This week as part of Black History Month we are celebrating Black individuals who contributed positively to the Black Community.
We believe it is important to celebrate, remember and educate ourselves in an attempt to fill the holes that have been missed. This will evoke genuine conversations around racism, colourism, white privilege, micro aggression, unconscious bias and issues within the Black Community.
Medgar Wiley Evers (1925-1963)
Evers was a Civil Rights Campaigner and Field Secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) whose murder in 1963 prompted President John F. Kennedy to ask Congress for a comprehensive Civil Rights Bill. Evers became the first martyr to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
"Aft Medgar, no more fear.”
His death was a turning point for many in the struggle for equality, infusing other Civil Rights leaders with renewed determination to continue their struggle despite the violent threats being made against them. In the wake of Evers’s assassination, a new Civil Rights motto was born —”Aft Medgar, no more fear.”
Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)
Lorraine Hansberry wrote A Raisin in the Sun, a play about a struggling Black family, which opened on Broadway to great success. Hansberry was the first Black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle Award. In 1963, Hansberry became active in the Civil Rights Movement. Along with other influential people, including Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne and James Baldwin, Hansberry met with then-attorney general Robert Kennedy to test his position on Civil Rights. In 1963, her second play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, opened on Broadway to unenthusiastic reception. Throughout her life she was heavily involved in Civil Rights. She died at 34 of pancreatic cancer.
Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993)
Thurgood Marshall was an American lawyer who was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1967. He was the first African American to hold the position and served for 24 years, until 1991. Marshall studied law at Howard University. In 1934, Marshall began working for the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In 1936, Marshall moved to New York City to work full time as legal counsel for the NAACP. As counsel to the NAACP, he utilized the judiciary to champion equality for African Americans. In 1954, he won the Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court ended racial segregation in public schools. Over several decades, Marshall argued and won a variety of cases to strike down many forms of legalized racism, helping to inspire the American Civil Rights Movement.
Ralph D. Abernathy (1926-1990)
Ralph D. Abernathy was a Baptist minister who, with Martin Luther King Jr, organized the historic Montgomery Bus Boycotts. He co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was a major Civil Rights figure, serving as a close adviser to King and later assuming SCLC presidency. In 1977, Abernathy relinquished his role as SCLC president and ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. After failing to be elected, he focused on his work as a minister and speaker. In 1989, his autobiography ‘And the Walls Came Tumbling Down’ was published.
Abernathy died on April 17, 1990, in Atlanta, Georgia. He'll always be remembered as King's closest confidante and second in command. In fact, King himself said in his last speech, "Ralph David Abernathy is the best friend that I have in the world."
Fannie Lou Hamer (1917 – 1977)
The youngest of 20 children, Fannie Lou was working the fields with her sharecropper parents at the age of six. Amid poverty and racial exploitation, she received only a sixth-grade education. In 1942 she married Perry (“Pap”) Hamer.
"Nobody's free, until everyone is free" - Hamer
Her Civil Rights Activism began in August 1962, when she answered a call by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) for volunteers to challenge voter registration procedures that excluded African Americans. Fired for her attempt to register to vote (she failed a literacy test), she became a field secretary for the SNCC; she finally became a registered voter in 1963.
Mildred Loving (1938-2008)
Mildred Loving was an American Civil Rights activist who was one of the plaintiffs in the landmark 1967 U.S. Supreme Court Case Loving vs. Virginia, in which the court overturned long-standing miscegenation laws that had prohibited interracial marriages. In 1958 Mildred Jeter married her high-school sweetheart, Richard Loving, in the District of Columbia, but when the two returned home to Virginia, they were unaware that their marriage was invalid because she was black woman and her husband a white man. The Loving’s were jailed and charged with unlawful cohabitation. Though they were sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, they were allowed to have that sentence suspended if they left the state for 25 years. The couple moved to Washington, D.C., but on a visit home in 1964, they were arrested for traveling together. In light of the 1964 Civil Rights Laws, the Loving’s secured an attorney and in April 1967 took their case to the Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled in their favour.
Frederick Douglas (1818 - 1895)
Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was born into slavery sometime around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. He became one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, advising Presidents and lecturing to thousands on a range of causes, including Women’s Rights and Irish Home Rule. Among Douglas’ writings are several autobiographies eloquently describing his experiences in slavery and his life after the Civil War, including the well-known work Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Following the publication of his first autobiography in 1845, Douglas traveled overseas to evade recapture. He set sail for Liverpool on August 16, 1845, and eventually arrived in Ireland as the Potato Famine was beginning. He remained in Ireland and Britain for two years, speaking to large crowds on the evils of slavery.
Harriet Tubman (1820 - 1913)
Harriet Tubman, née Araminta Ross was American bondwoman who escaped from slavery in the South to become a leading abolitionist before the American Civil War.
"Every great dream begins with a dreamer"- Tubman
She led hundreds of bondmen to freedom in the North along the route of the Underground Railroad, an elaborate secret network of safe houses organized for that purpose. Slave catchers knew Harriet Tubman was illiterate, so she escaped capture by pretending to read a book. Harriet Tubman co-led a military raid during the Civil War. In 2016, the U.S. announced plans to display Harriet Tubman's portrait on the twenty-dollar bill.
Madam C.J. Walker (1867 - 1919)
Madam C.J. Walker, née Sarah Breedlove was an American businesswoman and philanthropist who was one of the first African American female millionaires in the United States
The first child in her family born after the Emancipation Proclamation, Sarah Breedlove was born on the same cotton plantation where her parents. Owen and Minerva Anderson Breedlove, had been enslaved before the American Civil War. She was orphaned at age seven. She married Moses McWilliams at 14, she said, to escape the abuse of a “cruel” brother-in-law. A widow at 20 with a young daughter, she moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where her elder brothers were barbers.
Walker simultaneously made her mark as a philanthropist, most notably with her $1,000 gift to the African American Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) building fund in Indianapolis in 1911 and her $5,000 contribution to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP’s) anti-lynching fund in 1919. She provided scholarships for students at several Black colleges and boarding schools and financial support for orphanages, retirement homes, and the fund to preserve Frederick Douglass’s home in the Anacostia neighbourhoods of Washington, D.C. She also became politically active, speaking out against lynching at the Negro Silent Protest Parade and during a visit to the White House in 1917 and advocating for the rights of African American soldiers who served in France during World War I.
Daniel Hale Williams (1858 - 1931)
Daniel Hale Williams was an American physician and founder of Provident Hospital in Chicago, credited with the first successful heart surgery. Williams graduated from Chicago Medical College in 1883. He served as surgeon for the South Side Dispensary (1884–92) and physician for the Protestant Orphan Asylum (1884–93). In response to the lack of opportunity for African Americans in the medical professions, he founded (1891) the country’s first interracial hospital, Provident. In addition to offering medical care to African American patients, Provident provided training for African American interns and ran the first school for African American nurses in the United States. Williams was a surgeon at Provident (1892–93, 1898–1912) and surgeon in chief of Freedmen’s Hospital, Washington, D.C. (1894–98), where he established another school for African American nurses.
Williams later served on the staffs of Cook County Hospital (1903–09) and St. Luke’s Hospital (1912–31), both in Chicago. From 1899 he was professor of clinical surgery at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, and was a member of the Illinois State Board of Health (1889–91). He published several articles on surgery in medical journals. Williams became the only African American charter member of the American College of Surgeons in 1913.
Keep updated with our Black History Month Events
- Haney-López, Ian, 2006, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race, revised and updated, 10th anniversary edition, (Critical America), New York, NY: New York University Press.
- Harris, Leonard (ed.), 1989, The Philosophy of Alain Locke: Harlem Renaissance and Beyond, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
- Hine, Darlene Clark, 1994, Hine Sight: Black Women and the Re-Construction of American History, Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Pub..
- Howe, Daniel Walker, 1997, Making the American Self, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Lee, Maurice S. (ed.), 2009, The Cambridge Companion to Frederick Douglass (Cambridge Companions to American Studies), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Lemert, Charles C. and Esme Bhan (eds), 1998, The Voice of Anna Julia Cooper: Including a Voice from the South and Other Important Essays, Papers, and Letters, Legacies of Social Thought. Lanham, MD: Rowan & Littlefield.
- Lott, Tommy Lee (ed.), 1998, Subjugation and Bondage: Critical Essays on Slavery and Social Philosophy, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers