17 Unsung Heroes Of Black History

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Written by Julia Austin
amhistory.si.edu
amhistory.si.edu

Charles Hamilton Houston

Known as “the man who killed Jim Crow,” Houston was a legal genius who challenged the “separate but equal” doctrine, particularly in schools. After racist experiences in the Army in World War I, Houston was determined to end Jim Crow and when he returned to the states, he enrolled in Harvard Law School. Houston went on to be one of the heads of the school, and enlisted some of the top students in the fight for civil rights. Houston also served as special counsel to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

docsouth.unc.edu
docsouth.unc.edu

Henry McNeal Turner

Turner was born free in South Carolina and was the first Southern bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He worked a lot in Georgia organizing congregations for the black community and when Jim Crow laws were reinstated in the South in the 19th century, he became a leader in Black nationalism and in encouraging blacks in America to emigrate to Africa.

Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

Miriam Makeba

Makeba was a South African singer who used her stage presence to speak out against racial segregation in South Africa. Makeba even campaigned abroad to stop racial segregation and as a consequence the South African government revoked her passport and kicked her out of the country. Several African countries came to her rescue granting her international passports and nearly 30 years after leaving South Africa she was able to return.

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Tumblr.com

Claudette Colvin 

Many are familiar with the story of Rosa Parks refusing to acknowledge racial segregation on the bus in the 50’s, but barely a year before that incident Colvin was arrested for the same act and taken to an adult jail, when she was only 15 years old. It was Colvin’s story that ignited the slowly growing revolt we saw in Rosa Parks’ eventual protest.

Atlantablackstar.com
Atlantablackstar.com

Madame Efunroye Tinubu

Tinubu was one of the first women to rise to a position of political power in West Africa. She fought again British colonization of what is today known as Nigeria and against slavery in her region. She was an influential business person during her time and named Iyalode–the title given to the most powerful woman in a town. She was a big proponent of spreading awareness of the type of cruelty happening in slavery in Europe and the Americas.

Atlantablackstar.com
Atlantablackstar.com

Martin Delany

Delany was a pioneer in black history in many ways. Born free in Virginia, he was one of the very first blacks to be admitted to Harvard medical school and he acted as a physician during cholera epidemics when most physicians fled the area. He was the first African-American field officer in the United States army and an active abolitionist and journalist.

Wikimedia.org
Wikimedia.org

Matthew Henson

Henson was born in Nanjemoy, Md. and many believe he was the first man to reach the North Pole. Henson was the right hand man to famous explorer Robert Peary, with whom he traveled for 23 years, trading with the Inuit.

Wikipedia.org
Wikipedia.org

Noble Drew Ali

Ali was born in North Carolina and founded the Moorish Science Temple of America. The Temple had its first location in Newark, N.J. but quickly gained branches throughout major cities in the Northeast. He was an influential voice in encouraging African Americans to get involved with civic development and activities. He was a leader of the black islamic movement in the United States.