As we wind down Black History Month, I wanted to take the time to highlight important Black people from history that are not as widely known or taught about as often.
Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and social activist. She was the first woman in America to become a self-made millionaire when she developed a line of hair care products for women. In 2020, Netflix aired an original series based on her life called Self Made.
Jesse Owens is considered one of the greatest track athletes in history. Owens dominated the 1936 Berlin Olympics by winning 4 gold medals. This helped deal a heavy blow to Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy.
Claudette Colvin was one of the pioneers of the Civil Rights Movement. She was arrested at the age of 15 for not giving up her bus seat to a white woman – an action that inspired the NAACP, Rosa Parks, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Bass Reeves was a former slave that became the first Black deputy U.S. Marshall west of the Mississippi River. Reeves is widely regarded as a hero of the American frontier.
Barbara Jordan was the first Black woman elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first Black woman from the South to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Jordan was also a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.
Walter Dean Myers
Walter Dean Myers was an award-winning author and the first recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award for his book Monster. This award recognizes the best books written for teens.
Annie Easley was a computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist. Easley was a leading member of the team that developed software for the Centaur rocket stage and was one of the first Black people to work as a computer scientist for NASA.
James McCune Smith was the first Black physician in the United States. During this time, Smith was a prominent anti-slavery/anti-racist voice and was considered to be the most influential person in Frederick Douglas’ life.
Vonetta Flowers was the first Black athlete to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. Flowers and her teammate, Jill Bakken, took gold in the bobsled at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. In doing so, they became the first Americans to medal in bobsled in 46 years.