For a long time, Black people have been ill-treated and discriminated by the Whites on the basis of their dark skin color. But there were some Blacks who fought against racism and other wrong social practices that deprived their community of even the basic rights. They achieved success in the face of adversity and made their people proud. They made some valuable contributions to society and rose to fame. For an account of some of the very famous Black people, read on.
Blacks, in simple words, are individuals with a black skin color. The term Black is popularly used to refer to a person having an African descent giving them a dark skin color. People who belong to the African-American culture are widely referred to as Black people. This term has different meanings in different parts of the world and was formerly used as the means to racially discriminate people on the basis of their skin color. For several years, Blacks were refused the rights and privileges that Whites had. They were always looked upon as the underdogs. But there were some who changed this notion once and forever. Here we tell you about them.
Born on July 18, 1918, in the small village of Mvezo, Nelson Mandela was the first member of his family to attend school. One of his school teachers gave him the name, Nelson. The political views and values of Nelson Mandela were influenced by the principles of Mahatma Gandhi. He was an anti-apartheid activist and led the African National Congress. He was convicted for anti-apartheid activities for which he had to spend 27 long years in imprisonment. He made an invaluable contribution to the abolition of apartheid. He was the President of South Africa, the first Black to be elected to this post. He is the proud winner of more than hundred awards including the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. After obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science, with a specialization in International Relations, he earned a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. He embarked upon his political career in 1996 and went on to be the President of the United States of America. He is one of the most famous Black lawyers and one of the most influential African-American leaders, in fact the first African-American to lead the United States. Withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, signing of the New START arms control treaty with Russia, enforcement of no-fly zone over Libya and ordering of the military operation that led to Osama Bin Laden’s death, are some of his most notable initiatives. By achieving the highest position in the country, he has definitely become a source of inspiration for African-Americans. Also know about these famous African-American leaders.
Born in Dorchester County, Maryland, Harriet was a slave by birth. Her childhood years were filled with torture and misery. She was ruthlessly beaten by her masters and made to work. But she had the grit to fight against all odds. She escaped from captivity and led several missions for freeing hundreds of slaves. During the American Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union Army and became the first woman leading an armed expedition in the war. During the later years of her life, she actively participated in the women’s suffrage movement. Her death in 1913 meant the loss of an iconic figure in the American history.
Rosa Parks, referred to as the first lady of civil rights by the United States Congress, is the one who pioneered the fight for civil rights for Blacks. Once while traveling by bus, she was asked to vacate her seat to make room for a White. She refused. This brave act of hers led to a movement that ended racial discrimination in America. Her act gave impetus to the civil rights issue in the United States. Rosa Parks played a major role in getting together several leaders to take part in the Civil Rights Movement. She spent her final years in Detroit. She died in 2005.
Rosa Parks played a prominent role as a civil rights activist. US Congress called her ‘the mother of freedom movement’.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Born on January 15, 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was an American clergyman and one of the leading activists in the Civil Rights movement. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Apart from his acclaim as a great humanitarian, he was also recognized as one of the greatest orators in the history of the United States. Throughout life, he adhered to non-violent means to achieve the banishment of racial discrimination. He was a proud winner of the Nobel Prize and was the youngest person receiving it. After death, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal as also the Presidential of Medal of Freedom. With his assassination in 1968, the world lost a man of valor and a great human being.
Born on November 22, 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he took up aerospace engineering. He completed a BS, then MS and later a PhD in aerospace engineering. He also took a Master of Business Administration in 1987. Soon after receiving the pilot’s training, he joined the Air Force. Between 1983 and 1992, he was a part of four flights of space shuttles. His space flight in Challenger as a part of the STS-8 mission made him the first African-American to cross the boundaries of Earth and explore space. This former NASA astronaut is held in high regard by fellow Americans, Blacks and Whites alike.
Guion Bluford was the first African-American in space and a former NASA astronaut.
George Washington Carver
Born in January 1864, George Washington Carver was a scientist and inventor. He had to take pains to pursue his education. He was refused admission in public schools because he was a Black. Many colleges rejected his application for the same reason. He began to learn art and piano, where his teacher Etta Budd recognized his talents and urged him to pursue botany. So he did at the Iowa State Agricultural College in Ames, where he became the first Black student and later the first Black tutor. He introduced the concept of growing alternative crops, which helped poor farmers have a secure source of income and food. He developed various products made from peanuts and sweet potatoes. Also see Famous African-American Scientists.
Known for blockbuster films like The Pursuit of Happyness, Bad Boys, Robot and Independence Day, Will Smith is one of the most successful Black actors. He has bagged multiple Grammy Awards and has been nominated for four Golden Globe Awards and two Academy Awards. Starting as The French Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith has come a long way. He has achieved international acclaim as an actor, producer and rapper. In 2007, Newsweek called him the most powerful actor of Hollywood. Fortune Magazine has enlisted him as one of the Richest 40 in the forty wealthiest Americans under 40.
Michael Jackson (MJ) is recognized globally for his contribution to music and dance. He started his career as a part of The Jackson 5 in 1964. His solo career began only in 1971. His record-breaking albums like Thriller (best-seller of all time), Bad, HIStory and videos like Black or White created history and made him an iconic figure in world music. As a child, he was abused physically and emotionally by his father and he was troubled by his appearance. But breaking all barriers, he came a long way and became the most popular artist of all time. Jackson’s death in 2009 left a void in the music industry, a void that will never be filled.
Born in February 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison was a voracious reader since her childhood. The folktales that her father narrated to her, have contributed in the making of this brilliant author, Toni Morrison. After a BA followed by an MA in English, she served the Texas Southern University as an English instructor. Her novel Beloved was a major success and won her several awards. In 1933, Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature and became the first Black woman winning it. She is on the editorial board of the magazine, ‘The Nation’. Also see Famous Black Poets.
This man needs no introduction. He is a former professional basketball player who played a major role in popularizing NBA. Born on February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York, he started playing baseball, basketball and football early. His rejection from the varsity basketball team during his sophomore year for being ‘too short to play at that level’ changed everything. That motivated him to try harder and the making of the greatest basketball player began! He earned several honors and became an African-American icon in sports. He is an entrepreneur and major owner of Charlotte Bobcats, a professional basketball team based in North Carolina.
Known for her talk show titled ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’, Oprah Winfrey is not just a talk show host and actress. She is a proprietor and philanthropist. She has featured in the list of America’s 50 most generous philanthropists in Business Week. She was the first Black to secure a place in this list. She is considered as the greatest Black philanthropist in American history. She was born in January 1954, into poverty and had to go through hardship during childhood. She started her career as a co-anchor for a radio show, from where she rose to redefine talk show business. Winfrey is the only African-American among the first 400 rich people of America. Also know about these famous Black women.
These were some of the famous Black people of the past and present times – Blacks who have made the world proud. Their standout accomplishments have made the world realize that it’s foolish to judge people by the color of their skin. People should be judged by what they do in life and not by how they look.