Black History Month

A former bridge builder known for creating 500-foot self-supporting covered wooden bridges and constructing the winding staircase inside Alabama's state capitol building was honored this week.

These three flights of stairs were just one of the historical steps taken by Horance King, a self-taught engineer and former slave who lived in the 1800s.

118 years later, a portrait was unveiled in Montgomery, Alabama. It reveals the face behind this prominent historical figure who helped associate international inventions with Alabama.

After building 25 bridges throughout the state and one that linked Alabama and Georgia, he's earned the title of "Master Covered Bridge Builder."

King's great great grandson, David King, took part in the honors program as part of Alabama's historical society's black history month program.

During King's time, education for African Americans throughout the country was not available in engineering, only in the fields of ministry, teaching and medicine.

The civil engineer is also known for building Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa.

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Black History Month: Important February Dates

  • Feb. 1, 1902: One of Americas most prolific American poets, Langston Huges was born in Joplin, Mo.

  • Feb. 1, 1978: The first stamp of the U.S. Postal Service's Black Heritage USA series honor Harriet Tubman, famed abolitionist and "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.

  • Feb. 2, 1948: President Harry S. Truman sends a message to Congress pressing for civil rights legislation, including antilynching, fair employment practices and anti-poll tax provisions.

  • Feb. 3, 1939: The Baltimore Museum of Art exhibits "Contemporary Negro Art" opens.

  • Feb. 4, 1794: France abolishes slavery.

  • Feb. 4, 1913: The "Mother of the Civil Rights Movement", Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee, Ala.

  • Feb. 4, 1986: A stamp of Sojourner Truth is issued by the U.S. Postal Service.

  • Feb. 5, 1934: Famed Major League Baseball Star, Henry (Hank) Aaron is born in Mobile, Ala.

  • Feb. 5, 1968: Students in Orangeburg, S.C., try to end the discriminatory practices of a local bowling alley. Their confrontation with police and the National Guard, and the subsequent death of three students, creates widespread outrage to campuses in the South.

  • Feb. 6, 1820: The first organized emigration to Africa begins when 86 free African Americans leave New York.

  • Feb. 7, 1820: The first Negro History Week begins, originated by Carter G. Woodson.

  • Feb. 9, 1820: 1944 Pulitzer Prize winner, and best known for "the Color Purple", Alice Walker was born Eatonton, Ga.

  • Feb. 10, 1927: Leontyne Price, acclaimed Opera Diva, is born in Laurel, Miss.

  • Feb. 10, 1939: Roberta Flack is born in Asheville, N.C.

  • Feb. 10, 1989: Ronald H. Brown becomes chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, the first African American to hold the position in either party.

  • Feb. 11, 1990: Nelson Mandela is released from prison after being held for nearly 27 years without trial by the South African government. He is also the founder and leader of the African National Congress.

  • Feb. 12, 1900: For a Lincoln birthday celebration, James Weldon Johnson writes the lyrics for "Lift Every Voice and Sing."

  • Feb. 12: 1909: W.E.B. Du Bois along with others, including whites meet to begin the catalyst for the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

  • Feb. 13, 1957: The Southern Leadership Conference is founded at a meeting of ministers in New Orleans, La. Martin L. King, Jr. is elected its first president.

  • Feb. 14, 1817: Fredrick Douglass is born on this date in Tcukahoe, Md.

  • Feb. 15, 1992: At memorial services for "Roots" author, Alex Haley, his wife eulogized him by stating "Thank you, Alex, you have helped us know who we truly are."

  • Feb. 16, 1923: Bessie Smith makes her first recording for Columbia Records.

  • Feb. 17, 1938: Mary Frances Berry is born in Nashville, Tenn. She will become the first woman of any race to serve as chancellor of a major research university.

  • Feb. 18, 1867: Augustine Institute, later Morehouse College, is founded in Atlanta. Ga.

  • Feb 18, 1931: Toni Morrison is born in Loralin, Ohio. She will become one of the most celebrated modern novelists of the 20th Century, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 for "Beloved."

  • Feb. 19, 1940: William "Smokey" Robinson is born. He became a part of the Motown group The Miracles and later into a solo career.

  • Feb. 19, 1992: John Singleton is the first African American director ever to be nominated for the Academy Award. His film was, "Boyz N the Hood."

  • Feb. 20, 1937: Well know jazz singer Nancy Wilson is born in Chillicothe, Ohio.

  • Feb. 21, 1933: Entertainer, Nina Simone is born in Tryon, N.C.

  • Feb. 21, 1936: The first African American state senator in the Texas legislature since 1883, Barbara Jordan is born in Houston, Tex. She will later play a very key role in the 1974 Watergate hearings.

  • Feb. 21, 1965: Malcom X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem. One of the most charismatic leaders of the civil rights and black power movements, he was best known for his doctrine of self-determination for African American people.

  • Feb. 22, 1938: Poet, Ishmael Reed is born in Chattanooga, Tenn.

  • Feb. 22, 1950: Star basketball player, Julius Erving is born in Roosevelt, N.Y.

  • Feb. 23, 1868: William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois is born in Great Barrington, Mass. He will become one of the greatest men of letters of his time, serving as an editor, teacher, political theorist, and novelist.

  • Feb. 24, 1980: Willie Davenport and Jeff Gradley, the first African Americans to represent the U.S. in the Winter Olympics, place 12th in the four-man bobsled competition.

  • Feb. 24, 1982: Quincy Jones wins five Grammy’s for "The Dude," including producer of the year.

  • Feb. 25, 1964: Muhammad Ali, considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight champion of all time, wins his first world heavy-weight championship title by defeating Sony Liston in Miami.

  • Feb. 26, 1964: Boxer Cassius Clay converts to Islam, adopting the name Muhammad Ali, saying, "I believe in the religion of Islam, I believe in Allah and peace.”

  • Feb. 27, 1872: Charlotte Ray graduates from Howard Law School and becomes the first African American woman lawyer in the U.S.

  • Feb. 27, 1902: Famed opera singer, Marion Anderson is born in Philadelphia, Pa.

  • Feb. 27, 1942: Charlayne Hunter is born in Due West, S.C. and becomes one of the first students to integrate the University of Georgia.

  • Feb. 28, 1942: Riots against African Americans occur in Detroit at the Sojourner Truth Homes.

  • Feb. 29, 1940: Hattie McDaniel receives an Academy Award for best supporting Actress for her role in "Gone With the Wind." She is the first African American to win an Oscar. Often criticized for her portrayal of maids, she will say, "It's much better to p lay a maid than to be one. The only choice permitted me is either to be a servant at $7 a week or portry one for $700 a week."

    Source: contributed to this report.