Black History Month Obscure Fact #16

Before the great migration of African-Americans to the Northern, Northeastern and Western United States, there were “The Exodusters.”The Exodusters were African-Americans who fled the Southern United States for Kansas in 1879 and 1880. After the end of reconstruction, racial tension and poverty made large groups of blacks head north. They chose Kansas because it was the land of abolitionist John Brown and it was promoted by civil rights leader Benjamin “Pap” Singleton.

Many Southern whites believed that the Exodus was a plot hatched by Northerners to take away the Southern work force. And some African-American leaders, like Frederick Douglass, could not comprehend the mass migration. He felt that the blacks of the South should stand their ground and win their rights. In 1870, the black population of Kansas was 16,250. By 1880, it had jumped to 43,110, of which the “Kansas Fever Exodus” accounted for 6,000.

(Source: National Park Services: http://www.nps.gov/untold/banners_and_backgrounds/expansionbanner/exoduster.htm; Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exodusters)

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Black History Month Obscure Fact #15

George Monroe and William Robinson are thought to be the first black Pony Express riders.

At one point, Pony Express rider George Monroe was also a stagecoach driver for President Ulysses S. Grant. He frequently navigated the president through the curving Wanona Trail in the Yosemite Valley and, as a result, Monroe Meadows in Yosemite National Park is named for him.

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Black History Month Obscure Fact #14

Contrary to the current demographics of the National Basketball Association, when the league first started in 1946, all the players were white. The first African-Americans didn’t play for the NBA until the 1950 season.

Chuck Cooper from Duquesne University was the first black player to be drafted. Nathaniel “Sweetwater” Clifton was the first to sign a contract, and Earl Lloyd was the first to play in an NBA game.

But before 1950, African-Americans did play professional basketball. Like baseball, black players had their own teams. The first was the Spartan Braves of Brooklyn, which became the New York Renaissance, or Rens, in 1923. They played most of their games against black colleges in the South. In 1932 the Rens played and won their first professional world championship against the original Boston Celtics.

In 1927 the Harlem Globetrotters were formed. By 1940 the Globetrotters were considered better than the Rens, but they both suffered from the fact that there was no black league. The team took another big hit, losing all of their best players, when the NBA integrated. After that, they switched to playing as an entertainment team.

Although the first African-American did not play in the NBA until 1950, the NBA color barrier was broken in the 1947-48 season when Wataru Misaka, a Japanese-American played with the New York Knicks.

(Source: “1001 Things Everyone Should Know about African-American History,” by Jeffrey C. Stewart. Doubleday, 1996; Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Basketball_Association)

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Black History Month Obscure Fact #13

Buffalo Soldiers is the name given to the all-black regiments of the U.S. Army started in 1866. More than 20 Buffalo Soldiers received the highest Medal of Honor for their service—the highest number of any U.S. military unit. The oldest living Buffalo Soldier, Mark Matthews, died at the age of 111 in 2005.

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Black History Month Obscure Fact #12

Most folks think of Motown as America’s first and only African-American record company. But, before Barry Gordy and Motown, there was Harry Pace. Pace formed the Pace Phonographic Record Companyin 1921, which issued records under the Black Swan Label.

(Source: “African-American Firsts: Famous, little-known and unsung triumphs of blacks in America,” by Joan Potter with Constance Claytor. Pinto Press, 1994)

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