Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thursday thirteen -- Black history month


Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history.

1.  In 1934, Joel Augustus Rogers, a highly regarded journalist in the black press, published a little book of 51 pages titled 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof: A Short Cut to the World History of the Negro.  Some of my 13 facts come from this source, further researched and written up by Prof. Louis Gates, and some from Wikipedia.

                     100 amazing facts

2.  10.7 million Africans survived the passage from Africa directly to the Americas, but only about 388,000 landed in what is now the United States.  The rest went to the Caribbean and South America, particularly Brazil. The death rate was very high in those countries, and there were fewer women so the birth rate was low compared to the U.S.

3.  Africans arrived in North America more than a century before both the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock and the Jamestown settlement. Juan Garrido was born in West Africa around 1480, lived in Portugal and Spain, and he joined the earliest conquistadors to the New World. He was a free man. He came seeking wealth and fortune and lived his final days in Mexico.

   West African ethnicity 

4.  Perhaps you’ve noticed that most African Americans are lighter skinned than Nigerians or Haitians. Our president himself had a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya and has no family heritage to American blacks at all. Based on the companies that do DNA studies, exactly how mixed race are Black Americans? (Louis Gates article)

* According to, the average African American is 65 percent sub-Saharan African, 29 percent European and 2 percent Native American.
* According to, the average African American is 75 percent sub-Saharan African, 22 percent European and only 0.6 percent Native American.
* According to Family Tree, the average African American is 72.95 percent sub-Saharan African, 22.83 percent European and 1.7 percent Native American.
* According to National Geographic's Genographic Project, the average African American is 80 percent sub-Saharan African, 19 percent European and 1 percent Native American.
* According to AfricanDNA, the average African American is 79 percent sub-Saharan African, 19 percent European and 2 percent Native American.

5.  Obviously,  Elizabeth Warren isn’t the only American, black or white, to claim native American ancestry where there is none. (I do a lot of genealogy, and everyone’s family tree whether Irish, black or English, seems to have a Cherokee grandmother). Many American blacks claim native American ancestry, but the DNA studies show it is very small.

6.  First African American woman multi-millionaire was not Oprah, but Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 (Walker was the name of her 3rd husband), who made a fortune in hair products for black women.

7.  Yes, free American black citizens owned slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1830, the year most carefully studied by Carter G. Woodson, about 13.7 percent (319,599) of the black population was free. Of these, 3,776 free Negroes owned 12,907 slaves, out of a total of 2,009,043 slaves owned in the entire United States. (Louis Gates article) The percentage of free black slave owners as the total number of free black heads of families was quite high in several states, namely 43 percent in South Carolina, 40 percent in Louisiana, 26 percent in Mississippi, 25 percent in Alabama and 20 percent in Georgia, higher than for white heads of households.

8.  As of 2013, there have been 1,949 members of the United States Senate, but only nine have been African American. The first two in the 19th century were Republicans (Hiram Revels, Blanche Bruce) as was one in the 20th (Edward Brooke, III, longest, 12 years), and one in the 21st (Tim Scott). Of the 5 Democrats, 3 were elected and 2 appointed.

                         Photograph of Senator Hiram Revels

9. Most famous African American political and media leaders of national fame whose names I would recognize have been Republicans--Martin Luther King, Jr., James Weldon Johnson, Edward Brooke, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Clarence Thomas, Booker T. Washington, Walter E. Williams, Sojourner Truth, Jackie Robinson, and Eldridge Cleaver, to name a few. Frederick Douglass was the first African American to have his name on a national party nomination (Republican) in 1888.

10. Most gun laws in the United States were originally designed to prohibit blacks from owning guns, first as slaves before emancipation and then in special state codes after the 14th amendment.

11.  Although Abraham Lincoln is called the great emancipator, his Emancipation Proclamation didn’t really free the slaves. Rather, it “freed” any slave in the Confederate states who could manage to flee her or his owner and make their way to Union lines. It didn’t free slaves who lived in the North. The 13th amendment abolished slavery. The body guard of Lincoln named his baby daughter Emancipation Proclamation Coggeshall.  She’s buried in Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio.

12. The first people of European ancestry to settle in Chicago and Manhattan were  mixed race free black men from what is now Dominican Republic.  One with a French father and Haitian Mother (Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable) in Chicago in 1779, and one with a Portuguese father and African mother, Juan Rodriguez in 1613 on Manhattan Island.


13. The Swiss resort town of St. Moritz is named for the first black saint, Maurice, born in Thebes in Upper Egypt. Maurice was martyred in what is today Switzerland for refusing to massacre Christians for the Roman Empire.


Mia Celeste said...

Great post! I've learned something. Thanks.

Sandy Kessler said...

what amazes me about slavery in Africa is that Africans sold their own

Norma said...

Not so odd when you think about it--some slaves were war bounty, some captured for selling. They were different tribal groups--sort like the French and Germans doing battle. Color didn't make much difference if your culture and language were different.

Alice Audrey said...

It never crossed my mind that a freed man might own a slave.

CountryDew said...

Very informative.

gel said...

To honor Black History Month is a good thing. Although you mention that most famous Black folks were Republican, look how our Democratic country elected a Democratic Black Man twice in a row: President Barack Obama. Yay!

Colleen@Looseleafnotes said...

What gets me is that people are thought of as black even when their ancestry is more white than black. I loved that ancestry show Gates hosted.

Norma said...

Gel: I said MOST I was familiar with--people today seem to think there are no famous black Republicans, so I was simply reporting there are/were. Obama was an unknown in 2004 when he gave a speech at the Democratic convention, and was elected President in 2008.

Norma said...

The assumption and textbook explanation for light skinned blacks is they are descendants of raped African slaves. But there is a website for genealogists that has photos of free blacks in the 19th century. Looking through it I see that free black men married white servants. It's a fascinating web site.

Norma said...

23andMe has been ordered by the FDA to get out of the health DNA business, but still works in the ancestry area.