Quick Facts About 10 Black Historical Figures
By: Jay Somerset
Average User Rating:
African-Americans and Canadians have made tremendous contributions to every facet of life—from science to music to athletics. Here are just a few:
Truth began her life as a slave named Isabella Baumfree. In 1826, she escaped and devoted the rest of her life to the complete abolishment of slavery and the women’s rights movement. She changed her name to Sojourner Truth in 1843.
Born a slave, Tubman eventually escaped slavery and helped hundreds of Southern slaves escape to the northern U.S. and Canada through the Underground Railroad, earning the name Moses for her determination.
Mary Ann Shadd
Shadd holds two titles: first female black lawyer and first female newspaper editor in North America. She was one of the first people to push for complete integration and opened the first school in Canada open to all races.
Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong
One of the most influential artists of all time, Satchmo helped turn jazz from so-called novelty music into fine art. His trumpet technique and style is still copied today.
A pioneer of American blues music, this guitarist influenced rock musicians including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King. Many of his songs are considered blues standards.
As an Ohio State University college athlete in a still segregated America, Owens could not eat meals with his white team members at restaurants or stay in the same hotels or dorms. Instead he was designated to "blacks only" eateries and sleeping quarters. But through it all he remained strong, and at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Owens became the first American athlete in the history of Track and Field to win four gold medals in a single Olympics.
Little did Parks know that one gesture would help spark the civil rights movement of the last century. In 1955, while riding a bus in Alabama, the driver told Parks to give up her seat to a white man. She refused, went to jail, and eventually won a case against the state, changing segregation laws forever.
The first black player in Major League Baseball, Robinson had bottles and insults thrown his way, yet he still managed to become Rookie of the Year and in his second season, League MVP.
In 1963, Poitier became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. As an actor and director, he is often credited as the person who broke the motion picture color barrier, paving the way for blacks in film.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
This civil-rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner organized large anti-violence demonstrations against discrimination including a march on Washington where he delivered his now-famous speech “I have a dream.” He was later assassinated.
For more information on influential and famous African-Americans and Canadians, visit www.britannica.com/Blackhistory.
Want to know who invented peanut butter and the super soaker? Find out about 10 black inventors.