Americana in Black

1. Black History Month is February because:

a) Southern congressmen insisted it be placed in the shortest month of the federal calendar. b) Supporters of Malcolm X started the event as a mournful remembrance of his assassination on Feb. 21, 1965. c) February includes the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. d) The event was founded during the 1920s when W.E.B. DuBois was the nation’s leading African-American intellectual. His birthday is in the month of February.


2. The W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard estimates that 11 million to 12 million Africans were shipped from Africa to the Americas, with 9 million to 10 million of them surviving the voyage. What percentage of the slaves came to the United States?

a) Less than 10 percent. b) 10-15 percent. c) 15-25 percent. d) 25-50 percent.


3. The famous painting, “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” and any number of other depictions of the Revolutionary War, suggest an all-white or virtually all-white soldiery. As the war progressed, what percentage of Washington’s troops were African-American, either free or slave?

a) At least 2 percent. b) Between 6 percent and 13 percent. c) About 25 percent. d) About 30 percent.


4. What portion of the first dozen presidents were slave owners?

a) One-fourth. b) One-half. c) Three-fourths. d) All.


5. What do abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, anti-lynching crusader and journalist Ida B. Wells and Aunt Jemima have in common?

a) They were all at the 1892-1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. b) Douglass, Dunbar and Wells worked jointly to protest the use of a happy slave image for marketing. c) Douglass, Dunbar and Wells were consultants to the advertising campaign to sell pancakes with the image of a former slave. d) Douglass, Dunbar and Wells all wrote testimonials to Aunt Jemima pancakes.


6. Which figure in American history gets the greatest number of statues and markers in any state?

a) President George Washington in Virginia. b) President Abraham Lincoln in Illinois. c) Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Mississippi. d) Confederate General and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forest in Tennessee. Bonus: What does this have to do with Maxwell House Coffee?


7. Over the 50-year period ending in 1940, how many Americans were lynched?

a) About 40,000. b) About 4,000. c) About 400. d) About 40.


8. The year 1919 is the year of the Red Summer because of:

a) Widespread rioting by blacks. b) Widespread rioting by whites. c) Large-scale efforts by the Communist Party to recruit blacks. d) Tampa Red set black communities on fire with his hit “Tight Like That.”


9. Thanks to the national campaign led by the NAACP and other groups, Congress finally passed and the president signed into law, anti-lynching legislation in what year?

a) 1929. b) 1939. c) 1948. d) Never.


10. Laws against interracial sex and marriage began in the colonial era in 1664 in Maryland and continued into the law books of the new nation. How many states had such laws?

a) 12. b) 22. c) 32. d) 42.

Bonus questions: Was Michigan among the states with such laws? In what year did the U.S. Supreme Court void them? When was the last such language removed from the books?


11. What was the first film believed to have been screened at the White House?

a) Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith’s love letter to the Ku Klux Klan). b) Rufus Jones for President (with 4-year-old Sammy Davis Jr. as a watermelon-chomping president among its other racist stereotypes). c) The Jazz Singer (with Al Jolson in blackface). d) Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell’s love letter to the Old South as brought to the screen).


12. Madam C.J. Walker said she was promoted from the cotton fields to the wash tubs to kitchen work before she went into the line of work that made her one of America’s first self-made female millionaires. Her line of work was:

a) “Madam” of a house of ill repute. b) Manufacture and sale of hair care products. c) Pancakes and syrup. d) Harlem real estate.


13. Which of these products were invented by African-Americans:

a) Early traffic light. b) Early gas mask. c) Super Soaker squirt gun. d) The first computer — out of a peanut.



14. Antoine de Cadillac landed in Detroit in 1701, officially credited with founding what would become the City of Detroit. The first recorded person of African descent here was:

a) Waiting already as a runaway slave among Potawatomi Indians. b) Recorded in 1736. c) Jean DeBaptiste Pointe Du Sable, who passed through in 1757 en route to founding the City of Chicago. d) Recorded in 1776.


15. African-American Samuel C. Watson won a seat on the Detroit Common Council, then elected by districts, in 1881. William Patrick was the next African-American councilmember, elected in the:

a) 1910s. b) 1930s. c) 1950s. d) 1960s.


16. Coleman A. Young was elected Detroit’s first African-American mayor in 1973, 50 years after another historic election. What was significant about the election of 1923?

a) A black write-in campaign drew votes from the ostensible white front-runner and threw the election to his opponent. b) An African-American managed the winner’s campaign. c) A Ku Klux Klan candidate was the top vote-getter. d) A get-out-the-vote campaign among African-American voters tipped the campaign for the winner.


17. With an eighth-round KO in a 1937 bout, Joe (the Brown Bomber) Louis became the second African-American heavyweight champ. Louis became a symbol of racial harmony unlike the first African-American champ, whose title set off race riots and the original search for a “Great White Hope” to defeat him. He was:

a) Herb Jeffries. b) Billy Eckstine. c) Jack Johnson. d) James Weldson Johnson.


18. Why was Malcom X called “Detroit Red” in the 1940s?

a) He was known by the street name of the reefer he sold during his days as a New York hustler. b) He was one of several guys around Harlem known for reddish, straightened hair, and since few people recognized his hometown of Lansing, Detroit became part of his moniker. c) He was from Detroit and his oratory had a red-hot, fevered pitch. d) He was from Detroit and stylishly sported a red hanky in his suit-jacket breast pocket.


19. The Nation of Islam has a number of ties to Detroit and Michigan, including:

a) The site of the religion’s first temple, founded in the 1940s. b) The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, who took the religion from an obscure sect to national prominence, lived in Detroit at the time of the temple’s founding. c) A draft resister during World War II, Elijah Muhammad served his sentence in the federal prison in Milan, Mich. d) After his conversion to the NOI, Malcolm X directed the Detroit temple for a time.


20. In April 1958, the Detroit Tigers integrated by calling Ozzie Virgil up from the minors. It had been 11 years since Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color barrier in the major leagues. How does Detroit rank in the race — if that’s the word — to integrate?

a) Second place, right behind the Dodgers. b) Middle of the pack. c) Second to last. d) Last place.


21. Coleman Young, along with the political acumen that made him Detroit’s only four-term mayor, was known for his way with words. Which of these are among his numerous skewerings of the press?

a) “Aloha, motherfuckers.” b) “Read my lips: Fuck you.” c) “You can revolution your ass out of here.” d) “Why are you guys reporters? Why don’t you earn an honest living?”



22. Jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., Rosa Parks sparked the bus boycott that, in turn, ushered in a new phase of civil rights protest and a new leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. More precisely, Parks’ crime was:

a) On a bus with no other available seat, refusing to give up her seat for a white passenger. b) Refusing to join three other African-Americans in clearing a row of seats for a white passenger. c) Arguing with the bus driver over whether her seat was in the white or black section of the bus. d) Sitting in the front of the bus in the seats designated for whites.


23. The new phase of the rights movement that Parks ushered in built for a decade, culminating in the March on Washington in 1963. In mainstream memory, the speech has become synonymous with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, or at least the parts that call for the judging of individuals on “the content of their character, not the color of their skin.” What was the full name of the march?

a) March on Washington: Power to the People. b) March on Washington: Jobs for All Now. c) March on Washington: Black Power Now. d) March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.


24. What civil rights leader died on the day of the March on Washington?

a) W.E.B. DuBois. b) Booker T. Washington. c) A. Philip Randolph. d) Walter White.


25.What civil rights leader had his speech censored at the march?

a) Stokley (“Black Power”) Carmichael. b) H. Rap (“Burn, Baby, Burn”) Brown. c) John Lewis, student leader, later a congressman from Georgia. d) Andrew Young, a King aide, later congressman, UN ambassador and Atlanta mayor.


26. Why did President Lyndon B. Johnson stand before a crowd in the South and shout, “Nigger! Nigger! Nigger!”?

a) He was fed up with black militants. b) He meant to say Negro. c) He was commenting on the level of white political discourse in the South. d) He was telling an old joke to let off steam.


27. What was the full name of the Black Panther Party?

a) Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. b) Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and Offing the Pigs. c) Black Panther Party for Black Power. d) Black Panther Party for Black Empowerment.


28. The Black Panthers raised money for early gun purchases by selling:

a) Drugs. b) Copies of Robert Williams’ underground classic Negroes with Guns. c) Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book. d) Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth.



29. Immortalized by Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit” is arguably the most forceful protest song in American history. The attack on lynching began as a poem by “Lewis Allen” — a pseudonym for:

a) African-American poet Langston Hughes. b) African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. c) Little-known Jewish schoolteacher Abel Meerpol. d) Folk singer Pete Seeger.


30. Vee Jay Records, the most successful black recording company before Motown, released records by white artist(s):

a) Elvis Presley. b) The Beatles. c) Ted Nugent. d) The Four Seasons.


31. The anthem of the civil rights movement, “We Shall Overcome,” is widely considered to be an adaptation of “I’ll Overcome Some Day,” composed by the Rev. C.A. Tindley around World War I. What pop hit was Tindley responsible for:

a) “Wade in the Water.” b) “O Happy Day.” c) “He’s So Fine.” d) “Stand By Me.”


32. Which of these figures are of African-American descent:

a) George Herriman, creator of the Krazy Kat cartoon strip. b) Best-selling novelist Frank Yerby. c) Carol Channing, actress and stage performer. d) Johnny Otis, 1950s rhythm and blues star.


33. African-American comedian Steve Harvey has gotten big laughs from the assertion that black folk don’t have exotic interests like hang-gliding or skiing. If he could talk to Harvey, Willie “Suicide” Jones would likely:

a) Agree. b) Disagree.


Bottom lines

34. A recent report found that the per-capita income gap between blacks and whites had closed slightly between 1968 and 2001. At the current rate, blacks and whites will have parity how many years from now?

a) 10 years. b) 25 years. c) 50 years. d) 500 years.


35. According to the Human Genome Project, all humans regardless of race, share how much genetic of their genetic code:

a) 25 percent. b) 50 percent. c) 75 percent. d) More than 99 percent.


Bonus questions:

1. Why did Congress ban blacks from delivering mail in 1802?

a) It was hypocritical — or at least inconsistent — to give high profile jobs to literate, free blacks while slaves were routinely denied the opportunity to learn to read. b) Fear that in the course of their day-to-day contact with whites, postal carriers would become less respectful of them and their privileges. c) There had been no African-American letter carriers, and the move was part of an effort to preemptively bar African-Americans from a broad range of government jobs. d) The postal workers’ union threatened to misroute mail if blacks weren’t barred.


2. Though the Confederacy had long since been dismantled, Confederate flags on statehouses across the South were unfurled again when and why?


3. Detroit’s Walk to Freedom in June 1963 was the largest civil rights march in any northern city and included an address by Dr. Martin Luther King that included much of what he would say two months later during the more famous national march on Washington. What did the Detroit march have to do with singer Aretha Franklin?

a) She sang “Respect” before King’s speech. b) The march was largely organized by her father, the Rev. C.L. Franklin. c) Aretha marched at the head of the procession. d) She sang “Pink Cadillac.”


4. In 1921, Shuffle Along became Broadway’s first all-black hit musical, introducing “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” later Harry Truman’s campaign theme song. On the night of the New York opening, composer Eubie Blake played piano onstage while his writing partner, Noble Sissle, watched for signs of violence and prepared to flee. Sissle was afraid because:

a) He feared white audiences would rebel against the novel seating, which set aside sections for African-Americans on the main floor as well as the balcony. b) Josephine Baker was about to dance wearing little more than a belt of bananas. c) He feared that the jokes would backfire. d) The show included a romantic ballad sung by one black character to another.


5. For many of a certain age, the image of Sammy Davis Jr. is frozen in time in fawning 1972 embraces of then President Richard Nixon. Which of the following are also true of Davis?

a) He took Donald Rumsfeld and Rumsfeld’s wife to meet Elvis Presley in Las Vegas. b) He faced a barrage of death threats for his onstage and real life interracial affairs and marriage. c) He donated $25,000 to the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s PUSH organization in an effort to rehabilitate his image in the wake of the Nixon fracas. d) He arranged acting lessons for porn star Linda Lovelace with whom he became involved and whose career he considered promoting.


View the answer key to this quiz.

W. Kim Heron is the managing editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]
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