9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (2024)

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (1)

Learning about thelarger systemsandhistorical eventsthat have played central roles in shaping Black history is vitally important, but it is also valuable to explore the individual lives, ideas, choices, and legacies of key figures in that unfolding story.

by Kaitlin Smith ,

Each year during Black History Month, the stories of figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks are often elevated—and with good reason. These figures made contributions to Black history and, by extension, American history, that cannot be overstated. But there are so many significant Black historical figures who often don’t get as much air time. Learning about thelarger systemsandhistorical eventsthat have played central roles in shaping Black history is vitally important, but it is also valuable to explore the individual lives, ideas, choices, and legacies of key figures in that unfolding story. Knitting these approaches together allows both educators and students to not only gain a deeper grasp of a given history, but also humanize the key actors and the unique worlds they inhabited.

We invite you to explore a number of key figures from Black history through this series of 9 Facing History profiles:

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (2)
9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (3)

Daisy Bates | (1914-1999)

Journalist, civil rights activist, mentor to the Little Rock Nine, and speaker at the March on Washington.

—For more, see“Celebrating Daisy Bates"

Fannie Lou Hamer | (1917-1977)

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (4)
9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (5)

Fannie Lou Hamer | (1917-1977)

Political activist, celebrated orator, co-founder of the Freedom Democratic Party, and co-organizer of Freedom Summer.

—For more, see“Fannie Lou Hamer: Unsung Woman of the Civil Rights Movement”

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (6)
9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (7)

bell hooks | (1952-2021)

Influential scholar, professor, and public intellectual in domains including race, feminism, and education.

— For more, see“bell hooks Taught Us to Transgress”

Credit:

Cmongirl, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | (1929-1968)

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (10)
9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (11)

Audre Lorde | (1934-1992)

Lesbian writer, activist, and pioneer in intersectional thought.

— For more, see“Exploring Audre Lorde’s Legacies”

Clara Luper | (1923-2011)

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (12)
9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (13)

Clara Luper | (1923-2011)

Teacher and civil rights activist central to the Oklahoma City Sit-Ins.

— For more, see“Teaching to Transform: Dr. Karlos Hill on Educator-Activist Clara Luper”

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (14)
9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (15)

Toni Morrison | (1931-2019)

Acclaimed novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist.
— For more, see“Remembering Toni Morrison”

Bayard Rustin | (1912-1987)

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (16)
9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (17)

Bayard Rustin | (1912-1987)

Gay civil rights activist, organizer of the March on Washington, and political dissident.

— For more, see“Brother Outsider: Remembering Gay Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin”

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (18)
9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know (19)

Malcolm X | (1925-1965)

Civil rights activist, minister, and political dissident.

— For more, see“Teaching Black History with Malcolm X”

Continue your journey through Black history by exploring the works and lives of Black poets.

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FAQs

Who are the most influential black leaders? ›

There are many notable black leaders in history. Some of them are; Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., Shirley Chisholm, Frederick Douglass, and Rosa Parks.

Who are the black heroes you never heard of? ›

Historical figures like Bessie Coleman, Max Robinson, and Marsha P. Johnson have transformed everything from modern aviation to media and activism. Others, including Alice Coachman, paved the way for other athletes to make history in their own right.

Who are the key figures in Black History Month? ›

Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Muhammad Ali are often mentioned—and rightfully so. But what do you know about other Black history heroes, like Claudette Colvin, Alice Coachman, or Shirley Chisholm? If their names don't immediately ring a bell, you're not alone.

Who to highlight for Black History Month? ›

7 Black History Heroes Every Student Should Know
  • Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Leader. Rev. ...
  • Serena Williams, Pro Athlete. ...
  • Malcolm X, Human Rights Activist. ...
  • Katherine Johnson, Mathematician. ...
  • Ruby Bridges, Civil Rights Activist. ...
  • Duke Ellington, American Composer. ...
  • Madam C.J.
Jan 26, 2024

Who were the six black presidents? ›

African heritage of presidents of the United States
  • 2.1 Thomas Jefferson.
  • 2.2 Andrew Jackson.
  • 2.3 Abraham Lincoln.
  • 2.4 Warren G. Harding.
  • 2.5 Calvin Coolidge.
  • 2.6 Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Who has the biggest impact on black history? ›

These leaders have also had a significant impact in shaping the world we live in today.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. One of the most well-known civil rights leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. ...
  • Rosa Parks. ...
  • Barack Obama. ...
  • Frederick Douglass. ...
  • oprah Winfrey. ...
  • Harriet Tubman. ...
  • Medgar Evers. ...
  • Jackie Robinson.
Mar 2, 2022

Who was first Black superhero? ›

Lion Man, also known as "The Lion of the Jungle," was created by Orrin C. Evans in 1947. He was the first black superhero to have his own comic book, "All-Negro Comics," which was published by Evans' company, the All-Negro Comics Inc.

Who is the Black guy super hero? ›

DC Comics
NameAlter Ego(s)First Appearance
BlobSpeed Demon #1
BloodsportRobert DuBoisSuperman (vol. 2) #4
BloodwyndJustice League of America (vol. 2) #61
Bronze TigerBen TurnerRichard Dragon, Kung Fu Fighter #1
53 more rows

What are some forgotten Black history facts? ›

Black History Month Trivia
  • William Tucker, son of indentured servants from Great Britain, was the first recorded African child to be born in the colonies in 1624.
  • Vermont was the first colony to ban slavery in 1777.
  • In the 1770s, a Quaker named Anthony Benezet created the first school for African American children.
Jan 11, 2022

Who is a famous Black person? ›

Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks are often elevated—and with good reason. These figures made contributions to Black history and, by extension, American history, that cannot be overstated.

Who are present day Black heroes? ›

To continue the conversation, we'll look at Black leaders that are in the process of making history today.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris. ...
  • Doctor Kimberlé Crenshaw. ...
  • Reverend Doctor Raphael Warnock. ...
  • Doctor Kizzmekia S. ...
  • Bryan Stevenson. ...
  • Melanie Willingham-Jaggers. ...
  • Victor J Glover Jr. ...
  • Laverne Cox.
Feb 10, 2022

Who are the significant Black figures today? ›

Vice President Kamala Harris, poet Amanda Gorman, Sen. Raphael Warnock, nurse Sandra Lindsay and NASA astronaut Victor Glover. Black Americans have played a crucial role in helping to advance America's business, political and cultural landscape into what it is today.

What is the 2024 Black History Month theme? ›

Each year, Black History Month brings another opportunity to discover contributions that enrich our nation. The 2024 theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” explores the creativity, resilience and innovation from a culture that has uplifted spirits and soothed souls in countless ways across centuries.

What color to wear for Black History Month? ›

The four colours that are used for Black History Month are black, red, yellow and green. Black represents resilience, red denotes blood, yellow is optimism and justice, and green symbolises rich greenery.

Who are the Black people who paved the way? ›

Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman repeatedly put her life and freedom in danger to save the lives of enslaved blacks and deliver them to free soil. Born into slavery around 1820 in Maryland, the young Tubman suffered a severe head injury at the hands of her master, as explained on BiographyOnline.com.

Who was the best Black leader? ›

Martin Luther King Jr.

Through his impeccable leading style and powerful messages to the world, he single-handedly enacted a major change in the minds of political leaders, which gave way to African-Americans gaining more rights in America.

Who were some famous black power leaders? ›

It also includes records on several individuals, including Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Elaine Brown, Angela Davis, Fred Hampton, Amiri Baraka, and Shirley Chisholm.

Who were the biggest Black civil rights leaders? ›

Leaders in the Struggle for Civil Rights
  • Roy Wilkins. Introduced at the August 1963 March on Washington as "the acknowledged champion of civil rights in America," Roy Wilkins headed the oldest and largest of the civil rights organizations. ...
  • Whitney M. ...
  • A. ...
  • Bayard Rustin. ...
  • Martin Luther King Jr. ...
  • James Farmer. ...
  • John Lewis.

Who is the most powerful Black man in the world? ›

Key Takeaways. Aliko Dangote has been the richest man in Africa for 13 years in a row, with a net worth of around $13.4 billion, and is the richest Black man in the world.

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