Lewis Diuguid

Lewis Diuguid: African Americans as citizens, business owners, veterans, families during Black History Month

It’s important to recognize African Americans and what they mean to the United States during Black History Month.
It’s important to recognize African Americans and what they mean to the United States during Black History Month. KRT

February is Black History Month, and in honor of the occasion, the U.S. Census Bureau offers a few facts that should be useful in classrooms, homes, businesses, faith and community organizations across the country for people wanting to know more about African Americans.

Black History Month originally started as Negro History Week. Famous African American historian Carter G. Woodson had the first celebration on Feb. 12, 1926, to honor the birthdays of two great Americans — President Abraham Lincoln, who is credited with freeing the slaves, and Frederick Douglass, a 19th century black abolitionist, orator, columnist, newspaper editor and publisher.

In 1976 as part of the U.S. bicentennial, the week was expanded into Black History Month, and each year U.S. presidents proclaim February as National African-American History Month.

The U.S. on July 1, 2014, had an estimated 45.7 million African Americans, constituting about 14 percent of the total 318.9 million people in the country. The black population was up 1.3 percent from the July 1, 2013, estimate.

Black Enterprise magazine reports that black buying power in 2015 was estimated at $1.1 trillion.

The census projects that the U.S. black population, either alone or in combination by July 1, 2060, is projected to be 74.5 million people, rising to 17.9 percent of the total.

New York in 2014 led all states with 3.8 million African Americans. The District of Columbia had the highest percentage of blacks with 50.6 percent followed by Mississippi with 38.2 percent, according to the 2014 census estimates.

Cook County, Ill., (Chicago) with 1.3 million African Americans had the largest black population of any county in 2014. Holmes, Miss., which is 82.5 percent African American, was the county with the highest percentage of blacks in the country.

Black businesses are not rare. There were 2.6 million black-owned businesses nationwide in 2012, up from 1.9 million in 2007.

The largest sector of black-owned firms, 649,896, included repair and maintenance (automotive/consumer electronics) and personal/laundry services (hair/nail salons, dry cleaning, pet care). That was followed by health care and social assistance (492,983 black-owned firms). Next were 294,977 administrative, support, waste management and remediation businesses. After that were 206,942 professional, scientific and technical support companies. Last were 184,777 transportation and warehousing companies.

The U.S. in 2014 had 2.2 million African American veterans. African Americans have served in the military in every war in the nation’s history and even before the U.S. was a nation.

The black population is well-educated — 84.4 percent of African Americans in 2014 over age 25 had a high school diploma, 19.7 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher and 1.8 million African Americans had advanced degrees. The census reports that 2.9 million African Americans were enrolled in undergraduate colleges in 2014 compared with 2.8 million in 2009, a 5.3 percent increase.

African Americans take their civic duty seriously. In the last presidential election, 17.8 million blacks voted. That was up about 1.7 million black voters over the 2008 presidential election.

The turnout among black voters in 2012 was 66.2 percent, which was higher than the 64.1 percent turnout for white voters. It was the first time that African Americans voted at a higher rate than whites did since record-keeping by the census began in 1996 on voting statistics. Of course Barack Obama ran in 2008, and in 2012 he sought a second term as the first black president of the United States. The black vote helped lift him to victory twice.

The annual median income for black households in 2014 was $35,398 compared with $53,657 for the U.S. overall. The poverty rate for blacks in 2014 was 26.2 percent compared with 14.8 percent overall.

The census notes that in 2014, 88.2 percent of blacks were covered by health insurance; nationally the rate was 89.6 percent for all races. Can you say the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare?

The U.S. had 9.9 million black family households with children in 2014; 50 percent of black households included married couples. Among African American grandparents, 1.2 million lived with their grandchildren younger than age 18 in 2014. Of that number, 44 percent were also responsible for caring for the grandchildren.

In the jobs category, 28.6 percent of employed African Americans age 16 and older worked in management, business, science and art occupations. In comparison, 36.9 percent of the total civilian employed population worked in those occupations.