In the history of the United States of America, the Black community has suffered great losses and discrimination at the hands of bigots and racists. While we should always celebrate the achievements of our Black brothers and sisters, February has been set aside as Black History Month since 1976. As the struggle for equality continues for many Black people, it's important to recognize the incredible things that Black people have contributed to the well-being of all humans.

#1. Madam C.J Walker

Madam C.J. Walker created a line of beauty care products for Black women, which led her to become the first Black woman to become a self-made millionaire. Not only did she better her own life with her products, but she also bettered the lives of others by hiring Black women to work for her. Walker is also known for donating money to educational scholarships, the NAACP, homes for the elderly, and other programs that improved the quality of life for other Black people.

"I am not satisfied in making money for myself. I endeavor to provide employment to hundreds of women of my race."―Madam C.J. Walker

#2. Misty Copeland

Thanks to Misty's undeniable talent, determination, and her unyielding desire to be the best, Misty became the first ever Black principal in the history of the American Ballet Theatre. Because of her, little girls from all over the world can be reminded that they're capable of doing anything, despite the odds that were against them.

“It's time to write our own story.” ― Misty Copeland

#3. Mario Rigby

Mario Rigby was born in Turks and Caicos Islands, but he spent his childhood in a small village in Germany. When Mario was 16 years old, he moved to Toronto, Canada, where he would grow up to become a top fitness expert and group trainer. He stayed in Toronto until he decided to make a life-changing journey. In 2015, Mario set off on a two-year trek from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt, using only his two feet or a kayak. Throughout his entire adventure, he was inspiring others to “travel and be brave” by updating all of his experiences onto social media. This incredible expedition has led Mario to develop Project EVA (Electric Vehicle Africa). His goal is to expose the benefits of using alternative technologies to help meet the energy and transportation needs in Africa. In 2018, Mario won a spot on the Most Influential People of African Descent global 100 list, which recognizes the people of African descent who have made positive contributions to the world.

“I wanted to show that in Africa , people are living everyday lives and that Africans are ingenious, creative … that there are all kinds of people that live there just the way we would live anywhere else. I wanted to normalize that, to show people this kind of living. And I think the best way to get the most authentic experience was to go by foot, because then, you have to meet every single body.” ―Mario Rigby

#4. Shirley Chisholm

As the first Black woman to be elected into Congress, Shirley Chisholm paved the way for future women to become involved in politics. Shirley spent her whole career fighting for education and social justice, including the Food Stamp Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Woman, Infants and Children program, as well as fighting for unemployment benefits for domestic workers. In November of 2015, Shirley was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“In the end anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing: anti-humanism.” ― Shirley Chisholm

#5. Marley Dias

Marley Dias was only eleven when she got sick of reading the books that she was given at school. Marley is an avid reader and she began to notice that all the books she was reading were about “white boys and their dogs.” Marley decided that she needed to do a little bit of research to find out if she was the only girl who felt that way. According to an analysis done by the Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, only 8.4% of 3,400 trade books that were published in the U.S. in 2016 had a Black person as the main character. Marley had to do something. In November of 2015, Marley launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign. Her mission was to collect and donate 1,000 books that have Black girls as the main character. As of now, Marley has received over 9,000 books, and she even has a book deal of her very own!

"This gaps hurts all of us. I’m working to create a space where it feels easy to include and imagine Black girls and make Black girls like me the main characters of our lives."―Marley Dias

#6. Robert Sengstacke Abbott

Born in 1870, Robert Sengstacke Abbott lived a life that most people wouldn’t have the courage to live. He was born as the son of slaves, but he grew up with a half-German stepfather whose family became a part of the Third Reich in the 1930s. In 1905, Abbot started a weekly newspaper. Eventually, it would turn into one of the most important Black newspapers in history, The Chicago Defender. Using his newspaper as an outlet, Abbot initiated the Great Migration, which was when 6 million Black people from the South moved to urban cities in the Northeast, Midwest, and the West to seek better job and living opportunities. Thanks to the success of The Chicago Defender, Abbott became one of the nation’s most prominent Black millionaires.

#7. Bessie Coleman

After trying and failing to succeed in Chicago, 23-year-old Bessie Coleman decided to go to France. In 1920, Bessie used all of her savings to move to France, where she studied their language, and after only seven months, she could fly an airplane. In June of 1921, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale gave Bessie an international pilot’s license. Over the next several years, Bessie performed in air shows performing death-defying stunts and encouraging other Black people to learn to fly. She also refused to fly in places that wouldn’t allow other Black people to attend! Bessie's biggest accomplishment, though, is opening a school so she could teach other Black women to fly! Unfortunately, Bessie, who was the first licensed Black pilot, died in a plane accident in 1926, but not before leaving her mark on society. Quoted from the author and equal rights advocate, Ida B. Wells, "There is reason to believe that the general public did not completely sense the size of her contribution to the achievements of the race as such."

"I decided blacks should not have to experience the difficulties I had faced, so I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly."― Bessie Coleman

#8. Ella Baker

Ella Baker was born on December 13, 1902, in Norfolk, Virginia. Ella became inspired by her grandmother, who was a slave, to strive for systematic change and justice for the Black community. Ella developed a grassroots approach as an NAACP field secretary in the 1940s. Her mission was to gather and convince Black people around the country that a society can and should exist “without discrimination based on race.” In 1957, Ella moved to Atlanta to help Martin Luther King Jr. form the well-known Christian Leadership Conference. Her job was to build campaigns, organize protests, and she also ran a voter registration campaign, which was called the Crusade for Citizenship. Inspired by the sit-ins that young protestors were holding all over the country, Ella built the foundation for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which became one of the most important organizations in American civil rights history.

"Remember, we are not fighting for the freedom of the Negro alone, but for the freedom of the human spirit a larger freedom that encompasses all mankind."― Ella Baker

#9. Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune was born in South Carolina, and she was just a young girl when she began to work in the fields. She dreamed of becoming a missionary in Africa, but she was told that Black people weren’t allowed to go. Instead, she decided to educate the people in her town. Using $1.50 and six of her students, Mary founded the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in 1904. Twenty years down the road, the school merged with the Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida, which Mary became the president of. In 1924, she also became the president of the National Association of Colored Women. Only 10 years later, Mary founded the National Council of Negro Women. During her career, Mary used her resources to put an end to poll taxes and lynching. She also organized protests against businesses that wouldn’t hire Black people.

"We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends."― Mary McLeod Bethune

#10. Nyeeam Hudson

At the time, 10-year-old Nyeeam Hudson was playing at a park in New Jersey. Like so many other kids, Nyeeam became the object of attention for a bully. The other kid began to tease Nyeeam about the fact that his shoes were a bit outdated. Luckily, Nyeeam had a strong heart and soulful mind and told the bully, “These sneakers aren’t even going to fit 20 years from now.” Nyeeam then made sure to point out that what really matters is “inside your mind: your wisdom, your knowledge, your power to inspire others.” Nyeeam then made a video about the encounter, and made sure to remind parents that they should teach their children not to be materialistic because, “Once they don’t have Jordan’s or the cool clothes on, they’re going to feel like they’re not important.” The video went viral and Nyeeam has turned into a young motivational speaker! Going by the name King Nahh, Nyeeam delivers positivity to others in his videos, urging them, to be fearless and to accept that they won’t always win. Nyeeam is currently working on publishing a book he wrote to empower children.

“You can’t expect to complete your dreams and do these different things without having the hate and people saying ‘you suck.’ What’s the point of getting upset and angry? You don’t say ‘you suck too.’ If you become ignorant like that person, you’re just like them. You can’t try to prove a point and do the same thing that person is doing. You gotta conduct yourself different.”― Nyeeam Hudson

#11. Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson was a 14-year-old math prodigy when she graduated from high school. When she was 18, she earned a double degree in French and math from West Virginia State College. When she went to graduate school at West Virginia University, she broke the segregation barrier and became one of three students that were Black, not to mention that she was the only woman there, as well! In 1953, she was hired by NASA to work in a pool of other women who were doing different kinds of mathematical equations. Eventually, she was taken out of the pool to work with an all-male flight research team. Johnson can take the credit for helping calculate the orbit that the 1960 Apollo 11 took to the moon. She is also responsible for co-writing 26 different scientific papers, which NASA still links to today. She was later given the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama for her work that led Black women into the fields of technology, science, engineering, and mathematics.

"Girls are capable of doing everything men are capable of doing. Sometimes they have more imagination than men."― Katherine Johnson

#12. Jesse Owens

When Jesse Owens was preparing to enter into the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the world was in a state of chaos. Hitler was climbing to the top of his reign of terror, and rumors claimed that he wasn’t going to let anyone who wasn’t considered “Aryan” compete in the Olympics. Needless to say, the world record holder who was dubbed the “fastest man alive," Jesse Owens, was ready to go toe-to-toe with the deathly leader. Despite the fact that the United States was going to boycott the Olympics because of Hitler’s views, Jesse landed in Berlin ready to compete. And, of course, he ran as if his life had depended on it and the German crowds absolutely loved it. Hitler was obviously furious and embarrassed and refused to shake Owens’ hand. When he did that, the Olympic organizers told him that he had to shake everyone’s hands or none. Hitler chose none. Even though Owens had just faced diversity and terror, he didn’t receive a warm welcome home either. Thanks to the oppression of Jim Crow, Owens received pretty much the same treatment when he got back to the United States. “I wasn’t invited up to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the president, either,” said Owens. He may have been an Olympic Gold medalist, but he still had to walk through back doors, and he to survive on low-paying jobs, like pumping gas.

"The only bond worth anything between human beings is their humanness."― Jesse Owens

#13. Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur was born on June 16, 1971, in New York City to his Black Panther Party activist mother, Afeni. In fact, just one month before Tupac was born, Afeni was arrested with 20 other people in the infamous Panther 21 case. Like his mother, Tupac had something that he needed to say. Surrounded by poverty, violence, and oppression, Tupac submerged himself in the Black empowerment movement. With his powerful lyrics, Tupac confronted the tough issues that are still relevant today. He spoke about issues like violence, illegal drugs, racism, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Unfortunately, Tupac embodied irony, and he lived the life that his music represented. On September 13, 1996, Tupac was shot and killed, but his words continued to influence the lives of Black people for many more years to come.

"I think that my mother, like a lot of people, like Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, Harriett Tubman, they felt like they were laying tracks for the generation to come. I think my mother knew that freedom wouldn't come in her lifetime, just like I know that it won't come in mine. But it's a matter of either we stay like this or somebody…Somebody has to breakout and risk losing everything, being poor and getting beat down. Somebody has to do something."―Tupac Shakur

#14. Patricia Bath

In 1968, Patricia Bath graduated from the Howard University School of Medicine. Then she went on to complete her specialty training in ophthalmology and cornea transplant at Columbia University and New York University. Patricia was passionate and dedicated to the prevention of blindness, which led her to develop the Cataract Laserphaco Probe, which was patented in 1988. The probe was created to quickly vaporize cataracts in people’s eyes using a laser, causing almost no pain. This patent meant that Patricia was the first Black female doctor to patent a medical invention! She later went on to become the founder and first president of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.

"Do not allow your mind to be imprisoned by majority thinking. Remember that the limits of science are not the limits of your imagination." ―Dr. Patricia Bath

#15. Tony Weaver Jr.

Tony Weaver Jr. was volunteering at a local elementary school as a mentor for a young Black male named Nazir. Halloween was right around the corner, so Tony asked Nazir if he was going to dress up like his favorite hero. Instead of saying that he was going to dress up as Spiderman or Batman, Nazir said, “I can’t, I don’t look like him, I’m going to dress as CJ from Grand Theft Auto.” At that moment, Nazir’s entire life changed. Thanks to misrepresentation of Black males in the media, which can lead to real-life stereotypes and backward portrayal of minorities, children like Nazir feel like they don’t have a positive role model that looks like they do. After speaking with Nazir, Tony felt obligated to do something about it, so at only 20 years old, Tony founded Weird Enough Productions. Tony created his company in 2014, and since then, he’s produced eight short films that focus on important topics such as biased news reporting, toxic gender norms, and police brutality. The videos have reached over 1,500 students all over the country and they have been watched by over 100,000 people.

“Because I grew up much like Nazir, wishing I could turn on the TV and see positive role models who looked like me, I realized other people probably felt the same, and it was at that point that I made the decision to ensure everyone knows that no matter who they are, they can be a hero.”― Tony Weaver Jr.


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