Top 5 Influentials Celebrated For Black History Month
What Is Black History Month And Why Do We Celebrate It?
Black History Month honors the way in which influential Black leaders helped shape our world -- we wouldn’t be who are today if it weren’t for their relentless dedication and passion for equal treatment for all.
Each year, there are different themes. In 2018, the theme is “African Americans In Times of War”, which marks the 100th anniversary since the end of WWI, and honors the roles in which these momentous leaders played.
But who really were these people, and what have they done to help in the Civil Rights Movement? Though there were many, here are the top 5 most influential leaders:
1) Rosa Parks
In Montgomery, Alabama, an especially segregated town in the 1950’s, Rosa Parks sat on a bus after a long day of work. As passengers began to fill up the bus, there were a few white passengers who were standing.
The bus driver demanded Parks and a few other African-Americans to give up their seats. They reluctantly did, but she did not. She was tired of giving to racism. He reported and arrested her, which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott lasting for 381 days (more than a year!). The reason this boycott was so important is because 75% of Montgomery’s bus system riders were African American.
This was just the beginning of her movement towards equal treatment of blacks. Throughout her lifetime, she received many honors and awards, including the NAACP being the highest.
2) Harriet Tubman
We’ve all heard of the Underground Railroad, right? It was a very important part of history that led hundreds of slaves and their families to freedom by using an elaborate secret network of safe houses that eventually led them up north.
When she first started, Tubman went alone on her 90 mile journey from Maryland to Philadelphia, after her plantation owner had died. Upon arriving, she breathed a sigh of relief.
Though her life was difficult after she was separated from her family, she nonetheless made it her mission to help others achieve that same feeling of freedom.
3) Martin Luther King Jr.
Initially a pastor of the church in Montgomery, Alabama, MLK was elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement.
During this time, King traveled over 6 million miles and spoke over 2,500 times anywhere there was injustice or protests. He also wrote five books and many articles. In Washington DC, in front of 250,000 people he delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.
Being such a significant political leader had its downsides. His house was bombed, he was arrested 20 times and assaulted at least 4 times. In 1968, he was assassinated. However, he was the youngest man to receive a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 35, and by 1963, he not only became a symbolic leader in the U.S. but also the world.
4) Thurgood Marshall
His mission was to serve justice and end segregation. Born in 1908, Marshall was an American lawyer and associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1967. He held this position for 24 years and was the first African-American to do so.
In 1954, as a lawyer, he won the Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court ultimately ended segregation in public schools. This was a key turning point in the Civil Rights movement, proving that the “separate but equal” precedent was not at all equal.
5) Frederick Douglass
He was an abolitionist. But what exactly is an abolitionist? It is someone who strongly advocates and fights to end slavery.
Despite the fact that slaves were not allowed to learn to read and write, Douglass wrote best-selling autobiography The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1845. It was so popular, that it was translated into several European languages.
He even decided to share his knowledge of reading and writing to other slaves. Every week, more than 40 slaves showed up to learn. Talk about an excellent teacher!
Fun fact: Did you know Frederick Douglass was the first African-American nominated for vice president in the U.S.?