Portal:African American/Selected biography
- Current number of selected biographies: 14 (Click here to update this number if you add biographies)
Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the American civil rights movement. His main legacy was to secure progress on civil rights in the United States, and he has become a human rights icon: King is recognized as a martyr by two Christian churches. A Baptist minister, King became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. There, he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history.
Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross; c. 1820 or 1821 – March 10, 1913) was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. After escaping from slavery, into which she was born, she made thirteen missions to rescue over seventy slaves using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. She later helped John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry, and in the post-war era struggled for women's suffrage.
Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, circa 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American abolitionist, women's suffragist, editor, orator, author, statesman, minister and reformer. Escaping from slavery, he made strong contributions to the abolitionist movement, and achieved a public career that led to his being called "The Sage of Anacostia" and "The Lion of Anacostia". Douglass is one of the most prominent figures in African American and United States history. He was a firm believer in the equality of all people, whether black, female, Native American, or recent immigrant. He was fond of saying, "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong."
Booker Taliaferro Washington (April 5, 1856 – November 14, 1915) was an American political leader, educator, orator and author. He was the dominant figure in the African American community in the United States from 1890 to 1915. Representing the last generation of black leaders born in slavery, and speaking for those blacks who had remained in the New South in an uneasy modus vivendi with the white Southerners, Washington was able throughout the final 25 years of his life to maintain his standing as the black leader because of the sponsorship of powerful whites, substantial support within the black community, his ability to raise educational funds from both groups and his skillful accommodation to the social realities of the age of segregation.
George Washington Carver (January 1864 – January 5, 1943), was an American scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor. The exact day and year of his birth are unknown; he is believed to have been born before slavery was abolished in Missouri in January 1864.
Much of Carver's fame is based on his research into and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops both as a source of their own food and as a source of other products to improve their quality of life. The most popular of his 44 practical bulletins for farmers contained 105 food recipes that used peanuts. He also created or disseminated about 100 products made from peanuts that were useful for the house and farm, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, and nitroglycerin.
Thurgood Marshall (July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993) was an American jurist and the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Before becoming a judge, he was a lawyer who was best remembered for his high success rate in arguing before the Supreme Court and for the victory in Brown v. Board of Education. He was nominated to the court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967.
Most of Baldwin's work deals with racial and sexual issues in the mid-20th century in the United States. His novels are notable for the personal way in which they explore questions of identity as well as the way in which they mine complex social and psychological pressures related to being black and homosexual well before the social, cultural or political equality of these groups was improved.
Rosa Louise McCauley Parks (February 4, 1913 – October 24, 2005) was an African American civil rights activist whom the U.S. Congress later called the "Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement."
On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks, age 42, refused to obey bus driver James Blake's order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. Her action was not the first of its kind: Irene Morgan in 1946, and Sarah Louise Keys in 1955, had won rulings before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Interstate Commerce Commission respectively in the area of interstate bus travel. Nine months before Parks refused to give up her seat, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to move from her seat on the same bus system. But unlike these previous individual actions of civil disobedience, Parks' action sparked the Montgomery bus boycott.
Barack Hussein Obama II (/ / ( listen) bə-RAHK hoo-SAYN oh-BAH-mə; born August 4, 1961) is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as the junior United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned after his election to the presidency in November 2008.
A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the president of the Harvard Law Review. He was a community organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree. He worked as a civil rights attorney in Chicago and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.
Aaron McGruder (born May 29, 1974) is an American cartoonist best known for writing and drawing The Boondocks, a Universal Press Syndicate comic strip about two young African American brothers from inner-city Chicago now living with their grandfather in a sedate suburb, as well as being the creator and executive producer of The Boondocks TV series based on his strip. Through the exceptionally intelligent Huey (named after Huey P. Newton) and his younger brother and wannabe gangsta Riley, the strip explores issues involving African American culture and American politics.
James Mercer Langston Hughes, (February 2, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best-known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. He famously wrote about the Harlem Renaissance saying that "Harlem was in vogue."
Neil deGrasse Tyson (born October 5, 1958) is an American astrophysicist and, since 1996, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Since 2006, he has hosted PBS's educational television show NOVA scienceNOW. He has been a frequent guest on The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Jeopardy!.
Hugh Mulzac (March 26, 1886–1971) was an African-American member of the United States Merchant Marine. He earned a Master rating in 1918 which should have qualified him to command a ship, but this did not happen until September 29, 1942 because of racial discrimination.
In 1942 he was offered command of the SS Booker T. Washington, the first Liberty ship to be named after an African-American. He refused at first because the crew was to be all black. He insisted on an integrated crew, stating, "Under no circumstances will I command a Jim Crow vessel." The Merchant Marine finally gave in and agreed to an integrated crew, and he took command from 1942–1947, making 22 round trip voyages.
Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was the self-given name, from 1843, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York. Her best-known speech, Ain't I a Woman?, was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.