Did You Know?

Lamond-Riggs/Lillian J. Huff Library

Did You Know?

Black History Facts

Light in the Darkness
Did you know about the "Pit Schools" that existed during the period of American slavery? "Pit Schools" were holes dug in the ground and covered with branches. Some slaves were determined to learn to read even though it meant they would receive a severe whipping or be killed for defying their masters. Reading lessons were conducted in the woods late at night by candlelight. 

To learn more, read Light in the Darkness: A Story About How Slaves Learned in Secret by Lesa Cline-Ransome.

The Emancipation Oak in Hampton, Va. stands as a symbol to the slaves who risked their lives to be free from slavery. Runaway slaves sought refuge with the Union Army at Fort Monroe during the Civil War. If they were claimed as contrabands of the Civil War, the Union could claim them as enemy property and protect them.

Three slaves, Frank Baker, James Townsend and Shepard Mallory, became the first contrabands of the Civil War. They opened the door for thousands of other runaway slaves. The contrabands constructed their own settlements: the first, Slabtown, just outside the Union base,
and the second, Grand Contraband Camp, in the ruins of the city of Hampton. They earned their own money by fishing, oystering, farming, baking and more.

First in the air
Emory Malick was the first known African American pilot to receive his pilot's license in March 1912.

He is also the first black person to earn a pilot's license in the United States. He studied at the Curtiss Aviation School on North Island in San Diego. His license was granted by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, based in France. 

Helping others
Madame Cartezux Bannister, abolitionist and entrepreneur, ran a successful hairdressing business and opened the Home for Aged Colored Women in Providence, R.I., to serve black women who were former domestic workers. As president of the Sanitary Fair for Colored Ladies, she helped that organization raise funds to give relief to wives and children of underpaid black soldiers of the Civil War, who were grossly underpaid.

In 1999, the National Center for Black Philanthropy, Inc., based in Washington, D.C. grew out of conferences held on black philanthropy.  The center's mission is to promote giving and volunteerism, encourage their participation in all aspects of philanthropy, educate the public about the center's role, and explore the benefit of black philanthropy on all Americans.