Today marks the first day of Black History Month. Despite being the shortest month in the year, the contributions of Black people to American history far outweighs the 28-day celebration.
Originally introduced as a week of acknowledgement by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Studio of Negro Life and History, “Negro History Week,” was launched in February of 1926. The week was chosen because it marked the birthday month of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
It wasn’t until 1976 that the federal government acknowledged the expansion from a week-long event to a month-long commemoration. However, the first Black History month celebration took place at Kent State in February of 1970,
In celebration of Black History Month, Hip-Hop Wired is spotlighting John Rock, the first black attorney to be admitted to argue in the U.S. Supreme Court. Born in 1825, Rock worked as teacher, doctor, dentist, lawyer and abolitionist.
He was born free in Salem, N.J., and is credited for coining the phrase “Black is beautiful.”
Rock was also one of the first Black people to earn a medical degree.
As a staunch abolitionist, Rock participated in a campaign aimed at the legal desegregation in Boston public schools. On Feb. 1, 1865—one day after Congress approved the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery—Charles Sumner introduced a motion making Rock the first Black attorney admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was the first Black person to be received on the floor of the United State House of Representatives.
Click below to see photos of other poignant political figures in Black History.