February is finally here. It may be the shortest month of the year, but it's still just as important as the other months of the year. February is Black History Month, a celebration of achievements and recognizing the central role of blacks throughout the United States history. It all started out with Negro History week in 1926, and President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month officially in 1976. In this article, I want to highlight some important people that influenced our country.
1. Alvin Ailey
He is the founder of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He lived from 1931 to 1989. He used dance and the beauty of black bodies to fight for justice.
2. Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali who lived between 1942 and 2016. He was an amazing athlete. Ali was known as one of the greatest boxers of all time. Ali was most known as a boxer, but he was also an activist. He would set an example for racial pride.
3. Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou was a poet, singer, and civil rights activist who lived between 1928 and 2014. Personally, I love her work. Angelou later became the northern coordinator for Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She also worked with Malcolm X to establish the Organization of Afro-American Unity.
4. Ella Baker
Ella Baker was a civil rights activist who lived between 1903 and 1986. She was one of the most important parts of the Civil Rights Movement by being the back bone.
5. James Baldwin
James Baldwin lived between 1924 and 1987. He was a novelist and playwright. Baldwin was a voice of his nation. Baldwin would talk about the truths when it came to racism, poverty, and inequality in America.
6. Shirley Chisholm
Chisholm was a politician that lived between 1924 and 2005. During the Civil Rights Movement, she was the sole black female congresswoman. She broke race and gender political barriers that stood in her way.
7. Frederick Douglass
Douglass was an abolitionist and author who lived between 1818 and 1895. I read most of his autobiography for school and it was good. I suggest it. You really learn a lot from what he went through as a person. He was born a slave but eventually became free later on in life. Douglass would talk about the horror of slavery and the challenge when it came to the denial of black humanity.
8. W.E.B. Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois was a Sociologist, writer, and activist who lived between 1868 and 1963. As a sociology major, I learned about W.E.B. Du Bois right away, and to this day, he is one of my favorite sociologists. He talked about how the problem of the 20th century was the color line. Du Bois also talked about race as well.
9. Duke Ellington
Ellington lived during 1899 and 1974. He was a composer and bandleader. Ellington earned 11 Grammy Awards, 13 Grammy Hall of Fame nods, and a Grammy Trustees Award. Ellington also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Pulitzer Prize special citation, the Songwriters Hall of Fame Award, and honorary doctorates from Howard University, Yale, and Columbia among other colleges.
10. Aretha Franklin"Clive Davis: The Soundtrack Of Our Lives" Premiere Concert - 2017 Tribeca Film Festival
The Queen of Soul lived between 1942 and 2018. She was a singer-songwriter with a beautiful voice and amazing talent. I could listen to her for hours. In 1987, she was the first female performer to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
11. Jimi HendrixVarious - 1967
Hendrix was a musician and singer-songwriter lived during 1942 and 1970. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame that stated that he was "the most gifted instrumentalist of all time." He has a great voice and amazing guitar skills.
12. Martin Luther King Jr.
He was a civil rights activist and Baptist Minister that lived during 1929 and 1968. He was known for his nonviolence ways. He was the seminal leader of the Civil Rights Movement, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and a key figure in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Montgomery bus boycott, and the Selma to Montgomery March. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
13. Henrietta Lacks
Henrietta Lacks lived between 1920 and 1951. She was the subject of a medical experiment that is still saving lives to this day. It's called the Hela Cell Line. Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer in her early thirties. Months before her death, without her consent, doctors at the Johns Hopkins Hospital sliced pieces of tissue from her cancerous tumor, and kept them. They were later sold making her cancerous cells the first ever sold. Her cells or HeLa, were unusual because they could reproduce rapidly. Not only that, but they could stay alive long enough to undergo multiple tests.
14. Malcolm X
Malcolm X was a civil rights activist and minister. King was known for non-violence while Malcolm X was known to do anything that was necessary to ignite equality until 1964 when he left the Nation of Islam. Then he took a more diplomatic stance instead of a violent one.
15. Barack Obama
Born in 1961, Obama was an attorney and politician who was the 44th President of the United States between 2009 and 2017 becoming the first African American to be elected president. During his presidency, he tamed the Great Recession, helped the auto industry and created a health care reform law.
16. Jesse Owens
Owens was a track and field athlete who lived between 1913 and 1980. He was known as the fastest man alive. He was known as the sprinter that humiliated Hitler. He almost didn't make it to Berlin since the United States was thinking about not going to the Olympics because of how Hitler treated Jews, but he was able to go, and either set or equaled the records in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter sprint, the 400-meter relay, and the long jump. German crowds cheered for him which humiliated Hitler, and later, he refused to shake Owens hand which people to this day don't know if it was indirect or not. After coming home, Owens wasn't invited to the White House after the Olympics to shake hands with the president either.
17. Sidney Poitier
Born in 1927, Poitier became an actor, filmmaker, and director. He was "the shift that was needed to lead the way for the modern black leading man". Poitier was the first African American to win an Academy Award. The films that he created in 1967 centered around race and race relations where they talked about everyday black people.
18. Richard Pryor
He was a comedian that lived between 1940 and 2005. Pryor received one Emmy and five Grammys for his work. He was mainly a comedian, but he also started in movie roles as well.
19. Jackie Robinson
Robinson was a baseball player and civil rights activist who lived between 1919 and 1972. Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson are two of some of my favorite athletes of all time. He was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. He was also an All-Star for six seasons (1949-1954).
20. Michelle Obama
Born in 1964, she is a writer, lawyer, and first lady (2009-2017). During her time as the first lady, she did the "Let's Move!" Which is an administration-wide initiative to reverse the trend of childhood obesity as well as her work during domestic travels and foreign trips. She is also known for her style and being a good role model.
21. Harriet Tubman
Tubman was an abolitionist known as a conductor of the Underground Railroad who lived between 1820 and 1913. She was the first African American woman to appear on the United States currency when her face will appear on the $20 bill starting in the year, 2020. I can not wait to see that. She never lost a passenger during her eight years as a conductor of the Underground Railroad. She was also a nurse and spy for the Union during the Civil War.
22. Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker was an entrepreneur and activist who lived between 1867 and 1919. She traveled throughout the United States, the Caribbean, and Central America teaching her Walker System and training sales agents. Walker would donate money to places like her local black YMCA, and the NAACP's anti-lynching fund.
23. Booker T. Washington
Washington lived between 1856 and 1915. He was an educator and a civil rights activist. There were people who wanted a white man to lead Tuskegee Institute, but instead, Washington got the job. He later became an adviser for racial matters to the president, who was Theodore Roosevelt at the time.
24. Serena Williams
Born in 1981, Serena Williams is a tennis player. She has 23 Grand Slam Titles, Six United States Opens, seven Wimbledon titles, seven Australian Opens, three French Opens, four Olympic gold medals, 23 doubles titles, and a career Golden Slam to her name. Williams made a name for herself in a sport that was historically white. Serena Williams is one of my favorite athletes of all time.
25. Oprah Winfrey
American actress, talk show host, producer, and philanthropist born in 1954. She was the first African American female billionaire. She also won an Academy Award for international humanitarian efforts.
The people listed above, and so many more people who aren't on the list, all were and still are amazing. Each one an inspiration. February is black history month, now let's celebrate it.
Source: The Undefeated