This post will have a look at famous Black History figures as well as those who are less famous. The names Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, George Washington Carver, and Barack Obama are synonymous with Black History Month; however, there are countless other African Americans who have made a significant contribution to history.
During the month of February, which is designated as Black History Month, influential figures in African American history such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, and Harriet Tubman are frequently discussed. Because they are shown on stamps, calendars, and are even referenced in political speeches, they are adored and draw attention to themselves. But what about the other black heroes who fought for freedom, opened doors, and even came up with treatments that are still used today?
All of the pioneers should be recognized and honored, so in that spirit, we are shining a light on many African Americans who have been largely forgotten but who deserve to be remembered for their bravery, successes, and charitable contributions to the civil rights movement, the arts, politics, technology, and a variety of other fields and fields of endeavor. This list honors heroes like Ella Baker, Claudette Colvin, Gordon Parks, and Bayard Rustin because they made it possible for many of the pioneers of today to shine.
Famous Black American Figures (And Not So Well-Known Figures Too)
In Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin declined to move out of the way of a bus to give up her seat to a white person. Rosa Parks was inspired by Claudette Colvin’s actions. She did not comply when the bus driver told her to stand up, despite the fact that she had already paid her fare and that doing so was her constitutionally protected right. She was taken into custody.
Colvin told NPR, “All I remember is that I was not going to get off the bus voluntarily.” “All I remember is that I was not going to walk off the bus voluntarily.” After that, Colvin was the main witness in the federal case Browder v. Gayle, which led to the end of racial discrimination on Alabama’s public transportation systems.
Robert Sengstacke Abbott
Abbott was instrumental in laying the groundwork for what would later become numerous black periodicals such as Ebony, Jet, Essence, Black Enterprise, Right On!, and Sheen Magazine, amongst others. In the year 1905, Abbott established a weekly newspaper known as the Chicago Defender. The publication was launched with an initial investment of 25 cents and a pamphlet including four pages; subsequent editions saw an increase in the number of copies distributed.
The Defender was an influential publication that played a significant part in urging African-Americans to leave the South in search of better economic possibilities. Because of the publication’s popularity, Abbott became one of the first African Americans to earn a million dollars on his own.
When she won her election, Chisholm opened the door for other African American women to take important positions in government. She began her career as an academic consultant for the Bureau of Child Welfare in New York City. Two years later, in 1964, she ran for a seat in the New York State Assembly.
Chisholm made history in 1968 when she became the first African American woman to be elected to Congress. She was elected to represent New York’s 12th District in 1969 and served in that capacity until 1983. In later years, she rose through the ranks to become an original member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In 1972, Chisholm made even more history when she became the first African American woman of a mainstream political party to run for the presidential candidacy of her party. She ran for the nomination of the Democratic Party. Her campaign used the term “Unbought and unbossed” as its rallying cry. Even in the announcement of her candidacy for president, Kamala Harris, who is currently serving as Vice President, paid homage to Chisholm by choosing a graphic that was reminiscent of Chisholm’s.
Johnson H. Johnson
It was while Johnson was working for Supreme Life Insurance Company that he got the idea for his first publication, Negro Digest. Johnson is now widely regarded as among the most influential black media publishers. He got his start in the industry by accumulating weekly news clippings for his manager. In 1942, Johnson launched his dream project, which would later become known as Black After another three years, he established Ebony.
In 1951, he founded the weekly news magazine known as Jet, which featured a section called Jet Beauty of the Week. In addition to this, Johnson branched out from periodicals into book publishing and was the owner of Fashion Fair Cosmetics, which was the leading cosmetics firm that targeted people with darker complexion tones before Fenty existed.
Annie Turnbo Malone
Although Madam C.J. Walker is famed for being the first black female millionaire, it is important to note that she did not achieve this status without the help of others, such as her colleague Annie Turnbo Malone, who was also a wealthy woman. Her major contributions to the hair care industry have been obscured by Walker’s unprecedented level of commercial success.
Malone was a businesswoman and a chemist at the same time. She began by formulating a hair product that could be used to straighten the hair of African American women without causing damage to the hair, and she eventually went on to design a whole range of hair care and cosmetic products. Before the World’s Fair in 1904, she and her assistants gave demonstrations while selling the products door to door. This was before the company’s business took off.
In 1918, Malone opened Poro College in St. Louis, Missouri, which served as a training center and school for cosmetology. By the middle of the 1950s, she had established thirty-two other locations of the school around the country.
During the 1948 Summer Olympics held in London, Coachman made history when she became the first African American woman from any country to win an Olympic Gold Medal. She jumped a distance of 5 feet, 6 1/8 inches to win the gold medal in the high jump competition at the Olympics. After that, in 2010, she became the first black female athlete to ever represent a global consumer brand when she signed on as a spokesperson for Coca-Cola.
She finished her career with a total of 34 national titles to her name. She was given an official induction into the National Track-and-Field Hall of Fame in the year 1975, and she was given an official induction into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame in the year 2004.
Maria P. Williams
Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, and Shonda Rhimes are just a handful of the numerous black women who have left their mark on the Hollywood scene with their work. Williams broke new ground when she became the first black woman to produce, write, and act in her own silent crime film, which she titled The Flames of Wrath and was released in 1923.
She and her husband established the Western Film Manufacturing Company and Bookings Exchange in order to facilitate the film’s distribution. The former teacher from Kansas City was also an activist. In 1916, she wrote a book called “My Work and Public Sentiment” about her experiences as a leader.
Before going on to achieve historical significance, Waters began her career in the entertainment industry in the 1920s as a blues singer. Waters was the first African-American artist to integrate Broadway when she appeared in Irving Berlin’s As Thousands Cheer. He went on to become the performer with the highest salary on Broadway.
In addition to being the first African American to star in her own television variety show, The Ethel Waters Show, which debuted in 1939, Ethel Waters was also a pioneer in the field of civil rights. In 1950, she was considered for an Academy Award nomination in the category of Supporting Actress for her performance in the film Pinky.
In the same year, 1950, Waters made history by being the first black actress to star in a television series. That series, titled Beulah, was broadcast on ABC. In 1962, she made history by becoming the first African American woman to be considered for a nomination for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Single Show by a Leading Lady. This nomination was for her work on the show Route 66.
Her most recent undertaking was one that truly hit close to home. The Maya Angelou Centre for Women’s Health and Wellness that provides a variety of services opened on June 28, 2012 in her hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. These services include treatment for mental illness; prenatal care; testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; emergency care; treatment for bone and joint conditions; and care for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
More About Famous Black History Figures
Even though their names might not instantly ring a bell, these historical personalities have had a significant impact on the world and deserve to be brought into the spotlight. There are a number of true heroes who are rarely mentioned in schools and around the dinner table.