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Looking Back on Black History Month

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Looking Back on Black History Month

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“You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.”

  • Maya Angelou, Still I Rise

Once again, it’s Black History Month, a time to celebrate the legacy and accomplishments of African Americans as we look towards the future of our country. Throughout America’s history, the struggle for black freedom and empowerment has been at the forefront of the fight for equality. Multiple significant figures have risen from the oppression as some of the smartest, kindest, and bravest leaders and humanitarians. There are thousands of influential icons to celebrate this month, but some of the most influential include:

Sojourner Truth

 

Sojourner Truth (1797- 1883) was born into slavery and escaped with her baby daughter in 1826. In 1828, she recovered her son in court, being the first black woman to win this sort of case against a white man. Truth was an abolitionist and a women’s rights activist, most famous for her 1851 speech “Ain’t I a Woman?” given at a Women’s Rights convention in Akron, Ohio.

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman (1822- 1913) escaped slavery in 1849 using the underground railroad, a 90 mile journey from Maryland to Philadelphia. She became the “conductor” of the underground railroad, leading hundreds of slaves, who called her “Moses,” to freedom during the night. “I can say what most conductors can’t. I never ran a train off the track and I never lost a passenger,” she said. When the cCivil Wwar began, Tubman joined the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, then a spy and armed scout. As the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war, in the raid at Combahee Ferry, Tubman liberated over 700 slaves in one night. She will become the first woman to be featured on a US bill when her profile is added to the $20 bill in 2020.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (1818- 1895) was a prominent leader of the abolitionist movement. An escaped slave, he wrote about his time in bondage in his 1845 Biography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Through vivid details of violence and abuse described in his book, he provided one of the most influential narratives about slave life, destroying propaganda about the “happy slave.” He continued to fight for equal rights until his death.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (1928- 2014) lived a significant life. Taking on multiple occupations during her life, including fry cook, sex worker, singer, actor, and journalist. Angelou is best known as a poet. She wrote multiple award winning novels, her magnum opus generally being thought to be “Why The Caged Bird Sings.” She worked with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during the civil rights movement, and was a prominent leader for civil rights until she died. Rising above her childhood rape by her mother’s boyfriend, his murder, and her poverty, her legacy of bravery and honor are still revered today.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Chances are, if you’ve ever left your house, you’ve heard a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968). One of the most prominent American citizens since the country’s birth, King is credited as the leader of the civil rights movement, and was a major advocate of equal rights, non-violence, and desegregation. Most fondly remembered for his, “I Have A Dream” speech in the march on Washington, King should not be remembered as a pacifist. He waged a war for justice and inalienable rights that he won with non-violence and his words.

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Looking Back on Black History Month