as Claudette Colvin and her refusal to give up her seat on the bus. What? You believe we’re referring to Rosa Parks? Yes, it’s true that Ms. Parks was the catalyst to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, but 9 months before this historical moment, 15-year-old Claudette was the first to ever be arrested for not giving up her seat as she insisted that it was her constitutional right. She may not have gotten the recognition at the time, but her impact is undeniable.

#1: There Have Been Many Notable Achievements in Black Geekery

For some reason, people are surprised when black nerds -- or blerds if you prefer -- enter the scene. In reality? They’ve been here the entire time. In fact, we wouldn’t have some of the geekery we hold dear without them. Meet Gerald A. “Jerry” Lawson, the man responsible for home video game consoles with his Fairchild Channel F, the first system to use interchangeable cartridges. If you’re a movie buff, check out Marc Hannah, who developed the 3D graphics technology used in a lot of movies, including a little known flick about dinosaurs in a park. You even have black nerds to thank for the Super Soaker, invented by Lonnie Johnson, because really, what’s nerdier than running around with epic water guns? This epic black cosplay movement.

We hope we’ve enlightened you about the significance of black history, but we barely scratched the surface of the accomplishments of the black community, so let us know in the comments what you feel are their most important achievements. For more historical top tens and educational top fives, be sure to subscribe to

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