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


May 9, 2023

So many notable moments this month!

Summer is almost here and we are excited to keep growing our knowledge. This month we have a ton of celebratory birthdays from notable figures as well as days of remembrance for those who have transitioned. We pay homage to all those who have paved the way and contributed to our rich and triumphant history and we celebrate those who are creating a brighter future. Please be sure to share these black history moments with your village and pass on the knowledge you learn. For this month in Black history, here are some important things that happened in May that you may have never learned, courtesy of BlackFacts.com.

May 20, 1743 – Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture is born



May 6, 1812 – Abolitionist Martin R. Delany is born



May 10, 1837 – Former Louisiana governor P.B.S. Pinchback is born


May 2, 1844 – Inventor Elijah McCoy is born



May 3, 1845 – Macon B. Allen makes history as first Black lawyer admitted to the bar in Massachusetts



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May 29, 1851 – Abolitionist Sojourner Truth delivers famous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech



May 17, 1875 – Oliver Lewis makes history as first Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby


May 7, 1878 – Inventor J.R. Winters earns patent for fire escape ladder



May 25, 1878 – Tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson is born



May 14, 1885 – Black jockey Erskine Henderson wins Kentucky Derby on horse trained by Black trainer Alex Perry


May 8, 1888 – Inventor M.A. Cherry receives patent for tricycle



May 4, 1891 – Dr. Daniel Hale Williams founds the Provident Hospital and Training School



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May 30, 1903 – Harlem Renaissance writer Countee Cullen is born



May 8, 1910 – Jazz Pianist Mary Lou Williams is born


May 14, 1913 – Clara Stanton Jones, first Black president of the American Library Association, is born



May 13, 1914 – Boxer Joe Louis is born



May 25, 1919 – Hair care pioneer Madam C.J. Walker passes away


May 3, 1921 – Boxer Sugar Ray Robinson is born



May 31, 1924 – Patricia Roberts Harris, first Black woman to serve in Presidential cabinet position, is born



May 13, 1925 – Carolyn Robertson Payton, first Black Director of the U.S. Peace Corps, is born


May 19, 1925 – Civil rights leader Malcolm X is born



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May 26, 1926 – Jazz artist Miles Davis is born



May 16, 1929 – Former U.S. Rep. John Conyers is born



May 10, 1930The National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) is formed


May 19, 1930 – Playwright Lorraine Hansberry is born



May 6, 1931 – Baseball legend Willie Mays is born



May 8, 1932 – Boxer Sonny Liston is born


May 11, 1933 – The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan is born



May 28, 1934 – Civil rights leader Betty Shabazz is born



May 27, 1936 – Actor Louis Gossett Jr. is born


May 6, 1937 – Boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter is born


May 25, 1937 – Henry Ossawa Tanner, first Black painter to gain international acclaim, passes away


May 1, 1939Max Robinson, first Black news anchor, is born


May 22, 1940 – News anchor Bernard Shaw is born


May 30, 1943 – Gale Sayers, youngest NFL player to be inducted to Hall of Fame, is born


May 24, 1944 – Singer Patti LaBelle is born


May 28, 1944 – Singer Gladys Knight is born


May 17, 1946 – William H. Hastie inaugurated as first Black governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands


May 28, 1947 – Bishop Vashti McKenzie, first woman to be elected a bishop in AME church, is born


May 19, 1948 – Entertainer Grace Jones is born


May 22, 1948 – Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay passes away


May 25, 1949 – Novelist Jamaica Kincaid is born


May 26, 1949 – Actress Pam Grier is born


May 1, 1950 – Gwendolyn Brooks makes history as first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize


May 8, 1950 – Jackie Robinson becomes the first Black person to be featured on the cover of Life magazine


May 13, 1950 – Icon Stevie Wonder is born


May 12, 1951 – Civil rights activist Oscar Stanton DePriest passes away


May 21, 1952 – Actor Mr. T is born


May 17, 1954 – U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional


May 23, 1954 – Boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler is born


May 18, 1955 – Educator Mary McLeod Bethune passes away


May 17, 1956 – Boxer Sugar Ray Leonard is born


May 27, 1958 – Ernest Green, of the Little Rock Nine, becomes the first Black person to graduate from Central High School


May 12, 1959 – Actress Ving Rhames is born


May 17, 1962 – E. Franklin Frazier, first Black President of the American Sociological Association, passes away


May 14, 1963Arthur Ashe becomes first African American to make the U.S. Davis Cup team


May 18, 1963 – Ernie Davis, first Black player to win the Heisman Trophy passes away


May 16, 1966 – Iconic entertainer Janet Jackson is born


May 22, 1967 – Poet Langston Hughes passes away


May 12, 1968Coretta Scott King leads first wave of demonstrators for Poor People’s March


May 8, 1969 – Carole Ann-Marie Gist, first Black woman crowned Miss USA, is born


May 15, 1969 – NFL Hall of Fame player Emmitt Smith is born


May 25, 1970 – Actress Octavia Spencer is born


May 20, 1972 – Hip hop artist Busta Rhymes is born


May 21, 1972 – Iconic hip hop artist The Notorious B.I.G. is born


May 24, 1974 – Jazz legend Duke Ellington passes away


May 4, 1975 – Supermodel and fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons is born


May 23, 1975 – Comedian Moms Mabley passes away


May 26, 1975 – Trailblazing hip hop artist Lauryn Hill is born


May 16, 1979 – Civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph passes away


May 11, 1981 – Singer Bob Marley passes away


May 28, 1981 – Jazz Pianist Mary Lou Williams passes away


May 6, 1983 – Actress Gabourey Sidibe is born


May 29, 1984 – NBA superstar Carmelo Anthony is born


May 13, 1985 – Philadelphia’s MOVE headquarters is bombed


May 16, 1990 – Renowned entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. passes away


May 19, 1991 – Willy T. Ribbs becomes first Black motorsports driver to qualify for the Indy 500



May 13, 1993 – Cartoonist and prolific illustrator Elton Fax passes away


May 28, 2010 – Actor Gary Coleman passes away


May 28, 2014 – Iconic poet Maya Angelou passes away


May 30, 2019Dr. Patricia E. Bath passes away


May 9, 2020 – Rock & Roll pioneer Little Richard passes away


May 7, 2021 – Raven Johnson makes history as the first woman to play in the Allen Iverson Classic


May 26, 2021 – Howard University renames its College of Fine Arts after actor Chadwick Boseman


May 13, 2022Karine Jean-Pierre makes history as first Black White House press secretary

May 22, 2022 – 2003 Serena Williams trading card becomes highest-priced trading card of any female athlete

This month in Black history: Important things that happened in May that you never learned/Photo Courtesy of Truman Moore/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images/Associated Press

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