What Is Black History Month?
Black Activists and Politicians
By Cara J. Stevens
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Black History Month is intended to honor the contributions, milestones, and achievements made by and for people of African heritage. We've included just a few of the brave, strong, creative and innovative people here however every day you surely enjoy the benefits of many proud people of African descent whether you know it or not! Here are a few to get you started:
Frederick Douglas 1817-1895 Leader of Anti-Slavery movement
An escaped slave, Douglas published a book about his life and earned enough money to buy his freedom. He became an outspoken supporter of the Civil War. He was appointed the Marshall of the District of Columbia and became the U.S. Consul General to Haiti.
Martin Luther King, Jr.1929-1968 Baptist Minister and humanitarian
On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks began a boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery Alabama. Dr. King led the boycott. He began a black movement that destroyed the legal practice of racial segregation. He learned the practice of nonviolent protest from Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, and through this practice served humanity through love and nonviolence. He was assassinated in 1968.
Rosa Parks 1913-2005 Community leader and protester
Rosa Parks was tired of being discriminated against. She worked with black organizations to try to get fair treatment for everyone. Finally, one day she had enough. She refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. This began a 381-day bus boycott in Montgomery Alabama. The boycott ended after a popular and successful protest that led to a Supreme Court ruling against segregation on November 13, 1956. While segregation was made illegal, many people continued to have separate facilities for black and white people. Ms. Parks and Dr. King continued their lifelong fight against racism.
Malcolm X (Malcolm Little) 1925-1965
Malcolm became a leader of a Black Muslim group called Nation of Islam. He was very outspoken in favor of black rights and equality and against racism. He advocated the use of violence to counter the violence committed in the name of racism. Many people were opposed to his calls to use violence, but many others came out to support him and his cause. He was assassinated by a group of black gunmen who felt he had taken his cause too far.
Harriet Ross Tubman 1818 or 1819-1913 Former slave, leader of Underground Railroad
Harriet was a slave who ran away at 24 years old. She escaped by the Underground Railroad, a series of secret paths to the free north where people helped them along the way. She ran to Pennsylvania, but came back to lead her family and then more than 300 other slaves to freedom. She became a nurse during the Civil War and became a spy for the north.
Legal and Political Figures
Thurgood Marshall 1908-1993 Supreme Court Justice
He helped end segregation in schools claiming "separate" did not mean "equal". He became the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
Colin Powell 1937- Secretary of State, General
He was the first African American Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. He supervised the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989 and the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Under George W. Bush, he became the first African American U.S. Secretary of State in 2000.
Jesse Jackson 1941- Minister and Civil Rights leader
He worked to encourage companies to treat black employees and customers fairly. He represented the United States as an advocate of peace in the Middle East. He sought the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, creating the Rainbow Coalition to address the needs of minority and women voters.
Barack Obama 1961- President of the United States of America
On November 4, 2008, Senator Barack Obama from Illinois was elected as the 44th President of the United States. He is the first African American President, and one of the youngest Presidents ever elected. He has a wife, Michelle, and two daughters, Malia and Sasha.