Figures in African American History


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Medgar Evers
(1925-1963) Director of the NAACP in Mississippi. He helped integrate the University of Mississippi. Was eventually assassinated by a member of the Klu Klux Klan.
Toni Morrison
(b. 1931) African American writer who won the Nobel Prize in literature for her book Beloved. Also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Ida B. Wells
(1862-1931) Journalist who spoke out against segregation and lynching in the early 1900s.
John Mitchell Jr.
(b. 1951) Along with Wilbur Jackson, was the first African American player for the University of Alabama in 1971. After playing in the NFL, and coaching for several colleges, he is currently the defensive line coach & assistant head coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ella Fitzgerald
(1917-1996) Entertainer who was the first African American to win a Grammy award.
Thurgood Marshall
(1908-1993) Former Supreme Court Justice who was the first African American on the Supreme Court. Leading attorney in the Brown vs. Board of Education court case that desegregated American schools
Nat Turner
(1800-1831) Slave who led a large rebellion in Virginia in 1831; he was deeply religious and believed God led him to lead this rebellion. After the rebellion ultimately failed, he was executed.
Autherine Lucy
(b. 1929) First black student to attend the University of Alabama.
Robert Johnson
(1911-1938) Famous blues musician.
Fannie Lou Hamer
(1917-1977) Civil Rights leader who was instrumental in SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). She helped organized the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964 (where students came down to Mississippi to help register disfranchised black voters & teach basic education).
Maya Angelou
(1928-2014) Writer and civil rights activist.She won a Pullitzer Prize and received a presidential medal of honor. One of her famous books is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Stokely Carmichael
(1941-1998) Radical civil rights leader who led SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and later was involved with the Black Panthers.
John Lewis
(b. 1940) Activist and politician. Served as chairman for SNCC and has served on the US House of Representatives since 1987.
Olaudah Equiano
(1745-1797) Enslaved man in the Caribbean and American colonies who eventually gained his freedom and wrote a memoir called "The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano."
Marcus Garvey
(1887-1940) Jamaica-born political leader who defended the rights of black people across the globe and particularly in the Americas. He was very influential to many early Civil Rights leaders in the United States.
W.E.B. DuBois
(1868-1963) One of the founders of the NAACP. Protested lynching, segregation, and discrimination in employment and education.
Dred Scott
(1799-1858) Enslaved man who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom in the famous Dred Scott decision of 1857. In this decision, the Supreme Court established that slaves were not citizens of the US.
Jane Bolin
(1908-2007) First African American woman to serve as a judge.
Alice Coachman
(1923-2014) First African American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal. She competed in the high jump competition.
Louis Farrakhan
A minister within the Nation of Islam preached for civil rights during the civil rights movement, and is now the current leader of the Nation of Islam.
Barack Obama
1st African-American to be elected President, he defeated Sen. John McCain in 2008. "Yes We Can." "Change We Can Believe In." Pledged to have the most transparent administration in American history and to reform health care.
Audre Lorde
Black writer, feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. As a poet, she is best known for technical mastery and emotional expression, particularly in her poems expressing anger and outrage at civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life. Her poems and prose largely dealt with issues related to civil rights, feminism, and the exploration of black female identity.
Malcolm X
African-American advocate and leader who moved away from Martin Luther King's non-violent methods of civil disobedience; renamed himself "X" to signify the loss of his African heritage; converted to Nation of Islam in jail in the 50s, became infamous for his fiery message; his beliefs were the basis of a lot of the Black Power movement built on separatist and nationalist impulses to achieve true independence and equality
Ronald McNair
What African American astronaut died in the 1986 space shuttle disaster?
Booker T. Washington
Prominent black American, born into slavery, who believed that racism would end once blacks acquired useful labor skills and proved their economic value to society, was head of the Tuskegee Institute in 1881. He wrote a book entitled "Up from Slavery."
Alain Locke
"The New Negro" was written by this person. It illustrated contributions to American culture made by African-Americans. It caused the author to be named the "Father of the Harlem Renaissance."
James Weldon Johnson
NAACP leader and Harlem Renaissance writer; he wrote poetry and, with his brother, the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing."
Zora Neale Hurston
Harlem Renaissance genius; Black writer who wanted to save African American folklore. She traveled all across the South collecting folk tales, songs & prayers of Black southerners. She wrote "Their Eyes were Watching God."
James Baldwin
20th C. African American novelist, playwright, civil rights activist; Wrote "The Fire Next Time", author dealt with racial/ sexual issues
Charles Manuel "Sweet Daddy" Grace
founder and first bishop of the predominantly African-American denomination the United House of Prayer For All People.[1] He was a contemporary of other religious leaders such as Father Divine, Noble Drew Ali and Ernest Holmes.
Elijah Muhammad
Leader of the nation of Islam from 1945 to his death in 1975. He helped many people and was a strong advocate of civil rights
Cornel West
Went to Harvard University. His writings span theology, philosophy, and Marxist thought. Author of "Race Matters", "Democracy Matters", "Hope on a Tight Rope". The bulk of his work focuses o the role or race, gender, and class in American society.
bell hooks
American author, feminist, and social activist; writing has been the intersectionality of race, capitalism, and gender, and what she describes as their ability to produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and class domination.
George Washington Carver
(1860s-1943) African American farmer and food scientist. His research improved farming in the South by developing new products using peanuts.
Robert F. Williams
A black man who was the first head of his NAACP chapter. He moved on to advocate black self defense and was case as the anti MLK. Fled to Cuba and then to China after making terroristic threats; became a Marxist revolutionary and thought that blacks should lead the struggle against white lead capitalist oppression. Served as Revolutionary Action Movement's chairman. even though he couldn't organize because of the constraints of being in exile. Published "Negros with Guns."
Marian Anderson
A famous African American concert singer who had her first performance in 1935, dazzling the audience and launching herself into fame. The next year she performed at the White House by presidential invitation, and performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to let her rent Constitution Hall (Eleanor Roosevelt and several others resigned after this decision).
Madame C. J. Walker
African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. Eulogized as the first female self-made millionaire in America, she became one of the wealthiest African American women in the country, "the world's most successful female entrepreneur of her time," and one of the most successful African-American business owners ever.
Jack Johnson
First African American boxer to win the World Heavyweight title (1908), represented idea of the "New Negro" in early-1900s American culture.
DJ Kool Herc
Jamaican-American DJ who is credited with originating hip hop music in the early 1970s in The Bronx, New York City. His playing of hard funk records of the sort typified by James Brown was an alternative both to the violent gang culture of the Bronx and to the nascent popularity of disco in the 1970s; began to isolate the instrumental portion of the record, which emphasized the drum beat—the "break"—and switch from one break to another.
Grandmaster Flash
Bajan-American hip hop recording artist and DJ. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of hip-hop DJing, cutting, and mixing; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, becoming the first hip hop act to be honored.
Jean-Michel Basquiat
was an American artist, who began as an obscure graffiti artist in New York City in the late 1970s and evolved into an acclaimed Neo-expressionist and Primitivist painter by the 1980s.

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