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Black History Month Quiz: How Well Do You Know Your African-American History?
James Knight

How many brothas and sistas out there are up on knowing their African-American history? Below are eight famous African-Americans who've made great contributions to our society. Can you guess who they are? (Answers are at the bottom of the page.)

1} Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1906, she sang and danced the night away, becoming an international sensation in the early 1930s. She is well-known for dancing the Charleston and the Black Bottom and sometimes wearing only a string of bananas around her waist. She was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her work during World War II. In the 1950s she bought a spacious estate and adopted 14 orphaned children of many nationalities, who became known as her "Rainbow Tribe."

2} He was only 22 when he made his 1991 film "Boyz N' the Hood," earning him an Academy Award nomination as Best Director, the youngest person and the first African-American to be nominated for that award. He directed the film while still attending a film writing program at University of Southern California. The second film he directed, "Poetic Justice," starred singer Janet Jackson.

3} This man described himself as a "hell-raiser" in high school. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1908. He was the first African-American to be appointed a justice to the United States Supreme Court. He graduated from Lincoln University, a predominantly Black college in Pennsylvania, waiting on tables to help pay tuition. His greatest legal victory as a lawyer for the NAACP was the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, which declared an end to racial segregation in public schools. During his 24 years on the Supreme Court, he voted against every death sentence presented to him, believing that capital punishment was racist.

4} He was the first African-American to be honored with a national holiday. In 1957 he was named the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization dedicated to gaining full rights for African-Americans through nonviolent action, such as boycotts and sit-ins. His famous words "I Have A Dream" are still embedded in the minds of the young and old.

5} Life was hard for this sista, who was born in Amarillo, Texas in 1893. She was a hard worker, picking cotton and doing laundry to help meet family expenses. Flying was a great passion of hers. She read everything she could find on aviation, but when she applied to flying school she was denied admission because of her race and sex. But that didn't stop her. In 1921 she became the first African-American woman in the world to earn an international pilot's license.

6} She was the first African-American woman pictured on a postage stamp, issued on February 1, 1978. She served in the Civil War as a scout, spy, and nurse. Years later she turned her house into a home for poor and elderly African-Americans. In a ten-year period before the Civil War, she made 19 trips down South, bringing back over 300 slaves to freedom. Large rewards were offered for her capture, but she was never caught and she never lost a passenger.

7} This brotha formed his own record company in 1921. It was the first record company owned and operated by an African-American. Earlier, in 1908, he organized a music publishing company in Memphis, Tennessee, with blues composer W.C. Handy. The partnership dissolved three years later when he formed his record business. His first releases featured performances of light classical music, blues, spirituals, and instrumental solos.

8} Gotta get the cash-Gotta get the dough! This smart sista was the first African-American woman to become a millionaire. She created a formula to groom and condition hair. It was the first in a line of hair preparations, toiletries, and cosmetics that became very popular among African-American consumers in the early 1900s. She also established a line of beauty culture schools that reached throughout the United States and the Caribbean.

1) Josephine Baker
2) John Singleton
3) Thurgood Marshall
4) Martin Luther King Jr.
5) Bessie Coleman
6) Harriet Tubman
7) Harry Pace
8) Madame C.J. Walker

Thanks to African-American Firsts: Famous, little-known and unsung triumphs of Blacks in America by Joan Potter and Constance Claytor for help in writing this article.

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