10 BLACK PEOPLE TO KNOW
1. W.E.B. Du Bois
Known as arguably one of the most intelligent individuals to ever lived, W.E.B. Du Bois was instrumental in bringing along the process of human rights for African-American's. In a time when the despotic and abundant prejudice and bigotry towards African-Americans was not only tolerated, it was with reason and law.
Du Bois was the first African-American to earn a PH.D from Harvard University. He was also the founding member of what we know today to be the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
2. Barack Hussein Obama
Barack Hussein Obama is the first African-American to serve as President of the United States. As our 44th President, he was born to a Kenyan father and English mother. He also served on the U.S. Senate for the state of Illinois.
3. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. was the single most instrumental force in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950's and 1960's. His use of a nonviolent approach to atrocities of humanity granted him the honor of a Nobel Peace Prize and the inspiration of an American nation and world at large. His famous speech during the march on Washington is forever emblazoned in American history as a pivotal point in the nations history. He influenced several political policies and calls to action, most notably the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation.
Martin Luther King was a living example that one person could change the world, with help of many.
4. Macon Bolling Allen
Macon Bolling Allen was the first black-American Justice of the Peace (1848) and the first African-American to pass the bar and practice law in the United States (1845). He is believed to be the first black to ever hold a judiciary position in the United States, despite not being considered a citizen throughout most of his pursuit.
5. Jane Bolin
Jane Bolin was the first black woman to become judge in the United States (1932) . She was also the first black woman to earn a law degree from Yale, the first black woman to pass the New York State bar exam and the first to join the city's law department.
Bolin worked to end segregation in child placement facilities and the assignment of probation officers based on race. She also helped create a racially integrated treatment center for delinquent boys.
6. Dr. Ralph Johnson Bunche
Dr. Ralph Johnson Bunche received the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation efforts in Palestine during the 1940s, he was also the first African-American to receive the honor. He also received the Medal of Freedom from President John F. Kennedy. He was also directly involved in the building of the United Nations. Bunch was also a prominent advocate of the civil rights movement, he participated in the March on Washington, and was present during Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech.
He also attended the Selma to Montgomery march that led to the to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
7. Christopher Gardner
Christopher Gardner's story may seem so unbelievable you think it is something that came from a movie - well - that is true, but only vice versa. Christopher Gardner, former member of the Navy was determined to find a lucrative means of employment for his new family (Christopher Jr.), was willing to live on next to nothing - in hopes of completing training for a brokerage program. After his wife and mother of his children left him, he was determined to keep his son because as he once stated,
“I made up my mind as a young kid that when I had children they were going to know who their father is, and that he isn’t going anywhere.”
In five years, after training and with just $10,000, Gardner purchased his own brokerage firm (Gardner Rich). He eventually sold his shares in the firm for several million dollars. His autobiography "Pursuit of Happyness", was turned into a blockbuster film. The film starring Will Smith went on to gross over $300mil worldwide.
Chris also helped fund $50mil to help build the homeless low-income housing and provide emnployment to homeless people in San Francisco.
8. Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt was one of the first mega-stars of her time. Paving the way for the Beyonce's of today. Kitt, born on a plantation farm and conceived of land-owner/share-cropper raped, moved off the South Carolina cotton plantation and eventually to New York with her biological mother. There, she started working on a career in show business, reaching career peaks with a starring role in the Orson Wells film Dr. Faustus, portraying Helen of Troy.
She most notably earned the recurring role of Catwoman in the television version of Batman. But above all of her success in film in TV Eartha earned the most stripes as an activist and social speaker on many causes.
Eartha was utterly blacklisted from the professional community for her position on the Veitnam war and the Johnson administration's policy on the youth who fought.
She went on to famously quote at a White House luncheon in which Kitt was invited to speak,
"You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot."
"The children of America are not rebelling for no reason. They are not hippies for no reason at all. We don't have what we have on Sunset Blvd. for no reason. They are rebelling against something. There are so many things burning the people of this country, particularly mothers. They feel they are going to raise sons - and I know what it's like, and you have children of your own, Mrs. Johnson - we raise children and send then to war.
The reaction to the comments have since been unprecedented, she was ostracized in the film community and eventually had to find work outside the United States for years.
9. Jean Baptiste Point du Sable
Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was Chicago's first recorded resident, founder, and curator. Although Chicago had been established before his colonization, his residence was recorded as it's first, and he stayed at the mouth of the Chicago River from years 1790-1800. This cabin Du Sable built for him, his wife and children.
This was at the time named "Checagou" by the native Indians.
Du Sable became greatly respected by the native Indian's and under the tutelage of Choctaw, he learned the skills that enabled him to open successful trading posts throughout the Lake Michigan mainland. He settled at the mouth of the Chicago River, a home built for him to settle with his wife and children, he named this Fort Dearborn (Later to be named Chicago).
Du Sable was Chicago's first recorded marriage, he also held Chicago's first elections and was the first established builder of the little known Chicago-land area from the period of 1770-1800.
As an alleged sympathizer for the American's in the American Revolution he was arrested by the British military and imprisoned on suspicion of being a spy for the American military. He then moved to St. Charles Missouri where he later died in 1818.
Despite the length of his inhabit, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable was Chicago's first man.
10. Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Henry Louis Gates Jr is an acclaimed historian, teacher, scholar, editor and public intellectual. His work on various PBS miniseries is eclipsed by his studies and distinguished intellectual achievements in the world of history and cultural studies. Gates was the first African-American to recieve the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship ( a private foundation with focus in 5 core areas ( Higher education, museums and art conservation, performing arts, conservation and the environment, and information technology with software development.).
He has also been asked to give the "Jefferson Lecture", this lecture is considered to be "the highest honor the federal government confers for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities."
Gates garnered the interest of national attention when he was arrested outside his home of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The officer was responding to a call of a possible breaking and entering when Gates could not gain entrance to his home. He was arrested after a responding officer and Gates began to engage in an altercation. Newly appointed president Barack Obama responded to the situation saying the police "acted stupidly" in their apprehension of Gates.
He later invited the two to the White House to share a beer.
Since the 1970s, the month of February has been an exceptional period for the Black community as we devote 28 days – 29 if we’re lucky – to commemorate all things Black. Black History Month is celebrated across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and Netherlands, and from school systems to television networks, many organizations recognize the month by building Black history into their programming during the month of February
Here at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, this Black history month is particularly special because we’re celebrating our anniversary – we’re 110 years young, and we’re challenging all of our supporters to celebrate Black history a different way each day.
These are 28 ways you can celebrate Black History this month:
March 1 Harry Belafonte singer and actor, born 1927
March 2 Fifteen-year-old, Claudette Colvin, refuses to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in
Montgomery, Alabama nine months before Rosa Parks, 1955
March 3 Annie Lee, African American artist and humanitarian, born, 1935.
March 4 Zensi Miriam Makeba, “Empress of African Song”, born, 1932
March 5 Crispus Attucks is killed in the Boston, Massacre, marking the start of the American Revolution, 1770.
March 6 U.S. Supreme Court rules against citizenship for African Americans ibn the Dred Scott decision, 1857
MARY ELIZA CHURCH
Mary Eliza Church Terrell was born in 1863 and lived until 1954, a period of great change in the history of African Americans. In her lifetime she advocated for a wide range of causes—woman's suffrage, adult education, anti-segregation, anti-lynching, and women's employment. Church Terrell's father, a former slave, successfully opened numerous businesses on Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, becoming one of the first black millionaires. Despite her father's wishes that she work in a position befitting her class status, Terrell rebelled and went into education. This strong-willed nature was consistent throughout Terrell's life as she spoke against the numerous injustices she saw. Church Terrell worked alongside Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Mary McLeod Bethune. She co-founded the Colored Women's League in Washington and the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and helped W. E. B. Du Bois found the NAACP.
The story of the Underground Railroad, a secret trail of safe houses or "stations" in the mid-nineteenth century that led from states where slavery was legal to the free states, is one that captures the urgency and stealthy measures required to rescue slaves from slavery. While many participated in this secretive system, Harriet Tubman has become the most famous "conductor" in this direct-action abolitionism. In 1849, at the age of twenty-seven, Harriet Tubman escaped from the Maryland plantation where she had been held in slavery. Between 1849 and 1860 Tubman made fourteen trips back into slave territory and led seventy to eighty people to freedom. She also helped free fifty others by providing detailed instructions on how to escape undetected.
When Isabella Baumfree renamed herself Sojourner Truth, she selected her name as testament to her life's work—as one who travels towards the greater good. Truth's greater good lay in an explicitly feminist abolitionism. In the 1840s and 1850s Truth moved around the country preaching and speaking on the importance of abolition and when she spoke of abolition she meant freedom for all, not just men. While people were not always welcoming to an illiterate black woman who had spent her formative years in slavery, Truth persevered, publishing her life story and becoming an extremely popular and influential speaker. In 1851 Truth gave voice to the complex workings of race and sex with her famous speech on women's equality, "Ain't I a woman?". In this speech she called attention to the contradictions of viewing women as helpless and weak while referencing her own experiences as a strong person—both physically and mentally. Interestingly, Truth's stories have been mostly excluded from the slave narratives literary canon, not because of her race or sex but because she was a northern slave and not a southern one.
IDA B. WELLS-BARNETT
In 1892, when Ida B. Wells-Barnett launched the first phase of an international campaign against lynching in the United States, lynching was a fairly common practice. Horrified at the murder of three of her colleagues, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, an activist and journalist, began an extensive campaign speaking out against lynching and quickly became a well-known spokesperson on the subject. Wells-Barnett wrote about and spoke out against lynching in the United States, but she also toured in England and Scotland as she believed that international action was required to end lynching. While the practice continued into the twentieth century, Wells-Barnett's activism brought awareness of the realities of the epidemic to a far-reaching audience, and the court of public opinion ultimately helped to curtail the crimes.
While Ida B. Wells worked tirelessly against lynching, the campaign of terror continued well past her death. In the 1930s Billie Holiday took up the work of addressing the issue in an entirely different manner—through song. In 1939 Holiday began performing "Strange Fruit," a song that would be associated with her throughout her career. The lyrics—"southern trees bear strange fruit, blood on the leaves and blood at the root, black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees"—were a barely veiled reference to the bodies of lynching victims dangling from tree limbs. The haunting description of the lynching as well as Holiday's heart-wrenching interpretation were so controversial that Columbia Records refused to record the song and Holiday received a special release from her contract so that she could record the song with an independent label. Throughout her career, Holiday would end her sets with "Strange Fruit," each time chilling the audience with the frank depiction of racial violence.
MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE
Mary McLeod Bethune was one of the leading activists in African American history, rivaling the likes of W. E. B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Frederick Douglass. Bethune's career began in Daytona, Florida where, in 1904, she founded a school for the domestic education of young girls. The school quickly grew capturing the attention of Booker T. Washington as well as the black press. By the mid 1920s Bethune's tiny school for five students was a thriving coed college. Despite economic hardships during the Great Depression the college managed to stay open and her reputation as a leader in education expanded. In addition to her role as college president, Bethune founded and presided over several of the most important organizations for black women at that time, including the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Council of Negro Women. In 1939 Bethune became director-in-charge of Negro Affairs in the New Deal National Youth Administration (NYA). She reached even greater heights as a leader when she was appointed as a top advisor and organizer in the Federal Council on Negro Affairs, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Black Cabinet." Bethune's relationships with both F.D.R. and Eleanor Roosevelt opened unprecedented doors for African Americans—both men and women.
FANNIE LOU HAMER
In the early 1960s it was still the general practice to attempt to stop black people from voting in the South. This was often done by levying taxes against potential black voters, using intimidation strategies such as threatening violence and requiring only black voters to take unfair registration tests. In 1962 Fannie Lou Hamer attended a meeting run by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) regarding black voter registration. Hamer's boss, a farmer who employed Hamer as a sharecropper, discovered that she had attended the meeting and fired Hamer when she refused to agree that she would not register to vote. The combination of the exposure to organized activism coupled with the loss of her job and her civil liberties began Hamer's lifelong pursuit of racial justice and, in particular, equal voting rights. In this photograph Hamer is shown testifying at the 1964 Democratic National Convention about the harassment and beatings she received in her attempts to register to vote.
SHIRLEY CHISHOLM NOV. 30, 1924 - JAN 1, 2008
Shirley Chisholm is best known for her 1972 bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination; she was the first black woman to make this attempt in a major political party. However, she had been active in state and national politics for more than a decade and had represented parts of Brooklyn in the New York State Assembly from 1965 to 1968. She became the first black woman to serve in Congress in 1968. During her tenure, she co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus. Chisholm left Washington in 1983 and devoted the rest of her life to civil rights and women's issues.
The revival of folk music in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s was intrinsically linked to political movements towards racial equality. Folk music influenced a generation, and for many Odetta was the source of that inspiration. Her strong voice, natural appearance, and strong political messages influenced a generation of people ranging from Rosa Parks to Bob Dylan to Janis Joplin—and thousands of other folk music enthusiasts and activists. Odetta performed at many of the major civil rights events and protests. In 1963 she solidified her place as the musical voice of the Civil Rights Movement when she sang "O Freedom" at the March on Washington. Odetta passed away in December of 2008, but her music and legacy continue to inspire activists.
CORETTA SCOTT KING
During the Civil Rights Movement, Coretta Scott King was often seen at the side of her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While Coretta had previously been involved in activist movements, it was after Dr. King's assassination in 1968 that she became increasingly notable as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. King's accomplishments were far reaching but of particular note were her 1983 formation of the Coalition of Conscience, her campaign in the 1970s for the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and her presence in the antiapartheid movements of South Africa. King continued her lifelong pursuit of racial equality until her death in 2006 and her legacy continues through the King Center, which she founded in Atlanta in 1968.
In the 1970s Angela Davis, the political activist and intellectual, came into the spotlight as an outspoken advocate for social change. The 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing that took the lives of four black children occurred in Davis's hometown of Birmingham. This bombing as well as other incidents of racially motivated murder spurned Davis into speaking out for social change and she quickly became a figurehead for prisoners' rights and racial equality. In the early 1970s Davis was famously arrested and tried for kidnapping and murder. An international campaign to "Free Angela Davis" ensued, and she was found not guilty in 1972 after sixteen months of incarceration. Today Davis continues to lecture about various types of oppression found in the United States and abroad. She currently teaches in the esteemed History of Consciousness program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Sometimes working towards social change takes the shape of direct political action. Sometimes it comes in the form of social commentary and criticism expressed through art, music, and literature. The poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks has a unique perceptiveness about black urban experiences that encourages activism through its frank descriptions of black social reality. Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Annie Allen in 1950. As the sixties arrived, Brooks' poetry became more political. Her book The Bean Eaters was in many ways a call to activism. In the 1960s and 1970s Brooks was a strong presence in the Black Arts Movement—a movement deeply rooted in racial politics. Brooks' poetry did not shy away from the political, rather it engaged it. She addressed and blended history and current events into her works—evoking historical figures and moments such as Malcolm X., Medgar Evers, Harold Washington, the integration of the Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, as well as the 1955 murder of Emmett Till.
Audre Lorde is known for her ability to meld the personal and the political in her poetry, her essays, and her life. Lorde's writing embraced her experiences as a lesbian, the process of dying from cancer, and the challenges she faced as a mother raising a black son, with little distinction in her work between what can be considered political and what cannot. Lorde's oft quoted line "the Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" recalls a history of the ways that black women have fought against a variety of oppressions. Her radical thoughts on how the fights against oppressions can occur recall the ways in which the women before her worked—constantly creating new tools and ideas and actions that could in fact change how black women could live in America.
ALTHEA GIBSON - (AUG 25, 1927 -SEPT. 28, 2003)
Althea Gibson started playing tennis as a child in New York City, winning her first tennis tournament at age 15. She dominated the American Tennis Association circuit, reserved for black players, for more than a decade. In 1950, Gibson broke the tennis color barrier at Forest Hills Country Club (site of the U.S. Open); the following year, she became the first African-American to play at Wimbledon in Great Britain. Gibson continued to excel at the sport, winning both amateur and professional titles through the early 1960s.
DOROTHY HEIGHT - MARCH 24, 1912-APRIL 20, 2010
Dorothy Height has been described as the godmother of the women's movement because of her work for gender equality. For four decades, she led the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW )and was a leading figure in the 1963 March on Washington. Height began her career as an educator in New York City, where her work caught the attention of Eleanor Roosevelt. Beginning in 1957, she led the NCNW and also advised the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994.
AUGUSTA SAVAGE - (FEB. 29, 1892–MARCH 26, 1962)
Augusta Savage displayed an artistic aptitude from her youngest days. Encouraged to develop her talent, she enrolled in New York City's Cooper Union to study art. She earned her first commission, a sculpture of civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois, from the New York library system in 1921, and several other commissions followed. Despite meager resources, she continued working through the Great Depression, sculpting several notable African Americans, including Frederick Douglass and W. C. Handy. Her best-known work, "The Harp," was featured at the 1939 World's Fair in New York, but it was destroyed after the fair ended.
PHILLIS WHEATLEY - MAY 8, 1753-DEC. 5, 1784
Born in Africa, Phillis Wheatley came to the U.S. at age eight, where she was sold into slavery. John Wheatley, the Boston man who owned her, was impressed by Phillis' intellect and interest in learning, and he and his wife taught her to read and write. The Wheatleys allowed Phillis time to pursue her studies, which led her to develop an interest in poetry writing. A poem she published in 1767 earned her much acclaim. Six years later, her first volume of poems was published in London, and she became known in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom. The Revolutionary War disrupted Wheatley's writing, however, and she was not widely published after it ended.
CHARLOTTE RAY - JAN. 13, 1850-JAN. 4, 1911
Charlotte Ray has the distinction of being the first African American woman lawyer in the United States and the first woman admitted to the bar in the District of Columbia. Her father, active in New York City's African-American community, made sure his young daughter was well educated; she received her law degree from Howard University in 1872 and was admitted to the Washington D.C. bar shortly afterward. Both her race and gender proved to be obstacles in her professional career, and she eventually became a teacher in New York City instead.