Hampton High School 9th grade honors Geography and English students researched and created a collection of argumentative profiles to highlight the achievements of African American who they believe are "dreamers and doers, noisy geniuses and quiet innovators, record-breakers and symbols of pride and aspiration."
The inspiration for this collection comes from The Undefeated's list of 44 African Americans who "shook up the world." Students first examined The Undefeated 44 list, then selected an individual of their choosing for the Hampton collection below.
Who on Hampton's list stands out as an inspiration to you? Who would you add to the list? Let us know by completing the survey below!
Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
Because he was first African-American general officer in the United States Air Force.
Military General; b. 1912-2001
Born in Washington D.C, in 1912, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was the son of Benjamin O. Harris Sr. and Elnora. Davis Sr became the first African-American general in 1941. Elnora died when Davis Jr was only four years old. His mother’s death was influential on him because he would then be raised on different military bases and, as a result, had seen the segregationist policies that his father had to endure. He was able to fly a plane in 1926 with a pilot from Bolling Field. He decided that after attending the University of Chicago, he would go with a military career, with the hope of learning to fly. He was hoping to go to West Point, and he received an appointment from the only African American member of the House of Representatives (Oscar DePriest) in 1932 (Hickman).
He was faced with racial prejudice, but he persevered. He hoped that his classmates would see him through his work and effort and not his color or race, but they gave him the silent treatment, however he did finish 35th out of the 278 cadets that were in his class (Hickman). In elaboration to that, he entered a U.S military Academy at West Point New York in 1932 however there was prejudice there, classmates refused to fraternize with him. However he was able to finish in the top 15% of his class (“Benjamin O. Davis”). This shows how resilient he was because even though his peers alienated him, he was still able to graduate within the top 15% of his class.
He was assigned as the commander of the 99th Pursuit Squadron in 1942. In 1943 the squadron was assigned to multiple missions such as Tunisia, then to a mission of combat for the German held islands of Pantelleria, then to help with the Allied invasion of Sicily. Later in September of 1943, Davis was assigned to an all-black unit (the 332nd Fighter Group). Then there were problems; multiple senior Air Army Corps officers complained to the Army Chief of Staff George Marshall that the 99th Squadron had under-performed and should be taken out of conflict. Responding to this, “Major General Edwin House, Commander of the XII Air Support Command wrote in September 1943 that ‘the Negro type has not the proper reflexes to make a first-class fighter pilot’” (“Benjamin O. Davis”). To add, when he was in Tunisia, Davis and his command group had begun operating under the 33rd Fighter Group, commanded by Colonel William Momyer. Momyer thought the 99th Squadron had under-performed during the summer (he was the one who reported this to the war department). “US Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall ordered the issue studied. As a result, Davis received orders to return to Washington in September to testify before the Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Policies. Delivering impassioned testimony, he successfully defended the 99th's combat record and paved the way for the formation of new units”(Hickman).
He had a vast amount of experience, shown from the many things that he took part in. He was in command of many bases in different countries (and cities). Here are some examples: Tuskegee Army Air Base (99th Fighter Squadron), Selfridge Field, Michigan (332nd Fighter Group, Godman Field Kentucky (477th composite group), Lockbourne Army Air Base in Ohio (332nd Fighter Wing), Far East Air Forces Korea (51st Fighter Interceptor Wing), and the Thirteenth Air Force Base at Clark Air Base in the Republic of the Philippines (“General Benjamin Olver”).
He was awarded higher positions many times: Second Lieutenant: June 12, 1936 after graduating the U.S Military Academy at West Point NY, First Lieutenant: June 19, 1939, Captain: Oct. 9, 1940 (temporary); June 12, 1946 (permanent), Earned pilot wings in March 1942 from Advanced Flying School near Air Force Base of Tuskegee Alabama, Major: May 13, 1942 (temporary), Lieutenant Colonel: May 29, 1942 (temporary); July 2, 1948 (permanent), Colonel: May 29, 1944 (temporary); July 27, 1950 (permanent), Brigadier General: Oct. 27, 1954 (temporary); May 16, 1960 (permanent), Major General: June 30, 1959 (temporary); Jan. 30, 1962 (permanent), Lieutenant General: April 30, 1965, and lastly, General: Dec. 9, 1998 (advanced) given by President Clinton (“General Benjamin Olver”).
He experienced two wars (Fought in WWII and the Korean War). After the 99th Squadron, Davis was put in command of the 332nd Fighter Group. He led them on several missions, including using the aircraft known as Consolidated B-24 Liberators strike on Munich. They excelled as bomber escorts (Hickman). He “...later led the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing during the Korean War” (HIckman). In 1965, Davis was promoted to the rank of lieutenant general and was also assigned to be the chief of staff for the U.N Command and US Forces in Korea (Hickman).
Benjamin O. Davis Jr. deserves to be on Hampton’s “African Americans Who Shook Up the World.” website from his perseverance through West Point Academy, NY with no one showing respect to him by ignoring him. He also showed himself in defense when defending his 99th Squadron that they have been efficient. He put his time in for around 38 years, from 1932-1970. He also was involved in two wars helping give command of the “Tuskegee Airmen” and different groups such as 332nd group, and these groups were in different places, for example, the Thirteenth Air Force was in the Philippines, my point is that not all operating bases were in the United States. Overall, Davis put his time in the Air Force, being put in charge of combat, and that should be respected, and that is why Benjamin O. Davis Jr. deserves to be on this list. - Jake Winter
Because she overcame the limitations of society to achieve her dream and inspired through her ambition.
Aircraft pilot, b. 1892-1926
Challenger. Defier. Inspiration. Bessie Coleman is a superlative manifestation of these titles. She defied the rousing limitations of society during the early 1900’s. She defied the restraints of her familial situation. She defied the containment of America and the detestable, abhorrent dissension of its people. She fought her way to becoming the first African American woman to be an aviator and earn her pilot’s license. And she pathed the road of achieving one’s unacceptable dreams for people across America, and the world.
Bessie Coleman, from the beginning, didn’t have it easy. She “was born… in a one-room, dirt-floored cabin… to George and Susan Coleman, the illiterate children of slaves” (Gale Research Inc.). With this, Bessie attended school and began learning to read and write, but her parents were unable to do the same, which created a communicative barrier both within and outside of her home. When Bessie was just a child, “Her father… left the family in search of better opportunities” (Biography.com Editors), and “to escape discrimination (Alexander). His leaving forced both her mother and the two eldest siblings to seek work openings, which left Bessie in charge to act as a “caretaker” for her younger family members (Gale Research Inc.). With this exhausting, grueling responsibility weighing her down, she had to work considerably harder to achieve her dreams.
In order to “‘amount to something,’” as Bessie used to tell her mother that she would someday do, she had to develop a dream (Gale Research Inc.). And she did. Aviation was her calling; however, society wasn’t too keen on the idea of an African American woman flying a plane. Coleman, through her ambitious personality and drive, overcame societal put-downs and limitations. Given her race and gender, and in consideration to the time, “flying schools in the United States denied her entry in 1922, [which was] a time of both gender and racial discrimination” (Biography.com Editors). So, “she took it upon herself to learn French and move to France to achieve her goal. After only seven months, Coleman earned her license from France's well known Caudron Brother's School of Aviation” (Biography.com Editors). Coleman defied the disgusting limitations put on her from societie’s corrupt minds and demonstrated peoples’ capabilities of doing what they dream of doing.
After Coleman earned her license and began practicing piloting public flights, Black women all over America began admiring her determination and persistence. She was given nicknames such as “‘Brave Bessie,’ ‘Queen Bess,’ and ‘The Only Race Aviatrix in the World’” (Alexander). Not only did Bessie accomplish her goals, but she also focused a large portion of her time and energy into encouraging other women and African Americans to pursue their piloting dreams by opening up a flying school. She decided blacks should not have to experience the difficulties she had faced (Brainy Quote). She devoted her short time after her schooling to bring the availability to others attention and access.
Unfortunately, Bessie Coleman’s career ended with her tragic death in a plane crash (Alexander). Despite her short-lived dreams, Coleman continually inspires and motivates people all across the globe by having showed people that anything is always, always possible. - Audrey Alling
Because she always pushed forward in her career and is one of the best selling artists of all time.
Music icon and performer; b. 1981 in Houston, TX
Beyonce Knowles-Carter is living proof that girls do run the world. She rises above the rest while constantly being knocked down, writes songs to empower women and the black community, and creates some of the most successful music of all time.
We see Queen B start her career with a group called Girls Thyme. This was a collection of very talented young women, just trying to make it in the music industry. Beyonce and her girls performed for the biggest talent show airing at the time, “Star Search”. Unfortunately, they lost the talent show, but Bey did not let this bring her down (Thorpe). This is where we see how truly inspiring she is. She kept on the positive side, and pushed onward in her career, creating the new band, Destiny’s Child. Beyonce put herself out there and worked hard to get where she is today. She was at the bottom, and rose to the top to finally become the amazing icon we know today.
This is not the only time she impresses everyone with her ability to make good out of the bad. In 2016, she came out with her album, Lemonade, that was made somewhat in reaction to her husband cheating. Other artists would let devastating news like this tear them apart, but we see Beyonce do the opposite, and use this to her advantage. Not only did she make millions from this album, but she sent a message to all women through her amazing songs.
Beyonce is one of the most successful artists of time, and one of the most well- known artists. She is seen most often promoting women empowerment and empowerment among the black community. In 2019, Queen Bey released her Homecoming album. The album is a clear representation of black excellence, shining the spotlight on black culture and black education, specifically Historically Black Colleges (Pitner). The making of this album demonstrates how she embraces her culture, and she is also trying to send a message to other young and older black people to also accept their culture.
Beyonce not only works to inspire the black community, but also strives to empower women. In her “Run the World (Girls),” Beyonce sings about women empowerment and feminism, utilizing lyrics such as, “My persuasion can build a nation. Endless power our love we can devour. You’ll do anything for me...strong enough to bear the children then get back to bidness...Girls we run this mother” (Beyonce). “In this song she also shows the cutthroat ambition business women (PSU).” Beyonce using these lyrics is meant to project the strength and capability of girls and how they should not be underestimated in society.
Beyonce Knowles- Carter is one of the best-selling artists of all time. “Beyoncé has sold over 15 million albums in the US, and over 118 million records worldwide. But that doesn't include the 'mere' 60 million records she sold during her time in Destiny's Child” (Langley). Not only does she sell millions of records, but she holds the record for the most Grammy nominations, holding the spot at being nominated no less than 53 times. She has won 20 of those 53 Grammy’s and is expected to win many more (Langley). Not many artists have been able to do this, and not many will. It is very impressive how someone can be this successful.
Beyonce is a record breaking idol that is well deserving of being on this list. She shows determination and exceptionally represents Female and African American society. Beyonce is one of the most successful artists in history, and she brings confidence to so many people through her work. - Helena Campbell and Kayla Berkebile
Because he not only broke records in basketball but the color barrier.
NBA basketball all-star, 11 titles; b. 1934
Bill Russell was a prestigious African American athlete because he not only broke records in basketball but also broke the color barrier in his time period. With the most titles in NBA history (11 NBA titles), Russell is undoubtedly one of the best players in history. However, he is not only known for being a great athlete, but for carrying himself in a mature and humble way.
In Russells 13 seasons in the NBA, all playing for the Boston Celtics, he racked up 11 titles, breaking NBA records that still hold to today (NBA Media). Russell was an athlete that thrived on winning and never settled for what he had. He was never satisfied, and this drove him to win more. Along with the 11 titles, Russell won 5 MVP trophies, 12 all-star sections, and had a combining total of an impressive 21,620 rebounds and 14,522 points (Basketball References). Russell went onto other outstanding achievements, not only his 11 NBA titles. He was able to set label for black people by showing them that they can achieve great things that may even seem impossible. Bill Russell got inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975 and the National College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 (Wimbish). These inductions show that Bill did not only succeed in college but took his phenomenal skill to the next level and achieved greater things in the NBA. As a matter of fact, The Celtics legend said on Twitter on Friday, February 25, 2020, that he received his Hall of Fame ring in a private ceremony. Russell was selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1975. However, he did not attend the induction ceremony. He had refused to be the first black basketball player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame because he thought others deserved it more than he did.
Bill Russell inspired people by his actions that he performed on and off the court. In an interview with ESPN Sports, the infamous Kobe Bryant said that he looked at Bill Russell as a mentor because of his playing style of the game (Kobe Bryant Relartionship). Russell made a great enough impact on the game of basketball that Kobe, along with other players looked up to him as someone who leads by example and lead the other players from right and wrong, in a sense. Through Russells 13 seasons in the NBA, he faced many racial discrimination problems between other players and fans. Bill would have items thrown at him from the crowd and be called racial slurs from the fans also (Kobe Bryant Relationship). But this didn’t get to Russell’s head. Russell said he would use these negative events and comments to fuel him and drive him to keep succeeding in what others didn’t want to see him succeed in. He stayed strong in his mind and his heart and didn’t let these things get the best of him.
Along with all of these athletic achievements, Bill Russell was a civil rights activist who created a future for many people. Throughout the 1960s Bill Russell used his fame as an athlete as a platform for civil rights movements. In 1963, Russell walked in the march on “Washington for civil rights and frequently called out ways in which he perceived the NBA to be limiting its population of African-American players” (Resetar). Bill Russell stood up for what is right. He could have lost his job as a professional athlete, but he risked a big part of himself and his reputation to be part of the civil rights movement. He spoke out on the discrimination of blacks in the NBA which helped pave a way for future African American basketball players. In 1967, Bill Russell went to the Ali Summit where Muhammad where he came to support Muhammad Ali about him not joining the army due to religious beliefs. Russell stayed with Ali through all of the acts of hate. Russell stated, “He has an absolute and sincere faith. … I’m not worried about Muhammad Ali. He is better equipped than anyone I know to withstand the trials in store for him” (Eig). These miraculous steps that Russell took shows that he stood behind someone who was passionate about his religion. He believed that one should follow their faith passionately. Bill Russell stood up with Ali for his rights as an American to follow your dream. A moment that must not be forgotten is when Bill Russell was awarded the Presidential Medal for Freedom by Barack Obama in 2010 (Merlino). Bill Russell was a spitting image of freedom. He showed to all people around the United States what freedom stood for, especially for black people in the time period when racial discrimination was big.
Bill Russell made an outstanding mark for athletes. His athletic awards and his involvement in the civil rights movement as an activist all lead to a remarkable career that he built for himself. Russell used his heart to make a positive mark for other people to follow by. He is mentored by many athletes and is still looked at as one of the most influential individuals and history. - Brennan Murray and Ryan Apaliski
Because he helped change the game for a lot of quarterbacks.
NFL player, TV Show Host, Mentor to Children; b. 1989
Cam Newton who is a Payton Man of the Year award winning NFL player deserves to be on the Undefeated 44 list of African Americans that have made an impact on people in the world. Not only is he a talented football star, but he is an amazing person for young kids to look up to. Cam Newton serves as a role model to children who need it, he helps kids accept themselves and others for who they are, and he gives to those who are less fortunate.
To start off, Cam Newton serves as a mentor to people when they are celebrating something great or going through a hard time. According to experts at the Washington Post, Cam Newton is the executive producer of a show that primarily focuses on making children's dreams come true. This includes taking them to places they have always wanted to go and allowing them to meet famous people they have always wanted to meet (Bieler). This proves that he is a mentor to children because he is there for them when they experience these amazing things he has provided for them. He can always put a smile on their face when they are going through something terrible. In addition to that, according to The Charlotte Observer, “he came up with the tradition of giving footballs to children after touchdowns” (Louis-Jacques). This shows that he wants to make kids feel special by handing them the football. As a mentor and someone to look up to, he wants to teach children to appreciate themselves and have self worth. Finally, Cam Newton proves that he is a mentor to children by “accompanying youngsters as they get some important tips directly from actual experts, including hoops star Lisa Leslie and magician David Copperfield” (Bieler). This shows that he wants to be there for kids when they are meeting these famous people. He does not want them to be scared or feel nervous, he simply wants them to embrace the moment and enjoy themselves. To summarize, there are countless ways that Cam Newton expresses that he is a mentor to children.
Along with that, Cam Newton helps many accept others for who they are. For example, “Newton went to a middle school and expressed the importance of interacting with other races, gender, backgrounds, and walks of life”(Taronto). This evidence supports my claim and shows that Newton expresses to the young kids that it is okay to be who you are. He is making an impact on today’s society by telling them that they are allowed to accept them and others. This is important especially in today’s society because many are coming out and showing who they are. Newton expresses his emotions when he is around others that are different, "Something that was extremely rewarding for me is to be in a room full of differences: From religion, ethnicity, male, female, sexual preference or identity" (Taranto). He is showing that he is made a better person and expresses to the children how it impacts your life in a positive way. In addition to that, “Newton teaches middle-school students to embrace diversity ignite social change”(Taranto). Cam has not only taught the younger kids about the different races and genders and the importance but taught them to embrace it and to start to socialize with one another. This shows that Cam is expressing the significance of spreading love between communities of different races and ethnicities. In conclusion, Cam has demonstrated a way of expressing the love among communities in a positive way.
Cam Newton has done some pretty incredible things for people in need in his community. To start, he provided 1,200 Thanksgiving dinners to underprivileged children (Charlotte). This is an extremely generous act from somebody who is highly looked up to by the football community. Another generous act from Cam Newton was his large donation so that parents would be able to buy their children Christmas presents (Charlotte). This is just one of many generous contributions from Cam to less fortunate people. This shows that he is worth being on the list of African Americans because he wants to make a difference in many childrens lives. Finally, Cam Newton received recognition for his work in the community when he won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Charity Challenge award (Organization). This award goes to someone who is nominated by fellow football players who agree with this person has made an impact on the community. By receiving this award, it proves to people that he is more than just a football player and he does many things to make an impact on people’s lives. Cam has done some pretty outstanding things throughout the entirety of his career as a professional football player.
All in all, Cam Newton proves to many that he is more than a professional football player. By serving as a role model to children who need it, helping kids accept themselves and others for who they are, and giving to those who are less fortunate, he shows that he cares deeply for all children. His kind gestures towards kids in need inspire many to follow in his footsteps. His numerous actions to better the lives of children who need it make him worthy of being on the Undefeated 44 list of African Americans who shook up the world. - Gabby Imbarlina, Brianna Desabato, and Andrew Lusebrink
Because she took a stand against the white society as a female teen without the recognition she deserved.
Civil Rights Activist; b. 1954
Claudette Colvin was born on September 5, 1954 in Montgomery, Alabama. Claudette stood up for her rights by refusing to move on a city bus for a young white woman; however, she was not acknowledged for doing so. Because of this, she remained a nurse aid until she retired. Today she lives on to share her story to the public.
Most people think Rosa Parks was the first African American to refuse to give up her seat; however, it was actually Claudette Colvin who did so first. She is overlooked by receiving no praise or credit from the media about her situation. she is seen as a fearless woman who has influenced and still influences any citizens facing discrimination today.
Claudette Colvin was a brave and strong young woman. By standing up for her rights at such a young age and for the first time ever, she is considered a record breaker. Claudette remembered the bus driver “‘wanted me to give up my seat for a white person,’” and she, “‘would have done it for an elderly person but this was a young white woman. Three of the students had got up reluctantly and I remained sitting next to the window’” (Rumble). Although it is already hard as a teenager to not be influenced by your friends, and knowing the terrible consequences of breaking the law, Colvin did not budge. When Claudette was escorted by the officers, she was taken to an adult jail and put in a dirty, almost empty, cell. When Claudette refused to move, she knew the consequences, but she continued to act against the law at the time and was not afraid of what came next. Not hesitating displays her passion for what she believes in and what she was willing to face for this cause.
Claudette inspired many women around the nation to stand up against “the norm.” She influenced many other women’s views on themselves and made them realize what they were capable of. She and three other young women who had been harrassed in similar situations on public transport, were a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the constitutionality of segregated busses (Shetterly). Her actions against society inspired many people in the nation to stand up against segregation, one of the most well-known, is Rosa Parks. Claudettes action did not only influence other black women at the time, they also “led to a boycott of the city’s public transportation that lasted 381 days and ignited the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s” (Shetterly). She motivated the black community to stand up for what they all believed in while also making a bigger impact in the law. Even her old lawyer says, “‘Claudette gave us all moral courage’” (Claudette Colvin Biography). Claudett reflects a “leader” like role through her actions.
Rosa Parks was given much recognition for doing the same act Claudette Colvin did many months previous to Rosa. Claudette Colvin is forgotten about for small, invalid reasons. “Nine months later Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and the boycott that was contemplated when Colvin was arrested, began. Parks was educated, older, lighter-skinned, and a seamstress. Although her refusal to move was not directly planned, she was part of the civil rights movement” (Shetterly). Claudette was viewed as a leader of the movement at first; however, once Rosa Parks took the same risk as her, Claudette Colvin was overlooked. Rosa Parks was older and had a lighter skin tone, but this is not a rational reasonClaudette should have been or should be ignored. Another reason Rosa Parks gets all the “credit” is because “when asked why she is little known and why everyone thinks only of Rosa Parks, Colvin says the NAACP and all the other black organizations felt Parks would be a good icon because ‘she was an adult. They didn't think teenagers would be reliable’” (Alder). Just because Claudette Colvin was a teen at time, makes no difference to the fact that Claudette Colvin stood up for her rights before Rosa Parks did. To add to that “Colvin and other people who took the same stance before Parks are rarely mentioned. Most don't even know they exist” (Ross). Claudette Colvin did not get enough recognition for her actions before Rosa Parks because it states that most people do not even know individuals, such as Claudette Colvin, are, because of her young age different shade of skin tone.
Being a strong leader who influenced many other individuals, Claudette Colvin is forgotten about and deserves the glory other black figures at the time had gotten. Claudette was strong, courageous, and held her head up even in the hardest times. Claudette Colvin, a strong activist and leader who acted against segregation, is unacknowledged for her actions and deserves to be recognized. Although a little late, we can still appreciate her as a symbol of pride and aspiration today. - Andrea Quaglia and Hailey Wagner
Because he is a humble artist and a prominent activist.
Actor, Writer, Musician: 1964-Present
Don Cheadle was born to the family of Bettye and Donald Frank Cheadle Sr on November 29 1964. Don had two siblings: Growing up, Cindy and colin. He traveled a lot in his early life, but his family eventually settled down. In high school he got into dramatics and was a member of the jazz band where he played the saxophone. These hobbies sparked passion in Don, and inspired his career path.
Don Cheadle has been an activist for human rights throughout his career. In fact according to enoughproject.com,which Don supports, “Don co-authored with Enough Founding Director John Prendergast the New York Times bestselling book Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond as well as the follow-up book he co-wrote with Prendergast, The Enough Moment” (“Don Cheadle,” Enough ). This action proves he cares about people other than himself as he used his resources to raise awareness about something that didn’t affect him personally. Also, in Las Vegas Don Cheadle co-hosted an “Ante Up for Africa”,which is a poker tournament for charity, with poker champion Annie Duke (“Don Cheadle” Enough ).This reveals his true belief in the cause he supports as he uses his popularity to direct attention away from himself and instead to the cause he supports.
Don Cheadle is an inspiring artist who has won many awards. Appearing on over 90 TV shows and movies, Don Cheadle has won over 35 awards throughout his acting career as well as the he has earned 104 nominations including his 8 primetime Emmys (Grant). According to this, he has surpassed all odds to become an artist that many can look up to, giving an inspiration to many who feel like they can not accomplish their dreams, and giving them the drive to accomplish their dreams.
While having a prosperous career he has remained humble throughout his life. Since Don Cheadle Grew up in a small town he has learned to be humble. According to thefamouspeople.com Don studied at Hartley Elementary School in Lincoln, Nebraska. Through his activism he has won the BET Humanitarian Award and the Peace Award by the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates (TheFamousPeople.com). These awards show that his efforts are appreciated since these awards are humanitarian at heart. We see Don Cheadle is kind, caring, and humble at heart.
Don Cheadle is an inspiring artist and a humble activist that will always put his cause in the spotlight instead of himself. This is Don Cheadle’s legacy that shall be remembered throughout the ages. - Liam Taylor and Carter DiCaprio
Because he was a black man in a white mans quarterback position.
Quarterback Washington Redskins; b. 1955
Doug Williams. A common name but one not commonly known. A symbol of black power at a football position where white power was the only option. Yes, the quarterback position was referred to as the face of the franchise and a good-looking game manager. Coaches and fans back then thought that just because a player was black, it meant that they do not have the intelligence and skills to manage a game. Black players wanting to be a quarterback would commonly be told by their coaches to play wide-receiver or running back because those positions do not require as high of an IQ.
Doug Williams battled tough adversity to become the name he made himself. After only 5 years on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the NFL from 1978-1982, Doug Williams was out of the NFL and had to sign with the USFL despite leading the Buccaneers to a 5-4 record in a strike-shortened season. A reason was that the Buccaneers would not pay him fair pay if he stayed (Pro Football Hall of Fame Official Site). Despite Doug Williams well play, race and unwillingness to pay him a reasonable amount drove Doug Williams out of the NFL. During Doug Williams tenure with the Buccaneers, he was paid $120,000 a year. This was the lowest salary for a starting quarterback in the league, and less than 12 backups. When the owner offered him a $400,000 salary when his contract was up, Doug Williams wanted $600,000. The owner refused over a very small amount of money proving the race issues (Pro Football Reference). Doug Williams was not treated fairly because of the color of his skin. The owner did not pay him the fair amount of money on two incidents and Doug Williams stood up and left the NFL for that term. Doug Williams was back in the NFL in 1986 and joined the Washington Redskins. But it was not easy to reach glory as he served as the backup in 1986 only calling one snap in the entire season. In 1987, Doug Williams still only started in 2 regular-season games splitting time with Jay Scroeder (Pro Football Hall of Fame Official Site). Even up until his glory moment in Super Bowl XXII, Doug Williams had to fight for everything. It was hard for him to even reach a platform to showcase his talent.
Doug Williams performance in Super Bowl XXII (1987) was one of the greatest for any quarterback...not just a black quarterback. Before Super Bowl XXII, Doug Williams led the Redskins to two playoff victories, including an upset in the Divisional Round over the Chicago Bears after being down 14-0 (Pro Football Reference). Even though Doug Williams performance in Super Bowl XXII was spectacular, the journey how the Redskins got there was even more special after only holding the 3-seed in the NFC Playoffs. When the Redskins made it to Super Bowl XXII, they were matched up against the great Denver Broncos with John Elway coming of another Super Bowl appearance the year before and holding 1987 NFL MVP Honors. The Redskins were slight underdogs and non one would have believed that Doug Williams would do better than John Elway that afternoon in San Diego (Pro Football Reference). Doug Williams performance was not a usual one, he was the so called “underdog” and he proved the doubters wrong who wanted a white quarterback calling snaps. His identity would now be solidified. Many quarterbacks did well in the Super Bowl, but Doug Williams performance was the best of his time, and one of the best in over 50 years of the Super Bowl. It all started when John Elway threw a touchdown in less than 2 minutes into the game. With not even half the first quarter ended, the Redskins were already down 10-0 in the World’s Biggest Game. Doug Williams did not flinch and threw 4 touchdowns in the 2nd quarter including a 80-yard record touchdown pass to start if off. The Redskins later won 42-10 and set 11 Super Bowl Records that game. The Redskins were down 10 points in the 1st quarter, but then up 25 points in the 2nd quarter (Pro Football Reference). Many doubts about black quarterbacks were left unfulfilled after Doug Williams won Super Bowl MVP in front of over 80 million viewers on ABC Sports. People wanted to see him fail because of the color on his skin, but he had no choice but to succeed.
Doug Williams mobile style of play in the 1980s was not only popular but paved the way for many other black quarterbacks in today’s league that adapted his style of play. Through Doug Williams entire time in the NFL, he was called on by racial slurs. There were many fans saying similar quotes to “Hey Doug, why don’t you throw a watermelon instead of a football.” There were incidents of this at away games playing other teams across the entire United States. In addition, there were slurs at home games at RFK Stadium which was beautifly parallel to the US Capitol and Washington Monument being 2 miles east of both landmarks. Doug Williams play was a nation's symbol in America’s Home (NFL Films). Doug Williams did the heavy lifting which many current black quarterbacks can reap the benefits of. An important thing to note was that Doug Williams was not dealing with racists from the 1950s and 1960s like Jackie Robinson and other black barrier athletes. He faced race issues still in the late-1980s making his story a very relevant one. During Super Bowl XXII, the Redskins offense that game was tailored to Doug Williams play. The fast and mobile style of play instilled in Head Coach Joe Gibbs offense was not the norm back then. Offensive plays were mainly handoffs or tosses to fullbacks or short quarterback passes to ends in the early days off football not long before the 1980s. But in Super Bowl XXII, Doug Williams showed a new kind of offensive play set and gunslung passes of 30+ yards to receivers downfield and the ability to scramble in the pocket which was an undeveloped skill set quarterbacks did not have (NFL). Doug Williams solidified a new era of play and was essentially ahead of his time. He showed that quarterbacks did not have to be a good game manager and stay in the pocket to wait for recievers to become open. Doug Williams used his speed as an advantage and did not conform to the traditional style of play. Black quarterbacks were unpopular and the quarterback job was mainly reserved for whites. Many quarterbacks back then used to be white, good-looking, strong, intelligent, and good dependability. Black football players were thought of fast athletes but not very smart and do not have leadership qualities. It was a stereotype at best and Doug Williams wanted to craft a new stock of quarterbacks (CNN). Doug Williams provided for an uncountable number of black quarterbacks in the NFL today and generations right after him. In the 1990s, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, and Jeff Blake started showing an immediate black quarterback presence in the NFL. In the 2000s, the numbers boosted even more as Michael Vick, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Daunte Culpepper, and Kordell Stewart showed their true colors at the quarterback position. In the 2010s, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Dak Prescott not only were black quarterbacks, but some of the best quarterbacks in the entire league. From 2000 to 2003 the black quarterback boom was in full effect as eight different franchises started their first black quarterback. In 2017, Geno Smith started for the New York Giants making at least one black quarterback start for every franchise in the NFL. Today, youth football players both black and white are chucking the football off of one foot like Patrick Mahomes and running around with great speed like Lamar Jackson. 15 years ago, the theme was different as the two best quarterbacks in the NFL were white pocket-passers such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning who are brief opposites of what the exciting style of quarterback play black quarterbacks show.
Doug Williams' actions on the football field helped black quarterbacks and football players as a whole on what their abilities can be. Coaches are now heading into the new generation and working on dual-threat quarterbacks to their advantage. Right now, coaches are seeing the quarterback position through a different lense and seeing how running abilities are positively affecting the NFL. The most recent NFL MVP was quarterback Lamar Jackson who rushed for 1,200+ yards this season which was more than 20-year veteran Tom Brady in his entire career who played at the same position. If it were not for Doug Williams excellent play in the NFL, Lamar Jackson and other black quarterbacks may have been told to play another position and the world would miss out. - Garrett Gess
Because without Dr. Dre, the ‘gangsta’ would not exist like it does today. And without Dre, Apple’s audio could very well still be trash.
Founder of Aftermath Entertainment. 1965-present, Born in Compton, California
Dr. Dre, born Andre Romelle Young, is an American songwriter, rapper, entrepreneur, actor, record executive and producer, and audio engineer. He is considered by many to be the father of Gangsta rap, which revolutionized mainstream hip-hop forever. He is not just a dreamer, but a doer; he has broken records in the process, and is quite the innovator. His ingenuity and persistence got him to where he is today: the founder of a multi-billion dollar company, a rap legend, and an inspiration to many aspiring artists looking to pursue their own thing.
Dr. Dre was able to overcome a very rough childhood and pursue his dreams of music along with making a name for himself. His life certainly wasn't picture perfect and he didn't grow up in a great environment either. For example, he always saw a world with violence and drugs, and he was constantly cautioned by his parents to stay away from that world (Henrico). His parents knew what he was capable of and they wanted him to use his talents to make a better life for himself. When it came time for high school he originally went to Vanguard Junior High School in Compton, but he was soon transferred because of gang violence. After multiple transfers and persistent bad grades he realized music meant more to him, and solely focused on music (Henrico). “It wasn't long before Dr Dre achieved fame with the release of his maiden album, ‘The Chronic'’” (Henrico). This shows even with the life he was given and all the cards stacked against him he made a better life for himself. Once he found the right people and the right companies he started selling albums and making his name bigger. Dre took the life he was given and turned it into something unique to him.
Dr. Dre is the father of modern-day mainstream hip-hop. “With this latest release, Dre helped introduce G-funk, which incorporated musical samples and melodies from funk with gangsta rap” (Biography.com Editors). He wanted to introduce a new type of music which essentially allowed hip-hop to flourish as a whole music genre. Dre teamed up with other well known rappers to form N.W.A in 1985 (Biography.com Editors). With him joining different groups and creating new music it allowed people to see who he truly was. He created new music and joined new groups to allow more rappers and musicians to get new ideas from him. “Dre established his own label, Aftermath Entertainment, in connection with Interscope Records. He signed numerous acts to Aftermath, but his two greatest successes came with Eminem and 50 Cent” (Biography.com Editors). Hip-hop is the way it is today because he believed in those who others didn't. Those people then rose to the occasion and produced their own type of hip-hop.
Dr. Dre created Beats By Dre and turned it into one of the most successful audio companies ever. He and his business partner, Jimmy Iovine, felt that the $1 earbuds that came with iPods back in the day were not doing the music Dre was producing justice (Helm). They decided that it was time for bad audio quality to end--and in 2006, Beats was born. Beats by Dre skyrocketed with success, and eventually became a billion-plus dollar company (Helm). The audio company was doing so well that they attracted the attention of tech giant Apple, and in 2014, Apple bought out Beats by Dre. This deal was made for a total of a whopping three billion dollars, including $2.6 million in cash and $400 million in stock contingent on Dre’s employment of the company (Greenburg). This buyout was a huge deal because it seemed like such a risk for Apple, but it ended up as one of Apple’s greatest buys. And with Dr. Dre still very much involved in Beats, he is continuing to prosper from his audio tech company.
Through all the influence that Dr. Dre has had on mainstream music, he is truly an African-American who shook up the world. - Claire Kamel and Lucy Interthal
Dr. Myra Adele Logan
Because she paved the way in medicine for women and people of color.
Surgeon, Activist. Born 1908-1977, Tuskegee, Alabama (“Myra Adele Logan”)
Dr. Myra Adele Logan was born in Tuskegee to parents who both had a love for learning. Inspired by her parents focus on education and equality, Dr. Logan proved to the world that gender and race have no effect on skill.
Dr. Myra Adele Logan excelled academically throughout her life. She graduated as valedictorian from Atlanta University, then went on to earn her Master’s Degree in psychology from Columbia University (Hess). Logan rose to the top of her class and was accepted to an Ivy League college despite the constant oppression of racism and sexism. She was the first person to receive the Walter Gray Crump Scholarship, a fund established to give financial aid to African Americans to go to New York Medical School (“Myra Adele Logan”). Logan was granted $10,000 from the scholarship, which was a very large sum of money for that time. Although her academic accomplishments may not seem overly impressive today, in that time period, it was rare for a black woman to be able to attend college at all, much less earn a Master’s and a medical degree.
Dr. Logan continued to do great things after she left medical school. In 1943, she became the first woman to successfully perform open-heart surgery (Hess). This procedure was incredibly new at the time; she was only the ninth person worldwide to do this surgery (“Myra Adele Logan”). As a woman of color in that time period, it was especially difficult for her to advance in her career, but she showed herself to be skilled enough to be able to save someone’s life through a very difficult, very new and dangerous surgery.
Dr. Logan’s contributions to medicine and medical practices are still relevant and being used today. Not only did Logan contribute to the development of antibiotics such as Aureomycin, which is commonly used in animals to treat bacterial infections, but she also aided in the development of procedures that are able to identify cancer and tumors in patients earlier including x-rays (“Myra Adele Logan”). Without these advancements in medicine, people suffering from these illnesses, as well as animals suffering from infections, would have continued to struggle and possibly have harmful diseases in their body go undetected.
Even into the later years of her life Dr. Myra Adele Logan extended her efforts to support organizations and groups dedicated to furthering the role of black Americans in America such as the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (“Myra Adele Logan”). Additionally, Dr. Logan was a member of groups whose work is to improve the care for surgical patients (FACS). Through these programs that have important missions, Logan’s support helped to shape the nation’s social climate along with the medical community.
Dr. Logan was given many opportunities to give up, but she took her parents’ emphasis on equality to heart and kept pushing the boundaries of race in the medical field. - Leah McConnell and Aja Lynn
Because she set the stage for those following in her footsteps.
Actress, Gospel & Jazz Singer; b. 1917-1996
Ella Fitzgerald was different from most. She went against the mainstream she was everything that was looked down upon in society: black, female, and a different size than most. She ended up pushing through and becoming a well-known, amazing gospel and jazz singer. Her perseverance, kindness, and respect was one of the reasons she became a role model to not just women, but also fellow African Americans.
She proved that talent can come in all shapes and sizes. It all started when she had “Painfully realiz[ed] beauty eases the way, she struggled in her shabby clothes, often dancing on street corners, running numbers and somehow getting by” (Gleason). She understood that she did not have the same opportunities compared to others in her line of work. Even when she comprehended the situation she was in, she never gave up and continued to work to the best of her ability. She had a dream and she was not going to give it up so easily. Instead of giving in, she came up with her own way of being recognized. Fitzgerald differed “ . . . most from today's pop divas in the sweet innocence that she brought to her delivery of a love song. She never tried to sell herself on sex appeal” (Gioia). Her popularity started to rise once she came up with a way to express herself, without imitating the large majority of singers at the time. Fitzgerald was doing what she loved with a smile on her face, and because of that, became known for her unique performances. Once her popularity status grew, she “ . . . sought designers who understood that glamour and beauty came in all sizes” (Gleason). She wanted to show future black singers, actresses, and actors that no matter a person’s size, no matter what a person looks like, they are still beautiful and can still succeed in life.
She advocated for black people in the musical industry. Throughout her career, she got put down by many people, but that never stopped her, “. . .some critics complained that her style and voice lacked the depth of some of her more bluesy counterparts…” (Biography.com Editors). The “bigger” people like managers and critics didn't like her, but that doesn't mean that other people didn't like her too, “...her success and the respect she garnered from the biggest names in the music industry showed that Fitzgerald was in a class all her own...” (Biography.com Editors). In life there are going to be people who criticize and tear people down, but that doesn't mean that they should change themselves just so they can be respected and accepted by others. If a person shows kindness and respect to other people, like Fitzgerald did, they will gain it back in the end. Along with trying to get along with the hate from critics, “ . . . her biggest challenge was simply maintaining superstar status in a musical culture that was abandoning jazz for rock 'n' roll.” (Gioia). Imagine the stress and the frustration she must've felt during that time, but she never quit or gave up, “ … she faced that challenge head on and released a series of now-classic albums devoted to the finest songwriters of the 20th century...”(Giogia). She could have stopped there and ended her musical career, but she continued on and gained even more fame than before. Ella Fitzgerald never gave up, and in doing so, created a future for upcoming African Americans.
She had many hardships, but she did not let them stop her. She ended up becoming “ . . . the first African American woman to win a Grammy Award” (Biography.com Editors). This was Fitzgerald’s way of proving other people wrong. When she first started her career there were many prejudices based on her gender and race. Her achievement demonstrated that putting effort into a seemingly impossible feat was not a waste if a person put their heart and soul into it. Her talent “...allowed her to open doors not only for herself, but for the many African American performers who followed her” (Kuske). Her abilities showed other African Americans and women, not to be afraid to let their light shine and to be who they are. She didn’t do it alone though she had “ . . . help from her friends, colleagues, and manager” (Kuske). This establishes that a person can only get so far by themselves. It shows how working with people can help get a person through larger obstacles that might’ve been impossible for them to get through by themselves. The more people a person knows, the greater support they have if something goes wrong.
Fitzgerald left an impact on people through her music and lifestyle. She stood up for what she believed in, showed that beauty isn’t everything in life, and pushed through hard times with a smile. Ella Fitzgerald was a role model for African Americans, but she was also a role model for everyone. - Anya Beichner and Marisa Vizzoca
Because he shocked listeners with his talent of music.
Woodwind player and composer; b. 1928-1964
Eric Dolphy was an American jazz multi instrumentalist and composer who thrived in the early 60s. He was recognized for his talent and inspiration on others and was known for having a unique sound on the instruments he played. “His sound and style on the instruments were so distinctive” (Brody).
Eric Dolphy was a talented multi instrumentalist who could play every instrument in the woodwind family at a professional level. These instruments included but were not limited to; three types of flute, each on a different octave, two types of clarinets, four types of saxophones and different Oboes (Walton). Dolphy’s talentet became known to the world after he took part in many record deals, playing solos that had not been heard as a primary voice before.
This talented man had a deep love for jazz that spread among his listeners. He took part in multiple radio interviews in addition to playing solos, which deeply inspired lisners (Brody).This inspiration led to people deciding to start playing an instrument or even a second instrument. A professional musician who is currently in the Symphony of Chicago first started playing the bass clarinet after her dad introduced her to Eric Dolhpy playing a piece on the instrument. In an interview by The New Yorker she said; “Jazz got into me because of Eric Dolphy”(qtd in Brody).
In addition, Eric Dolphy taught woodwind players new skills that they didn't think were possible to do on their instrument. Dolphy discovered new ways for playing certain styles of music in Flute, Clarinet and Sax. He is credited with discovering a specific finger placement and position of the instrument on the lips that creates a more jazzy feel to the notes. Eric Dolphy was also known for having a distinctive sound; “His sense of tonality is intricately chromatic and rendered all the more complex by his frequent, jolting leaps of wide intervals that make even harmonious lines sound disjunctive and bend the family resemblances of his solos toward modern, atonal composed music” (“Still ‘Out to Lunch’”). - Lia Schmitt
George Washington Carver
Because he used his skills and knowledge to help others.
Scientist, Inventor; b. 1864 - 1943
As a scientist and inventor, George Washington Carver used his talents to improve the lives of others. He revolutionized agriculture, and he worked hard to achieve ambitious accomplishments. Through his achievements, he was able to improve the lives of others.
Carver's epitaph states, "He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world"(Biography.com Editors). Carter originally attended Simpson College for art. When one of his teachers discovered his interest in botany, she encouraged him to apply to Iowa State Agricultural College. He obliged, believing that he could better contribute to the well-being of others with skills in science(History.com Editors). He also spoke about the possibilities of racial harmony and traveled to India to advise Mahatma Gandhi on nutritional and agricultural matters in India(Biography.com Editors). Carver not only helped people in America, but he also helped people in other countries.
Carver also revolutionized agriculture. He taught poor farmers how to increase their yield of cotton without commercial fertilizer, which was unaffordable to many("George Washington Carver"). Carver advised them to restore the depleted nutrients by planting soil-enriching crops such as legumes and sweet potatoes. Since farmers had to plant alternate crops from traditional staples, there was a surplus of unwanted crops. Carver came up with a variety of alternate uses for the unwanted crops("George Washington Carver: Chemist, Teacher, Symbol"). When he first arrived at Tuskegee in 1896, the peanut was not even considered a U.S. crop. However, by 1940, it became the second cash crop in the South, after cotton("George Washington Carver"). Carver made it possible for farmers to sell alternate crops and avoid a surplus of unwanted crops.
Carver's achievements are daunting to most. He was the first black student at Iowa State. After completing his Bachelor of Science Degree, his professors persuaded him to stay and complete his Master's Degree(Biography.com Editors). He excelled in his studies and did well enough for his professors to want for him to stay. Carver also gave African Americans hope that they could get better education. President Theodore Roosevelt admired his work and sought his advice on agricultural matters in the United States(Biography.com Editors). He was also made a member of the British Royal Society of Art(Biography.com Editors). This was a rare honor for an American, and Carver was able to become a member despite the racial discrimination in the time period. His childhood home was made into a national monument. This honor was only granted to Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln before(History.com Editors). This shows the extent of Carver's achievements to earn him this recognition.
Carver achieved great things during his lifetime. He is mainly recognized for enhancing agriculture, but he was also focused on helping others. Through his hard work and perseverance, he became one of the most famous African Americans of his time and is still widely acknowledged today. - Hien Yakubik
Because her determination and new ideas revolutionized governmental power for black women in America.
Judge; b. 1908-2007
Jane Bolin deserves to have a place on the list because she paved the way for black women in government. Jane, through sheer will power, was able to make her mark in a government run by white men, despite opposition and discrimination. She brought new values and ideals into the American government system, and challenged the public’s beliefs as to what African American Women can do.
To begin, Jane Bolin was a lot of “firsts” for our country, at that time still heavily segregated, including was the first black female judge in the United States. A woman having a governmental position of power was already uncommon, let alone having a black woman. In an article written by Michelle Darrisaw it says, “A pioneer in law, Jane Bolin was the first Black woman to attend Yale Law School in 1931. In 1939, she became the first Black female judge in the United States, where she served for 10 years (Darrisaw).” This evidence emphasizes how she transformed governmental positions and educational goals for black women, showing that she paved the way, pioneering to empower the next generation of African American women. Aditionally, The New York times writes that she faced instances of discrimination and prejudice in almost every aspect of her young adulthood, causing doubt that she could make it in the world. (citation). Everything that Jane did, from getting an education to finding work, was made harder because of her race. Despite all of the constant discrimination coming at her from everywhere, Jane pushed through as an intelligent and successful woman. Jane never let any racial or gender roles get in the way of her ambition. She managed to overcome all of these hardships and completely change the role of what a Black woman can and can not do in society.
Additionally, Jane advocated to employ and judge people based on their skills, not the color of their skin. She was also against discrimination in the workplace and in legal cases. Bolin believed it was her duty to make sure everyone had an equal chance. An article from UCLA states, “Bolin devoted herself and her passion for law to advocating specifically for civil service and civil rights, children’s rights and education”(UCLA). Bolin fought for what she believed in, using her power to make a difference. She believed that everyone deserves an equal opportunity at a successful life. Also, “As a judge, Bolin stood up for civil rights and rights for minorities“ (Historical Society of the New York Courts). Bolin advocated for the rights of all those who did not have a fair voice in society, not just African Americans. Equal rights for everyone was her ultimate goal in everything that she did through her career. An obituary about her says, “She ended the placement of children in child-care agencies on the basis of racial origin and stopped the assignments of probation officers on the basis of race. She also helped to create a racially-integrated centre for delinquent boys' '(Adenekan). Bolin was not only an advocate for civil rights, but also for the rights of children. She wanted to create a better world for the future of our country.
Lastly, despite facing descrimination her entire schooling and career, she stayed determined and exceeded all expectations. In an article by Marian Wright Edelman, Jane Bolin herself says, “Those gains we have made were never graciously and generously granted. We have had to fight every inch of the way — in the face of sometimes insufferable humiliations' ' -Jane Bolin (Edelman). Jane recognises her struggle to get ahead, but remains humble and realizes the impact she has made by pushing through and showing ambition. In an article from UCLA, it states, “Having been exposed to the plight of black people while growing up, Bolin was determined to pursue a career in law. Yet, a career advisor at Wellesley hardly encouraged her pursuit of a legal profession due to her race and gender. Even her father Gaius Charles Bolin, who practiced law, tried to dissuade her from developing her aspiration as a way of protecting her from further prejudice”(UCLA). Although many important figures in her life discouraged her from following her passion, she continued to push herself toward her lifelong goal, going on to be the first black woman at Yale law school and having a successful career as a judge. Jane was able to overcome the many trials and doubters, proving against everyone at the time’s beliefs.
While others on this list may have revolutionized America through their creativity or through a platform for activism, Jane Bolin used her determination and skill to help transcend the unspoken race and gender barriers of the early-mid 1900s, and show that she could do what everyone her entire life believed that she could not. Jane showed the next generation of African Americans and women that it was possible to achieve their goals, and inspired them to go further and break barriers, as she did her entire life. - Sadie Shelkey and Meg Holmes
Because he was seen as the first African American national hero.
Boxer; b. 1914-1981
Joe Louis deserves to be in the undefeated 44 because he was acknowledged as one of the greatest boxers in history. He aided the fight against racism in America, gave back to his community, and broke numerous records. Joe Louis was seen as “The First African American Hero.”
To start with, Joe Louis broke many racial tensions throughout his life. According to an article made by Complex, Joe Louis “held the heavyweight title for 140 consecutive months, the longest such streak in boxing history” (Martinez). This evidence shows that he still holds this prestigious record. For anybody, this is incredibly hard. It was even harder for him to achieve this because he was African American. This proved to everyone that anyone, including blacks, can be the best and conquer their dreams. Additionally, “Louis was a symbol of pride, strength, and dignity in the face of the oppression that African Americans suffered in the land of the free” (Wight). Louis helped break some of the tensions between the white and the black communities because of this. He was something that both racial groups looked to during the rough times of WW2. Lastly, “African-Americans saw a chance to undermine white supremacy” (Florio and Shapiro). The black community was not only rooting for Joe Louis because he was a very good black boxer but also because they saw it as a way to break the racial barrier in the US.
In addition, Joe Louis did a lot for his community. “As World War II raged on, Joe Louis donated almost $100,000 worth of his earnings to Army and Navy relief societies” (History). This shows that Joe was not only successful being a black man but also incredibly humble and generous. He could have been cocky and kept the money that he earned but he decided to donate his money away to help a bigger cause that assisted his community. Furthermore, “in 1942, he joined the Army. During his service, he was part of over 96 boxing exhibitions and performed for over two million members of the military” (History). Louis just wanted to serve in the military and fight for his country and for his community. One last thing that Joe Louis did for his community was that he was an “inspiration to African Americans during the Great Depression when black men and women were often ‘the last hired, the first fired’” (History). Joe Louis didn’t directly give back to his community in this example. He gave a light for the African American community in the US to look to for hope during the awful time period where racism and segregation were everywhere.
Joe Louis was one of the greatest boxers ever. Encyclopedia Britannica states that “Louis was at his peak in the period 1939–42. From December 1940 through June 1941 he defended the championship seven times” (Editors). This evidence shows that he had 3 years in which he was considered to be at his “peak”, and he held a heavyweight title for many years. Biography.com follows this up by saying that “Of his 25 successful title defenses, nearly all came by knockout. But in winning, Louis also showed himself to be a gracious, even generous victor” (Biography). This exemplifies that he was admired for his constant knockouts, but was always respectful to his opponents. The National Museum of African American History and Culture shows just how long he held the title by saying that “Louis would hold the crown for 12 years — longer than any fighter past or present has held a title in any weight class” (Joe Louis). This shows that he still has the longest champion streak ever in boxing and entertained everyone while doing so.
Joe Louis Deserves to be in the Undefeated 44, not only for his skills in the ring, but for how much he helped the fight for social justice in his lifetime. He was truly the first black man to be admired by whites and held the respect of many important people on top of that. He is remembered today as he was known 80 years ago, as a fighter. - Sean Donlan and Colin Hurst
Because he changed and influenced the rap game.
Rapper; b. 1987 in Compton, California
Kendrick Lamar Duckworth has been one of the most influential artists of this decade. His music conveys messages about racism and political issues which have completely changed the rap game. The consciousness of his music has brought him fame and popularity; however, he stays humble through it all and doesn’t show off his wealth.
Kendrick Lamar grew up in Compton after his parents moved ther from Chicago. Compton is known as one of the most dangerous and poor cities in California. Lamar often talks about his youth experiences in writing and interiews. In an article with Rolling Stone he said,“He saw his first murder at age five, a teenage drug dealer gunned down outside Lamar’s apartment building. “After that,” he says, “you just get numb to it””(Eells). This shows that Kendrick has seen a lot of pan and violence in and around his own household. These kind of experieces change and scar a person forever which is why he’s upbringing is so important. Money was also a big challenge in his life because his parents lost a lot of miney when they migrated from Chicago to California. “For the first couple of years, they slept in their car or motels, or in the park when it was hot enough. “Eventually, they saved enough money to get their first apartment, and that’s when they had me”” (Eells). He never had much growing up so know that he’s very wealthy and famous he cherishes everything he has and doesn’t let it goes to his head. This is shown as he is rarely active on social media so he doesn’t need everyone to know what he’s doing and he remains humble in his music and lyrics. When you grow up in somewhere like Compton, the little things can seem very special and important to someone. Kendrick touches on this when talking to MTV, ““So, a lot of the positive things, it was kind of small like playing basketball in the park, it actually stood out to us. You get used to the violence after a while so playing basketball or doing backflips stood out”” (Tardio). Something like playing basketball may seem lilke an everyday activity to the majority of people, but something like playing basketball to Kendrick was a rare yet joyful and happy experience for him. All this pain and challenge influenced and him and changed him into the man he is today. He learned how to work hard and appreciate the small things in life.
Kendrick Lamar’s music had a big impact on the rap game and went outside the traditional hip hop boundaries. Kendricks music contains new styles of rap, adding different rhythms and messages. This was most prominent in Kendrick’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” album, it is described as a “rampage through 16 tracks, each containing multiple movements from nonchalant West Coast soul to blistering Impulse-era Coltrane style free jazz/ spoken word”(Peretz). This shows that his music contains many other ideas from different cultures and genres of music which is something many new artists are doing. Not only has Kendrick used more jazz style of music, but he is also very lyrical in his songs, “Our guy Kendrick not only has it, he uses it as a tool to augment the emotional power of his words”(Peretz). This means that Kendrick uses his flow to display emotional feelings by changing his tone or speed, but also his voice to add more emphasis to what he is trying to express in the song. This is changing today’s rap game as this type of melodic rap is seeming being seen in today’s rap game is becoming more popular than ever. Although melodic rap is becoming popular most mainstream pop music is becoming more and more senseless. However, Kendricks music may change all of that, “After more than a decade of the vapid state of pop music, of seeing the unsubstantial teen pop and egocentric me first of so much mainstream hip hop and EDM dominate the pop world, to see an artist whose music can translate to social movements, as his “Alright” did with the Black Lives Matter movement, back in the consciousness of top 40 radio and MTV is already a victory” (Baltin). This evidence shows, that by Kendrick putting in more thought into his music by bringing in racial and political topics it is leading the music industry back to more conscious music. Most popular pop/hip hop music is just focusing around partying with no real message, but since his music is gaining popularity it is starting to steer away from that type of music.
Kendrick Lamar not only creates empowering music but also receives recognition for it. For example, the Pulitzer Prize for Music, this is a huge achievement because “In all of the 75 years that the category has existed, no album in the rap genre has even been nominated — much less won — the Pulitzer Prize for Music”(Ernsberger). Kendrick has won several awards of his outstanding music, but this award, in particular, is extremely impressive because he is the first rap artist in history to get it. He has also won 13 Grammys and was nominated for 37, this is also a big achievement because not only are the Grammys one of the biggest music award shows in the world, but especially considering he only has five complete albums and was able to get 13. Along with winning awards he also broke many records, one of them being Spotify’s most streamed album within the day it was released with 9.6 million streams (The Guardian). This shows that his album was well received and it spread across the whole app in a short amount of time. Also, not many rap albums have even come close to this amount of streaming in just 24 hours. Kendrick’s music is very critically acclaimed and has given him the ability to change the way the world views and perceives rap.
Kendrick Lamar is an inspiration to millions worldwide. He’s seen struggle and pain, inspires the next generation of rap, and is critically acclaimed. Kendrick is someone who deserved to be recognized for his achievements and overall personality. He is truly someone that all people should look up to as an example and an inspiration. - Garrett Michaud and Anna Lambo
Because he was one of the greatest basketball players of all time and he was even greater off the court.
Basketball player, philanthropist; b. 1978-2020
Kobe Bryant was an extremely talented basketball player who used his fame and popularity for more than just awards and autographs off of the court. Not only did he receive several awards for his career as an athlete, but he gave so much to others in need, which he is still praised for to this day.
Bryant was very well-known for his career as a basketball player. Kobe held a record of being the youngest basketball player to ever enter the court (Lane). Most other players are much older than him, and the fact that he held as many records as he did was incredible. Now, what are these records and awards exactly? Well, he “. . . won 17 player of the month awards, close to the equivalent of two full seasons. He won 33 player of the week awards, basically the equivalent of one season” (Chase). At his young age, he won more awards than most of the other basketball players. He pretty much won an award every week, and that is something to be noticed for. Without focusing on his prizes, he “. . . scored more points, made more free throws, and made more turnovers than any other guard in history” (Lane). That’s right, Mr. Bryant made history. The fact that he made that many achievements in his career, and those achievements were more than any other player has ever made is amazing. Clearly, Kobe Bryant deserves to be noticed for his talent of being an excellent basketball player.
While Kobe Bryant was an amazing athlete, he was also an amazing person. He started his charity, KVBFF (Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation), and donated large amounts of money to various charities throughout his life. The Foundation “. . . is dedicated to improving the lives of youth and families in need, both domestically and globally. . .” (KVBFF). Through his charity, Kobe and Vanessa have done many things for the global youth. They “. . . have sponsored international enrichment experiences for minority college students and provided domestic and international youth scholarships. . .” (KVBFF). Kobe and his wife made this charity to not only help the youth, but to further their education. On top of all that, Kobe and his wife have done a lot for the global youth. He is “‘. . . leaving a legacy, and he's teaching people how to be more than just an athlete,’ former teammate Metta World Peace told CNN in an interview. . .” (Lee). Even his own teammates acknowledged how generous and kind Kobe Bryant was. All of his charitable and generous acts through his and others’ charities is just another reason why Kobe Bryant deserves to be noticed.
Last but certainly not least, Kobe used his fame and popularity for good, rather than abusing that power. There was a war in Darfur, and Kobe himself took a stand and wanted to unite people in order to create a power to save the world (Christian). He could have just ignored the issue and not brought awareness to it, but he did. The problem was not even well known to the people in America, but Kobe used his fame to let the Americans know about it and to suggest to help against the war. In addition, Make a Wish Foundation is a pretty well known organization, and Kobe decided to play a part in it. He would fulfill kids’ dreams by taking them to basketball games, and he even allowed them to join him on the court (Christian). He actually put thought into how happy those kids would be to even see him. He was so kind-hearted to use his career and fame to make others’ wishes come true, rather than just ignoring them and living his life in luxury. Not only did he act in Make a Wish Foundation, but he also “. . . raised money for research and medical expenses. In 2012, he was part of an all-star telecast that raised more than $81 million for research through Stand up to Cancer '' (Lee). This proves how generous of a person he was to help raise that much money for an organization for cancer. He used his career and wealth to fight against a horrible illness, instead of using his money for himself. He must be recognized for the good deeds he has done when he could have been doing something for himself and abusing the power he had.
All in all, Kobe Bryant most definitely deserves to be noticed. He has done so many incredible things in his career and many more good deeds away from the basketball court. He deserves to be known for everything he has done to make history and change the world. - Emi DiLiberto and Marissa Martinoski
Because he used literature to celebrate black lives and culture and promote equality.
Poet, Writer, and Activist; b. 1902-1967
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, and started his career as a young poet in New York City. Throughout his life, he brought change to America through his literature and activism.
One of Hughes’ most notable achievements was his significant role in the Harlem Renaissance, a period in the 1920s when African American writers and artists used their work to represent black culture and experiences. Hughes fought to address the discounting of the work of black artists, and stood up for them, fueling the drive of the Harlem Renaissance. Even after the 1920s, he continued to make the movement more known. He was even willing to charge no fee, if necessary, to attend his readings because he wasn’t doing it the money, but to spread his, and others’ message.
He also used his literature and his activism to paint the whole picture of black lives and culture. According to Sara Kettler, “Hughes believed in the worthiness of all black people to appear in art, no matter their social status.” Despite receiving lots of criticism from many for putting “negative” images of black people in the public’s eye, Hughes did not change his work. His realistic representation of all parts of the black community contributed to the “phenomenal acceptance and love he received from average black people” who were finally being represented (“”Langston Hughes,” Poetry Foundation”).
Hughes also had a major impact on literature and politics in America. His works strayed from the time’s common audience of the wealthy white, and moved to including all classes of all races, influencing future literatures’ intended audiences. Additionally, the ideas portrayed in Hughes’s works in the 1940s and 1950s, such as Jim Crow’s Last Stand and Montage of a Dream Deferred inspired both artists and early civil rights activists,” leading to political change in America (Engel).
With both his literature and activism, Langston Hughes promoted equality, and stood up against racism and injustice (“Langston Hughes,” America’s Story). His novels, plays, and poems showed the normalcy of black, working class lives while also showing the struggles working class individuals faced. Through focusing on the lives of working class black Americans, he dismantled cliches and created a genuine narrative for the people he understood the best (Aboulhosn). He used this new narrative to help humanize black Americans, which made racism appear as a horrible concept that hurt innocent people.
His activism helped inspire a wave of new civil rights activists who were not afraid to stand up for their rights, and Langston Hughes was able to see his hard work come to fruition as he stood at the forefront of the Harlem Renaissance. - Amiya Johnson and Nitya Mundra
Because he is the king.
NBA basketball player; b. 1984 in Akron, OH
Now there is G.O.A.T. status, and then there is Lebron James. Lebron James is one of the greatest athletes and basketball players to ever walk the earth; however he is not just a great basketball player, He is also one of the most influential figures in the world today, and also one of the most inspiring people in the world today.
Lebron James is one of the most influential figures not only in sports but throughout the world in general. Lebron can be debated on his skills and legacy on the court; however one thing that should never be debated is his role as one of sports most insightful and influential figures. Lebron once said, “No matter how much money you have, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, being black in America is tough. We got a long way to go for us as a society and for us as African Americans until we feel equal in America.” Sadly, the Africans Americans are still discriminated against today, no matter their achievements, wealth, or character. (Milner and Brown). This shows that Lebron James uses his position and platform to attack huge social issues throughout the country. Lebron speaking on these issues is just one example of him being influential in things bigger than basketball. Lebron is always standing for something with his play, actions, and voice. In a primetime game he wore shoes with “EQUALITY” in gold on them. Lebron said after the game, “Us as Americans, no matter the skin color, no matter the race, no matter who you are, I think we all have to understand that having equal rights and being able to stand for something and speak for something and keeping the conversation going. Equality is all about understanding our rights, understanding what we stand for and how powerful we are as men and women, black or white or Hispanic.” Lebron is not afraid to exercise his opinion and voice on critical issues throughout the country no matter how big or small (Bontemps). This lets the outside world know that Lebron is not only a great basketball player but is also the voice for millions across America who are struggling with these issues in their everyday lives. “LeBron has justified the adulation of millions and millions of young people, thanks to his ability to live up to enormous expectations on the basketball court, his business successes in Hollywood and media, and his new I Promise School for disadvantaged kids in his hometown of Akron, Ohio” (Buffet). This shows Lebron has changed young people’s lives forever, has given back to his community and given to people that may not be as fortunate as others, and has been a hero to many throughout the world.
LeBron is also arguably the best basketball player to ever set foot on the court. He has accomplished things that were never thought to be possible before him, for example, he is, “...the only player in NBA history with 30,000 points, 8,000 assists, and 8,000 rebounds” (Steinberg). These stats show that Lebron has achieved things that no other player in NBA history could achieve. This stat is truly incredible and further proves Lebron is one of the greatest ever to play, and can do it all on the court. LeBron can single-handedly take a team to the playoffs that without him would be out of playoff contention by the halfway mark of the regular season. In 2009 Lebron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA record setting year with a 61-21 regular season record (the best regular season record ever at the time). After the 2009 season Lebron moved on from the Cavs and joined the Miami Heat. The 2010 season without Lebron that same Cavs team that had the record setting year, the year before, posted an awful 19-63 regular season record in 2010 without Lebron James (Steinberg). This drastic change in production of a team just from losing LeBron shows truly how good Lebron James is and the effect he has on the team he is playing for. The Cleveland Cavaliers went from the best team in the league to one of the worst in one year after losing Lebron James. LeBron is not just a star during the regular season, he takes his play to another level in the playoffs. Lebron has not only the most points ever scored in playoff history, but also has the most steals in playoff history (Steinberg). Lebron has a lead of almost 1,000 over the player who is second on the all time list for most playoff points, and almost 25 more steals than the player who is in second place for most steals in the playoffs. This just proves that Lebron James is arguably the greatest player in playoff history, which is an incredible title to have. It is much harder to perform in the playoffs because the talent is better and there is more pressure; however, this clearly has not been a problem for Lebron James who has performed the best on the biggest stages. All of these stats and incredible feats show truly how great LeBron James is.
Perhaps LeBron’s greatest achievement though is something that cannot be directly measured, and that is all the people that he has and is continuing to inspire every day. After watching only a few games that LeBron has played, a journalist who previously never seen an NBA game in his life stated, “As seen in Number 23’s perpetual perseverance, Lebron sets a realistic image of overcoming life’s setbacks; he exemplifies how life is not perfect yet that does not mean one should give up” (Brinkhaus). Lebron has shown time and time again that when things get tough, one must push through instead of crumbling under pressure and giving up. Young people around the world look at Lebron and admire and are inspired by his determination. LeBron also gives hope to kids who may think that they don’t have the talent or capabilities to pursue their dreams. After winning the 2013 NBA Finals with the Miami Heat, Lebron said, “I’m Lebron James. From Akron, Ohio. From the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here” (Royster). Lebron shows that just because the odds may be stacked against one's favor, that does not mean that they have no chance to succeed or do anything with their life, in fact, that should just be more motivation to those who are constantly doubted, because one day everyone who said they could never make it will be saying congratulations as they walk by them on the streets. After going down 3-1 in a best of seven series against the 2016 Golden State Warriors, who had the best regular season record of all time with a record of 73 wins to only 9 losses, Lebron helped lead his Cavaliers to 3 straight wins in order to win the title. Even after the whole sports world counted Lebron and his team out, he still put his head down and worked as hard as he could in order to show that there is no situation one man cannot overcome. LeBron has been able to motivate millions of people from all ages, and gave a generation of basketball players hope that one day they could be the ones who will be a role model and someone look up to, just like LeBron.
Lebron James is an all around outstanding player and a genuine person. He uses his position and platform to attack huge social issues throughout the country, has achieved things well above any other player in NBA history, and he is a great role model. He uses his voice to represent millions who struggle with injustice and equality. Not only does he do this, he has changed the lives of many young people forever, as he has represented a hero to many throughout the world. Lebron shows resilience; when things get tough he manages to push through instead giving into pressure. Lebron James is arguably the greatest player in history, as well as one of the most well-rounded, kindhearted people known. - Eric Weeks and Connor Orban
Because she conveys self-love and body positivity through her music, while completely being herself.
Singer, Songwriter, Rapper, Flutist; b. 1988 in Detroit, Michigan
Lizzo has become an inspiring artist that displays positive messages in her music. She continues to encourage her audience to express self-love and be a good person in this world. The artist focuses on respecting and being yourself while leaving those who second guess that behind. She is an African American that shook up the world.
To begin, Lizzo has become a successful music artist whose music has become popular not only for the tune but also for its message. E news captures that,“The 31-year-old singer's banger "Truth Hurts" has reached number-one on the Billboard Hot 100” (Morin). The text goes on to say, “She's the first Black solo female R&B artist to earn that spot, according to Rated R&B”(Morin). Lizzo’s song,“Truth Hurts” reaching number one is not only an accomplishment for the singer but she was also the first solo female R&B artist to do that. Another article on the singer’s growth over her singing career states,“Over the past 12 months, Lizzo has become the inspiring, high-energy figurehead of the growing self-care movement – with its philosophy of actively nurturing and protecting your own mental and physical wellbeing – and a performer synonymous with unbridled joy and unapologetic self-confidence” (Levine). Lizzo intends to spread positivity to every individual that has played her songs in the past year. She has grown into a strong confident woman that is a good role model for her listeners.
To continue, Lizzo hasn’t gone unnoticed for the inspiration she brings into society. Popular newspapers even wrote about it,“When Time magazine recently named Lizzo its entertainer of the year, it hailed the US singer-rapper as the “defining star of 2019 – not just for the music she makes, but for what she represents,’” (Levine). The recognition the artist is receiving is showing up in people’s media daily. The positive vibes she gives off as a person is being displayed more and more, “In November, Lizzo also underlined her growing reputation as a norm-shattering, plus-size style icon by appearing on the cover of British Vogue” (Levine). Magazines also provide Lizzo to their subscribers as an encouraging idol for the growing fan club she has made. Moreover, “Hattersley calls her ‘the perfect star for now’ because ‘in these fraught times, she just makes people feel good – as anyone who's seen her preaching the art of self-care at her live shows will know’” (Levine). Giles Hattersley, the fashion magazine’s features director, acknowledges the pop artist for the clear message her music is conveying to her listeners.
Lastly, Lizzo believes that everyone deserves to be their own person in their own way. An article from rolling stone touches on it, “She has become, at 31, a new kind of superstar: a plus-size black singer and rapper dominating the largely white and skinny pop space, all while being relentlessly uplifting and openly sexual on her own terms” (Spanos). Lizzo makes sure to not only represent a portion of the society, but all of them as a whole, and treating them in the same way. The person she has become believes that no one deserves to not feel welcome in society and there should never be a reason that someone does not accept them. You don’t need anyone in your life who is stopping you from doing what you love. Be yourself and don’t let anyone change you. The entertainer of the year was lastly noticed in a time article, “Her sound is relentlessly positive and impossibly catchy: bangers that synthesize pop, rap and R&B, with hooks so sharp it feels like they’ve been in your brain forever” (Irby). She inspires everyone to get rid of the toxic people in your life and start to be your own “biggest fan.” Being yourself is one of the greatest things Lizzo is known for spreading.
Overall, Lizzo displays positive messages through her music to uplift those who put themselves down. She is a very successful music artist because of the messages that she spreads. Lizzo reminds society that they should always be themselves no matter what the haters think. She makes sure that no one is unincluded and that they all know their worth. Lizzo is one of the most influential African American in history who changed the world with her music. - Laynie Loebig and Christi Nordick
Mae C. Jemison
Because she reached for the stars . . .literally.
Astronaut, Chemical Engineer, Physician; b. 1956
Mae Jemison has accomplished many crucial things throughout her lifetime. She became an astronaut as well as went through medical school and did a lot of volunteer work. Jemison was an enormous inspiration for so many people all over the world.
The most well known, and maybe the greatest, accomplishment of Mae Jemison is that she was the first African American female to travel to space. Jemison applied to the NASA space program in 1987 and was one of fifteen people to be accepted out of over two thousand applicants. Jemison received her first mission to go into space on September 18th, 1989 and was assigned Mission Specialist on the STS-47 crew (Alexander). Jemison’s knowledge from her education helped her get her spot on the crew. While in space, she continued to do scientific research, and landed back on earth eight days later. She was an astronaut at NASA for six years. “Although Jemison only flew one mission, she had an impressive space flight carree and is regarded as a pioneer for women of color in both the STEM and aerospace fields”(Astronaut Friday).
Mae Jemison attended medical school and used her knowledge of medicine to volunteer in different countries and inspire many people . Jemmison attended Cornell Medical School and shortly after, traveled to Cuba to lead a medical study. She then volunteered at a refugee camp in Thailand and received her Doctorate for medicine at Cornell (Alexander). Jemison helped a lot of people throughout her lifetime and crucial in the medical field. She also learned how to speak many languages including Russian, Japanese and Swahili. This led to her joining the Peace Corp and working in Africa for two years as a medical officer (Alexander). As well as lots of volunteering, Jemison also went on “to write her first book in 2001, Find Where the Wind Goes, which was a children’s book about her life”(Alexander).
Mae Jemison accomplished many things, but she also set an example for the future generations. Being the first African American woman in space was a breakthrough for the world, even if it was within the past thirty years. Jemison not only was an Astronaut, but also had a medical degree, and she was a chemical engineer. “Jemison opened a private practice as a doctor”(Alexander). She also had an interest in art, for she was given the choice of going to medical school or going to school for dance, and she chose medical school. She was then able to use all of her skills to express herself in many different ways (Seftel’s Productions). She wanted to make sure that future generations had goals and dreams to accomplish, and that they had the opportunity to achieve them (NPR).”
After all of Mae Jemison’s Accomplishments she was accepted as “a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, and has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, National Medical Association Hall of Fame and Texas Science Hall of Fame”(Alexander). Over the years she has accomplished more than the majority of people and serves as an inspiration to people everywhere. - Ava Mushinsky and Giulia Mauro
Because he was an NBA All-Star who changed the NBA game forever.
NBA All Star, CEO and chairman; b. 1959
It all started in Lansing, Michigan in 1959; Earvin Johnson was born. He was the fourth born of his father, Earvin as well, and his mother, Christine. Together, they had seven children. Earvin worked several jobs, but his first love was always basketball. He first sparked the scene in 1977 when his high school team, Everett High School, won the state championship with his amazing skills (Magic Johnson Biography). He got the nickname “Magic” from his amazing passing and ball handling, which stuck with him his whole career. He then attended Michigan University, and in his second year, they won the national college basketball championship by defeating Indiana State University, led by future NBA all-star Larry Bird (Magic Johnson Biography). He was then drafted, first, in the NBA draft in 1979, to begin his amazing career on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Immediately, Magic Johnson shook the world with his legendary moves and helped his team immensely. Throughout his career, Earvin Johnson changed the way people looked at the NBA forever. According to an article it states, “At 6’9", Magic dominated point guards who were usually 6’1" to 6’3”. Magic changed the game with his amazing behind-the-back passes, and his ability to light up the arena with his famous smile. Magic’s charismatic playing style brought the Lakers into the Showtime era, and prime-time television” (LA Youth). This explains that even though his relationship with his size and position he played was hard for people to comprehend, he still was one of the best point guards to ever play in the NBA. Moreover, people realized the skills and sheer talent Magic had and what he brought to the game. Towards the end of his career, he was able to show people he was one of the best players to live by being a five-time NBA champion, a 12-time All-Star, and a three-time league MVP. These accolades got him inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. This also means his jersey would also hang in the Hall of Fame so people can look at it and realize what he has done to change the NBA.
Magic did not stop doing exceptional tasks after his career. He went on and paid an immense contribution to the HIV/AIDS community after his retirement, which decreased the risk factors and rate of HIV disease. “At the time, many Americans viewed AIDS as a gay white man’s disease. Johnson (1959- ), who is African American and heterosexual, was one of the first sports stars to go public about his HIV-positive status.” (History.com). This shows he would be a role model or face of the disease and how it is handled. He will not be defeated by the disease and all the setbacks, he will take full advantage of what life gives him. After Magic announced he had HIV, he did all he could to help prevent HIV diseases. He created his own foundation called the Magic Johnson Foundation, which raised more than $20 million for charity and donated more than $4 million in scholarships. This cause helped prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS (Spiropoulos). It confirms he continued giving support to the world by helping to stop the spread of a huge and dangerous disease, as well as giving back to schools for education. His foundation was a huge success and according to “History.com,” “Today, Johnson is a prominent spokesman for AIDS awareness and a successful businessman… He serves as an example of how a variety of drug treatments have transformed AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition for many people in the U.S.” (History.com). This indicates that his foundation has symbolized the HIV disease, and how it can be handled. His success and contribution played an important role in preventing this disease.
After his retirement, he not only showed his appreciation to the HIV and AIDS community, but also the communities and schools with low-income and people in need by creating multiple foundations and companies to help around the United States. He also founded a different foundation called the Magic Johnson Enterprise by investing in movie theaters, restaurants, and fitness centers in low-income neighborhoods. He also focused on bringing high-quality businesses to diverse communities (Spiropoulos). This information presents how he wanted to create more than just one foundation and help the lower class, as well as contributing to the business income to communities that need it. His appreciation for education and helping students has sparked an increase of gratitude from outside sources. An example of an outside source is, The Emanuel Administration Awarded, one of Johnson's companies, SodexoMAGIC, an $80 million contract to provide custodial and facilities management for Chicago Public Schools facilities (Heinzmann). This acknowledges his success in showing appreciation towards others and the rewards he receives will go straight to helping to improve education for schools. For instance, the NBA legend and business mogul continues to show his dedication to improving educational opportunities for today's youth with a $1 million donation to Central State University(“Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson”).
Since Earvin Johnson came into the world in 1959, everyone knew he was destined for greatness. Whether that be something he did on or off the court, it always seemed to be for the greater good. All throughout his career, he accomplished some amazing feats: becoming an NBA Hall of Famer, a spokesperson and face for the HIV/AIDS community, and a chairman and business mogul for many relevant organizations for those in need. All in all, Earvin “Magic” Johnson was one of the greatest African-American “doer/ noisy geniuses” of all time. - Braxton Eastly and Derek Tronetti
Because she advocated for civil rights.
American educator and activist; b. 1921- 2003
Mamie Till-Mobley was the mother of Emmett Till who was caught up in an awful Lynching. She used this incident to educate the world on the wrongs of lynching and to help further the Civil Rights Movement.
Mamie Till-Mobley used the hardship of losing her son into a chance to help the world. The things that were done to him were awful and for her to see him gone was unberable. Although this event was tragic, Till-Mobley decided instead of just moarning over his death, to do something bold. She held an open casket. This allowed everyone to see Emmett, who had been “tortured, shot, wrapped in a barbed wire attached to a 75-pound fan and then thrown in the Tallahatchie River” (Brown). It was claimed that “everybody needed to know what had happened to Emmett Till” (Brown). The event did just that. Soon enough everybody heard about Emmett Till and the awful things that were done to him for him just being accused of something that was not even really bad. This forced the world to see what they were doing is wrong, helping lynchig to become more frowned upon and viewed as an actual problem.
She educated the world on lynching and opression. When her son died she used that story to educate the world. She gave speeches all across the country(Mamie Till Mobley). She fought for human rights and tried to spread word to as many people as possible. When Emmett died his murderers were not charged with anything. She tried to meet with the president of the time Dwight Eisenhower, but he refused. She even received a memo from Edgar Hoover that said “There has been no allegation made that the victim has been subjected to the deprivation of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States”(mamie Till Mobley). She went to the government for help, but they did not do anything. They even denied that Emmett Till was not given rights from the constitution. She went on by herself justifying that he never deserved it like many others that were lynched.
She did not let her color and gender define her. She faced the discrimination of race and gender while she tried to make a difference Mrs Till-Mobley sent her son to stay with relatives near Money,Mississippi. She had always taught him to believe color does not define a person’s worth, but before his trip she warned him that things were different in the Deep South that specific…(Bernstein). They always had to be careful because there were a lot of white people waiting for a black person to do something wrong. She made such a big difference with the Civil Rights movement because she was a black woman with a powerful story. “She taught us that everyday that it was the everyday women who were working and seeing everything that was happening to their children, friends, and family. The women were the ones who found that they needed to be activists and actually move to change the world. They were the health of the civil rights movement(Buchanan). Women worked really hard and were a huge part in starting the civil rights movement and they played a huge role in actually changing the world. Emmet Till’s death reflects upon her life because it led her into the civil rights movement which Till spent her life trying to accomplish. There has been been race discrimination for many years.
Through overcoming her hardships, spreading the word, and educating on the topic of lynching, Mamie Till-Mobley sparked the civil rights movement. Her strong and passionate soul helped her make a difference in the world and change its views on lynching. - Lucy Modlin and Lily Yates
Marie Van Brittan Brown
Because she saved countless families from home intrusion.
Nurse, Inventor; b. 1922-1999
Marie Van Brittan Brown defines the “quiet innovator” term with her genius idea for safety.
Brown used cameras, putting them outside by the front door so that the homeowner could see who the visitor was without having to answer the door. One website described Brown’s camera functions, saying how “The camera could move up and down to take views through four separate peep holes. The top spot would reveal the identity of a tall person; the lowest one would show if a child was at the door. The other peep holes could capture any person between these two heights” (Kelly, "Marie Van Brittan Brown: Home Security System Inventor"). Having cameras at different angles and heights allows for a better way of identifying the person. This creates a safer and more efficient way of answering the door. Brown was able to see the camera from the porch through a monitor that was placed inside her home. “A television monitor was placed in the Browns’ bedroom, and Albert used a radio-controlled wireless system to feed the images seen at the door back to the monitor” (Kelly "Marie Van Brittan Brown: Home Security System Inventor"). This again allows the homeowners to see who is at the door without having to open the door and potentially put themselves in danger.
Brown’s invention also featured a two-way microphone which allowed people on opposite sides of a door to communicate without opening it. The system had advanced technological “...two-way voice communication. Her invention is the front-runner of modern security systems...in offices, apartments, hotels, and houses” (Qamar "The Creator of Modern Security Systems - Marie Van Brittan"). These are some examples of where her audio device is used to “buzz people in” in the different buildings the website lists. It also talks about how it was the best of its time which is still the same for today. In a real instance, a “Burglar (is) Scared When (the) Homeowner Talks To Him Through (a) Camera” ("Burglar Scared When Homeowner Talks To Him Through Camera"). This is an actual example of when a security camera with a microphone allowed the homeowner to notify the burglar that he was watching him and it helped him protect his home. Even today, millions of Americans use some kind of home intrusion system and it works to keep families and children out of harm’s way.
Brown’s creation also featured a button that could call the police if there was an unwanted person at the door or unlock the door if a friend or family member was there. In an interview with Time, Brown claimed that her system would allow ‘a woman alone could set off an alarm immediately by pressing a button, or if the system were installed in a doctor’s office, it might prevent hold ups by drug addicts’ (Kate Kelly, “Marie Van Brittan Brown: Inventor of the Home Security System”). In the excerpt, Brown describes how the button she created could be used to keep people safe and gives specific examples of where her device would be useful. Many apartments use this same design for security like Brown stated. A recent article on the benefits of the home security system in apartments shares how “Many apartment security systems will notify an operator when the alarm system goes off. They stand ready to call the police and fire department or send an ambulance on your behalf. You may not have the opportunity to call for help in a dangerous situation” ("The Benefits of an Apartment Security System"). The article reveals how buzzers in apartment complexes can be used for security purposes as well as in emergencies. This advanced technology can do what humans can’t, and it can save the homeowner’s life in a crisis.
Marie Van Brittan Brown’s invention was the future for its time and still remains this way today. A quiet innovator, a genius, a role model, or the holder of accomplishments to reach, Marie Van Brittan Brown was more than the inventor of the home security system. - Mallory Malloy and Erica Elway
Martin Luther King Sr.
Because he was a spark that helped ignite the civil rights movement against racial injustice.
Minister, activist, father; b. 1899-1984
A man with a heart of gold and a sense of justice, working to make a better world for his family and every african american struggling to make a life for themselves. He stood with bravery against all challenges, never faltering in his word. Martin Luther King Sr. was a man of great pride who rose above his troubled youth to help change the injustice of the early 1900s.
King Sr. had a troubled childhood that he had to overcome to achieve as much as he did. He was the eldest son of his parents, James and Delia King. He went to a colored school for three to five months a year, although it was no high end facility. We had no books, no materials to write with, and no blackboard,” he wrote, “But I loved going” (King, Martin Luther, Sr.). He may have had a tough childhood, but he tried to enjoy what he had which is very admirable.
King Sr. had many goals and aspirations in his life, to make a better place for future generations, and he was able to achieve those goals with his great willpower and determination. He helped establish equal pay for black teachers, he helped implicate elevators in the courthouse, and he even had a big hand in the desegregation of the bus system in 1959. Not only that, but he was able to build a legacy for himself, where people see him as a great figure of hope in the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
King Sr. was most notable for his impact on others. He wade a legacy for himself, sending waves of change throughout the country. Not only that,but he was a huge inspiration to his son. King Jr. would constantly recall a memory from his childhood in which his father stood up to a police officer when he confronted the father and son. “King, Jr., remembered witnessing his father standing up to a policeman who stopped the elder King for a traffic violation and referred to him as a “boy.” According to King, Jr., his indignant father responded by pointing to his son and asserting: ‘This is a boy. I’m a man, and until you call me one, I will not listen to you.’ The shocked policeman ‘wrote the ticket up nervously, and left the scene as quickly as possible’” (King, Martin Luther Sr.).
King Sr. was not only an activist in the U.S. for civil rights, but an inspiration for those who struggle to find their place. He came from a troubled early life to rise to the challenge of fighting for what he believed in. King Sr. was a man who displayed bravery in a time of injustice, letting African Americans know that something could be done. He teached outsiders to hold their ground and to stand by what they believe is right, no matter the cost. - Anna Cutuli and Madeline McGrath
Because she was the first.
Mathematician and Aerospace Engineer; b. 1921-2005
Mary Jackson was the first female black engineer at NACA, later NASA. She fought for her right to be an engineer, despite racial boundaries at the time. Even after her retirement, she fought for equal rights of both African Americans and women.
Mary Jackson was a quiet genius who went tragically unrecognized. She graduated high school with the highest honors at age 16, and then continued her education at Hampton Institute, later earning her Bachelor’s of Science Degrees in Mathematics and Physical Science (NASA). Her remarkable intelligence and advanced work ethic allowed her to graduate with this advanced degree so young. After achieving her dream of becoming an engineer, Jackson ``co-authored her first report, Effects of Nose Angle and Mach Number on Transition on Cones at Supersonic Speeds,” (Loff). Her intelligence is proved again here, as she was able to work at the same caliber as her more experienced co workers though she was younger. Before being recruited to work alongside engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki, she was part of the West Computing Group; a group of “human computers,” also including Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, among others. These women were,“...special individuals, highly proficient in math and able to perform on the same level as a computer” (Villaluz). It is remarkable the Jackson, along with those other women, had so much expertise in problem-solving and mathematics as to be as accurate as a computer. Mary’s intellect was a vital part of the NASA operations and a rare gift that should not be forgotten.
Mary Jackson was a warrior for justice and equality, fighting ‘traditional’ race and gender boundaries restrictions both in her workplace and in the world. Jackson was driven from the beginning to be an engineer, despite the harsh reality of the time. “...The traditional stereotype of engineers, especially during the segregation era of the 1950s, was that they were a white, male force. For Mary Jackson, this was certainly a hindrance to becoming an engineer with the gender and race she was inherited with” (Villaluz). Instead of feeling defeated or held back by the statistic facing her, she rose above it.“For Mary to become an engineer, there were certain classes she had to take. However, the only school that offered them was segregated. She had to go to court to be allowed to take the classes. She won her case, took the classes, and became an engineer” (Prahl). Jackson was not going held back by racial boundaries, and the idea she further exemplified in this powerful quote; “‘I plan on being an engineer at NASA…I have no choice but to be the first’”(Villaluz). Even after she took up a job at NASA, she was not immediately treated as equals with some of her fellow workers. She was a ‘human-computer,’ doing math for other scientists and engineers alongside two other women. Despite this repetitive and underwhelming work, Jackson stuck to her dream. “It took two years of working in the computing section before Mary Jackson was offered to work alongside Kazimierz Czarnecki...Together, Czarnecki, an engineer, and Mary Jackson, a mathematician, both worked on experimental tasks in the facility then Czarnecki advised Jackson to enter a training program to enable her to gain promotion from mathematician to engineer” (Villaluz). Jackson fought through mistreatment and came out successful. She is a glowing example, even today, of an African American woman beating out the boundaries that tried to hold her back just because of her race and gender.
Mary was a fighter, in more ways than one. To be an engineer, she had to fight for her right to take classes in a segregated school. “Since Virginia’s schools were still segregated, she had to obtain special permission to take classes with white students. Jackson ultimately completed the necessary courses, and in 1958 she became the first black female engineer at NASA '' (Editors). She fought both racism and sexism by going to court and going against the social norms of the time to achieve her dreams, which she was initially denied. Despite early promotions, she was denied management-level positions because of her gender and color. In 1979, she left engineering and took a demotion to become a manager of the women’s program at NASA. She was there able to improve the work conditions and opportunities for all women at the organization, all of which had been off-access for them” (Editors). She knew she wouldn’t get as much out her new position, but when she saw other women struggling, she gave up the career she fought so hard to improve their lives and earn their equal treatment. She had already achieved her dreams, but it was time that other women did too. While she was working in this wing of NASA, she was able to influence the hiring and promotion of female mathematicians, engineers, and scientists. If not for her, many of them would’ve been rejected on unfair grounds, despite their skill set and abilities. During her lifetime, she also worked on various equal opportunity movements and programs'” (Editors). It is admirable how she fought sexism though her positions to help other women. Her dedication exemplifies her commitment to equality through her different lines of work and unwavering confidence in the possibilities of hard work
Through all of her persistence and optimism, she was able to make a change in the way society works. From gender to racial equality, and not to forget her natural brainpower, she turned the world upside down. Mary Jackson was an example of how genius has no race, strength has no gender, and courage has no limit; she is an inspiration who's memory and story deserve to be preserved. - Lauren Michael and Sarah White
Michael B. Jordan
Because he stands up for his race as a whole and fights everyday to remain successful, yet true to himself.
Actor, Philanthropist; b. 1987 in Santa Ana, CA
At the young age of just 33, Michael B. Jordan has managed to win outstanding awards and prosper to his audience who looks up to him and his beliefs. He continues to maintain an extremely successful career, receiving nominations for awards like “Best Actor.”
Michael B. Jordan stands by his race, especially as he stars in movies that realistically portray the struggles that black people face every day. In many interviews, Jordan has spoken out about the movies he has acted in: “The reputation and the stigma that's been put on black and brown people in this world, especially in this country, is unfair. It [slavery] just evolved over time and we have to change the narrative" (qtd in Sisavat). This was stated by Jordan during a talk show, promoting a new movie that he stars in, “Just Mercy,” a film that expresses the wrong accusations that black people faced that inevitably ended up with those people on death row. To prepare for the role, Michael B. Jordan traveled down to Alabama to learn the history behind his role, all so that he could portray exactly the kind of character he wanted to (Yamato). This, beyond many other examples, proves his dedication to standing up for black rights in the correct way.
Michael B. Jordan has won and been nominated for many prestigious awards. For example, he won “Best Actor” in the BET Awards, Black Film Critics Circle Awards, and Boston Online Film Critics Association (“Michael B. Jordan-Awards”). This shows that he is getting recognized on more than one platform. He is being acknowledged frequently in very famous award shows, so it is safe to say that he is well respected by a lot of people, especially after winning these awards. He was also nominated, alongside his fellow cast of Fahrenheit 451, for “Outstanding Television Movie” at the Primetime Emmys (“Michael B. Jordan- Awards”). Although they did not win, to be seen and nominated for an Emmy is amazing. It is one of the biggest movie awards and his work is not going unnoticed.
Jordan also uses his past experiences for good by donating to charities and standing up for his beliefs. He promotes charities, such as Feeding America which funds food banks around the world to feed the homeless (Celebretainment). Michael uses his knowledge and morals to contribute his wealth to causes that he feels important to support. Michael B, Jordan also raised 2 million dollars with Ronda Rousey for LA housing (Ragusa). This just goes to show that by using his own popularity, he can use his powers for good and reach out to charities that help people get back on their feet.
To this day, Jordan proves his worth by sticking to his morals in the most crucial times. His extreme talent in both acting and simple humanity can be seen through the acting awards he has won and the charitable actions that he has so devotedly worked towards. - Kaitlyn Laffin and Koda Carslaw
Because as the first African-American lady she achieved many outstanding accomplishments regarding health and education.
Advocate, Former First Lady, b. 1964
Michelle Obama grew up in a small bungalow in Chicago, Illinois. When growing up, she was taught that education was very essential to succeed in life. Michelle skipped second grade, attended a gifted program, and went to Princeton for sociology and Harvard for law school. Barack and Michelle Obama met when Michelle was an advisor for Barack’s internship. Barack proposed two years later and they got married in 1992. In 2009, Barack became president and Michelle became America’s first African-American first lady. Barack’s presidency allowed Michelle to get her word out and make an impact by helping with children’s education and health worldwide.
One of Michelle’s projects to help children was creating the Let Move! Campaign to help families and children choose healthier options and exercise more. “Over 1.6 million kids attend a child care site where the provider has committed to improving the nutritional quality of the meals and snacks served, increasing opportunities for physical activity, and limiting screen time. This effort is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Nemours”(“Achievements”). In this campaign, Michelle did not only spread the word about children’s health, but instead she acted on her concerns to make sure that she was providing a way to assist them.
Furthermore, Michelle was taught from a particularly young age to take her education seriously which can be conveyed through the importance she places on education for students. “Efforts like that of Reach Higher can truly make a difference in the lives of students and that’s why it’s admirable that the former First Lady has invested so much in helping students go to college”(Whistle). The time she invested has made her message spread further. “Encouraging more of these students to enroll and helping them graduate can pay dividends for those students as college graduates earn more, are less likely to be unemployed or in poverty, and are even healthier, among other benefits”(Whistle). Reach Higher emphasizes the need for the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This allows underprivileged students that are not aware of the resources provided for student aid to be able to pursue their studies at a reasonable cost.
In addition, Michelle Obama pursued her initiatives to make a difference.“According to Michelle Obama, ‘One in five American high schools doesn’t have any school counselors. And that’s appalling’”(Lynch). She takes these issues very seriously which expresses how unfavorable they are and how quickly they need to be dealt with. “To kick off her initiative, the First Lady launched two video contests. The prize would be a visit from Obama to the winning school to share her knowledge about higher education and life after high school”(Lynch). This example is one way that she helped to spread the word about Reach Higher and got students working to accomplish their goals.
Michelle is a powerful and determined advocate for the rights of students and children worldwide. Throughout many of the struggles they faced, she found a way to assist them and allow them to succeed. She is very influential not only towards students, but to everyone in the world trying to make a difference. Michelle Obama stated, “I plan to keep working on their behalf, not just for the rest of my time as first lady, but for the rest of my life. I hope you will join me.”(CNN). - Nicole Kosko and Anna Weisbrode
Because his voice soothed the world.
Actor; b. 1937
On June 1st, 1937, in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, a voice would soon be heard that would leave the world in a state of awe. Freeman’s early life was a poor one. He moved from Memphis to Chicago to Mississippi then back to Chicago as a kid. He stayed with his maternal grandmother until she passed away when he was 6, then moved back to Chicago to be with his parents, Morgan Porterfield Freeman Sr. and Mayme Edna Revere. Although he was poor, he was able to get together enough money to go to the movies occasionally. There in the theaters he sat as he grew, being forever impacted by the actors on the big screen like Gary Cooper and Sidney Poitier.
Over a career spanning nearly 55 years, Morgan Freeman has left the audience time and time again in awe. He first began his acting career in minor roles like in “ The Electric Company “ on PBS. He acted as minor characters such as Easy Reader and Count Dracula. The Electric Company is a show described as, “A comedy variety show that teaches basic phonetic and grammar concepts using live-action sketches, cartoons, and songs” This can be seen as an influence because not only did he entertain kids in their early years, he also taught them education within the show. Not only did he educate during his career, he also entertained in an abundance of different films. One of these movies would be Bruce Almighty, where Morgan Freeman played God. He left the audience in a state of awe with his performance in 2003.
After his time on ‘The Electric Company” in 1976, it would be a few years until Freeman regained his groove in the 1987 hit, Street Smart. “The role proved to be a huge success for Freeman, earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Film critic Pauline Kael even went so far as to ask out loud, "Is Morgan Freeman the greatest American actor?"” (Biography.com Editors) This movie would be the spark that reignited his acting career in the film industry. The same year, Morgan Freeman also played in Glory, a civil war movie about one of the first African-American Units.
After these movies, his career in cinema began to take off, co-starring in different movies at the time like The Shawshank Redemption and Deep Impact in the 1990s. In the summer of 2005, Freeman was involved in three of the biggest blockbusters of the year, including War of the Worlds, Batman Begins and March of the Penguins. (Biography.com Editors). These 3 movies show that not only was he a very popular black actor, he was popular enough to help make these movies giant successes.
Morgan Freeman also made a conscious effort to give back to the community. He has donated to many charities, including 21st Century Leaders, 46664, Aid Still Required, Global Fund, and many more. Freeman has also founded many organizations such as the Grenada Relief Fund, now known as Plan!t Now, to help victims of natural disasters, and his diverse philanthropic profile is further rounded out by his patronage of Artists for a New South Africa, and the Campaign for Female Education. (Look to the Stars).
To this day, Morgan Freeman is still a well respected actor, charity founder/supporter, and film industry most well known narrator. He helped the world with entertainment and awe inspiring works and charities. Morgan freeman taught us how to love, appreciate, and to not hate others simply from his works in film and his works in charity. - Anton Latal, Nick Cuzzo, and Nathan Schivins
“Never let pride be your guiding principle. Let your accomplishments speak for you.” -Morgan Freeman
Because his inventions aided millions.
Inventor; b. 1920-1982
Otis Boykin may not be a very well known inventor, but the impact his inventions have made on modern medicine and technology is undeniable.
One of his most important innovations was his work on electrical resistors, which reduce the flow of electric currents. His first patent in 1959, a wire precision resistor, allowed for a precise amount of resistance. Such a device would be implemented in radios and televisions. He followed up in 1961 with a resistor that was inexpensive and easy to produce, and had the ability to “withstand extreme accelerations and shocks and great temperature changes without danger of breakage of the fine resistance wire or other detrimental effects”, according to U.S. patent No. 2,972,726 (Bellis). His resistor was so useful that, “the device, which was cheaper and more reliable than others on the market, came in great demand by the United States military for guided missiles and IBM for computers (Biography.com Editors).” Its most noted use, however, was in the pacemaker: “...his resistor made possible the precise regulation necessary for the success of the pacemaker, which has helped to save and lengthen the lives of thousands of men and women around the world (Otis Boykin).” This single device, his electrical resistor, was vital to the expansion of technology and is still saving lives.
While he is known for his invention of the electrical resistors used in insulin pumps, he was the creator of many other groundbreaking innovations. The sheer amount of his inventions is astonishing alone. Remarkably, he patented “...more than 25 electronic devices, and his inventions greatly assisted him in overcoming the obstacles that society placed in front of him during that era of segregation. Boykin's inventions also helped the world achieve the technology so prevalent today (Bellis Mary).” Speaking of prevalence, He is actually responsible for a lot of things we use today. His most famous, of course, being “...a control unit for the pacemaker, a device implanted in the body to help the heart beat normally. Boykin's invention allowed the pacemaker to be more precisely regulated (“Otis Boykin | African American Inventors”).” He is also credited with the invention of “...a range of consumer innovations including a burglar-proof cash register and a chemical air filter (Otis Boykin).” among other things. His inventions seemed to almost always be aimed at helping people, be it through regulating their blood insulin, guarding their money from potential thieves, or protecting them from toxic gasses.
Otis Boykin’s impact on technology as it is today is seemingly obscure but profound. His resistor or a variation of it led to the creation of countless technologies, and his numerous other inventions still prove their use today. - Mason Russell and Aiden Pendergast
Because she repurposed her past into poems.
Poet; b. 1753-1784, born in Senegal, enslaved in Boston
Phillis Wheatley is the perfect embodiment of the word, “overcome.” Despite her early hardships in life, she did what no one expected. She overcame. Despite the ruinous deaths in her life, despite the cruel talons of slavery that held her down, despite the impoverty she had to endure… she overcame. She did not only overcome; however, she conquered. She conquered slavery, when few had the chance. She conquered the world of poetry and the hearts of her audience. She conquered the game.
Wheatley continually refused to let her bad fortune bound her to failure. Only eight years after her birth, Wheatley was sold into slavery and purchased by John and Susanna Wheatley (Sheridan). She began her life, untouched by the inevitable horrors that life is known to entail, until suddenly, she was struck with the worst life sentence that history could bring: slavery. That word alone, sparks such agony and remorse, but Phillis and her masters did not see it in that light. Her master, Susanna “soon discovered that Phillis had an extraordinary capacity to learn. She … educated her, with assistance from her own daughter, Mary, in reading, writing, religion, language, literature, and history” (Sheridan). Even though she was a slave, she did not let her duties keep her from achieving the education she was not promised. This education propelled her ability and adoration for composing poetry. Moving forward on her timeline, she later married and had three children, “all of whom died infancy” (Biography.com Editors). Death is a tainting thing; going around, defiling all it deems worthy, including Wheatley’s three children. Even after the death of her first child, she continued to try. Then came her second child, who did not make it, and finally, her third, who again, passed at a very young age. She did not dwell on these many deaths, she overcame. Accompanied by the loss of her children, came both Susanna and John. Though slavery fused their connection, an unsuspecting family arose during the process (Biography.com Editors). It seemed that life continued to pitch obstacles at her, sure that it would break her, but she knew nothing of capitulating. She strung these losses together and labeled them as poetry. Life tried once more to knock her down, but still, Wheatley prevailed. Poverty hit her and her husband, eventually imprisoning him because of the debt (Sheridan). Even then, she “continued to write—on subjects varying from biblical themes to the horrors of slavery—but was not able to support herself with these writings” (Sheridan). She had to seek other forms of work to support herself, and soon after, she perished. It seemed life had not retired, after all, and after a hardly fought battle between the two, life emerged victorious. But Phillis left something behind: the snippets of her life in the form of poetry, an unbeatable memento. A memento that can be admired to this day.
During her life, Wheatley was blessed with caring owners who treated her well. She, unlike others, was given the opportunity to learn, study, and grow academically. Her owners bought her to act as a servant to Mrs. Wheatley. She was Phillis’s teacher and “taught her everything she knew, informing her about the Bible, astronomy, geography, history, British literature ... and the Greek and Latin classics of Virgil, Ovid, Terence, and Homer'' (“Phillis Wheatly”). She retained the knowledge like a genius and lived her life learning which formed her future into a majorly inspiring woman. Her journey did not only began there, by “the time she was 18, Wheatley had gathered a collection of 28 poems for which she, with the help of Mrs. Wheatley, ran advertisements for subscribers in Boston newspapers in February 1772. When the colonists were apparently unwilling to support literature by an African, she and the Wheatleys turned in frustration to London for a publisher” (“Phillis Wheatly“). This aggravation only made her stronger, for it added to her story. Her story will move on and inspire others to never give up hope because it is the only thing that can keep heads held high on a rainy day. Phillis went along with her life despite the crushed hope. Those broken pieces were slowly rebuilt with the poems she continued to write. She is later freed due to the unfortunate death of her owners and officially becomes the second woman and the first African American to publish a book of poetry (“African Americans”). Because of her masters’ undying assistance and support in her field, she was able to grasp the dreams that seemed so far out of reach.
From her carefully articulated poems rose worldwide renown, something Wheatley never expected. In 1773, Wheatley approached the possibility of publishing her first poetry book. In the end, she was able to, and when she did so, she “became the first American slave, the first person of African descent, and only the third colonial American woman to have her work published” (Sheridan). After her first book was published, “she set off for London with her master’s son, Nathaniel. It was here that she was not only accepted, but adored—both for her poise and her literary work” (Sheridan). She yet again annihilated the odds. In a time where it seemed nothing could be achieved coming from that position of poverty, low status, and skin pigmentation, she rewrote the history, literally and figuratively. People would start to recognize the name Phillis Wheatley. Two years later, America’s first president and loyal defender, “George Washington, praised her for her works of genius and formally invited Wheatley to visit his headquarters alongside him in Cambridge, Massachusetts” (Biography.com Editors). From a person with that status, that is the kindest of rewards one could obtain: the praise from the person that shaped America. Wheatley’s hope was regained. She had a story to tell and the opportunity to share. Hence, Her life's work was well spent along with the poems created to remind people of her legacy.
Though Wheatley was plagued with constant adversities, she conquered the odds. Everyone is given a chance to play the game of life, but what she chose to do with it shook up the world. She took the chance that many were not blessed with. Wheatley overcame and conquered the game. It only took a couple extra rolls of the dice. - Megan Baker and Kaden Herchenroether
Because he strong spirit that changed the music industry forever.
Singer, filmmaker, songwriter, record producer, dancer, musician, and actor; b. 1958-2016
Prince was not only an inspiration to the music industry but also to his millions of faithful listeners. Not only was he known for his incredible hits, but also for his philanthropism.
He was innovative in his style of music and as a musician. His style was powerful and unique. “His mixture of rock and funk to pop and new wave music was what made him unique” (Alhart). He was experimental. He had all different styles. He joined the fans of all styles of music together. He made everything from pop, rock, jazz, to hip hop. He produced music everyone would love. The reason he could make different kinds of music is that “Prince had a range that spanned 4.5 octaves” (Pareles). This proves he has a powerful voice that he used to create all different genres of songs. Prince music rivaled that of Micheal Jackson’s whose range was only 3.3 octaves. He was one of the most influential artists of his time. “Prince pioneered the late 1970s Minneapolis sound, a funk-rock subgenre drawing from synth-pop and new wave.” (Pareles). His mixture of rock and funk to pop and new wave music was what made him unique. This forged a name for himself which made him grow in popularity.
Prince was awarded many awards in his lifetime, creating a promising outlook on his work and breaking his own records. Prince has 38 nominations and 7 Grammys through his music career, including one nomination the year he died (Prince). Prince’s music was seen by many as one of the greatest and deserved an award. Getting so many nominations further showed what his work had an effect on people. Prince also “won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for ‘Purple Rain’” in 1985(Prince’s Biography). His song was seen as one of the best songs and did win an award. Also, this shows that he is a record-breaker because he broke his own record because he probably never thought about getting an Academy Award for one of his songs. From getting 7 Grammys and an Academy Award, two of his well-known albums, “1999” and “Purple Rain” was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame (Prince’s Biography). This is a huge accomplishment that many artists strive for in their career, and Prince was able to get not one but two albums in the Hall of Fame. Even though he did not break any public record, he beat his own goal. Prince has exceeded what many want during their lifetime.
Prince did not just generate classic and memorable music, he also acted and directed many feature films. “In 1984, Prince released the semi-autobiographical feature film Purple Rain, which was greeted with critical acclaim and accompanied by a soundtrack album that quickly hit the top spot on both pop and rhythm and blues charts”(Alhart). Prince was not just one of the most prominent signers of his time, but also a critically acclaimed film director. His music and his film go hand in hand. He tied his music to his movies. This makes his songs have a more significant purpose. In addition to being a phenomenal singer and actor “Prince is said to have played every single instrument: 27 in all”(Doble). This shows that Prince had so much talent and displayed that he worked hard to be the best he could in the music profession. Prince was also committed to donating to some charitable organizations. One of them, #YesWeCode is “a national initiative to help young women and men from underrepresented backgrounds find success in the tech sector”(Prince) Another organization, Green For All is a “nonprofit aimed at building "an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty’"(Prince). He has also seen helping Jones’, Green Jobs. “He saw news reports about young people of color putting up solar panels in Oakland and wanted to help.”(Grow) Prince was a great person and wanted to help his community and country out. Also, with him supporting these organizations, he influenced his followers to do the same.
Overall, Prince is well known for his Grammy award-winning songs, but he is much more than that. Not only did Prince create a new genre of pop music, but he also acted in multiple movies and shows, and gave multiple generous donations to many corporations. - Ava Vitiello, Addison Gindlesperger, and Teresa Grimm
Because he guided activism after the loss of the leader.
Civil Rights Activist; b. 1926-1990
"Bring on your tear gas, bring on your grenades, your new supplies of Mace, your state troopers and even your national guards. But let the record show we ain't going to be turned around."
We all know the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., the leader who spurred the Civil Rights Movement into motion, but many of the other activist figures involved often go overlooked. One such figure is Ralph David Abernathy, a lifelong leader and activist who worked alongside the most influential figures and took the reigns after the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
Through both collaborative and individual efforts, Ralph Abernathy opened the door for change in the United States.
Even early in his life, as a college student, Abernathy stood as a leader in multiple settings. While attending Alabama State college, the African American student body and teachers elected Abernathy as president of the student council. Through his position, he “led successful protests that called for better cafeteria conditions and better living quarters for students” (Ralph Abernathy Biography). He had a noticeable ability of representing his own people as a whole when campaigning, benefitting a large amount of African Americans. This skill later led him to becoming the school’s dean of men.
After Abernathy joined the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1950s, he became one of the major hands behind the scenes and leaders of activism, working closely with Martin Luther King Jr. In 1955, Abernathy was contracted alongside a few other community leaders to create an organization. This group, the Montgomery Improvement Association, was affiliated with the bus boycott and segregation protests. Five years later, in 1960, he would become the president of this association after the King passed the mantle on to him.
Following Martin Luther King Jr. 's death, “Abernathy worked to keep King's spirit alive and became president of the [Southern Christian Leadership Conference]” (“Ralph D. Abernathy Biography”). Ralph had an incredible ability to continue King’s dream. King and Abernathy collaborated towards the Poor People’s Campaign, and Ralph became the driving force behind the completion of it in 1968 (“Ralph Abernathy Biography”). This led to creating the Federal Food Stamps Program, an association that greatly assisted the impoverished population, including all races. After finishing his efforts at the SCLC, Abernathy ran for congress, which was unsuccessful. Even after this let-down, Ralph still continued on his path to a better world. He “formed the Foundation for Economic Enterprises Development, an organization designed to improve black economic opportunities,” which displayed his life-long work towards advancement in black communities (“Abernathy, Ralph David”).
Ralph Abernathy not only worked collaboratively, but he stepped up to the plate and fulfilled the role of “leader,” which was essential for the Civil Rights Movement. Through his best efforts, he guided activism with determination. Today, his grave is marked with the words, “I tried,” a simple phrase, yet an accurate display of his vigorous endeavor. - Emma Homison and Emma An
Because he keeps fighting and sharing his story despite his illness.
Basketball player; b. 1954
Reggie Warford, the first black basketball player to graduate from Kentucky University, deserves to be on the Undefeated List for a multitude of reasons. Reggie Warford is a record breaker and an inspiration because he was the first African American to play mens’ basketball at the University of Kentucky and then graduate from the University of Kentucky. Reggie Warford is also an inspiration because he has Sarcopenia, a disease that has no cure, however, he still walks around with a smile on his face, telling his story to others.
First, Reggie Warford broke down racial barriers at the University of Kentucky by being more than what people expected him to be and proving that African Americans at the college had value. "’I said, this is my win,’” Warford said. “‘Not because of what I did, not because I'm by myself. I said all these other guys, they'll be back’" (Gabriel). Essentially, he focused on winning for his team and supporting them instead of doing it for himself, showing he was equal to the other white teammates and therefore breaking down those racial barriers. In addition, “Reggie Warford[‘s] example on and off the court was instrumental in UK basketball fully integrating in the 1970s” (Tipton). By integrating himself into the team, he showed that he was “just one of the guys” by staying on the team and proving that he was an ally and not an ailment through helping to win games. By doing this, he was able to show that other African Americams could play just as well as their white counterparts, and therefore worthy to play together, and this broke down the racial barriers furthermore. After Warford joined the Wild Cats on the court, another African American gentleman joined him by the name of Thomas Robert Payne. However, he left the team after only one season. Additionally, “...one year after Payne left the squad, Warford became the only African American basketball player at UK” (Gabriel). While Payne quit the team, Warford continued to stay on despite being discriminated against, persevering to show that he would not give up and that he could successfully contribute to his team.
Secondly, despite being close to death, he still tries his best to keep helping and inspiring people. Kentucky Sports says, “His UK basketball contemporaries spoke glowingly of Warford’s ability to impact and elevate” (Tipton). This supports the fact that Warford keeps trying to inspire others because even though he is dying from his illness, he still wishes that he had done more. He wants to inspire more young African Americans to follow their dreams and to follow in his footsteps, proving that they have value to today’s society and can be more than what people think of them. “He's battling an incurable disease, but he's never stopped lifting up his friends, family and former teammates with his enduring faith and good humor” (WKYT Editors). Even though he is dying, he keeps trying to help others despite his disease. He is selfless and an inspiration because despite his obvious pain, he pushes through it anyways in order to bring hope to others. “You’re required to elevate the lives of people that you have contact with,” said Warford when asked why he still continues to go and publicly speak even though he is confined to a wheelchair (Tipton). Warford believes that others and their dreams must come before your own in order to be the best person you can be, which he aspires to despite being close to death.
Next, despite being discriminated against in college, Warford continued to persevere and stay on his basketball team. “Warford, who came from Drakesboro High School in Muhlenberg County to UK in 1972 and became the first African-American player to play and graduate from UK” (Vaught). Despite the obvious challenges that being the very first African American to play on the UK basketball team and graduate from the University of Kentucky came with, Warford continued to stay both on his basketball team and in school, refusing to drop out until he had finally graduated. In addition, “...as the lone black player on the UK team in 1972-73, it could be a lonely challenge to change people’s minds and hearts” (Tipton). He had overcome his discrimination and because he had stayed, he inspired other African Americans to later join the team and overcome their own discrimination.
In conclusion, Reggie Warford broke down racial barriers, is an inspiration, and perservered through discrimination. He deserves to be on the Undefeated List because of these reasons, and is more than qualified to join the rest of the African Americans on this list. - Janie Aronson and Cassidy Kramer
Because everyone deserves to be represented.
Singer, Songwriter, Actress, Business Woman; b. 1988
Rihanna is an inspiration to both the music and beauty industries. She embraces the differences in people and strives to increase diversity in both industries. She has accomplished more than most female pop stars and has brought forth representation for the black community. She is one of the most influential celebrities and has used her fame to represent all minorities.
The jumpstart of the singer’s success was from her hit pop singles. In 2017 she, “scored her 30th top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100, surpassing Michael Jackson by having the most top 10 hits on the chart. The record was officially broken when her single off of 2016’s ANTI, “Love On the Brain”, slid into no. 8 position” (Taylor). Along with this accomplishment, she won many awards including MTV Video Music Awards, and much more. Her successes in the music industry led to her ability to achieve more in the beauty and fashion industries.
An observer of one of Rihanna’s fashion shows stated that“[t]here were women of all sizes, races, ethnicities, trans women, disabled women”(Fisher). She included everyone including black women in a luxury fashion show because everyone has the right to feel beautiful on the runway. She made a statement as a designer in the luxury fashion community to other designers that everyone, including black women, are beautiful. Rihanna focuses on making all people feel beautiful. She puts a large focus on women of color and what accentuates their beauty. She puts a large focus on black men and women and their natural beauty. Which is not something that most beauty brands focus on. The average beauty brands focus on white beauty, not the beauty of people of color. Her fashion shows include people of all races and body types, which makes women all over the world feel represented (Fisher).
Rihanna works on inclusivity in the beauty industry as well. While creating her Fenty Beauty line for,“[m]ore than two years in the making, Rihanna and her team put extensive thought and research into Fenty's products, which eventually led to its hero: 40 shades of foundation that spanned evenly across the spectrum—from the fairest to the deepest” (Schallon). Clearly, Rihanna puts a lot of thought into making sure that everyone using her products feels represented and included. She doesn’t settle for anything less than perfection and total unity of everyone.
Rihanna’s inspires her fans, and others in general, on a deeper level than just music. It has been widely agreed upon that “[t]hose who claim to love Rihanna often say it's because of her soul, or her energy” (Gathright). People like her and look up to her because of her personality and selfless/caring traits. This inspires others to be confident and feel the powerful energy that she gives off. Her ability to inspire others through her actions and confidence resembles a very powerful trait of being a “doer” who goes after her dreams and doesn’t hold back in achieving goals.
All in all, Rihanna’s ability to perfect inclusivity in the beauty and fashion industry while inspiring others through her achievement in music proves that she has made a powerful impact on the world and in many of her fans. Through her compelling confidence, acceptance of everyone, and accomplishments, Rihanna has shown the world what true beauty is. - Abigail Green and Rita Khoury
Because he was a great person and one of the best baseball players, despite facing discrimination.
Professional MLB player, Philanthropist; b. 1934-1972
Roberto Clemente showed he was a good person through his actions of helping others in need. Clemente was born on August 18, 1934 in Carolina Puerto Rico (Livacari). He grew up playing the sport of baseball and at the age of 17, he played for The Puerto Rican Baseball League(Roberto Clemente). Clemente did many good deeds in his life. However, his life was stopped short as he died a tragic death on December 31st, 1972.
Roberto Clemente is arguably one of the best professional baseball players to ever step on the field. Clemente holds the record for “first all time in career assists for right fielders with 266,” (Livacari).This shows how great Roberto was because it is highly unlikely that anyone in the future will ever break his record. During his career, he also was nominated and won “12 Golden Glove awards,” (The Undefeated). The Golden Glove Award is given to the individual that exhibits superior individual fielding performances. The fact that he won 12 of these awards shows how superior he was compared to other players. After his career, Roberto was finally “inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973,”(“Roberto Clemente”). This proves that Clemente was an amazing MLB player because only players who have accomplished significant and recognizable achievements are inducted into the hall of fame. Only 133 players have been inducted, and there have been over 18,000 players in the MLB.
As good as Roberto Clemente was on the field, he was an even better person off the field. Clemente would always go on “many mission trips in many countries to help people in need,” (D’Andrea). Roberto had a kind heart and wanted to share it with other people. Furthermore, he told SmithSonian how he would go to “different towns and neighborhoods” and would get kids together to talk about the “importance of sports, being a good citizen, and respecting their mother and father,” (D’Andrea). This indicates that Roberto embraced being a role model and made the most out of it to promote a good message to younger children through his words and actions. Ultimately, being a kind person led to his death. He “died trying to get food to victims of an earthquake in Nicaragua,”(D’Andrea). This shows how Roberto tried to be the best person he could be and help the less fortunate. He died trying to be an amazing person.
Roberto Clemente impacted The City of Pittsburgh and his legacy still lives on today. First off, Clemente has some structures in Pittsburgh named after him( Roberto Clemente). The bridge is right outside PNC Park, where the Pittsburgh Pirates MLB team plays today. The city wanted to honor him by naming this bridge after the late Roberto Clemente. There is also a museum named “The Roberto Clemente Museum”(“The Roberto”). The museum is located in Lawrenceville, PA(“The Roberto”). It holds many pieces of memorabilia regarding Clemente. Lastly, The MLB declared that September 18 of every year will be known as “Clemente Day”(Livacari). The City of Pittsburgh loved Clemente so much that they did these things to dedicate to his memory.
All in all, Roberto Clemente impacted many people through his good deeds. Clemente also was one of the greatest to ever play the game of baseball, breaking many records. He showed that he could do amazing things in baseball and be a kind person. - Michael Light and Lauren Gale
Because she sparked the Civil Rights movement throughout the nation.
Civil Rights Activist; b. 1913-2005
Rosa Parks was not only an inspiration to African Americans in Montgomery but an inspiration to all who were feeling oppressed by the white majority and Jim Crow laws. Born on February 4th, 1913, Rosa Parks formed several groups and organizations to help deal with the effects that slavery had left on America.
Biography.com states that “Her defiance sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott; its success launched nationwide efforts to end racial segregation of public facilities” (Rosa Parks). Rosa Parks ignited a movement that eventually caused others to protest against the Montgomery Bus Line, inspiring thousands of people across the country. She is one of the first black women to protest for civil rights and equality, even though they were completely aware of the possible consequences. Her protesting raised more awareness than others before her and was more generally effective. Rosa Parks sacrificed her freedom to help others when she was put into jail for her protesting and she sacrificed her freedom continuously after that incident.
By far the most known fact about Rosa Parks is her refusing to give up her seat on a bus and going to jail for it, but most people don’t know the deeper reasoning behind why she did this. Rosa Parks refused because she had developed an attitude towards racism formed by her experiences as a child. When taking a look at events in her home life such as “Parks' grandfather [standing] in front of their house with a shotgun while Ku Klux Klan members marched down the street” (“Rosa Parks”) it seems clear her opinions and attitude were greatly influenced by this. Parks’ schooling experience is also a good example of how her childhood impacted how she went about daily life as an adult. Rosa Parks was originally “[t]aught to read by her mother at a young age. Parks [then] attended a segregated, one-room school in Pine Level, Alabama, that often lacked adequate school supplies such as desks. African American students were forced to walk to the first [grade] through sixth-grade schoolhouse, while the city of Pine Level provided bus transportation as well as a new school building for white students” (“Rosa Parks Childhood”). Parks had to live with these unfair and unjust schooling situations every day and because of her schooling situation and home life Rosa Parks had a strong attitude towards racism which influenced her actions later in her life.
To add to this, Rosa Parks did much more than refuse to give up her seat to a white man, she formed influential groups to support African American rights. The website 10 Major Accomplishments of Rosa Parks discusses how “In February 1987, along with Elaine Eason Steele, Parks co-founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development for youth development; and civil rights education and advocacy” (Anirudh). This quote displays that Rosa Parks didn’t give up when things got difficult or dangerous, she continued to do what’s right even when it was hard. It also shows that even after Rosa Parks protested against the Montgomery Bus Line, she continued to form organizations to help African Americans in need. By creating the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, she is helping others advocate for each other and form a strong generation of African Americans. If she felt like refusing her seat was enough, Rosa Parks would simply give up on her initial dream of equality. Also, when Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, “[Rosa Parks] traveled to Memphis to support a sanitation workers' march that King had been involved in before proceeding to King's funeral (Kettler). This proves the fact that Rosa Parks is determined to accomplish not only her goals but the goals of others.
As one can see, Rosa Parks was extremely influential to the civil rights movement and the future of all African Americans. - Will Girard and Paul Oliveira
Because he never gave up on his dream of human justice.
Journalist, Civil Rights Activist; b. 1901-1981, St. Louis, MO
Roy Wilkins lived his life defending what he believed in. Although he is not extremely well-known, he did many great things throughout his career as a civil rights activist. Wilkins contributed to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), organized marches, was given awards, spoke to several presidents, and a research center was built in his honor. He is a symbol of pride, a dreamer and a doer, and a noisy genius.
Wilkins was a determined and devoted activist. He became the executive secretary of the NAACP in 1955. The title was then changed to executive director in 1964. One of the first things he did as an activist was provide support for the other activists in Mississippi (“NAACP”). This shows that Wilkins was important to the NAACP, since he was given these leadership roles.
Wilkins took the time to speak to the White House on several occasions to fight for what he believed in. According to the NAACP website, “He believed in achieving reform by legislative means; he testified before many Congressional hearings and conferred with Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. Wilkins strongly opposed militancy in the movement for civil rights as represented by the ‘black power’ movement.” He went to great lengths to help others. His determination was so great that he spoke to numerous presidents about the issue multiple times. In addition to this, Wilkins wanted to change the legislative system. “He led the legal efforts that culminated with the historic 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine in public schools—a decision, he said, that gave him his greatest satisfaction” (Allen). The amount of times that he spoke to the White House shows how devoted he was to the cause.
Roy Wilkins worked his hardest when it comes to changing the minds of the public in order for all rights to be equal. For example, Roy Wilkins sent 3 telegrams and wrote 4 letters, which included Roy Wilkins sending telegrams to the president. Banning racial dsicrimination, discrimination of housing, and during the Berlin crisis regarding "the fact that in a goodly number of states the National Guard is closed to Negro citizens" (“JFK Library”). Wilkins was able to converse with people in the White House, including the presidents. They were working with him, so it was a mutual effort between them.
All in all, Roy Wilkins, being a fearless leader, journalist, and activist, changed the minds of thousands of people and influenced their beliefs. He was fighting for what is right, and made many think differently. Roy’s actions had a major impact on the laws today. - Meghan Clines and Natalie McEwen
Because she was the first African-American child to desegregate an all-white school.
Activist; b. 1954 in New Orleans, LA
Ruby Bridges would not allow her race to prevent her from getting the education that every child deserves. Born on September 8 1954, Bridges grew up in the deep south of Louisiana, and she had to live through the segregation that took place.
Despite William Frantz Elementary School being the school Ruby should have been attending, segregation restricted her from getting the best education she could get. “Bridges lived a meere five blocks from an all-white school, but she attended kindergarten several miles away, at an all-black segregated school” (“Ruby Bridges”). Five blocks is just a few short minutes walking; however, the racist area of New Orleans would not allow Ruby to attend her local school. Ruby was not the only Afican-American child denied local schooling. This also affected other black families with young children. Also, the only way for young African-Americans to attend already segregated schools was to pass a test that was designed to be near impossible for kids at their age (“Ruby Bridges”). The government allowed for segregated schools to create these tests despite the push for integration in schools, but this was not enough to stop Ruby from going to the school. After being accepted, the only teacher willing to teach Bridges was Barbra Henry, a new teacher at the school from Boston (Michals). Since Henry was the only teacher willing to help, she taught Ruby one-on-one everyday for the whole year.
Bridge’s was able to finish the year despite the racist, and often hostile, environment. For the sake of her safety, Ruby was escorted by four federal marshals every day for the entire school year (Michals). The government sent out protection, showing that even they were a little uneasy about the people protesting against desegregating the school, but Ruby was able to block out the noise and just do her own thing very successfully. On her first day, Ruby and her mother were walking through a crowd as they chanted and yelled racial slurs at her (Halsell). She was unfazed by the experience. Furthermore, Bridge’s was only frightened when “she saw a woman holding a black baby doll in a coffin” (Michals). Bridge’s was strong enough to persevere through the threats and hate, but there were times where she was scared for her life. Ruby’s courage lead her through the times of discrimination.
After gaining her education, Bridges continued to work and advocate for black rights in America. She found a job with the American Express as a world travel agent (“Ruby Bridges”). She paved the road for future African-Americans to work for a major company. As more black people began to work for these companies, the more different corporations would allow African-Americans to work for them. Ruby went on to work at the school she attended, which now has a black majority, as a parent liaison (Anderson). She worked with young African-Americans to ensure that they could get the best education they could. “She also established the Ruby Bridges Foundation” (Anderson). Her organization promotes respect and treatment across all races, and she is hoping to put an end to racism.
At the age of six, Ruby Bridges had the courage to take on racism and segregation. She took the first step in desegregating communities and paved the path for other young African -Americans. Her efforts, as both a child and as an adult, in fighting racism are a symbol of pride and hope in America. - Ben Ritz
Because her strongest desire in life has been to be educated.
African American Abolitionist, Antislavery and Women's Rights Activist; b. 1826-1894
Sarah Parker Remond was an influential person that was known for her public speaking abilities, standing up for human and womens rights and becoming a lecturer for antislavery. She believed that education was key in providing people with the proper information in order to treat all people equally.
Sarah Remond had a talent for public speaking and used this ability to persuade and inform her listeners about slavery and why it is wrong. From a source titled ‘Sarah Remond Ejected from Boston Theater’ stated that, “Sarah Parker Remond proved to be such a good speaker and fundraiser that abolitionists in Great Britain invited her to help promote the cause on their side of the Atlantic, as her brother had done ten years before” (“Sarah Remond Ejected”). This evidence shows how Sarah made incredible speeches that abolitionists in Great Britain wanted her to promote this cause on their side of the Atlantic. Her thoughts were raw and attracted people to come to listen to her speak. Another piece of evidence from the same source expressed, “A clear and forceful speaker, Sarah Remond lectured to enthusiastic crowds in cities throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland, and raised large sums of money for the anti-slavery cause” (“Sarah Remond Ejected”). This evidence demonstrates how Remond used her speaking ability to keep people intrigued in helping African Americans. She got her voice noticed so she could speak for anti-slavery. In the last article, Sirpa Salenius explained, “The positive impression thus constructed of her persuasiveness, the "femininely beautiful" message of her talk, her capacity to trigger an emotional response from her audience, and her appearance as a respectable lady on the platform-all worked favorably to gather support for the cause of abolishing slavery’” (Salenius). This evidence shows that her speeches resulted in an emotional response. Because of this, she got more people to support the cause of abolishing slavery. To wrap up this claim, Sarah Parker Ramond was an amazing public speaker who made great points and informed others about how wrong slavery is.
Sarah Remond stood for protecting human and womens rights. Human rights are a strong belief that she had a heavy passion for. An article states,”Sarah Remond joined the interracial sisterhood formed around transatlantic activism, claiming full agency and assuming responsibility within reform movements” (Salenius). This demonstrates how she joined a sisterhood that was centered around transatlantic activism. She joined this sisterhood to be with others who had the same beliefs as she did and who were going to stand up for what they believed in such as women’s rights. She felt strongly about this and joined in to pursue her belief. A different article called,’Sarah Remond Ejected from Boston Theater’ says, “Once the Civil War began, she worked to build support in Britain for the Union blockade of the Confederacy and did much to influence public opinion in Britain in support of the North. At the end of the war, she lectured on behalf of the freedmen, soliciting funds and clothing for the ex-slaves” (“Sarah Remond Ejected”). This shows how Sarah lectured on behalf of the freedmen. By doing this, she was standing up for human rights because these lectures solicited funds and clothing for the ex-slaves. Another example of her persistence is, “As the antislavery lecturer Sarah Remond suggested in a speech she gave in England on January 8, 1861, "The American people have never recognized the black man as a brother, nor the black woman as a sister"9 Paternalist racism and patronizing stance often characterized the attitudes of white activists, who tended to assume the leadership positions in the racially mixed societies”(Salenius). The speech she gave showed how Americans never recognized black men as brothers, nor black women as sisters. This speech helped the audience understand how racist their society really was. It helped them recognize what needed to be changed in order for black men and women to feel included in society. More people started to believe that it is there right for them to feel included. To end this claim, Sarah Parker Remond proclaimed her beliefs for human and womens rights of either race.
Sarah Remond put a lot of effort into antislavery and became a lecturer for antislavery. In an article, Edith Mayo states that, “The Remonds were a noted abolitionist family, well known in anti-slavery circles and, as a child, Sarah had attended abolitionist meetings”(Mayo).This evidence supports that even from a young age, Sarah had attended abolitionist meetings. She is also very well known in anti-slavery circles, meaning she and her family must have spoken out and exersised anti-slavery protests. They have spread the word about slavery being inhumane. She grew up with anti-slavery, so she believed her society needed to hear this information to change their views. Jone Johnson Lewis explains, “Her older brother, Charles Lenox Remond, became an antislavery lecturer and influenced Sarah to become active in anti-slavery work. They belonged to the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society, founded by black women including her mother in 1832” (Lewis). This shows why and how Sarah participated in this anti-slavery work. She was inspired to join because of the work her older brother did. The points she believed in, regarding slavery, were gone over by this group. She supported their beliefs and the tasks that they hoped to achieve. The last piece of evidence states that, “In 1856, Sarah was thirty and was appointed an agent touring New York to lecture on behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society” (Lewis). This shows how she was given a chance in New York to talk about putting slavery to an end. She was able speak on behalf of the American Anti-Slavery Society. To bring this claim to an end, Sarah Parker Remond became a lecturer for antislavery after putting in a lot of effort into antislavery.
In the end, Sarah Parker Remond used her public speaking abilities to make a difference in antislavery, and on top of that, stood up for human and women’s rights. She was an inspiring African American who shook up the world by educating people on the inhuman side of slavery in hopes to abolish slavery forever. - Adrianna Grimm and Tess Restori
Because she has climbed her way to the top of gymnastics.
American gymnast; 1997-present
Simone Biles is the most achieved American gymnast, and spends the majority of her time standing at the top of the podium. She went to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, and has been a part of the 2012-2016, 2018-present U.S. National Teams. Not only is she physically strong, but she is also mentally strong, and that is why she is an inspiration to many.
Biles has earned many medals throughout her career and will undoubtedly continue to do so. She is said to be “the most decorated gymnast in world championship history” with the record medal count of 25 (Keh). Not only does she win competitions, but she wins them while doing “eye popping, never-done-before skills,” such as “a double-twisting double back dismount of the beam and a triple-twisting double back on . Simone Biles now has “four original skills named after her in the code of points,” proving that she is the best at the sport of gymnastics (Maine and Van Deusen).
She has persevered through many difficult situations in her life, showing her mental and emotional strength. She was one of the many gymnasts who was abused by Larry Nassar, a former U.S. National Team doctor (Biles). She did not let this stop her from loving this sport, and she stood up for herself and many of the other gymnasts. She also did not have the easiest childhood. She was placed in foster care at the age of 3 because her “biological mom was suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and...was in and out of jail.” Biles remembers “always being hungry and afraid” and never having a mom to run to. Her grandma and grandpa eventually adopted her and her siblings (Hines). These situations most definitely shaped her as the person she is today.
Although she is the most accomplished gymnast the Olympics have ever seen, Biles has more in store for her future. Simone mentioned an interest in “anything to do with foster kids or the foster youth, and being a voice for them” (Biles). She wants to speak for children in these difficult situations, because she knows it’s sometimes harder for them to achieve their goals. More specifically, Biles has partnered with organizations like Mattress Firm Foster Kids, that collect donations of clothing, school supplies, etc, for kids in the foster care system (Minutaglio). Biles grew up in foster homes, and knows the struggles foster kids can experience. The empathy Biles feels for foster children is her drive to give these kids a better life and the options to follow their ambitions.
Simone Biles is an inspiration to many people all around because she achieved things beyond anyone's imagination, despite not having the odds in her favor. Whether she is known for her achievements in gymnastics, her inspiring tenacity, or her work with children, it’s no secret that she is one of the most motivating and encouraging African Americans the United States has ever seen. - Abby Boyd and Madi Anderson
Because he became one of the most famed television hosts of all time.
Show Host, Comedian, Philanthropist; b. 1957
Steve Harvey had a rough start in his career. For one, he was once homeless. In the mid- 70s to early 80s, he spent time doing odd jobs and stand-up routines, and slept at gas stations in his truck during spare time. Nancy Berk, Ph.D, a contributor to HuffPost, states,“Unlike many celebrities, the popular comedian and unflappable host of the beloved game show Family Feud, isn’t shy about spelling out his own shortcomings. Nor is he hesitant to share the wealth when it comes to his hard-earned success strategies” (Berk).
Born in 1957, Steve Harvey grew up in a relatively poor environment. “Harvey worked in a variety of jobs, including boxer and insurance salesman, before launching his career as a stand-up comic in the late 1980s. He achieved national fame in 1997 as one of the Kings of Comedy along with Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley, and Bernie Mac” (Hanson).
Later he landed his first big hosting job — he was the host of a self-titled talk show which aired on the radio in 2000, and is still ongoing today. Leah Rozen of Parade states that “...his defining career move was deciding to focus on radio after his second series ended, which many in the industry viewed as a comedown” (Rozen). He had a winning formula.
Then he created the free-for-all game show Family Feud in 2010, and his career skyrocketed. “Harvey took that winning formula with him to Family Feud in 2010, greatly expanding his reach beyond his core African-American fan base, and to his daytime talk show, which has succeeded where bigger names like Katie Couric and Anderson Cooper have stumbled” (Rozen). The online biography website, aptly named Biography.com, states “In 2010, Harvey won another iconic TV role, taking over as host of the venerable game show Family Feud. On Family Feud, Harvey found a very agreeable niche in which he was able to flash his quick wit and try out new material on a nationwide audience, while also getting to work with everyday people” (Biography.com Editors).
His career life was never seamless, but his impact on the television industry is undeniably influential. From a life of homelessness, he rose to a life of affluence and fame. He is now an iconic game show host recognizable to many, and an inspiration for those who have yet to reach their American Dream. - Nathaniel Lowry and Liam Russell
Because he led the most successful slave revolt in history.
Governor-General of Haiti; b. 1743-1803
Toussaint Louverture was a slave who gained his freedom and led the most successful slave revolt of all time. By doing so, he helped many others to freedom. Afterwards, he went on to become a self-appointed governor of Haiti. He was a dreamer, doer, noisy genius, and a symbol of pride and aspiration. He was also a brilliant leader and had a long lasting impact on the world.
Toussaint Louverture was a brilliant leader because he was adaptable and good with people. After gaining his freedom, “Louverture joined the slave insurgency and quickly developed a reputation first as a capable soldier and then as military secretary….” (McNally). This shows he was adaptable because he was able to move up in rank quickly. Adaptability is good for a leader because it allows them to overcome challenges that others may not be able to. Louverture demonstrated this throughout his life, which contributes to his qualification as a leader. His ability to work with and gain help from others also made him a great leader. As a slave, Louverture “W[on] the favour of the plantation manager” (Fagg). This evidence shows he can work with people because he could get someone who saw him as a slave to like him. When Louverture was involved in a civil war US President, John “ Adams offered support...and at one point the U.S. Navy... helped the... general defeat one of his internal enemies, André Rigaud” (Dubois). This evidence shows that Toussaint Louverture was great at working with others because he was able to convince a foreign power to aid him in a war. This war would have had a large impact on the Haitian people and the world if the war had ended differently. This also shows that he is capable of working with others, which is an important characteristic of good leaders. Toussaint Louverture was a brilliant leader thanks to his ability to adapt quickly and work with others.
Toussaint Louverture was a dreamer and a doer. He fought against slavery by leading a slave revolt and becoming governer of Haiti. After he led the rebellion, he “Ignor[ed] commands…” and “[he] turned to Spanish Santo Domingo, where slavery persisted. ...Toussaint overran it in January 1801, freed the slaves ....” (Fagg). He defied orders from a commanding officer to do what he thought was right. He had a goal to end slavery where he could, and, in order to reach this dream, he went to war against a powerful European country. This proves that he was a dreamer because he had a vision of emancipation, and a doer, because he fulfilled his dream.
Louverture was a symbol of pride and aspiration. He was also a very high-ranking person in Haiti for the rest of his life after the revolution. “By 1801… L’Ouverture was ruling it as an independent state. He drafted a constitution in which he reiterated the 1794 abolition of slavery and appointed himself governor for ‘the rest of his glorious life’”(McNally). Toussaint Louverture was a high ranking officer during the Haitian revolution, but after that was over, he made himself the governor and enforced a law to stop slavery. This proves that he was a dreamer because he wanted to create a black governed state without slaver and a doer because he succeeded in creating his dream.
Toussaint Louverture had a long lasting impact on the world because he affected the way people viewed black people and slavery as a whole. Without his actions, the world would be different. In “the 19th century and beyond, the Haitian Revolution became a key reference — an inspiration for some, a terror for others — in debates about slavery, emancipation, and race” (Dubois). His revolution caused white people to fear blacks, and this fear would be shown in government policies. This would have led to growing conflicts between different groups in government, such as the North and South in the United States. Also, “[u]nder President Thomas Jefferson’s presidency, the United States… pursued a policy to isolate Haiti, fearing that the Haitian revolution would spread to the United States” (The United). This shows that Toussaint’s actions altered the way other countries behaved as well as people’s views and behavior toward Haiti. This is significant because it would affect trade and communication between the countries, which would have lasting impacts.
Toussaint Louverture was a powerful military leader and important symbol in history, as well as a dreamer and a doer. He led the most successful slave revolt in history and rose to prominence by governing a newly-formed country aftering being a former slave himself. After the revolution, he led the rest of his life in a position of power as a self-appointed governor. He had dreams and aspirations to abolish slavery and did everything in his power to make it come true, which is why he is remembered today. - Hannah Dietrich, Erica Gynn, and Elizabeth Partee
Because his accomplishments of hit songs and incredible acting roles inspired millions.
Singer, Actor; b. 1968 in Philadelphia
Since his first LP was released with his partner Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith has taken the world by storm. From his hit songs like “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It” to his impressive roles in movies such as Aladdin, Will Smith has had success for as long as he has been in these industries. His success awards, and compassion for other people are what make him a positive demonstration for other people in the world despite the color of his skin.
Will Smith’s success started at an early age. When he was just a teenager, Smith gained popularity with his partner Jazzy Jeff. Together, they worked as DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince. Their album The Rock House sold 600,000 copies. Their later album had even more success. To elaborate, “By 1989, Smith and Townes had recorded two more albums—He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper and And in This Corner. Both albums went platinum (selling one million copies), and they appeared in concerts all over the world” (“Will Smith”). With his time spent in music, Will Smith had tremendous amounts of success. With his hard work and determination, Smith was able to make a name for himself. As Will Smith’s popularity continued to grow, Hollywood started noticing his presence in an audience and his charming personality. As soon as he made his acting debut in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, things drastically changed for Will Smith. Other people described him as “. . .American actor and musician whose charisma, clean clean-cut looks, and quick wit helped him transition from rap music to a successful career in acting” (“Will Smith”). This celebrity has clearly already made a name for himself, and this is what helped him transition into his acting career. Later on, it is shown that Smith is a natural actor. For example, "Quincy Jones, who produced Fresh Prince, initially was responsible for Smith's entry into television.. . .’It was clear to me right away that this guy [Smith] was a natural.’" (“Will Smith”). Will Smith used his outgoing personality to get his start as an actor, which helped him rise to fame as a celebrity. This shows that just by doing what came naturally to him, Smith was able to accomplish big things. His ability to rise to the top inspired millions of people along the way.
The awards Will Smith has accumulated over the years of singing and acting to show his success, proving that he leads by example as a doer. Starting with his success as a rapper and singer, Smith was given a total of six music awards. Adding onto this, “The album was a big hit, and the pair won a Grammy Award for the song "Parents Just Don't Understand." By 1989, Smith and Townes had recorded two more albums—He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper and And in This Corner. Both albums went platinum (selling one million copies), and they appeared in concerts all over the world” (“Will Smith”). Will Smith has had accomplishments in singing. His hard work and dedication put into his music deserved the recognition it got. He paired up with multiple people to create hits that earned him multiple award nominations. Not only has Smith earned multiple awards in music, but he has earned a total of about ten awards in the film and television category. Will Smith has improved his acting the longer he has been in the industry. In 1993, he was even nominated for a Golden Globe Award for best TV comedy actor (“Will Smith”). He has improved his skills over the years, one of them being acting. He used his background in music and the connections he had before to make a name for himself in the acting field. Others agree that he has improved his acting as he started to receive more recognition as an actor and gained more award nominations. Adding onto this, “Smith has earned a nomination for a Best Actor Oscar twice before. The first time was in 2001, for his role in Ali. Smith portrayed boxing legend Muhammed Ali” (Brayson). Because Smith was nominated for an Oscar for this performance, people clearly thought that it was the right decision to cast him in this role. Since Muhammad Ali is one of the “Undefeated 44,” Will Smith should also be recognized for his portrayal in the film.
Over all of his fame, Will Smith still doesn’t forget to give back. He has been known to donate to multiple different organizations and causes, proving that he is a doer and a symbol of pride and aspiration. Sources say, “Just-released tax returns for movie star Will Smith’s charitable foundation show he and wife, Jada, gave $1.3 million in donations last year to a variety of religious, civic and arts groups” (Friedman). This proves that Will Smith makes sure he gives make to the community with helping multiple organizations. This sets a positive example to society as to how giving back to other people is very important. Smith also gives to many Christian organizations. As of now, his largest contribution has been to Yesha Ministries of Philadelphia with $250,000. He donated another $200,000 to another Christian Ministry called Living Waters (Friedman). This also shows that Will Smith cares deeply about his home state and chooses something he cares about and is passionate about to give back to. He is giving back to his faith with his helpful donations because he wants to make a positive difference on other people. Smith donates to many different causes, but he has also reached out to medical causes. “He also sent $25,000 to the Progeria Research Foundation. Progeria is a disease that causes rapid aging” (Friedman). Will Smith does not forget to give back to medical causes such as this one. He has recognized the impact that diseases like progeria have on people around the world, and he understands that there is a need to help out other dreamers with life goals like he once had, but happen to be less fortunate than him.
From famous rapper to talented actor, Will Smith is an inspirational role model to people around the world. The examples he has set for those around him show others around the world that achieving your dreams is possible. After his awards won, success in the music and acting industries, and donations to people in need, Will Smith has shook up the world. - Kate Chapman and Olivia Hodil
SGT. William CarnEY
Because he was the first African American to be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Sergeant; b, 1840-1908
William H. Carney was the first African American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He spent his life showing courage in the face of racism and descrimination on the battlefield and off. He proved that Black men were just as valiant and patriotic when it came to battle. Carney’s bravery set a precedent of heroic equality in the military that continues today.
Carney’s bravery doesn’t come as a surprise when you learn about his harrowing backstory because, “His father, also named William, escaped slavery, reaching freedom through the underground railroad. William Sr. then worked hard to buy the freedom of the rest of his family” (Hammond). Both Williams weren’t held back by descrimination and fought figuratively and literally to prove it. Even then, Carney Jr. wouldn’t give in to the hardships of institutional racism that was placed to keep free African Americans down. Carney attended a secret school at the age of 14 which was illegal at the time (William H. Carney). Carney refused to let descrimination define him and he followed his American Dream, even if it went against the law. In his youth, Carney jr. was interested in becoming a minister, however, “In an 1863 edition of the Abolitionist newspaper The Liberator, Carney stated: "Previous to the formation of colored troops, I had a strong inclination to prepare myself for the ministry; but when the country called for all persons, I could best serve my God serving my country and my oppressed brothers. The sequel in short--I enlisted for the war" (Hammond). William Carney bravely abandoned his American Dream for a new one of serving the nation, which he proved he could do to the finest extent.
When looking at Carney’s life, his impact on education and civil rights are often overlooked by historians and the public. As a literate black who sought an education, Carney was a rarity among the population of escaped slaves when he went farther than most and took up learning. Slave literacy rates were around 5% in most slave states and statistically, Carney was extremely uncommon. Laws existed to restrict the freedoms of reading and writing, but Carney managed to beat the odds and further himself through education. His escape from slavery was also very imporant as it was an early showcase of his abilities, tenacity, and determination that would later play a role in his wartime heroism. The educational precedent set by Carney helped inspire many future blacks to become literate and improve their positions in the world. Carney broke barriers and helped African Americans in his education and fight for freedom as well as in his efforts to free his family from the grasp of southern slavery and his time fighting in the 54th Massachusetts.
Carney’s life before war was filled with examples of courage, but the most impactful thing he did was during the American Civil War. Carney joined the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first all Black regiment in U.S. history. At the battle of Fort Wagner is where Carney left his mark. William Carney was marching towards the fort as usual when he saw the man holding the American Flag fall to a bullet. Before the flag could hit the ground, Carney abandoned his gun and rushed forward to grab the flag (William H. Carney). He left his weapon in battle to protect the flag, which shows his inspiring patriotism. “Despite suffering several serious gunshot wounds himself, Carney kept the symbol of the Union held high as he crawled up the hill to the walls of Fort Wagner” (Lange). William Carney defeated all of the odds while continuing to carry the ultimate sign of freedom aloft. The Department of Defense demonstrates this by saying, “Carney lost a lot of blood and nearly lost his life, but not once did he allow the flag to touch the ground” (Lange). Because he took such admirable actions in a dangerous time, William Carney was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900. While some were given the medal before him, his heroic moment took place on July 18, 1863, which is before any other African American.
We believe Sgt. Carney belongs on this list for his variety of accomplishments and achievements, including a medal of honor, earning an education in a time this was forbidden to blacks, and setting a precedent of honor for future adfrican americans. Carney is a symbol of progress for African Americans because of his decorations and valor on the battlefield as well as eloquent speech and education. These traits set him apart from the common soldier and helped pave the way for generations of black soldiers in the U.S army. His rank is another thing that sets him apart from other black soldiers because very few were promoted to officers, and Carney has a position of leadership in the renowned 54th Massachusetts. His impact of civil rights and equality for blacks makes him an excellent candidate for the undefeated 44 list. Sgt. Carney is among the most famous black veterans from the time period and was awarded for his exceptional courage and accomplishments long after the war as he and other blacks finally began to be recognized for their actions and Carney was especially proud to receive the honor. Sget. William Carney is an exemplary figure in American history and belongs among the most honored blacks in history in the Undefeated 44 list. - Liam Shields and Willam Goetzman
William H. Hastie
Because he has climbed to high government positions as a black man, and carved a path for others through his work for others.
Lawyer, activist, governor; b. 1904
William Henry Hastie could see a changing world. A world where he could make a difference for those of his own skin color. A world of different views, and he didn't think things were set in stone. He went to some of the best schools to become a lawyer. He fought for black people’s civil rights, and was in the highest position of government for a black person in history.
After William Henry Hastie finished High School he was offered work at, “Oxford University and the University of Paris. Hastie decided instead to accept a job at New Jersey’s Bordentown Manual School where he was on the faculty until 1927, when he entered Harvard University Law School” (Kealoha, Samantha). The kid from Knoxville, Tennessee who already had an unfair advantage, went to Harvard to become a lawyer. This may look like another feel good story about someone achieving their accomplishments, but it's important because of who he was. A black man. A black man who, “...was passicate about his career as a lawyer and the time period on the predisposed things that came with it didn't drive him away. ("William H. Hastie”, The Philadelphia Awards). His strength and persistence as a black man were incredibly important for his success. He funneled that passion into helping a community of people who were looked down upon. For instance, “During the early 1930s he argued his first civil rights case, when he represented Thomas Hocutt, an African American who unsuccessfully challenged the whites only policy of the University of North Carolina.”("William H. Hastie”, The Philadelphia Awards). His position allowed him to help people that couldn't get a fair trial in the 1930s.
After his job as a lawyer he moved up the ladder. Hastie became, “the first African American to hold the post of governor of a U.S. territory” (Kealoha, Samantha). Hastie made his first major step when he became the first governor of a U.S. territory. This was a big accomplishment for him, as his title grew, so could the things he could accomplish. Since he was, “ the highest judicial position held by an African American” (Kealoha, Samantha). This was unseen at this time. That a black man could hold some power. Hastie was a dreamer, but he got to live out his dreams. He got more reconition for his work and became a member of the, “...Washington, D.C. chapter of the New Negro Alliance…” (Chamberlain, Gaius). Mr. Hastie made something of himself as he climbed to new heights.
His life held some major accomplishments for the black community. With his high ranking position he made legislation to help people. This all started when, “Harold Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior under President Franklin Roosevelt and appointed Assistant Solicitor. In this capacity he advised the federal government on racial matters and was asked to draft legislation related to the U.S. Virgin Islands” (Chamberlain, Gaius). The fact that Mr. Hastie was able to get this far, is surprising, yet his credit didn't go unnoticed. People could see his value and skills he could provide to the public. Making him on the Franklin Roosevelt Administration. With this Hastie moved on to make the 1936 Organic Act, “...which granted the predominantly black islanders basic American rights, including ending income and property requirements for voting, and extending suffrage to women”("William H. Hastie”, The Philadelphia Awards). By itself the act speaks tremendous volume. This bill represented everything Hastie believed in, and what he wanted for the people. He was a ‘man on the inside’ for the civil rights movement.
Through all of these amazing accomplishments, he wouldn't have had success without struggle. Which is what he had said, “Difficulty need not foreshadow despair or defeat. Rather, achievement can be all the more satisfying because of obstacles surmounted” ("William H. Hastie”). Mr. Hastie did overcome many challenges in his career. Always climbing to new heights. This man worked in the shadows. He wasn't the most recognized black man to change things, but he set the ground for change to happen. William Henry Hastie was an important black figure in American history; carefully putting the pieces of equality together for all.
Because he caught the impossible.
Professional baseball player; b. 1931 in Westfield, AL
Willie Mays accomplished many great things in and outside of his baseball career. He is a very talented and well respected African American who has shaken up this world.
Willie Mays is one of the best hitters to ever play the game of baseball. During Willie’s career, he was able to hit 660 home runs (“Willie Mays stats,” 2018). Hitting this many home runs is incredible and rarely ever done by anyone else. There are presently only 4 other players who have ever hit more home runs than him. This stat shows how good of a hitter Willie Mays truly was and how incredible it is to hit this many home runs. Willie Mays also won two National League MVP awards and the 1931 male athlete of the year award. This shows that other people also recognized how talented of a player Mays was. It is very difficult for a player to win one MVP award, as he was able to win two. It is even more impressive to win a male athlete of the year award, as only one male athlete can get the award throughout all sports. Clearly Mays was a very talented ball player and competed as one of the best. Lastly, Willie Mays had a great batting average. “Mays returned in 1945 to hit a league leading .345 with 41 homeruns”(“Willie Mays,”2019). Hitting with a .345 batting average is very rare and hard to do. Even the best hitters today are not able to have that good of a batting average. Mays was able to hit this well and hit 41 home runs, which is also impressive. This shows how good of a hitter Mays was even compared to some of the best hitters in today’s game. His remarkable talent was shown throughout all of his stats during his career.
Not only was Willie Mays a great baseball player, but he also was a great person and had a huge impact on the city of San Francisco and the community of his hometown. Mays would often go back to his hometown and play with all of the children there. As stated in a biography about Willie Mays, “Mays famously played stickball with the local kids, his cheerful exuberance earning him the nickname, the "Say Hey Kid.”(“Willie Mays,” 2019). Many famous baseball players do not want to take time out of their day to play with children. Willie was always willing to hang out with the kids in his community and play games with them. I am positive that these games had a huge impact on these children’s lives and inspired them to also do great things with their lives. The community of San Francisco has also done some things to show the impact that Willie Mays had on their community. The Giants placed a statue of Willie Mays outside of the stadium at the 24 Willie Mays plaza. For anyone to get a statue of themselves outside of a stadium must have had a huge impact on the city. The people were clearly affected by the way he played the game. He changed the game of baseball for many of the people in the city and also changed the legacy of the Giants baseball organization. Lastly, there is a glove, a signed pair of cleats, and a signed hat exhibited in a museum in San Francisco. In an Article written about the legacy of Willie Mays throughout his career with the giants, Eric Jentsch stated, “When someone sees these items, there are three things that he or she should take away… That Mays was a great baseball player, that Mays was African-American, and that, with the Barack Obama quote which is included with the exhibit, that Mays was important to many Americans.” (“Even Today,” Willie 2018). People who see this exhibit are still being impacted by Willie’s legacy today. Seeing the items he wore while he was leading his team to victory inspires many to also strive for victory in anything in their life. This exhibit also shows how much people love Willie, as they placed these items in a museum. Mays clearly had a large impact on the city and his home community. He has inspired so many to play the game of baseball and strive for greatness in their lives.
Not only was Willie Mays recognized for his great baseball talent, he was also awarded with multiple awards post playing career awards. “He received an array of awards in subsequent years, including honorary degrees from Yale University and Dartmouth College, and was inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2015, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama”(“Willie Mays,” 2019). This shows how Willie Mays was not just a great Baseball Player, he also achieved great things off the field. He did great things for African Americans in a time that they were discriminated against. He showed other African American that they can do great things and that they have power. Mays also helped the people around him and brought people up with him. “Married twice, Mays adopted a son, Michael, in 1959. In 1972, he formed the Say Hey Foundation to help underprivileged children through education and community support” (“Willie Mays,” 2019). Willie mays did great things off of the field. He showed this by helping underprivileged children and adopting a son. Willie Mays did great things to help his former teammates and others who shared the love of the game. “After Ueberroth lifted Mays' ban from baseball, he became a full time special assistant to the Giants, a position he has held for close to 25 years. He also serves on the advisory board of the Baseball Assistance Team, an organization dedicated to helping former players through financial and medical difficulties.” (“Willie Mays Biography,” ESPN, 2020). After his playing career Mays help former players get on track financially and medically. This shows that he cares about the game and its players.
Throughout his career both on and off the field, Willie Mays did great things. Later after his playing days were over, he did not slow down and kept helping others by doing great things for his community, the MLB, and others around him. He made a huge impact on so many fans and children in the world of baseball. - Anthony Bucci and Matt Moser
Because her endurance ran through the face of indifference.
Record-breaker, hero; b. 1940-1994
A record-breaker, who ran at first with no expectation for herself, but grew to adhere to the principles of perseverance and discipline, a hero, whose undying persistence became a symbol for black pride in athletics, (and for women as a whole, for that matter) a dreamer, who fought the good fight and came out victorious on the other side, and a lover, whose love for the sport outweighed hate in all its finest forms. Wilma Rudolph, (1940-1994) at one point in her life or another had shown millions the sheer power of stepping outside of the social norms of the time, refusing to throw in the towel until her name was written among others in the book of history. Through her distasteful childhood, newly acquired passion for running as a child, and the stands she made against racial injustice using her success and the influence she had as a celebrity, Wilma Rudolph embodies the very essence of the strong and good willed African American that everybody admires today, who taught everyone who saw no future for the sickly and crippled girl, tenacity’s ability to make a difference.
Wilma Rudolph, despite the racial and segregational oppression of the south, had overcome her differences, and had achieved the type of success unimaginable as a black woman during the mid-twentieth century, when racism was at one of its highest peaks in our country. She was incredibly fast, and at 5 foot, 11 inches, she was built to be a sprinter. With enough sneaking out of classes to practice at the closest college stadium, and help from her coach, Ed Temple, she qualified for the 1956 and 1960 Summer Olympics. She won three gold medals in 1960, becoming the first American woman to win that many in a single Olympic Games. She grew a reputation for her speed, even being coined “the fastest woman in the world” for twenty years, which made her a great inspiration to many people across the country. She did this by “. . . [continuing] to break records and [dominating] women’s sprints on the international stage” (Siber). This emboldened those who were silenced by Jim Crow, who were now given a role model to root for. In addition, M. B. Roberts stated that “Rudolph especially inspired young African-American female athletes. Most notable was Florence Griffith Joyner, the next woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics (1988)” (Roberts). She had left a legacy, and a long lasting one at that, which is still present in many runners today. Rudolph had not only displayed her strength through her running, but also through the hardships she endured during her childhood. As a child, Rudolph suffered from “. . . double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio as a child.” She also “. . . had problems with her left leg and had to wear a brace” (“Wilma Rudolph”). She was hindered in pursuing what she loved because of these liabilities, which took her a good bit of encouragement to even consider running professionally. Also, she was bullied in the neighborhood for having a misshapen foot, and it was with “great determination and the help of physical therapy that she was able to overcome her disabilities” (“Wilma Rudolph”). Most stories of personal acclaim don’t accredit nearly as much misfortune as Wilma’s did, to which she used as a motivator, not a burden, to her career.
Rudolph also used her popularity to espouse for equal rights at the time, making a stand for segregation and showing her fans and non-fans alike, she was willing to fight against injustice that was treating the black populace with an intolerable animosity. She was thrilled to hear that officials in her hometown Clarkesville, Tennessee, “wanted to host a homecoming parade in her honor” (“Wilma Rudolph”), but what soon infuriated when she was informed the parade would be segregated; she told the officials they could still have the parade, but she wouldn’t be attending if this kind of systematic racism were instilled during the event. According to Rita Liberti, a sports historian, “Without question, Wilma Rudolph wasn’t the only one, but she was among a handful of African American women who really altered the way whites thought about race.” From a young age, Wilma and her family were no strangers to discrimination, having experienced every day the monotony of having little opportunity to make a difference in this world. “Rudolph’s father was a railroad porter, and her mother cleaned white families’ houses while raising children in a basic wooden home with no electricity” (“Wilma Rudolph”). She remembers once looking abroad on a patch of grass at a group of white festival goers, as they were enjoying themselves, and the luxuries they could afford with such opulence. That was the moment she realized the contrast between how white and black communities live was shameful. Balancing all facets of the country’s hierarchy, nullifying the many racist policies that had her and her family living in squalor, would take more social reform than in her power, but she certainly influenced many to become activists alongside her.
A record-breaker, a hero, a dreamer, a lover. Wilma Rudolph’s legacy lives in all of the athletes after her time, whose same passions drive their success and their admiration. From Wilma Rudolph, everyone can all learn a thing or two about hope for themselves, for their families, and for a better and brighter future. - Kai Suyama and Ryan Wukitch