Honoring Black History Month With Travelers Who Made History

Black History Month Facts

In 1926, the second week of February was designated to black history because it’s the birthday week of famous abolitionists Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The concept of a commemorative period originated with a man named Carter Woodson, an African-American historian who worked in coal mines to afford high school and eventually become one of the first black Ph.D. graduates of Harvard University. He dedicated his life to studying and promulgating the history of the African-American people, thus earning the distinction “Father of Black History.”

Fifty years later, the US government decide to expand the holiday week to include the entire month of February. In honor of Black History Month, we’d like to highlight some adventurous individuals who changed the travel world. Among them were explorers, aviators, and astronauts, and all of these pioneers deserve to be remembered forever for their valuable contributions to American history.

African-American Travelers That Made History

    1. Bessie Coleman She was the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license and stage a public flight, but her rise to fame was fraught with hardships. Denied the opportunity to study aviation in the US, she learned French and moved to France to learn the craft abroad. She died in a tragic flight accident during an aerial rehearsal.
    2. Matthew Henson This Arctic explorer traveled with Robert Peary, who made the famous (and controversial claim) that they were the first to reach the North Pole. It was noted that although many travelers turned back because of the frigid temps and terrifying terrain, all but Henson abandoned the mission. Of Henson’s tenacity, Peary said: “Henson must go all the way. I can’t make it there without him.” In 1944, Henson received a much-deserved Congressional Medal for his contributions to exploration.
    3. Guion Bluford — As the first African-American man in space, Bluford flew on four shuttle missions, most famously the Challenger in 1983. In total, he traveled nearly 700 miles in outer space. In 1997, he was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame.
    4. Barbara Hillary – She became the first African-American woman to reach both the North and South Poles. But, get this: She did it in her late 70s. After surviving lung cancer.
    5. Jean-Baptiste-Point DuSable — This French-Haitian pioneer founded the settlement that would later become Chicago, which, in essence, distinguishes him as the city’s first citizen. In recognition of his achievements, the DuSable Museum of African American History, in South Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood, was named to honor him.
    6. Mae Jemison — Mae Jemison is a brilliant astronaut, physician, teacher, and founder of two tech companies. Inspired by Sally Ride’s historic space mission, she applied to NASA’s space program and was chosen from thousands of applicants to participate in the insanely selective classes. When she flew aboard Endeavor’s second mission, she became the first African-American woman in space. Fun fact: She’s fluent in Swahili, Russian, and Japanese. 


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