Celebrating Black History Month


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

(January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

“Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.” http://thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king/

Rosa Parks:

(February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005)

“By refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus in 1955, black seamstress Rosa Parks helped initiate the civil rights movement in the United States. The leaders of the local black community organized a bus boycott that began the day Parks was convicted of violating the segregation laws. Led by a young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the boycott lasted more than a year—during which Parks not coincidentally lost her job—and ended only when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional. Over the next half-century, Parks became a nationally recognized symbol of dignity and strength in the struggle to end entrenched racial segregation.” https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/rosa-parks

Fredrick Douglas:

(February 1818 – February 20, 1895)

“Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who became a prominent activist, author and public speaker. He became a leader in the abolitionist movement, which sought to end the practice of slavery, before and during the Civil War. After that conflict and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, he continued to push for equality and human rights until his death in 1895.” https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/frederick-douglass

Dr. Maya Angelou:

(April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)

Clyde “Guy” Johnson had this to say about his mother, Dr. Maya Angelou, on what would have been her ninetieth birthday:

“I think of her melodious tones speaking about the need for tolerance, understanding, forgiveness and love.  My mother’s perspective was that human beings being social animals are strongest when they are unified. She saw hatred and greed, not only as divisive, but as the forces of evil.  She recognized that unlike positive virtues, neither greed nor hatred has to be taught; they come naturally and have to be untaught in order to free their possessor of their burdensome weight and baggage.  She saw one of our greatest challenges was learning to love ourselves, then having the courage and the wisdom to love others. She often said, ‘We don’t know how or why love occurs. Truthfully, we don’t know that even gravity isn’t a kind of love.’  She felt that love was one of the most important emotions and was an instrumental key to unlocking the inner doors of our ignorance and fear.” https://www.mayaangelou.com/

Nelson Mandela:

(July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013)

“The South African activist and former president Nelson Mandela helped bring an end to apartheid and has been a global advocate for human rights. He was a leader of both peaceful protests and armed resistance against the white minority’s oppressive regime in a racially divided South Africa. His actions landed him in prison for nearly three decades and made him the face of the antiapartheid movement both within his country and internationally. Released in 1990, he participated in the eradication of apartheid and in 1994 became the first black president of South Africa, forming a multiethnic government to oversee the country’s transition. After retiring from politics in 1999, he remained a devoted champion for peace and social justice in his own nation and around the world until his death in 2013 at the age of 95.” https://www.history.com/topics/africa/nelson-mandela

Sojourner Truth:

(1797 – November 26, 1883)

“Sojourner Truth was a nationally known advocate for justice and equality between races and sexes during the 19th century. She is honored in American history for her compelling autobiography, for innumerable speeches against slavery and for women’s rights, for her work on behalf of freedmen after the Civil War, and for her ability to keep audiences enthralled through songs and eloquent speeches.” https://sojournertruthmemorial.org/sojourner-truth/her-history/ 

Guion Stewart Bluford, Jr.:

(Born: November 22, 1942)

“Of some 10,000 applicants to NASA’s space program, Guion S. Bluford was one of 35 chosen to join the new space shuttle team in January 1978. He officially became a NASA astronaut in August 1979. Bluford made history on August 30, 1983, when he became the first African American to experience space travel. In 1983, he became the first African American to travel into space when he served as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Bluford completed three more NASA missions, compiling 688 hours in space by the time of his retirement in 1993.” https://www.biography.com/people/guion-s-bluford-213031

Mae Jemison:

(Born: October 17, 1956)

“On June 4, 1987, Mae C. Jemison became the first African-American woman to be admitted into the NASA astronaut training program. After more than a year of training, she became the first African-American woman astronaut, earning the title of science mission specialist — a job that would make her responsible for conducting crew-related scientific experiments on the space shuttle. When Jemison finally flew into space on September 12, 1992, with six other astronauts aboard the Endeavour on mission STS47, she became the first African-American woman in space. During her eight days in space, Jemison conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself. In all, she spent more than 190 hours in space before returning to Earth on September 20, 1992. Following her historic flight, Jemison noted that society should recognize how much both women and members of other minority groups can contribute if given the opportunity.” https://www.biography.com/people/mae-c-jemison-9542378

Muhammad Ali:

(January 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016)

“Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) was a boxer, philanthropist and social activist who is universally regarded as one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century. Ali became an Olympic gold medalist in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964.

Following his suspension for refusing military service, Ali reclaimed the heavyweight title two more times during the 1970s, winning famed bouts against Joe Frazier and George Foreman along the way. Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1984, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.” https://www.biography.com/people/muhammad-ali-9181165

Shirley Chisholm:

(November 30, 1924 – January 1, 2005)

“In 1964, Chisholm ran for and became the second African American in the New York State Legislature. In 1968 Chisholm sought—and won—a seat in Congress. There, ‘Fighting Shirley’ introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation and championed racial and gender equality, the plight of the poor, and ending the Vietnam War. She was a co-founder of the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971, and in 1977 became the first black woman and second woman ever to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee.

Discrimination followed Chisholm’s quest for the 1972 Democratic Party presidential nomination. She was blocked from participating in televised primary debates, and after taking legal action, was permitted to make just one speech. Still, students, women, and minorities followed the ‘Chisholm Trail.’ She entered 12 primaries and garnered 152 of the delegates’ votes (10% of the total)—despite an under-financed campaign and contentiousness from the predominantly male Congressional Black Caucus.

Chisholm retired from Congress in 1983. Of her legacy, Chisholm said, ‘I want to be remembered as a woman … who dared to be a catalyst of change.’” https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/shirley-chisholm

President Barack Obama:

(Born: August 4, 1961)

“After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, President Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants.

He went on to attend law school, where he became the first African—American president of the Harvard Law Review. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.” https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/barack-obama/

“Obama's advocacy work led him to run for a seat in the Illinois State Senate. He ran as a Democrat and won election in 1996. During his years as a state senator, Obama worked with both Democrats and Republicans to draft legislation on ethics, as well as expand health care services and early childhood education programs for the poor.

Encouraged by poll numbers, Obama decided to run for the U.S. Senate open seat vacated by Republican Peter Fitzgerald. In the 2004 Democratic primary, he defeated multimillionaire businessman Blair Hull and Illinois Comptroller Daniel Hynes with 52 percent of the vote. In the November 2004 general election, Obama received 70 percent of the vote to Keyes' 27 percent, the largest electoral victory in Illinois history.

In February 2007, Obama made headlines when he announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama defeated Republican presidential nominee John McCain, 52.9 percent to 45.7 percent, to win election as the 44th president of the United States—and the first African-American to hold this office. On November 6, 2012, Obama won a second four-year term as president by receiving nearly five million more votes than Romney and capturing more than 60 percent of the Electoral College.” https://www.biography.com/people/barack-obama-12782369

Katherine Johnson:

(Born: August 26, 1918)

“Born in 1918 in West Virginia, Katherine G. Johnson made the most of limited educational opportunities for African Americans, graduating from college at age 18. She began working in aeronautics as a ‘computer’ in 1952, and after the formation of NASA, she performed the calculations that sent astronauts into orbit in the early 1960s and to the moon in 1969. In 2015, at age 97, Katherine Johnson added another extraordinary achievement to her long list: President Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.”



Booker T. Washington:

(1856 – November 14, 1915)

“Born into slavery in Virginia in the mid-to-late 1850s, Booker T. Washington put himself through school and became a teacher after the Civil War. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama (now known as Tuskegee University), which grew immensely and focused on training African Americans in agricultural pursuits.”