This Black History month we salute African Americans who made and continue to make, American history.

1788 is believed to be the birthday of Prince Hall, the founder of Prince Hall Freemasonry.

Prince Hall-youtube
Prince Hall, was a free man, voter, abolitionist, Revolutionary War Veteran, and leader in the free black community in Boston. He lobbied for education rights for black children and was active in the back-to-Africa movement.  In addition to being the founder of the oldest and most prestigious fraternity in the U.S., Prince Hall Freemasonry on March 6, 1775. Prince Hall along with 14 other men of color, formed the African Grand Lodge #1 of North America. Hall was unanimously elected Grand Master and served until his death in 1807. was also a Revolutionary War Veteran. and founder of African Masonic Lodges
Unfortunately, there is confusion about the year of birth, place of birth, parents, and marriages.  Though his accomplishments are well celebrated, little is known of Prince Hall's early life, partly due to the multiple number of "Prince Halls" during this lifetime. However, here's what is known:
Prince Hall Mason-Facebook
Maria W. Stewart-wikimedia

1833 Maria W. Steward became the first woman, of any race, to lecture on politics in public.

Maria W. Steward was a domestic servant, turned teacher, journalist, lecturer, abolitionist, and women's rights activist.  Steward delivered one of the four speeches on this day, "On African Rights and Liberty," at the African Masonic Hall in a mixed crowd of men and woman.  She would not only by the first woman to do so, but also the first African American as well.  Her lectures encouraged African Americans to attain education, fight for political rights, and public recognition for their achievements.  Below learn more about her story.

1869 John Willis Menard became the first Black elected to the U.S. Congress

1869 newspaper image of John W. Menard-youtube

Poet, newspaper publisher and politician, John Willis Menard, was a free black man born in Illinois, but of Louisiana Creole heritage.  After moving to his parents native birth place, New Orleans, he took on several jobs to include working as a federal government employee, and newspaper publisher.  In 1868 he was the first black man ever elected to the United States House of Representatives.

He was a member of the Republican Party(during this time all blacks were Republicans,) serving as inspector of customs and later commissioner of streets. Menard would be denied a seat in Congress.  His opponent contested his election, and opposition to his election prevented him from being seated.   Below learn more about his story.

In 1871 he moved to Florida, where he was appointed to the Florida House of Representatives.  He would later become editor of the Island City News and Southern Leader.  Menard lost his next election, greatly in part to white intimidation and voter suppression.  However in 1877 he was elected as a Duval County justice of the peace. He died on Oct. 8, 1893 at age 55, in Washington, D.C.

In 1902 on this day Marian Anderson, a world-renowned opera singer, became the first African American soloist to perform at the White House.

Marion Anderson-youtube

In 1902 on this day, world-renowned opera singer and the first African American soloist to perform at the White House, Marian Anderson, was is born in Philadelphia, PA.

1964 Anna Julia Cooper, American author, educator, speaker, died at the age of 105.


Anna Julia Cooper was one of the most prominent African-American scholars in United States history and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.  Her most notable speech was delivered at the World's Congress of Representative Women in Chicago in 1893 (she was one of three black women invited to speak).

Anna Julia Cooper stamp-youtube

At age of sixty-five, she became the fourth black woman in American history to earn a Doctorate of Philosophy degree.  On this day in 1964, she died at the ripe old age of 105.  Her memorial was held in a chapel on the campus of Saint Augustine's College, where her academic career began.  She was buried alongside her husband at the City Cemetery in Raleigh.

Believe it or not pages 26 and 27 of every new United States passport, contains her following  quotation: "The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class - it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity."  Because of her contributions, in 2009, the United States Postal Service, released a commemorative stamp in Cooper's honor.