It’s Black History Month, as you all already know. We’ve put together a list of 10 Black historical poets, leaders and activists who we think that you should know about.
(In no particular order)
1. Martin Luther King Jr - Civil Rights Activists/Minister
Martin Luther King Jr was an inspirational Baptist minister and civil-rights activist and had an immense impact on race relations and sociology of race in the USA in the mid-1950’s. MLK ended the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the USA as well as creating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 as well as several other honours.
MLK was assassinated in April 1968 while standing on the balcony of his second-story room. The bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. Image source
2. Rosa Parks - Activist/Civil Rights Activist
Rosa Parks was a Civil Rights activist who refused to sit at the back of a Montgomery, Alabama bus. This surrender began the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott that launched nationwide battle to end the segregation of public facilities.
Rosa received a lot of honour during her lifetime, including the highest award for the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People. Image source
3. Maya Angelou- Activist/Civil Rights Activist/Poet/Author
Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou, AKA, Maya Angelou was a woman of many talents. Angelou is best known for her autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,’ which made literary history as the first non-fiction best-seller by an African-American woman.
Throughout her career, Angelou received many honours, two being National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People Image Awards in the outstanding literary work category in 2005 and 2009. Image source
4. Barack Obama - Lawyer/US President/US Senator
Barack Obama became the President of the Harvard Law Review and US senator representing Illinois. In 2008, Obama was elected President of the USA which meant that he became the first African-American commander-in-chief.
Obama served two terms as the 44th president of the USA. Image source
5. Malcolm X - Civil Rights Activists/Minister
Malcolm X served as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam during the 1950-60’s. The Nation of Islam grew from 400 members (in 1952) to 40,000 members by 1960. Malcolm X pubically left the group in 1964.
In 1965, when X was preparing to deliver a speech at the Audubon Ballroom, he was assassinated. Image source
6. Harriet Tubman - Civil Rights Activists
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in 1820, escaped to freedom in 1849 and went on to become one of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad.
Using safehouses, Tubman risked her life to lead hundreds of slaves from the plantation system to freedom. After the Civil War ended, Harriet Tubman dedicated her whole life to helping former slaves and the elderly.
In 2016, it was announced that Harriet Tubman would replace the face of Andrew Jackson on the centre of a new $20 note. Image source
7. Oprah Winfrey - Philanthropist/Talk Show Host/Actress/Television Producer
Oprah Winfrey, a largely successful television Queen. In 1976, Winfrey hosted a chat show, ‘People Are Talking,’ she was later recruited by a Chicago TV station where she became the host of her own, very popular TV program, ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show,’ which aired for 25 seasons.
In 2011, Oprah Winfrey launched her own TV network, ‘Oprah Winfrey Network,’ AKA, OWN. Image source
8. Muhammad Ali - Athlete/Philanthropist/Boxer
Muhammad Ali was recalled as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th Century. In 1960 Ali became an Olympic gold medalist and the world's heavyweight boxing champion in 1964.
Ali devoted a lot of his time to philanthropy and earnt the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. Image source
9. Phillis Wheatley - Poet
Phillis Wheatley was brought to Boston, Massachusetts on a slave ship in 1761, and was purchased by John Wheatley as a personal servant to his wife.
The Wheatley’s educated Phillis, she later mastered Latin and Greek language, Phillis then went on to write highly acclaimed poetry. Her first poem was published in 1767, Phillis wrote poems on various subjects surrounding Religion. Image source
10. Afeni Shakur - Activist/Businesswoman
Afeni Shakur, mother to musical legend, Tupac Shakur was a member of the Black Panther Party, an African-American revolutionary party. Its original purpose was to watch African American neighbourhoods to protect its residents from acts of police brutality.
A year after the death of her son, Afeni created the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation. This foundation provides art programs to students. Image source
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