ONTD Political

Info Post: Black History Month Week 3

7:41 pm - 02/19/2012
Notable Black People You Should Have Been Taught About But Probably Weren't

Warnings, Notes, and Disclaimers
SPECIFIC TRIGGER WARNINGS: Racism, disparing racial terms, etc.
IMAGE CONTENT: Black people
NOTES: Sorry about the lack of Info Post last weekend, it was my mom's birthday, I was tired, the Grammy's were on, and the Mass Effect 3 demo was launched early soooo yeah, it wasn't gonna happen.
DISCLAIMER: The N-word is featured in the article in uncensored 6-letter format.

Info Posts are a "safe space" to ask questions you might otherwise be too shy to. Please do not reply to people with "Plz Google" or "educate yourself". Everyone should enter these posts with a learn and teach mindset (in that order). WITH THAT SAID, HOWEVER, please remain mindful of your questions and phrasing, be open-minded, learn, and know when to be quiet. If you are flippant with your ignorance, I will not stop angered members from telling you about yourself.


Frederick Douglass

[Douglass] was an American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing. He stood as a living counter-example to slaveholders' arguments that slaves did not have the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. | Source

Homer Plessy

Waits for someone to ask why there's a white guy in this post...

Homer Plessey was the man in the middle of the 1896 Supreme Court ruling that confirmed the rule of "separate but equal" in U.S. law. Plessey was a light-skinned Creole of European and African descent. He was arrested and jailed in 1892 for sitting in a Louisiana railroad car designated for white people only. Plessy had purposely violated an 1890 state law, called the Separate Car law, which required that passengers on Louisiana trains be segregated by race. Plessy claimed in court that the Separate Car law violated the 13th and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but Louisiana Judge John Howard Ferguson found him guilty anyhow. By 1896 the case had gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the legality of Judge Ferguson's ruling by an 8-1 majority. The finding confirmed the doctrine of "separate but equal" -- the notion that segregation was legal as long as both blacks and whites had equal facilities. The case helped formalize legal segregation in the United States until it was finally outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1954 in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. | | Plessy v. Furguson

Dred Scott

Dred Scott was born a slave in Southampton County, Va. in 1795. Industrious and intelligent, he was employed as a farmhand, stevedore, craftsman, and general handyman. In 1819 his original owner moved to Huntsville, Ala., and later to St. Louis, Mo. In 1832 he died, and Scott was sold for $500 to a surgeon in the U.S. Army who took Scott to the free state of Illinois in 1834 and on to Wisconsin Territory. Later the doctor returned with Scott to Missouri.

When the surgeon died, Scott passed to John Sanford. During these years he had married and had two daughters. Scott had tried unsuccessfully to escape from slavery and later to buy his freedom. In 1846 he filed suit in the Missouri state courts for his freedom on the grounds that residence in a free territory had liberated him.

Scott's suit finally came before the U.S. Supreme Court. On March 6, 1857, in Dred Scott v. John Sanford, after much debate the Supreme Court ruled against Scott 7 to 2, with Chief Justice Roger B. Taney giving the majority opinion. According to Taney, Scott could not sue Sanford because he was not a U.S. citizen. The justice argued that Scott was not a citizen because he was both a black man and a slave. Taney's remarks that black men "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect" came as a severe blow to abolitionists.

This crucial decision electrified the country, for Taney had ruled that African Americans were not citizens of the United States and that an act of Congress (the Missouri Compromise of 1820) was unconstitutional. He also had redefined the relationship between the states and the Federal government, making possible the expansion of slavery into the territories. Southerners rejoiced at the verdict; abolitionists denounced it and even went as far as discrediting the legitimacy of the Court itself.

A few months after the decision, on May 26, 1857, Scott's owner freed him. Scott continued to live in St. Louis until his death on Sept. 17, 1858. Although African Americans would not become citizens of the United States until the ratification of the 14th Amendment (1868), Scott's bid for freedom remained the most momentous judicial event of the century. | Source | Dred Scott Decision

Sojourner Truth

[Sojourner Truth] was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on racial inequalities, Ain't I a Woman?, was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, Truth tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves. | Source | Truth's Expanded Profile | Truth's Detailed Biography

Nat Turner

Nat Turner, born into slavery October 2, 1800, on a Southampton County plantation, became a preacher who claimed he;d been chosen by God to lead slaves from bondage. On August 21, 1831, he led a violent, disorganized insurrection. He hid for six weeks but was eventually caught and later hanged. The incident ended the emancipation movement in that region and led to even harsher laws against slaves. | Soure + full biography | Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion

Harriet Tubman

On March 7, 1849, Edward Brodess died on his farm at Bucktown at the age of 47, leaving Tubman and her family at risk of being sold to settle Brodess's debts. In the late fall of 1849 Tubman took her own liberty. She tapped into an Underground Railroad that was already functioning well on the Eastern Shore: traveling by night, using the North Star and instructions from white and black helpers, she found her way to Philadelphia. She sought work as a domestic, saving her money to help the rest of her family escape. From 1850 to 1860, Tubman conducted between eleven and thirteen escape missions, bringing away approximately seventy individuals, including her brothers, parents, and other family and friends, while also giving instructions to approximately fifty more who found their way to freedom independently.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 left most refugee slaves vulnerable to recapture, and many fled to the safety and protection of Canada. Indeed, Tubman brought many of her charges to St. Catharines, Ontario, where they settled into a growing community of freedom seekers. Her dangerous missions won the admiration of black and white abolitionists throughout the North who provided her with funds to continue her activities. | Source + detailed biography| Full Profile


Hank Aaron

Born into humble circumstances on February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama, Henry Louis 'Hank' Aaron ascended the ranks of the Negro Leagues to become a major league baseball icon. Aaron played 23 years as an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, during which time he broke many of baseball's most distinguished records, including most career home runs (755)--a record that stood for more than two decades. | Source

Muhammed Ali

Originally known as Cassius Clay, Ali changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam in 1964, subsequently converting to Sunni Islam in 1975, and more recently practicing Sufism. In 1967, three years after Ali had won the World Heavyweight Championship, he was publicly vilified for his refusal to be conscripted into the U.S. military, based on his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali stated, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong... No Viet Cong ever called me nigger" – one of the more telling remarks of the era. | Source

Herb Carnegie

The hockey world knew that Herbie Carnegie was a good player, but suspiciously he never had a chance to play in the NHL, not even during World War II when NHL teams were desperately looking for replacements lost to the armed forces.

Hall of Fame referee Red Storey suggests there was only one reason Carnegie never got a chance.

"It's very simple. He's black. Don't say we don't have any rednecks in Canada. But I'm not saying Conn Smythe was bigoted either. I think he said the quote, but I think he meant that with Herbie being black, he wouldn't be able to put him in the same hotels with the rest of the team and have him eat the same restaurants and there could be problems if he took him to the States to play against the NHL teams there." | Source | Expanded Story

Shani Davis

At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Davis became the first Black athlete (from any nation) to win a gold medal in an individual sport at the Olympic Winter Games (Speedskating, 1000 meters). He also won the silver in the 1,500 m. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, he duplicated the feat, becoming the first man to successfully defend the 1,000 m title, and repeating as 1,500 m silver medalist. Davis has set a total of eight world records, three of them current (through the 2010-11 season): 1:06.42 in the 1,000 m, 1:41.04 in the 1,500 m, and 145.742 in the allround samalog. He also sits atop the world Adelskalender list (since March 2009), which ranks the all-time fastest speed skaters by personal best times in the four World Allround Championship distances. | Source

Magic Johnson

If I have to explain who this is, you should be ashamed of yourself.
Expanded Biography | Magic Johnson and HIV, 20 Years Later | Magic Johnson and AIDS Activism

Michael Jordan

He was the greatest basketball player ever, or something like that, but his greatest lifetime achievments include being ageless and making bald sexy. | Source: me | Full Biography

Willie O'Ree

Hockey was about 10 years late when it came to integration. All the other professional sports, including tennis, bowling, golf, baseball, football, and boxing were racially integrated by 1950. Hockey was the holdout. It was the whitest sport. There were no black players, coaches, team owners, or sportswriters. O'Ree was the first black hockey player in the NHL's 50-year history, and he'd be the last for another 25 years. | Source + some edits by me

Tiger Woods

Made one of the most prolific achievements on this whole list by getting the masses interested pro golf. | Full Biography | PGA Tour Profile

Venus and Serena Williams

The Williams sisters are two professional American tennis players: Venus Williams born 1980, seven-time Grand Slam title winner (singles), and Serena Williams born 1981, thirteen-time Grand Slam title winner (singles), both of whom were coached from an early age by their father Richard Williams. | Williams Sisters | Serena Williams | Venus Williams

Civil Rights Leaders

Ralph Abernathy

Civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy was the best friend and close assistant of Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968). He followed King as the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The organization used nonviolent means to fight for civil rights for African Americans. | Source + complete biography

Ella Baker

Baker was a driving force in the creation of the country's premier civil rights organizations. After graduating as valedictorian from North Carolina's Shaw University in 1927, Baker moved to New York City, where she encountered dire poverty, the result of the depression. She was a founding member of the Young Negroes Cooperative League, whose members pooled funds to buy products and services at reduced cost.

Baker joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1935 as a field secretary and later served as a national director. She scaled back her national responsibilities with the group in 1946 and worked at the local level to improve and integrate New York City's schools.

In 1957 Baker and several Southern black ministers and activists established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a major force in organizing the civil rights movement. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as the group's first president and Baker as the director. She mainly worked behind the scenes, while King assumed the role as spokesman. Baker left the group in 1960, when she helped students organize the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at her alma mater, Shaw University. The committee gave young blacks a more organized voice in the civil rights movement. | Source

Angela Davis

Angela Davis is the author of eight books and has lectured throughout the United States as well as in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. In recent years a persistent theme of her work has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She draws upon her own experiences in the early seventies as a person who spent eighteen months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” She has also conducted extensive research on numerous issues related to race, gender and imprisonment. Her most recent books are Abolition Democracy and Are Prisons Obsolete? She is now completing a book on Prisons and American History.

Angela Davis works with Justice Now, which provides legal assistance to women in prison and engages in advocacy for the abolition of imprisonment as the dominant strategy for addressing social problems. Internationally, she is affiliated with Sisters Inside, a similar organization based in Queensland, Australia. | Source | Wiki

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Please refer to this post

Coretta Scott King

Civil rights activist. Born on April 27, 1927 in Marion, Alabama. Although best known as the wife of 1960s civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King established a distinguished career in activism in her own right. Working side-by-side with her husband throughout the 1950s and 1960s, King took part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 and worked to pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Her memoir, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., was published n 1969.

Following her husband's assassination in 1968, she continued their work, founding the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, GA. She served as the center's president and chief executive officer from its inception. | Source + full biography

Bayard Ruskin

[Ruskin] was an American leader in social movements for civil rights, socialism, pacifism and non-violence, and gay rights. In the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Rustin practiced nonviolence. He was a leading activist of the early 1947–1955 civil-rights movement, helping to initiate a 1947 Freedom Ride to challenge with civil disobedience racial segregation on interstate busing. He recognized Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership, and helped to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to strengthen King's leadership; Rustin promoted the philosophy of nonviolence and the practices of nonviolent resistance, which he had observed while working with Gandhi's movement in India. Rustin became a leading strategist of the civil rights movement from 1955–1968. He was the chief organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was headed by A. Philip Randolph, the leading African-American labor-union president and socialist. | Source

Malcolm X

To his admirers, he was a courageous advocate for the rights of African Americans, a man who indicted white America in the harshest terms for its crimes against black Americans. Detractors accused him of preaching racism, black supremacy, antisemitism, and violence. He has been called one of the greatest and most influential African Americans in history. Malcolm X's father died—killed by white supremacists, it was rumored—when he was young, and at least one of his uncles was lynched. When he was thirteen, his mother was placed in a mental hospital, and he was placed in a series of foster homes.Source
*Note: His mother suffered a mental breakdown after witnessing her husband's murder. "When my mother was pregnant with me, she told me later, a party of hooded Klu Klux Klan riders galloped up to our home... Brandishing their shotguns and rifles, they shouted for my father to come out" (Malcolm X).

Medgar Evers

was an African American civil rights activist from Mississippi involved in efforts to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi. He became active in the civil rights movement after returning from overseas service in World War II and completing secondary education; he became a field secretary for the NAACP.

Evers was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens' Council. As a veteran, Evers was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. | Bio

Rosa Parks

You should know who this woman is.
Facts About Rosa | Achievement Academy | Bio

Little Rock Nine

The Little Rock Nine were the nine African-American students involved in the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. Their entrance into the school in 1957 sparked a nationwide crisis when Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, in defiance of a federal court order, called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the Nine from entering. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by federalizing the National Guard and sending in units of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to escort the Nine into the school on September 25, 1957. The military presence remained for the duration of the school year. | Source

You may wonder what ever became of that hollering white woman in the above photo...

Learn more about Hazel Massery

Marcus Garvey

He founded the Black Star Line, part of the Back-to-Africa movement. | Full Biography

Dorothy Height

One of the last living links to the social activism of the New Deal era, Ms. Height had a career in civil rights that spanned nearly 80 years, from anti-lynching protests in the early 1930s to the inauguration of President Obama in 2009. That the American social landscape looks as it does today owes in no small part to her work.

Originally trained as a social worker, Ms. Height was president of the National Council of Negro Women from 1957 to 1997, overseeing a range of programs on issues like voting rights, poverty and in later years AIDS. A longtime executive of the Y.W.C.A., she presided over the integration of its facilities nationwide in the 1940s.

With Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan and others, she helped found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971. Over the decades, she advised a string of American presidents on civil rights. | Source

Huey P. Newton

Born in 1942, Huey P. Newton helped establish the Black Panther Party, becoming a leading figure in the black power movement of the 1960s. Along with friend Bobby Seale, the two formed the political organization, striving to create social programs for blacks in need. During the Party's existence, members clashed with the police several times. Newton died after being shot on the street in 1989. | Source | blackpanther.org

Bobby Seale

Bobby Seale was one of a generation of young African American radicals who broke away from the usually nonviolent civil rights movement to preach a doctrine of militant black empowerment, helping found the Black Panthers in 1966. In the 1970s, as the Black Panthers faded from public view, Seale took on a quieter role, working to improve social services in black neighborhoods and other causes. | Source

C.K. Steele

He was one of the main organizers of the Tallahassee bus boycott, and a prominent member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. | Biography

Jesse Jackson

You should know who this is.

Kweisi Mfume

As a congressman, Mfume became one of the most well-known African American politicians in Washington, D.C. Believing that he could achieve more for civil rights by working for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Mfume eventually left Congress to become president of the organization. | Source

Al Sharpton



Octavia Butler

Black American science fiction writer. | Bibliography

Clive Campbell

The father of hip-hop.
DJ Kool Herc

Bill Cosby

American comedian, actor, author, television producer, educator, musician and activist.

Dorothy Dandridge

She was the first black actress to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

Pam Grier

Cinema's first female action star. | Bio

Alex Haley

He wrote the book Roots and coauthored The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

Toni Morrison

The first black woman to win the Nobel Prize in Lit. that has written an entire catalog of flawless fiction, yet who is most famous for her worst one.

Alice Walker

An American author and poet who won the Pulitzer for The Color Purple.

Langston Hughes

An American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. | Biography | Further Reading

Zora Neale Hurston

An American folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Of Hurston's four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. | Biography

Hattie McDaniel
Hattie McDaniel's portrayal of the "mammy" figure in the film Gone with the Wind, for which she received an Academy Award for best supporting actress in 1940, is still widely seen as a role that could only have been played by her. She was the first African American to receive an Oscar. | Biography | IMDB

Stepin Fetchit

Although he never won an Oscar, Lincoln Perry was America's first black movie star. But for that distinction, Perry paid a heavy price — he is best known as the character of Stepin Fetchit, a befuddled, mumbling, shiftless fool.

Seen through a modern lens, Perry's "laziest man in the world" character can be painfully racist. Perry, a veteran of the vaudeville "Chitlin Circuit," got his break in Hollywood in 1927 when he was cast in the silent film In Old Kentucky. According to film historian Mel Watkins, Perry created the character to make himself stand out from other actors vying for the role. | Source | Source 2 | The Coon Caricature | IMDB

Berry Gordy, Jr.

A record producer, and the founder of the Motown record label. | Biography


He is one of the most financially successful hip hop artists and entrepreneurs in America, having a net worth of over $450 million as of 2010. He has sold approximately 50 million albums worldwide, while receiving thirteen Grammy Awards for his musical work, and numerous additional nominations. | Biography

Robert Johnson
An American business magnate best known for being the founder of television network Black Entertainment Television (BET), and is also its former chairman and chief executive officer. Johnson is currently chairman and founder of RLJ Development and former majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, a National Basketball Association franchise along with rapper Nelly and NBA legend and current majority owner Michael Jordan. In 2001, Johnson became the first African American billionaire, and the first black person to be listed on any of Forbes world's rich list. | Biogrpahy


Praise Saint Oprah

Sir Sidney Poitier

An actor, director, and producer, he forever altered the racial perceptions long held by both motion picture audiences and executives, rising to superstar status in an industry forever dominated on both sides of the camera by whites while becoming the first African-American ever to take home an Oscar for Best Actor. | Source | IMDB

Richard Pryor


P. Diddy

In 2011, Forbes estimated his net worth at $500 million, making him the richest figure in hip hop. | Biography

Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons is the third richest figure in hip-hop, having a net-worth estimate of $340 million as of April 2011. Russell Simmons has been vegan since 1998 and advocates the adoption of practicing Ahimsa and veganism citing animal rights along with the environmental and health benefits.

Simmons is also a long-time supporter for gay rights. He encourages marriage equality. In 2011, when Lowe's withdrew funding from the show All-American Muslim, Simmons promised to pay the Learning Channel for any revenue lost. | Source

Nina Simone
A singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and civil rights activist widely associated with jazz music. Simone aspired to become a classical pianist while working in a broad range of styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. | Source

Will Smith
The go-to black man in white media.


Michael Jackson
The first black pop star, the King of Pop, and arguably one of the greatest pop artists to have ever lived. Double-crossed Paul McCartney. Not the first black artist to appear on MTV.

Whitney Houston

Guinness World Records cited her as the most-awarded female act of all-time. | Biography

Tyler Perry

An actor, director, playwright, entrepreneur, screenwriter, producer, author, and songwriter. Perry wrote and produced many stage plays during the 1990s and early 2000s. In 2011, Forbes named him the highest paid man in entertainment, earning $130 million between May 2010 and 2011. | Biography

Debi Thomas
Debra Janine "Debi" Thomas M.D. (born March 25, 1967) is an American figure skater and physician. She is the 1986 World champion and 1988 Olympic bronze medalist, having taken part in the Battle of the Carmens at those games. She was the first African-American to hold U.S. National titles in ladies' singles figure skating. Thomas was a pre-med student at Stanford University during this time although it was unusual for a top U.S. skater to go to college at the same time as competing. | Source

Halle Berry

Halle Berry won an Academy Award for Best Actress and was nominated for a BAFTA Award in 2001 for her performance in Monster's Ball, becoming the first and, as of 2011, only woman of African American descent to have won the award for Best Actress. She is one of the most highly paid actresses in Hollywood and also a Revlon spokeswoman. | Source

The Wayans Family

The Wayans family is a family including many directors, screenwriters, comedians and actors. Their parents are Howell and Elvira Wayans. There are ten siblings in the first generation, with many children of their own. | The family | The Most Powerful Family in Hollywood

Government Officials

James Armistead
Born into slavery, James Armistead volunteered to join the U.S. Army to fight in the American Revolution. He served under Marquis de Lafayette, who employed Armistead as a spy to infiltrate the British forces. He did so successfully, becoming was a valuable highly solider. Despite his incredible service, he returned to his owner after the war. Upon receiving freedom, he bought land and farmed. | Biography

Condoleezza Rice

She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush. Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state, as well as the second African American (after Colin Powell), and the second woman (after Madeleine Albright). Rice was President Bush's National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to serve in that position. Before joining the Bush administration, she was a professor of political science at Stanford University where she served as Provost from 1993 to 1999. Rice also served on the National Security Council as the Soviet and East European Affairs Advisor to President George H.W. Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush. Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state, as well as the second African American (after Colin Powell), and the second woman (after Madeleine Albright). Rice was President Bush&'s National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to serve in that position. Before joining the Bush administration, she was a professor of political science at Stanford University where she served as Provost from 1993 to 1999. Rice also served on the National Security Council as the Soviet and East European Affairs Advisor to President George H.W. Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification. | Wiki | Additional Bio

She is fluent in English, Spanish, French and Russian. She was a child piano prodigy. Was a competetive figure skater. Skipped grades in school. Graduated HS at 15. | Source

Dr. Daurene Lewis

Among her ancestors is Rose Fortune, a Philadelphian who became the first female police officer in North America. Daurene has proudly upheld her family’s legacy of hard work and tremendous accomplishment. She’s already had several careers, including becoming the first black mayor in Nova Scotia and the first female black mayor in North America. As she says, “Idle is a four-letter word.” | Source

President Barack Obama

Oh come on now... | The White House | Biography | Wiki | BarackObama.com

Queen Michelle Obama

First Lady's Official Website | Mrs. O - A First Lady Fashion Site

Colin Powell

Colin Luther Powell is a United States statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army.He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005), serving under President George W. Bush. He was the first African American appointed to that position. He was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. | Source | Wiki

Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas was born on June 23, 1948 in Pinpoint, Georgia. He served in the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush. The retirement of African American Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall led George W. Bush to nominate Thomas as his replacement and he was narrowly confirmed in 1991. Thomas is a conservative justice and has come down against Roe v. Wade and school desegregation. | Source

Robert Smalls

Smalls was an enslaved African American who, during and after the American Civil War, became a ship's pilot, sea captain, and politician. He freed himself and his family from slavery on May 13, 1862, by commandeering a Confederate transport ship, the Planter, in Charleston harbor, and sailing it to freedom.

He was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, and eventually became a politician, serving in the South Carolina State legislature and the United States House of Representatives. During his career, Smalls authored state legislation that gave South Carolina the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States, founded the Republican Party of South Carolina, and convinced President Lincoln to accept African-American soldiers into the Union army. He is notable as the last Republican to represent South Carolina's 5th congressional district until 2010. | Source

Thurgood Marshall

Marshall was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from October 1967 until October 1991. Marshall was the Court's 96th justice and its first African-American justice.

Before becoming a judge, Marshall was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. | Source | Brown v. Board of Education

Daniel "Chappie" James

James was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, who in 1975 became the first black American to reach the rank of four-star general. |

Religious Leaders

Louis Farrakhan

Louis Farrakhan was born Louis Eugene Walcott on May 11, 1933, in the Bronx, New York. He joined the Nation of Islam in 1955 and in 1978 led a breakaway group of the Nation of Islam which preserved the original teachings of Elijah Muhammad. In the 1980s, Farrakhan was criticized for making anti-Semitic remarks; he denies being anti-Semitic. In 1995, he led the Million Man March on Washington D.C. | Source

Peter Williams, Sr.
Although he was a slave, Williams became a sexton in the Methodist Church in 1778. When his owner returned to England in 1783, the church trustees purchased Williams. Upset that churches were segregated, Williams helped establish the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, chartered in 1801. The first black church in New York, it is the forerunner of the denomination of that name today. | Source

Scholars, Educators, and Entrepreneurs

Dr. Maya Angelou


Mary McLeod Bethune

Bethune was an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for African American students in Daytona Beach, Florida, that eventually became Bethune-Cookman University and for being an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Born in South Carolina to parents who had been slaves and having to work in fields at age five, she took an early interest in her own education. With the help of benefactors, Bethune attended college hoping to become a missionary in Africa. When that did not materialize, she started a school for African American girls in Daytona Beach. | Bio

Dr. Ben Carson

Ben Carson was born in Detroit, Michigan, on September 18, 1951. His mother, though undereducated herself, pushed her sons to read and to believe in themselves. Carson went from a poor student to an honors one, going on to medical school and becoming Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at age 33. He became famous for his ground-breaking work separating conjoined twins. | Bio

Ken Chenault
American business executive. He has been the CEO and Chairman of American Express since 2001. He is the third African-American CEO of a Fortune 500 company. | Source

W.E.B. DuBois

was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, and editor. Born in western Massachusetts, Du Bois grew up in a tolerant community and experienced little racism as a child. After graduating from Harvard, where he was the first African American to earn a doctorate, he became a professor of history, sociology, and economics at Atlanta University. Du Bois was one of the co-founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. | Source

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

He was the first African American to receive the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship. He has received numerous honorary degrees and awards for his teaching, research, and development of academic institutions to study black culture. In 2002, Gates was selected to give the Jefferson Lecture, in recognition of his "distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities". | Bio

Ernest Everest Just

Although he was born in the segregated conditions of the South, Ernest Everett Just became one of the most highly respected scientists of his time, graduating magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1907, earning a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Chicago in 1916, and teaching at Howard University in Washington, D.C. from 1909 until his death in 1941. Critical to scientific reputation was his research at the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, beginning in 1909. Just published more than 50 scientific papers based on his 20 years at Woods Hole. In addition, he wrote one of the most important text books of the 20th century, Biology of the Cell Surface (1939). Beginning in 1929, he engaged in an extensive amount of research in Europe, which lasted until his return to the United States in 1940. | Source

Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington, born in 1856, was an American educator, author, orator, and political leader. He was the dominant figure in the African American community in the United States from 1890 to 1915. Representative of the last generation of black leaders born in slavery, he spoke on behalf of blacks living in the South. | Source

Cornel West

Thank you ladypolitik, all I can focus on is his scarf now...

West is an American philosopher, author, critic, actor, civil rights activist and prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America. He currently teaches at Princeton University. West is known for his combination of political and moral insight and criticism and his contribution to the post-1960s civil rights movement. The bulk of his work focuses on the role of race, gender, and class in American society and the means by which people act and react to their "radical conditionedness." West draws intellectual contributions from such diverse traditions as the African American Baptist Church, pragmatism and transcendentalism. | Source

Carter G. Woodson

Known as the “Father of Black History,” Woodson was the son of former slaves, and understood how important gaining a proper education is when striving to secure and make the most out of one’s divine right of freedom. Although he did not begin his formal education until he was 20 years old, his dedication to study enabled him to earn a high school diploma in West Virginia and bachelor and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago in just a few years.
In 1912, Woodson became the second African American to earn a PhD at Harvard University. | Source

Alain Leroy Locke
Locke was an American writer, philosopher, educator, and patron of the arts. He is best known for his writings on and about the Harlem Renaissance. He is regarded as the "Father of the Harlem Renaissance". | Source

Scientists and Inventors

Benjamin Banneker
Banneker was a free African American astronomer, mathematician, surveyor, almanac author and farmer. |

Patricia Bath

Bath is an African American and Native American ophthalmologist, inventor and academic. She has broken ground for women and African Americans in a number of areas. Prior to Bath, no woman had served on the staff of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, headed a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology or been elected to the honorary staff of the UCLA Medical Center (an honor bestowed on her after her retirement). Before Bath, no black person had served as a resident in ophthalmology at New York University and no black woman had ever served on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. Bath is the first African American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. Her Laserphaco Probe is used around the world to treat cataracts. The holder of four patents, she is also the founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington D.C. | Source | Black Inventor Profile

Edward Alexander Bouchet
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Bouchet was the first African American to graduate (1874) from Yale College. In 1876, upon receiving his Ph.D. in physics from Yale, he became the first African American to earn a doctorate. Bouchet spent his career teaching college chemistry and physics. | Source

Benjamin Bradley
Benjamin Bradley is credited with developing a working steam engine for a sloop-of-war in the 1840's. Bradley was unable to patent his work under United States law, which forbade a slave from patenting his steam engine inventions. However, he was able to purchase his freedom with the proceeds of his work. | Source | Wiki

George Washington Carver

Carver was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. The exact day and year of his birth are unknown; he is believed to have been born into slavery in Missouri in January 1864.

Carver's reputation is based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, which also aided nutrition for farm families. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes using peanuts. He also developed and promoted about 100 products made from peanuts that were useful for the house and farm, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, and nitroglycerin. He received numerous honors for his work, including the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP. | Source

Lloyd Augustus Hall
An industrial food chemist, Lloyd Augustus Hall revolutionized the meatpacking industry with his development of curing salts for the processing and reserving of meats. He developed a technique of "flash-driving" (evaporating) and a technique of sterilization with ethylene oxide which is still used by medical professionals today. | Source

Samuel Elmer Imes
In 1918, Samuel Elmer Imes became only the second African American to earn a doctorate in physics. His dissertation broke new scientific ground, presenting a new form of research, that fundamentally changed quantum theory. In discovering how to determine molecular structure through high-resolution infrared spectroscopy, particularly, measuring the distance between atoms, Imes proved that quantum theory could be applied to all things at the molecular level | Source

Dr. Mae Jemison

She became the first black woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992. After her medical education and a brief general practice, Jemison served in the Peace Corps from 1985 to 1987. She resigned from NASA in 1993 to form a company researching the application of technology to daily life. She is a dancer, and holds 9 honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities. | Source

Percy Lavon Julian

was an African American research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He was the first to synthesize the natural product physostigmine; and was a pioneer in the industrial large-scale chemical synthesis of the human hormones, steroids, progesterone, and testosterone, from plant sterols such as stigmasterol and sitosterol. His work would lay the foundation for the steroid drug industry's production of cortisone, other corticosteroids, and birth control pills. | Source

Elijah J. McCoy
The son of former slaves from Kentucky who had escaped via the Underground Railroad to Canada, at 15 years of age Elijah McCoy traveled to Scotland seeking the educational opportunities from which blacks were excluded in the Americas. He trained in mechanical engineering and then moved to the United States, where he was denied engineering employment-again because he was of African descent. He instead took a job as a railroad fireman. At that time, locomotives needed to be shut down periodically to be lubricated to avoid overheating. The frequent stops prevented railroads from being profitable until McCoy developed the “lubricating cup” for steam engines, which kept locomotives constantly lubricated, preventing frequent stops and overheating. He patented the lubricating cup in 1872. It represented the most profitable of his more than 58 patents, which included a folding ironing board and an automatic sprinkler. | Source

Sarah Breedlove "Madame C.J." Walker

She worked days as a washerwoman and went to night school before inventing (1905) a process for straightening the hair of African-Americans. Her process, combining her unique formula with brushes and heated combs, caught on, and with the money from her successful business she and her daughter moved to Denver. She married Charles J. Walker, and began promoting her product and process under the name of Madame C. J. Walker. She opened a permanent office in Pittsburgh in 1908, which her daughter ran, and in 1910 she formed Madame C. J. Walker Laboratories in Indianapolis, where she developed products and trained her beauticians, known as “Walker Agents.” The agents and the products were recognized in black communities throughout the U.S. and Caribbean for promoting the philosophy that cleanliness and loveliness could advance the plight of African-Americans. At her death, the multi-million dollar estate was left to various philanthropic organizations and to her daughter, whose philanthropic endeavors were key to funding the Harlem Renaissance. | Source

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was an African American physician who made history by performing the first successful open heart surgery operation. | Source

Roger Arliner Young

Roger Arliner Young overcame racial and sexual barriers to become the first African-American woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in zoology, which she earned from the University of Pennsylvania in 1940. Her scientific contributions, resulting largely from research she performed at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, include improved understanding of the structures that control salt concentration in the paramecium, as well as the effects of radiation on sea urchin eggs. | Source

Additional Links</i>
List of African-American Firsts
Notable Black People

Mod Notes
Coming in March... LGBTQIA Megapost, Human Trafficking, Domestic Violence, and Israel/Palestine.

I've also fucking HAD IT with formatting this damn post!

I wish I could spotlight everyone but the character limit prevents that, so please list any additional people that deserve to be spotlighted in the comments!
fauxdistressed 22nd-Feb-2012 03:05 am (UTC)
the movie deserves the shade but hell nooo at the book. it's amazing! although sula's better.
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