The National Museum of African American History And Culture Spent A Century In Waiting
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In 1915, a group of black veterans of the U.S. Civil War began to push for a memorial dedicated to black soldiers and servicemembers. In September 2016—more than a century later—that museum finally opened. Along the way, the National Museum of African American History And Culture faced roadblock after roadblock: Representative Leonidas C. Dyer introduced a bill that called for a commission to begin the project in 1916, then drafted another bill in 1919 proposing to erect the monument in the capital. Neither effort succeeded in getting funds. In 1929, legislation was passed to create the kind of commission Representative Dyer had proposed, but funding was even harder to come by in the Depression-era economy and the project was again put on hold. It wasn't until 1986 that Congress took up the topic again and passed a joint resolution supporting private efforts to build the museum, but politics soon impeded that effort as well. Finally, in 2003, Congress Passed the National Museum of African American History And Culture Act and got the ball rolling on its construction. The 400,000-square-foot Washington D.C. museum broke ground in 2012 as a three-tiered, bronze-colored building in a sea of white marble monuments. It opened to the public on September 24, 2016. Today, the museum showcases more than 35,000 artifacts and gives visitors a place to reflect on the evils of slavery and Jim Crow, explore the history of the Civil Rights movement, and absorb African-American music, dance, and literature. Learn more about the historic nature of this historical monument with the videos below.
Madam C. J. Walker, America's First Female Self-Made Millionaire
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Sarah Breedlove was born in 1867 to two sharecroppers, on the same Louisiana plantation where they had been enslaved since before the Civil War. By age seven, Breedlove was an orphan. However, this young girl would grow up to become Madam C. J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire in the U.S. Not only did Walker start her empire after a childhood rife with loss, discrimination, and abuse, she did it all as a single mother. In the 1890s, Walker began to experience hair loss and looked hard for a solution. She experimented with home remedies and store-bought products, and consulted her brothers who worked in a barber shop. She eventually developed Madam Walker's Wonderful Hair Grower, a scalp conditioning and healing formula that she began peddling around the country. From there, her business continued to grow, as the word of Walker's product spread among African-American woman. "There is no royal flower-strewn path to success," Walker reportedly once said. "And if there is, I have not found it for if I have accomplished anything in life it is because I have been willing to work hard." Learn more about this inspiring woman and others in the videos below.
The Struggle And Triumph Of Hattie McDaniel, The First African-American Oscar Winner
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Hattie McDaniel, born June 10, 1865 in Wichita, Kansas, was a game-changing actress in the 20th century. In 1940, she made history by becoming the first African-American to win an Academy Award. McDaniel earned the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in the iconic film "Gone With The Wind," a feat that was especially difficult for a number of reasons. Segregation in the United States was still the norm, and the ceremony was held at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in The Ambassador Hotel, which had a strict "no-blacks" policy. McDaniel was seated at a small table in the back, far from the prominent table where her white co-stars sat. She also received criticism for accepting the role of a house servant and former slave. According to the Hollywood Reporter, McDaniel's usual response was: "I'd rather play a maid than be a maid."
Black Inventors You Should Know About
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Lewis Latimer was the son of runaway slaves, and fought for the Union during the Civil War before being honorably discharged. He went on to patent a variety of inventions, including functioning bathrooms for railway cars and a locking coat rack. He was also integral in the patenting of the telephone and in the development the electric light, accomplishments that are all the more impressive given the prejudices of the time. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell recruited him to draft the drawings of the telephone for its patent application. Latimer submitted them mere hours before another application for a similar invention by Elisha Gray. Later, Latimer took on the challenge of improving Edison's light bulb design, having been hired by Edison's rival Hiram Maxim. Edison's bulbs burned out within a few days due to the nature of their filaments. Latimer's filament design made the bulbs last much longer, reducing their cost and enabling electric lighting to become more commonplace. Edison later hired Latimer as a draftsman, engineer, and expert witness in patent litigation. Latimer would go on to become the only black member of the Edison Pioneers, a group of men credited with launching the electrical industry.
Key Facts to Know
Lonnie Johnson, a NASA scientist, invented the Super Soaker. 0:13
Benjamin Thornton created a predecessor to the answering machine, which was a device that attached to a phone and recorded calls. 1:11
Lewis Latimer improved on the carbon filaments in light bulbs, ensuring that Edison's bulbs lasted much longer than they had in the past. 1:40
Why Do We Remember Rosa Parks And Not Claudette Colvin?
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In 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, a girl refused to give up her seat on a public bus. The girl was black, and the passenger looking to take her seat was white. This is a familiar tale, but it's not about Rosa Parks. The girl in the story is a 15-year-old high school student named Claudette Colvin, and this act of defiance occurred nine months before Rosa Parks did the same thing. Colvin was arrested, and her case is what led to the U.S. Supreme Court's order for the desegregation of Alabama's bus system. So, why don't we know Colvin's name? "Later I had a child born out of wedlock; I became pregnant when I was 16," Colvin says. "And I didn't fit the image either, of, you know, someone they would want to show off."