While innovation, art and diversity are meant to be celebrated every day of the year, February is the month set aside to specifically honor the contributions and impact of great African Americans throughout our country’s history.
The first celebration of “African-American History Month” took place in 1976 when President Gerald R. Ford officially designated the month, noting the country needed to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every areas of endeavor throughout our history.”
When we take time to discover, remember and commemorate the achievements of those individuals who’ve so significantly shaped the fabric of this country, it just might be one small step toward greater awareness, appreciation and racial equality. So let’s do some learning together… According to MSN.com, these are the “20 Important Leaders to Know for Black History Month.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil rights activist, youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize and deliverer of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
- Rosa Parks The seamstress who famously helped to initiate the civil rights movement in the US by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man.
- Malcolm X Civil rights activist, minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam.
- Phillis Wheatley The first African American poet and woman to publish a book.
- Afeni Shakur An American activist, businesswomen and the mother of Tupac Shakur.
- Frederick Douglass An escaped slave who became an author, speaker and activist.
- Barack Obama The Illinois senator who became the 44th president of the US and the first African American ever to be elected to that office.
- Zora Neale Hurston An anthropologist and influential African-American author.
- Thurgood Marshall The grandson of a slave who became a Supreme Court Justice.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates A Journalist and NY Times bestselling author.
- James Baldwin An American novelist and social critic.
- Muhammad Ali Professional boxer and social activist.
- Sidney Poitier Bahamian American actor, director and producer.
- Oprah Winfrey American television personality, actress and entrepreneur.
- Harriet Tubman An escaped slave, American abolitionist, activist and driving force behind the Underground Railroad.
- Ella Baker Civil rights activist, granddaughter of a slave, key member of the NAACP.
- Shirley Chisholm First African American woman elected to the House of Representatives, an educator and author.
- Madam C.J. Walker Philanthropist, political activist and the first female self-made millionaire in the United States.
- W.E.B. Du Bois Writer, teacher, sociologist and activist.
- Maya Angelou American poet, activist and autobiographer.