We have finally made it to the end of the list of 44 in Black History. These individuals are the trailblazers and pioneers to what makes being black great. Even though we celebrate these individuals in February, we also honor them the other eleven months out the year. Here are the final ten in my list of 44 for Black History:
#10- Maya Angelou– She taught us why the caged bird sing. She told women all around the world they are phenomenal. She also told us that no matter what we will still rise. Maya Angelou words spoke to millions and inspired millions more. Despite the hardship of her early life, she even rose to greatness. When she died in 2014, Oprah who considered Maya Angelou as one of her greatest mentors described the late poet in a simple yet powerful phrase, “She will always be the rainbow in my cloud.” It was Angelou who encouraged us all to be someone’s rainbow in the cloud.
#9- Toni Morrison– Her famous book Beloved won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize. She is arguably one of the greatest women writers of all time. During her 1988 speech for her Pulitzer Prize, she spoke about the importance of speaking the truth and telling the truth in writing. “Stop thinking about saving your face. Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story.” Morrison other works include The Bluest Eyes, Song of Solomon, Jazz, and Sula.
#8- Frederick Douglass– He was the voice during a time where blacks were silenced. He did not just speak, but he inspired. He inspired and challenged those that tried to deny blacks of the fundamental human rights. In his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, his words spoke the truth about being a slave and being black in America. Douglass believed, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” He is arguably the most prominent voice of all time, and his words ring true even now to fight and stand up against oppression.
#7- Nella Larsen– Many people do not put her in the same class as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou; however, she is my favorite over all of them. She authored just two books Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929). Both books I would list in my top 10 and Passing as one of my top three books of all time. Her work served as a reminder of the different plights that many blacks faced. Quicksand which is considered by many an autobiography that covers a variety of themes including social critique, the new negro identity, black female sexuality, and education and racial uplift. Nella Larsen was not only a premier writer and figure of the Harlem Renaissance but as her work is being studied more, she is become known as a premier writer of black writing history.
#6- Oprah Winfrey– She is Oprah. The name speaks for itself. She was the first African American billionaire. Everything Oprah touches is gold. She started a school in South Africa to help the girls their reach their dreams and receive a quality education. She has provided tuition gifts to more than 415 Morehouse College Students. She hosted the longest running and most celebrated daytime talk show in the history of television. She has her own network. She was one of the driving forces to help get Barack Obama elected President of the United States, and many believe there is something even bigger waiting for Oprah in 2020 or 2024.
#5- Michelle Obama– She is our forever First Lady. She took a position that meant little to nothing and inspired millions around the country and the world. The ivy league educated, southside Chicago girl that girl that grew into the first lady of the United of the States. She wasn’t just the wife of the first Black President. If you read her book Becoming, you will quickly learn that she was much more than that. First Lady Michelle Obama is the definition of class and grace. She coined the famous term that reminds us we do not have to stoop to the level of ignorance, “When they go low, we go high.” Thank you, First Lady Michelle Obama for teaching us that there is so much more out there and we can accomplish anything if remain higher than those trying to bring us down.
#4- W.E.B. Du Bois– It was 1903, and he wrote, “The problem of the Twentieth Century is that problem of the color line.” That was from the Souls of Black Folk. He was one of the most important African American activists during the first half of the twentieth century. He was also the co-founder of the NAACP. Oh, by the way, Du Bois told those at Harvard that the pleasure of him being a student there earning his Ph.D. was not his honor but their honor.
#3- Colin Kaepernick– On August 14, 2017, a silent and unnoticed gesture sparked a movement that changed sports but also changed the conversation. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Those were the words that Colin Kaepernick spoke after he refused to stand for the National Anthem. Colin Kaepernick changed the narrative for professional athletes. I truly believe years later we look at Colin Kaepernick the same way we look at Muhammad Ali. He is a revolutionary and a leader of the people and the movement. He said it best, “Believe in something even it means sacrificing everything.”
#2 James Baldwin– His words serve as the mantra of my career as an educator. In his books, I discovered America as a black man. His dedicated his life and his work to uncovering the ugly truth about America and the racism and poverty that existed. He taught us to wear our crown proudly that was bought for his. He was and still is the voice of the movement.
#1- Barack Obama– The tan suit and the bomber jacket are just a few things that make Barack Obama the GOAT. He is our forever President. Barack Obama made history in 2008 when he was elected as the first black President in the history of the United States. He not only led the country, but he inspired millions to believe that anything is possible. President Obama led our country with the class that the office deserves. I’m not sure in my lifetime if I will see another black man occupy the office of President of the United States. President Obama’s impact will forever remain in the fabric of our country. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Thurgood Marshall said, “In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.” Happy Black History Month and Happy Black History!