This Month In Black History: Important Things That Happened In December That You Never Learned


December 2, 2022

We’ve still got a month left of historical milestones!


While December allows us to shift our focus to the holidays and preparing for the new year, there are a lot more things to commemorate during the final month of the Gregorian calendar year. From celebrity birthdays and transitions to historical firsts, there are a lot of things that happened this month over the last four centuries. In our latest recap, here are some important things that happened in December that you never learned, courtesy of BlackFacts.com:

December 17, 1663 – Anna Nzinga, Queen of the Ndongo (Angola), queen of Matamba, passes away


December 5, 1784 – Phyllis Wheatley, the first Black author to be published in book form, passes away


December 4, 1807 – Prince Hall, abolitionist and creator of the Prince Hall Freemasonry, dies


December 3, 1847 – Frederick Douglass and Martin R. Delaney launch The North Star, an anti-slavery newspaper 


December 6, 1849 – Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery in Maryland


December 8, 1850 – Lucy Ann Stanton makes history as the first woman to graduate from college



December 16, 1859 – The last slave ship, the Clothilde, lands, bringing a shipment of enslaved people to Mobile Bay, Alabama


December 23, 1867 – Beauty entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker is born in Delta, Louisiana


December 5, 1870  Cowboy Bill Pickett born is born in Travis County, Texas


December 11, 1872 – P.B.S. Pinchback makes history as the first African American governor of an American state, Louisiana


December 19, 1875 – Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History, is born


December 15, 1883 – William Hinton, developer of Hinton Test for diagnosing syphilis, is born


December 21, 1886 – Lucy Parsons’ “I Am An Anarchist” speech appears in the Kansas City Journal


December 2, 1891 – Historian Charles H. Wesley is born 


December 7, 1895 – Sir Milton Margai, the first Prime Minister of Sierra Leone is born


December 12, 1899 – Dr. George F. Grant, a dentist, inventor, and avid golfer receives the patent for a wooden golf tee


December 13, 1903 – Civil rights activist Ella Baker is born in Norfolk, Virginia



December 8, 1903 – Opera singer and philanthropist Zelma Watson George is born in Texas


December 25, 1907 – Jazz singer Cab Calloway is born


December 26, 1908 – Jack Johnson makes history as the first Black world heavyweight champion


December 12, 1911 – Negro Baseball League player Josh Gibson is born


December 4, 1915 – The Great Migration of 2 million Blacks from Southern states to the North begins


December 18, 1917 – Actor Ossie Davis is born


December 29, 1917 – Tom Bradley, the former five-term Mayor of Los Angeles, is born


December 12, 1918 – Jazz singer Joe Williams is born


December 25, 1918 – Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat, former President of Egypt, is born


December 9, 1919 – Roy DeCarava, first Black photographer to be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, is born


December 23, 1919 – Inventor Alice H. Parker receives patent for gas heating furnace


December 14, 1920 – Popular Bebop trumpeter Clark Terry is born


December 9, 1922 – Comedian John Elroy Sanford, also known as Redd Foxx, is born


December 13, 1923 – Larry Doby, first African American in baseball’s American League, is born


December 19, 1924 – Actress Cicely Tyson is born 


December 26, 1924 – Harmonica player DeFord Bailey Sr. makes history as the first Black person to perform on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee


December 8, 1925 – Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. is born


December 11, 1926 – Blues singer Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton is born



December 11, 1928 – Inventor Lewis Howard Latimer, passes away


December 30, 1928 – Guitarist Bo Diddley is born


December 15, 1929 – Emery Barnes, Former Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, is born


December 5, 1931 – Rev. James Cleveland, aka “The King of Gospel,” is born


December 5, 1932 – Singer Little Richard is born


December 1, 1933 – 3x Grammy Award winning singer Louis Allen Rawls is born 


December 8, 1933 – Actor and Comedian Clerow “Flip” Wilson is born


December 3, 1935 – Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune receives Spingarn Medal for her work in building and founding Bethune Cookman College


December 5, 1935  Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune founds National Council of Negro Women


December 8, 1936 – NAACP files first suit to equalize salaries of Black and white teachers


December 8, 1936 – The Michigan Chronicle is founded by Louis E. Martin


December 15, 1936 – Writer Donald Goines is born in Detroit, Michigan


December 9, 1938 – NFL Player David “Deacon” Jones is born in Eatonville, Florida


December 14, 1939 – Ernie Davis, first Black player to win the Heisman Trophy, is born


December 27, 1939 – Actor John Amos is born


December 1, 1940 – Comedian Richard Franklin Lennox Pryor III is born in Peoria, Illinois


December 12, 1940 – 3x Grammy award winning singer Dionne Warwick is born



December 7, 1941 – Novelist Richard Wright is awarded the Spingarn Medal


December 7, 1941 – Lester Granger is appointed as executive director of the National Urban League


December 7, 1942 – Reginald F. Lewis, the first Black American to build a billion-dollar business, is born


December 22, 1943 – W.E.B. Du Bois makes history as the first Black person elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters


December 13, 1944 – First group of Black women complete officer training for the WAVES (Women’s Auxiliary Volunteers for Emergency Service)


December 14, 1945 – American journalist and cultural critic Stanley Crouch is born


December 5, 1946 – Spingarn Medal awarded to Thurgood Marshall, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund


December 18, 1946 – South African apartheid activist Steve Biko is born


December 21, 1948 – Actor Samuel L. Jackson is born


December 31, 1948 – Singer Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco, is born


December 1, 1949 – Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke is born


December 6, 1949 – Blues legend Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, passes away


December 25, 1951 – Mabel K. Staupers receives Spingarn for her leadership in the field of nursing



December 28, 1954 – Actor Denzel Washington is born


December 1, 1955 – Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus


December 5, 1955 – Montgomery Bus Boycott begins


December 5, 1955 – Spingarn Medal awarded to Carl Murphy, publisher of the Baltimore Afro-American


December 27, 1956  Jackie Robinson receives Spingarn Medal


December 5, 1957 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is awarded the Spingarn Medal for his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott


December 21, 1959 – Track legend Florence Griffith Joyner is born



December 21, 1959 – Spingarn Medal presented to Duke Ellington for his pioneering contributions to the arts


December 24, 1959 – Film producer and director Lee Daniels is born


December 22, 1960 – Iconic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is born


December 30, 1960 – Langston Hughes awarded Spingarn Medal and named poet laureate of the Negro race


December 6, 1961 – Psychiatrist and philosopher Dr. Frantz O. Fanon passes away


December 9, 1961 – Tanzania gains its independence


December 11, 1961 – Langston Hughes musical Black Nativity, opens on Broadway


December 17, 1961 – American sculptor Marion Perkins passes away


December 12. 1963 – Medgar Wiley Evers is posthumously awarded the Spingarn Medal for his civil rights leadership


December 12, 1963 – Kenya gains its independence


December 14, 1963 – Singer Dinah Washington passes away in Detroit at the age of 39


December 18, 1963 – Professional tennis player Lori McNeil is born


December 3, 1964 – Spingarn Medal presented to NAACP executive secretary Roy Wilkins


December 10, 1964 – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes history as the second African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize


December 26, 1966 – First Day of Kwanzaa


December 6, 1967 – Lillian Evans Evanti, one of the first internationally recognized African American opera performers, passes away


December 8, 1967 – Major Robert H. Lawrence Jr., the first Black astronaut, passes away


December 10, 1967 – Singer and songwriter Otis Redding passes away


December 11, 1967 – Comedian Mo’Nique is born 


December 14, 1968 – Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. awarded NAACP’s Spingarn Medal


December 2, 1969 – Marie V. Brittan Brown granted patent for first-of-its-kind home security system


December 4, 1969 – Ebony magazine photographer Moneta Sleet Jr. makes history as the first Black man to win a Pulitzer Prize and the first Black person to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism


December 4, 1969 – Hip Hop mogul Shawn Corey “Jay Z” Carter is born


December 4, 1969 – Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark are assassinated in Chicago


December 6, 1970 – Former Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is born


December 18, 1970 – Rapper Earl “DMX” Simmons is born


December 9, 1971 – Bill Pickett becomes the first black person elected to the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame


December 9, 1971 – Nobel Peace Prize winner and former undersecretary of the United Nations, Ralph Bunche, passes away


December 21, 1972  Gordon B. Parks is awarded the NAACP Spingarn Medal for his work as a photographer


December 4, 1973 – Supermodel Tyra Lynne Banks is born



December 16, 1973 – O.J. Simpson sets NFL Record for 2003 rushing yards in one season


December 11, 1972 – Rapper Yasiin Bey is born


December 2, 1975 – Ohio State football player Archie Griffin makes history as the only athlete ever to win the Heisman Trophy twice


December 12, 1975 – The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is founded


December 30, 1975 – Golf icon Tiger Woods is born


December 9, 1976 – Legendary NFL Player Tony Dorsett is awarded the Heisman Trophy


December 16, 1976 – President Jimmy Carter appoints Andrew Young as Ambassador and Chief US Delegate to the United Nations


December 21, 1976 – Alvin Ailey awarded Spingarn Medal in recognition of his work in the field of dance


December 28, 1978 – Singer John Legend is born


December 20, 1981 – “Dreamgirls” Broadway Musical premiers at the Imperial Theater


December 20, 1983 – NBA player Julius “Dr. J” Erving scores his 25,000th career point


December 31, 1984 – First nationally broadcast telethon for United Negro College Fund is held, raising 14.1 million


December 10, 1985 – Actress Raven-Symoné is born



December 13, 1986 – Civil rights activist Ella Baker passes away


December 1, 1987 – World renowned writer James Baldwin passes away in Saint-Paul, France


December 8, 1987 – Kurt Schmoke makes history as the first Black mayor of Baltimore, MD


December 16, 1988 – Singer and songwriter Sylvester passes away in San Francisco


December 20, 1988 – Max Robinson, first Black news anchor for a major news network, passes away


December 1, 1989 – Dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey passes away


December 17, 1991 – Michael Jordan named 1991 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year


December 24, 1992 – Alphonso Michael Epsy named first Black Secretary of Agriculture


December 7, 1994 – Hair care pioneer Marjorie Joyner passes away at the age of 98


December 9, 1995 – Kweisi Mfume is unanimously elected as President and CEO of the NAACP


December 12, 1995 – Willie Brown makes history as first African American mayor of San Francisco


December 6, 1997 – Lee P. Brown makes history as the first African American mayor of Houston


December 3, 2000 – Poet Gwendolyn Brooks passes away



December 12, 2007 – Musician Ike Turner passes away


December 31, 2015 – Singer Natalie Cole passes away


December 30, 2019 – 80-year-old Donzella Washington fulfills lifelong dream of earning bachelor’s degree, graduates from Alabama A&M University


December 4, 2021  Deion Sanders leads Jackson State to SWAC Championship win


December 5, 2021 – Motown Founder Berry Gordy receives Kennedy Center Honors


Black history is every month! 

This month in Black history: Important things that happened in December that you never learned. Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton. Photo Courtesy of Doyle M. Pace/Blues News

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