Black History Month

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson: Desegregation Begins with a Baseball


Front cover of Jackie Robinson comic book (issue #5).
Shows Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn Dodgers cap;
inset image shows Jackie Robinson
covering a slide
at second base. (Wikimedia Commons)

When the Dodgers decided to break the color barrier in the major leagues, they sent out scouts looking for the player who could do it. He would have to be tough, intelligent, and a great athlete. They found the right person in Jackie Robinson. Tough, Robinson played baseball as if it were war. Intelligent, Robinson attended college, rare among baseball players at that time. An incredible athlete, Robinson is the only person in U.C.L.A. sports history to letter (and star) in four sports-football, basketball, baseball, and track.

Jack Roosevelt Robinson, the youngest of five children, was born in Georgia in 1919. His father left the family when Robinson was only one year old, so his mother moved the children from Georgia to Pasadena, Calif., where Robinson was raised. He attended John Muir High School and went on to Pasadena City College and UCLA.

Robinson battled discrimination throughout his life. Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, he had to prove himself constantly. After college, he entered the still-segregated Army during World War II. Stationed in the South, Robinson was arrested for refusing to go to the back of a bus. After the war, he decided to play baseball professionally. Since black players could not play in the major leagues, Robinson started his baseball career in the Negro leagues, playing for the Kansas City Monarchs in 1945.  He was 26 years old at the time. His biggest battle was yet to come.

In 41 games with the Monarchs, he batted .345, with 10 doubles, four triples, and five home runs. His performance was so impressive that he caught the eye of a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ general manager, was looking for a talented black player like Robinson. Rickey realized that an incredible pool of talent and skill was being wasted by not allowing blacks to play in the majors. He had decided it was time for baseball to change.

The Dodgers knew that they were taking a huge risk. They could anger their fans, other teams, and even their own players. The player they chose would have to withstand abuse and discrimination and still become a star. He would have to withstand the pressure of knowing that if he failed, it would be a long time before any black played in the majors again. Rickey believed that Robinson was the right person for the job.

In 1946, the Dodgers started Robinson out in Montreal, Canada, with their top minor-league team. Immediately accepted by his teammates and the fans in Montreal, he led the team to first place in its league. Montreal then played Louisville, Ken., for the minor league championship, the Little World Series. Jeered and booed in Louisville, Robinson did not play well in the first games. But then the teams went to Montreal. Angered at Robinson’s treatment in Louisville, the Montreal fans jeered and booed the Louisville players mercilessly. Robinson shone in the final games, and Montreal won the series. Long after the final out, fans stayed in their seats cheering, "We want Robinson! We want Robinson!"

With his success at Montreal, the Dodgers called Robinson up to the majors for the 1947 season. Rickey and Robinson agreed that Robinson would not respond to any insults, threats, or taunts. He would fight with his baseball skills alone.

As soon as the Dodgers announced that Robinson would play, the trouble began. Newspaper editorials debated whether Robinson was suitable to play in the majors. Some of his Southern teammates circulated a petition against Robinson playing. (Most of the team refused to sign it.) Outfielder Dixie Walker, a Southerner, asked to be traded. (He got his wish at the end of the season.) The Philadelphia Phillies threatened to boycott a game if Robinson played, but after the baseball commissioner threatened to ban the players from baseball, the boycott evaporated. People wrote him letters threatening his life as well as the lives of his wife and son, Jackie Jr.

At games, fans at visiting ballparks screamed insults. Players tried to spike him when he slid into bases. Once in Chicago, when sliding head first into second base, the Cubs' shortstop kicked Robinson in the head. Pitchers tried to bean him at the plate.

On the road, some cities would not allow Robinson to stay at the team's hotel. Often, restaurants would refuse to serve him, and he would have to eat his meals on the bus while his teammates ate inside.

Robinson did receive some support. Brooklyn fans backed him. Many blacks attended games throughout the league to cheer him on. Within a month, he had won over all his teammates, including the Southerners. When fans or opposing players became particularly hostile, team leader. Pee Wee Reese would make a point of putting his arm around Robinson to show the team’s solidarity. And many people of all races applauded Robinson's courage.

But most of all, Robinson succeeded because of how well he played. A threat to steal whenever on base, Robinson would unnerve pitchers. He led the league in stolen bases, scored 125 runs, and batted .297. His play helped the Dodgers win the National League pennant that year, and Robinson was voted Rookie of the Year.

Robinson had remained silent the entire year. He had not answered any insults; he had not responded to any provocation; he had not spoken out against racism. He remained silent for another year. But in 1949, Robinson and Rickey agreed it was time for Robinson to speak his mind. When he did, his statements angered many players, owners, and fans throughout baseball. But their anger did not affect his play: He batted .347 and was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player that year. Robinson continued to speak out against racism throughout his life.

When he retired from baseball in 1956, his lifetime batting average was .311, and he had stolen home 20 times in his career. In 1962, he was voted into the Hall of Fame.  Although his play on the field never showed it, the pressure he endured took its toll.  Plagued with diabetes, blindness in one eye, high blood pressure, and heart trouble, Robinson died on Oct. 24, 1972, at the age of 53.

The full impact he made on baseball and desegregation in this country can never be fully determined. His place in baseball's record books goes well beyond his statistics. His life and career helped change the nation's way of thinking. He opened the door for hundreds of great black athletes. But he probably achieved more.

In 1948, President Truman ordered the armed forces to desegregate. In 1954, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education outlawed “separate but equal” schools. The Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s fought against segregation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened public facilities to all races. But the movement against segregation after World War II really began in 1947 with Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball.

For Further Information

Please watch the film “The Jackie Robinson Story,” made in 1950, it even stars Robinson. It is an interesting social history of the time.

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Black History Month

Lessons and Resources for Black History Month


The ancestors of many black Americans came to America not as willing immigrants, but as captured slaves. As such, the promises of the Declaration of Independence for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” were denied them and except for purposes of state representation, they were ignored by the original Constitution. Victims of a vicious system of slavery, they endured, resisted, and made many contributions to the United States, but the struggle for freedom and equality had just begun.
An Overview of the African American Experience  |  The Slave Trade 
The Constitution and Slavery  |  Slavery in the American South
Moving Toward Equality Under Law  |   Harriet Tubman and the End of Slavery



During the Civil War, the future of the Union and African Americans hung in the balance. Blacks made a significant contribution to the eventual Union victory by providing some 180,000 troops out of the approximately 2.2 million men who served the Northern cause. One of the fruits of victory was the passage of the so-called Civil War amendments to the U.S. Constitution, one of which, the 15th Amendment, promised black males the right to vote.
Black Troops in Union Blue  |  15th Amendment



The end of slavery did not bring equality to African Americans. Almost immediately, Southern states began passing laws to oppress black people and the end of Reconstruction in 1877 spurred more legislation designed to segregate African Americans and deny them rights enjoyed by white Americans, including voting.
Jim Crow |   Race and Voting in the Segregated South  | Ida B. Wells and Her Crusade for Racial Justice



The modern civil rights movement in America took place from the mid-1950s through the early 1970s. This turbulent period transformed America, changing it into a society with greater racial equality.

This huge sprawling movement can be divided into three parts. One is social activism—the protests, demonstrations, and boycotts. Another is the legal struggle that took place in courts. The third occurred in the legislative arena to enact civil rights laws.
Social Protests  |  In the Courts   |   Brown v. Board of Education    The Civil Rights Act of 1964  |  The Voting Rights Act of 1965     Building Constituencies: Case Study of The Montgomery Bus Boycott



The civil rights movement can trace its roots to a variety of leaders and thinkers, and in turn its successes influenced others. At the turn of the 20th century, W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, and Marcus Garvey outlined different visions for the future of blacks in America. Martin Luther King Jr. found inspiration for the tactics of civil disobedience in the works and actions of Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi and in turn influenced Cesar Chavez. Thurgood Marshall, perhaps best known for being the first African-American U.S. Supreme Court justice, was an untiring lawyer who litigated many significant civil rights cases leading up to Brown v. Board of Education.
Frederick Douglass  |  W.E.B. Du Bois | Booker T. Washington  Marcus Garvey | Henry David Thoreau  | Mohandas Gandhi   Cesar Chavez  | Thurgood Marshall   | Jackie Robinson


African Americans have enriched every aspect of American society and culture. They have made great contributions to politics, law, business, literature, the arts, entertainment, sports, science, and many other fields.
75 Remarkable African Americans  |  Literature by and about African Americans
Films on the African-American Experience


closereading_webinar1_14_15Reconstruction -Close Reading Webcast

View a free webcast on close reading including a lesson on Reconstruction.

The lesson:

  • Utilizes a primary source document to demonstrate close reading as a Common Core strategy.
  • Explores the era of Reconstruction through a letter written by a former slave, Jourdon Anderson, titled “To My Old Master.”
  • Provides opportunities for students to practice advanced critical-thinking skills.

Click here to take advantage of this online professional development opportunity, watch the webcast, and download the handouts.


Though Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is often remembered as a leader and inspiration in America’s civil rights movement, near the end of his life he also became a strong advocate for peace and for the poor of all races. Among his legacies is that individuals and groups must be willing to sacrifice and work for positive change.

Today, the United States and the world face daunting challenges. To address them, all of us must be informed and engaged in seeking solutions in our neighborhoods, communities, country, and globally.

Let us celebrate the contributions of Dr. King by making our own contributions to positive change.

Guide for Positive Change — Students can make positive changes in their school and communities by working together to plan and conduct projects.


newiconThe legacy of slavery forces us to confront this question: How do we judge the founders of our nation who owned slaves? Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, owned slaves. George Washington,war hero and first president, was one of the largest slave owners in the nation. James Madison,the prime architect of the Constitution and fourth president, also held slaves. Download the reading and also the civil conversation quide.

Great Films and Television Programs

Great Films and Televisions Programs

Civil Rights




4 Little Girls

Documentary (1997)


A documentary about the notorious terrorist bombing of an African-American church during the Civil Rights movement.

A Raisin in the Sun

Drama (1961)

Sidney Poitier

Classic drama by Lorraine Hansberry, a substantial insurance payment creates opportunities and conflicts in a low income African-American family.

Black Like Me

Drama (1964)

James Whitmore
Sorrell Brooke

The true account of John Griffin's experiences when he passed as a black man, in the south in the 1960's.

Eyes on the Prize

Documentary (1987)


A comprehensive and engaging multi-part documentary about the American Civil Rights Movement from 1952 to 1965.

Ghost of Mississippi

Drama (1996)

Whoopi Goldberg

The widow of murdered civil rights leader Medger Evers and a district attorney struggle to bring the murderer to justice.

Heat Wave

Drama (1990)

Cicely Tyson
Blaire Underwood
James Earl Jones

TV movie about the Watts riots in Los Angeles in the 1960's.

Blazing Saddles

Comedy (1974)

Cleavon Little
Gene Wilder

To ruin a western town, a corrupt political boss appoints a black sheriff, who promptly becomes his most formidable adversary.


Drama (2001)

Jeffery Wright
Terrence Howard

Black Americans boycott the public buses in Montgomery during the 1950's civil rights movement.

Of Civil Wrongs & Rights: The Fred Korematsu Story

Documentary (2000)

Fred Korematsu

A national civil rights hero, who in 1942 at the age of 23, refused to go to the is governments incarceration camp for Japanese-Americans. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court.


Drama (1974)

Jon Voight
Paul Winfield
Madge Sinclair

In 1969, a white man starts a job teaching at a small poor all black school located on Daufuskie Island off the coast of South Carolina, accessible only


Bio/Drama (1982)

Ben Kingsley

Biography of Mahatma Gandhi, the lawyer who became the famed leader of the Indian revolts against the British rule through his philosophy of non-violent protest. He was an inspiration to Martin Luther King.

King: Miniseries

Bio/Drama (1978)

Paul Winfield
Cicely Tyson

The story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., stretching from his days as a Southern Baptist minister up to his assassination in Memphis in 1968.

American Experience: Freedom Riders

Drama (2010)

Raymond Arsenault

This is the story of more than four hundred Americans who participated in a bold and dangerous experiment designed to awaken the conscience of a complacent nation. These self-proclaimed, 'Freedom Riders' challenged the mores of a racially segregated society by performing a disarmingly simple act.

Brother Outsiders: The Life of Bayard Rustin

Documentary (2003)

Bayard Rustin
Dorothy Jackson

Documentary on Bayard Rustin, best-remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.

Freedom Song

Drama (2000)

Danny Glover

A father, a son and a movement that would change America forever.

King: A Film Record: Montgomery to Memphis

Documentary (1970)

Paul Newman
Joanne Woodward

A biography of Martin Luther Kung through newsstand footage and recordings, narrated by celebrities.

Native Land

Drama (1942)

Paul Robeson
Fred Johnson

Paul Robeson narrates a mix of dramatizations and archival footage about the bill of rights being under attack during the 1930s

Malcolm X

Drama (1992)

Denzel Washington
Angela Bassett

The biopic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader.

Mississippi Burning

Drama (1998)

Gene Hackman
Willem Dafoe

Two FBI agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.

Murder in Mississippi

Drama (1990)

Blair Underwood
Jennifer Grey

TV movie that dramatizes the last few weeks of three young civil rights activists and the events leading up to their murder 1964.

Ruby Bridges

Drama (1998)

Chaz Monet
Penelope Ann Miller

The true story of Ruby Bridges, an African-American girl who, in 1960 at age 6, helped to integrate the all-white schools of New Orleans.

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Drama (1974)

Cicely Tyson

Story of a black woman in the South who was born into slavery in the 1850s and lives to become a part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

The Color Purple

Drama (1985)

Danny Glover
Whoopi Goldberg

The life and trials of a young African American woman. Based on the acclaimed novel by Alice Walker. Produced by Oprah Winfrey.

The Good Fight: James Farmer Remembers

Documentary (2009)

James Farmer

When he rolled into the Jim Crow South on a Greyhound bus - a black man sitting in the whites-only front seat - James Farmer was scared. Courage is not being unafraid, but doing what needs to be done in spite of fear, said the founder of the Freedom Rides and pioneer of the earliest sit-ins.

The Jackie Robinson Story

Biography (1950)

Jackie Robinson

Biography of Jackie Robinson, the first black major league baseball player who traces his career in the Negro leagues and the major leagues.

The Long Walk Home

Drama (1990)

Sissy Spacek
Whoopi Goldberg

Two women, black and white, in 1955 Montgomery Alabama, must decide what they are going to do in response to the famous bus boycott lead by Martin Luther King.

The Rosa Parks Story

Bio/Drama (2002)

Angela Bassett
Peter Francis James

The story of the civil rights heroine whose refusal to obey racial bus segregation was just one of her acts in her fight for justice.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Drama (1962)

Gregory Peck
Brock Peters

Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.

With All Deliberate Speed

Documentary (2004)

Vernon Jordan
Thurgood Marshall, Jr.

Documentary filmmaker Peter Gilbert unearths the legacy of the landmark Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

Black History




A Great Day in Harlem

Documentary (1995)

Dizzy Gillespie
Milt Hinton

In 1958, Art Kane coordinated a group photograph of all the top black jazz musicians. This wonderful documentary tells the story of how it all came together and what happened.

A Soldier's Story

Drama (1984)

Howard E. Rollins, Jr.
Adolph Caesar

An African-American officer investigates a murder in a racially charged situation in World War II.

Akeelah and the Bee

Drama (2006)

Angela Basset
Laurence Fishburne

A young girl from South Los Angeles tries to make it to the National Spelling Bee.


Bio/Drama (2001)

Will Smith

Jamie Fox

A biography of sports legend, Muhammad Ali, from his early days to his days of triumph in the ring.


Drama (1997)

Djimon Hounsou
Anthony Hopkins

About a 1839 mutiny aboard a slave ship that is traveling towards the northeastern coast of America. Much of the story involves a court-room drama about the free man who led the revolt.

Do the Right Thing

Drama (1989)

Danny Aiello
Ossie Davis
Ruby Dee

On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.

Get on the Bus

Drama (1996)

Ossie Davis
Charles Dutton

Get on the Bus follows several Black men on a cross country bus trip to the Million Man March.


Drama (1989)

Matthew Broderick
Denzel Washington

Robert Gould Shaw leads the US Civil War's first all-black volunteer company, fighting the prejudices of both his own Union army and the Confederates

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Drama (1967)

Spencer Tracy
Sydney Poitier

A white couple attitudes are challenged when their daughter brings home her fiancé who happens to be black.

Jasper, TX

Drama (2003)

Louis Gossett, Jr.
Jon Voight

In 1998, three white men in the small town of Jasper, Texas, chained a black man to the back of their pickup truck and dragged him to his death.


Comedy (1988)

Sonny Bono Divine

A 'pleasantly plump' teenager teaches 1962 Baltimore a thing or two about integration after landing a spot on a local TV dance show.

Scottsboro: An American Tragedy

Documentary (2000)

Francis McDormand Stanley Tucci

A look at the infamous "Scottsboro Boys" case that occurred in Alabama in 1931, in which nine young black men were arrested, tried and quickly convicted in the rape of two white women, regardless of the evidence that proves otherwise.

In the Heat of the Night

Crime/Drama (1967)

Sidney Poitier
Rod Steiger

An African-American detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racist southern town.

Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

Drama (1999)

Halle Berry

This biography of Dorothy Dandridge follows her career through early days on the club circuit with her sister to her turn in movies, including becoming the first black actress to win a Best Actress Nomination in 1954 for Carmen Jones.

Men of Honor

Drama/Bio (2000)

Cuba Gooding
Robert De Niro

The story of Carl Brashear, the first African American, then also the first amputee, US Navy Diver and the man who trained him.


Drama/Crime (2007)

Terrence Howard
Bernie Mac

The determined Jim Ellis starts a swim team for troubled teens at the Philadelphia Department of Recreation.

Remember the Titans

Bio/Drama (2007)

Denzel Washington William Patton

The true story of a newly appointed African-American coach and his high school team on their first season as a racially integrated unit.


Drama (1977)

LeVar Burton
Ben Vereen

A dramatization of author Alex Haley's family line from ancestor Kunta Kinte's enslavement to his descendants' liberation.


Drama/Action (1997)

Jon Voight

A dramatization of a 1923 horrific racist lynch mob attack on an African American community.

Something the Lord Made

Bio/Drama (2004)

Alan Rickman
Mos Def

A dramatization of the relationship between heart surgery pioneers Alfred Blalock and Vivien Thomas.


Drama (1972)

Cicely Tyson
Paul Winfield

The story of a boy, his dog, his family and black sharecroppers in Louisiana in the 1930's.

The Color Purple

Drama (1982)

Danny Glover
Whoopi Goldberg

The life and trials of a young African American woman.

The Great Debaters

Bio/Drama (2007)

Denzel Washington

A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas who made his black students into formidable debate team that even gave the Harvard team a run for their money.

The Great White Hope

Comedy (1996)

Samual Jackson
Jeff Goldblum

When the champ's promoter, Rev. Sultan, decides something new is needed to boost the marketability of the boxing matches, he searches and finds the only man to ever beat the champ.

The Tuskegee Airmen

Drama (1995)

Laurence Fishburne
Allen Payne

The true story of how a group of African American pilots overcame racist opposition to become one of the finest US fighter groups in World War II.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Drama (2005)

Halle Berry

A drama set in the 1920s, where free-spirited Janie Crawford's search for happiness leads her through several different marriages, challenging the morals of her small town. Based on the novel by Zora Neale Hurston.

When We Were Kings

Documentary (1996)

Muhammad Ali
George Foreman

A documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali.

White Dog

Drama (1992)

Kristy McNichol
Christa Lang

A trainer attempts to retrain a vicious dog that's been raised to kill black people.

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Literature by and about African Americans

Literature by and about African Americans


Crafts, Hannah. The Bondwoman’s Narrative. Warner Books: New York. 2002.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Random House: New York. 1995.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. Harper Collins Publishing: New York. 1965.
Stockett, Kathryn. The Help. Penguin Group: New York. 2011.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Barnes and Noble Classics. 2004.
Morrison, Toni. Sula. Penguin Books: New York. 1973.
___. Song of Solomon. Vintage Books: New York. 2004.
Walker, Alice. The Color Purple. Mariner Publishing. 2006.
West, Dorothy. The Living Is Easy. The Feminist Press at CUNY. 1995.


Baldwin, James. Notes of a Native Son. Beacon Press: Boston. 1983.
Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo. Racism Without Racists. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers: Oxford. 2006.
Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters. Simon and Schuster Books: New York. 1988.
___. Pillar of Fire. Simon and Schuster Books: New York. 1998.
___. At Canaan’s Edge. Simon and Schuster Book: New York. 2006.
Dyson, Michael Eric. Debating Race. Basic Civitas Books: New York. 2007.
Gates, Henry Louis Jr. Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African-American History 1513–2008. Random House: New York. 2001.
Great Speeches by African-Americans. Dover Publications. 2006.
Hacker, Andrew. Two Nations: Black & White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal. Scribner Books: New York. 2002.
Hooks, Bell & Cornel West. Breaking Bread: Insurgent Black Intellectual Life. South End Press: Cambridge, MA. 1999.
King Jr., Martin Luther. Letter from Birmingham Jail. Harper Collins. 1994.
West, Cornel. Race Matters. Vintage Publishers: New York. 1994.
Woodson, Carter G. The Mis-Education of the Negro. Barnes and Noble Publishing. 2008.


Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House Books: New York. 2009.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Empire Books: North Carolina. 2011.
Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk Penguin Classics: New York. 1996.
Gates, Henry Louis Jr. Colored People. Vintage Books: New York. 1994.
Haley, Alex & Malcolm X. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ballantine Books: New York. 1973.
Johnson, James Wheldon. Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Dover Publishing: USA. 1995.
King Jr., Martin Luther. Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. Warner Books: New York. 1998.
Obama, Barack. Dreams from My Father. Crown Publishers: New York. 1995.
___. The Audacity of Hope. Random House Inc., New York. 2006.
Washington, Booker T. Up From Slavery. CreateSpace. 2011.
Wright, Richard. Black Boy. Buccaneer Books. 2008.
Yetman, Norman R. Voices from Slavery: 100 Authentic Slave Narratives. Dover Publications: New York, 2000.

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75 Remarkable African Americans

75 Remarkable African Americans


Benjamin Banneker (1731–1806). Mathematician and astronomer. He constructed the first striking clock to be made in America.
George Carruthers (1939– ). His telescope and image converter was used to identify molecular hydrogen in space.
George Washington Carver (1864–1943). Agricultural chemist. He advocated innovative agricultural methods and developed applications for agricultural products.
Charles Drew (1904–1950). Physician, surgeon, medical researcher.
Percy Julian (1899–1975). Chemist, known for being a pioneer in the synthesis of medicinal drugs such as cortisone and the birth control pill.
Kenneth Clark (1917–1983. Psychologist.

Thomas Jennings (1791–1856). The first known African American to hold a patent.
Granville T. Woods (1856–1910). Known for contributions to the street car and the telephone.


Maya Angelou (1928– ). American author and poet who has been called “America’s most visible female autobiographer.”
James Baldwin (1924–1987). Novelist, playwright, poet, and essayist. .
Frederick Douglass (1818–1895). Civil rights activist and writer.
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868–1963). Historian, civil rights activist, and writer.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906). Poet.
Ralph Ellison (1914 –1994). Novelist, critic, and scholar.
Henry Louis Gates (1950– ). Author, documentary filmmaker, literary critic, and professor at Harvard University.
Langton Hughes (1902–1967). Poet and social activist, known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance.
Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960). Folklorist, anthropologist, and author during the Harlem Renaissance.
Toni Morrison (1931– ). Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist.
Alice Walker (1944– ). Author and poet who wrote The Color Purple and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Booker T. Washington. (1856–1915). Writer and political leader.
Ida Wells (1862–1931). Journalist, newspaper editor, and early civil rights activist.
Richard Wright 1908–1960). Novelist, short story writer, and poet.


Edward William Brooke III (1919– ). U.S. senator.
Julian Bond (1940– ). Founder of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, first president of Southern Poverty Law Center, and former chairman of NAACP.
Ralph Bunche (1903–1971). Diplomat and winner of the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize.
Shirley Chisholm (1924–2005). First African American woman elected to Congress.
Marian Wright Edelman (1939– ). Activist for the rights of children.
Matthew Gaines (1840–1900). Former slave, community leader, minister and Republican state senator. Helped establish free public education in Texas.
Marcus Garvey (1887–1940). Black nationalist, encouraged African Americans to migrate back to Africa.
Frances Harper (1825–1911). Abolitionist and poet.
Jesse Jackson Sr. (1941– ). Civil rights activist and Baptist minister.
James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938). Author, known for his leadership within NAACP.
Barbara Jordan (1936–1996). Congresswoman, educator and constitutionalist.
Alan Keyes (1950– ). Political activist, served as President Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs.
Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968). Prominent leader of the civil rights movement.
Barack Obama (1961– ). Current U.S. president.
Rosa Parks (1913–2005). Civil rights activist, known for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in 1955 and sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Colin Powell (1937– ). Statesman and retired four-star general of the U.S. Army. He also served as secretary of state under President George W. Bush.
Hiram Rhodes Revels (1827–1901). First African American to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Condoleezza Rice (1954– ). Foreign policy expert who served as national security adviser and then secretary of state under President George W. Bush.
Carl Burton Stokes (1927–1996). Elected mayor of Cleveland in 1967, he was the first African American mayor of a major U.S. city.
Sojourner Truth (1797–1883). Abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
Harriet Tubman (1820–1913). Abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the Civil War.
Malcolm X (1925–1965). Muslim religious leader and human rights activist.

Notable Members of the Judicial and Legal Fields

Johnnie Cochran (1937–2005). Criminal defense lawyer.
Charles Hamilton Houston (1895–1950). Dean of Howard University Law School, NAACP lawyer, and mentor to Thurgood Marshall.
Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993). Civil rights lawyer and the first African-American justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Constance Baker Motley (1921–2005). Civil rights activist, lawyer, judge, and state senator.
Judith Ann Wilson Rogers (1939– ) First African American female on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Clarence Thomas (1948– ). Associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
William F. Yardley (1844–1924). Attorney, politician, and civil rights advocate.


Muhammad Ali (1942– ). Heavyweight champion boxer, philanthropist, and social activist.
Anita DeFrantz (1952– ). Olympic rower and member of the International Olympic Committee.
Michael Jordan (1963– ). Professional basketball player.
Warren Moon (1956– ). Professional football player.
Jesse Owens (1913–1980). Track and field star.
Jackie Robinson (1919–1972). Civil rights leader and the first African-American Major League Baseball player.
Venus and Serena Williams (1980– ) and (1981– ). Professional tennis players.
Tiger Woods (1975– ). One of the most successful professional golfers of all time.


Louis Armstrong (1901–1971). Jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans.
Bill Cosby (1937– ). Comedian, actor, author, producer, and educator.
Ella Fitzgerald (1917–1996). Known as the “First Lady of Song.”
Billie Holiday (1915–1959). Jazz singer and songwriter.
BB King (1925– ). Blues guitarist and singer-songwriter.
Sidney Poitier (1927– ). Actor, film director, author, and diplomat.


Ursula M. Burns (1958– ). CEO of Xerox Corporation.
Kenneth I. Chenault (1951– ). CEO of American Express.
Kenneth C. Frazier (1954– ). President and CEO of Merck and Co.
Robert Johnson (1946– ). Founder of Black Entertainment Television.
Aylwin Lewis (1954– ). CEO of Sears Holding Corporation.
Stanley O’Neal (1951– ). CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co.
Richard D. Parson (1948– ). Chairman of Citigroup and former CEO of Time Warner.
Franklin Delano Raines (1949– ). CEO of Fannie Mae.
Madam C.J. Walker (1867–1919). Business entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Lloyd D. Ward (1948– ). CEO of Maytag.
Ronald A. Williams (1950– ). Executive Chairman of Aetna Inc.
Oprah Winfrey (1954– ). Entertainer and business leader.

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