Black History Month has been recognized since 1926 in the United States; however that does not necessarily mean it was widely accepted. This article will offer a quick glance into some of the many influential male and female Black Americans who paved the way for equality and acceptance.
She is often referred to as the “mother of civil rights.” On December 1st, 1955 – Rosa Parks became a permanent and important part of American History books all over the country.
Rosa Louise McCauley was born on February 4th, 1913 in the state of Alabama. She completed her schooling at the age of 11 and was enrolled into the Montgomery Industrial School for Girls (also known as Miss White’s School for Girls.) She went on to Alabama State Teacher’s College High School, but was unable to graduate with her class due her the illness and death of her grandmother, Rose.
When the future mother of civil rights planned to return to Teacher’s College; her mother also became very sick – and so Rosa stayed to care for the home and for her mother. It was not until 1934 that she would finally receive her high school diploma, two years after her marriage to Raymond Parks (in 1932.)
After her famous date with destiny on December 1st, 1955 forever shape history as we know it. With the help of Dr. King, she organized and promoted a boycott of the city bus line that lasted over a year. She also participated, promoted and organized several other sit-ins, eat-ins, and other various causes to promote equality between the races.
In 1957, Rosa Parks moved to Detroit Michigan where she would later become an important part of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (in 1964.)
During her lifetime she had received more than 43 honorary doctorates; among hundreds of certificates, awards, plaques and the keys to many, many cities around the country. She also received the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest award given to a civilian citizen. She passed away on October 24th, 2005.
February 4th is Mrs. Rosa Parks’ Day in the state of Michigan.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the most well-respected, well-recognized civil rights leaders that the world has ever seen. He is well-known for his speech “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”
Born January 15th, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would begin his journey into history books everywhere. At the young age of 15, Dr. King was already enrolled into Morehouse College and graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Soon after he would also enroll at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and graduate with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1951. The ambitious Martin Luther King, Jr. would continue his studies further at Boston University – where he would receive his PhD in 1955.
Dr. King began his career as the pastor of a local church in Montgomery, Alabama. It would be there that he would become the mastermind behind the one of the most influential civil rights movements in history – mobilizing the Black and African American community to boycott the public bus system for 13 months. (This was in response to Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in the north.)
In August of 1963 – more than 250 thousand White and Black Americans would storm Washington – during the famous “I Have a Dream” speech. One year later, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, at the age of 35.
During his travels to Memphis, Tennessee, a sniper shot Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th, 1968. He would pass away later that day; and it would not be until March 1969 that James Earl Ray would plead guilty to the murder of one of the most influential men in American history. James Earl Ray was sentenced to 99 years in prison and passed away in 1998.
It is estimated that Sojourner Truth was born in 1979. Her real name was Isabella Baumfree, and she was born into American slavery. She had 12 brothers and sisters – all of whom were slaves of Colonel Johannes Hardenbergh, at an estate located 95 miles north of New York City.
In 1806, Isabella was sold at auction with a flock of sheep for approximately 100 dollars. Two years later she would be sold again for 105 dollars, and sold yet again in 1810 for 175 dollars.
It was not until 1815 that Sojourner would fall in love with a man named Robert – who would be beaten for their love and Truth never saw him. In 1817 she would be forced into marriage by her owner to another slave by the name of Thomas. Sojourner Truth had one child – Diana, who was fathered by Robert, and four children – Elizabeth, Hannah, Sophia and Peter, who were fathered by Thomas.
In 1826, Sojourner Truth would flee her slavery status with her youngest daughter, Sophia – slavery in the state of New York would be not be abolished until a year later on July 4th, 1827. Her other child, Peter was sold to a slave owner in Alabama – and Sojourner Truth would win court battles to get her son back.
In 1843 on the first day of June, Isabella changed her name to Sojourner Truth – telling her friends “The Spirit calls me, and I must go.” It was then that she began to make her way around the United States preaching about abolition. She also supported women’s rights and religious tolerance. In 1851 in the state of Ohio, she would deliver her most famous speech – “Ain’t I a Woman?”
More than 10 years later, in 1857 she would purchase a house in Harmonia, Michigan (just west of Battle Creek.) She would go on to meet President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and she would also go on to force desegregation. In 1867 she would move from Harmonia to Battle Creek.
Before Sojourner Truth passed away, a Grand Rapids Eagle reporter came to interview her – “Her face was drawn and emaciated and she was apparently suffering great pain. Her eyes were very bright and mind alert although it was difficult for her to talk.” Her last words to the interviewer were: “Be a follower of Jesus.”
Sojourner Truth would pass away on November 26th, 1883 in Battle Creek Michigan – and be buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek with her family.
He was born Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr. on October 8th, 1941 in Greenville, South Carolina to a 16 year old mother named Helen Burns. His father, Noah Louis Robinson was a professional boxer and was married to another woman at the time of Jesse’s birth. His mother would marry 2 years after his birth and Charles Henry Jackson would adopt Jesse when he turned 16.
Jesse Jackson attended a segregated high school in the city of Greenville, graduating in 1959. He would go on to attend the University of Illinois – which was one of the integrated schools. A year into college he would transfer to Greensboro, North Carolina to attend to North Carolina A&T. Upon graduation, he would go on to attend Chicago Theological Seminary only to drop out in 1966.
Prior to this, in 1962 he would marry Jacqueline Lavina Brown in 1962 and they would bear 5 children: Santita, Jesse Jr, Jonathan Luther, Yusef DuBois and Jacqueline Lavinia. He is also noted to have had an affair – leading to the birth of his daughter, Ashley in 1999. This created a public scandal and Reverend Jackson withdrew from the public temporarily.
Jackson became ordained as a minister in 1968 and he would go on to be awarded an honorary theological doctorate in 1990. He also received a Master of Divinity degree in 2000.
During his lifetime he would participate in marches organized by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; as well as working with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Chicago. He was personally selected to be the head of the SCLC’s “Operation Breadbasket” and this would lead to his promotion to director soon after.
After the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. – Jesse Jackson would continue on to organize the Rainbow Coalition; Operation PUSH, Rainbow PUSH, as well as the National Youth Movement. To this day, Reverend Jesse Jackson continues to be an active part of the community and the world around him.
Araminta Ross’ birth has been argued about by several historians. Her date of birth ranges from 1820, 1822, 1815; and she personally believed her date of birth was 1825. Her mother was a cook for the family that owned them, while her father was a woodsman who worked timber on the plantation. She had 8 brothers and sisters (Linah, Mariah Ritty, Soph, Robert, Ben, Rachel, Henry, and Moses.)
During her childhood, Harriet (as she would later call herself) suffered a serious head injury. One afternoon she came across an escaped slave, the owner demanded that she help catch and restrain the slave but she refused. The owner would throw a large weight and it would crack her skull. Two days later her own owner would force her back onto the field. Soon after she would be put up for sale, but her owner would have no such luck passing her on. She would suffer seizures for the rest of her life. It has been suggested that she “suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy” from the injury.
Sometime during the 1840s, Harriet would marry John Tubman. Marriage was difficult for them, because Harriet was still a slave while John was a free man – any children Harriet would bear would be forced into slavery.
Illness plagued Harriet throughout her life, and her sale was attempted several times – but no one would buy a sick slave. Finally, she would escape from slavery in 1849. Harriet would lead a difficult life, but would be very active in helping those around her.
She is perhaps most well known for her work with the Underground Railroad where she led 13 missions to help free more than 70 slaves. She was also extremely active in women’s suffrage.
Harriet Tubman passed away on March 10th, 1913 was laid to rest at Fort Hill Cemetery with military honors.
In 1919, Jack Roosevelt Robinson was born in the city of Cairo, Georgia. His mother, Mallie would raise Jackie and her other four children on her own.
At an early age, Jackie proved to be more than above average in sports. He was the first athlete to win varsity letters in baseball, track, football, and basketball at UCLA. He would be named to the All-American Football Team; however due to lack of money he was unable to stay in college.
He enlisted in the U.S. army and worked his way up to second lieutenant – unfortunately he was court-martialed because of several racial discrimination incidents.
In 1946 Jackie Robinson would marry nursing student Rachel Isum. They would have three children: Jackie Jr., David, and Sharon.
After a single season playing in the Negro Baseball League, Jackie Robinson would be picked up by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. From the moment he put on that uniform, Jackie became an icon for the integration of players and fans during sporting events. At the end of his first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he would become the National League Rookie of the Year. Two years later he would be chosen as the National League’s Most Valuable Player of the Year and in the early 1960s he would be inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame.
Jackie Robinson passed away on October 24th, 1972.
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