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14 Men in Black History

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In a previous post, we highlighted 14 Women in Black History for Black History Month. Like the women, there are parts of American History that exclude black men, and their superb work in this country. Naming 14 women in Black History only covers half of the month. To complete the 28 days of February, here are 14 men who have done extraordinary things in Black History.

James Baldwin

Source: Biography.com

James Baldwin was a well-renown author and activist. Through his novels, Mr. Baldwin shared his thoughts on race and spirituality. He published great works such as Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time. His book of essays, Nobody Knows My Name explores black-white relations, which later became the focus for his next novel Another Country.

Afrika Bambaataa

Source: WaxPoetics.com

Known as the Godfather of Hip Hop culture, born Kevin Donovan, Afrika Bambaataa became a popular DJ from the South Bronx. Formerly part of a gang, he focused his talent and energy into music and formed two rap groups: the Jazzy 5 (with emcees Ice, Mr. Freeze, Master D.E.E., and AJ Les) and Soulsonic Force (Mr. Biggs [Ellis Williams], Pow Wow [Robert Darrell Allen], and Emcee G.L.O.B.E. [John B. Miller]). Gaining respect for his musical knowledge, he began to influence new rap music – like the sounds of Big Daddy Kane and Das EFX. Afrika Bambaataa is also responsible for the classic party anthem sound with live bands.

Count Basie

Source: Biography.com

More than a pianist, Count formed his own big band and defined swing music. With hits like “One O’Clock Jump” and “Blue Skies,” Mr. Basie became the first African-American male recipient of a GRAMMY Award for Best Jazz Performance (Group) and Best Performance by a Dance Band, at the very first GRAMMY Awards Show in 1958. His talent led him to work with several other famed artists of the day like Joe Williams and Ella Fitzgerald. Count Basie has several recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame and he was inducted in to the New Jersey Hall of Fame after his death.

Guion Bluford

Source: NASA.gov

Guion S. Bluford was the first African American to travel in space in 1983, as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Challenger. He has a very impressive educational resume as well as a bachelor, master, and doctorate degrees in aerospace engineering, and a master in business administration. Mr. Bluford began his career as a pilot in the Air Force, flying 144 missions during the Vietnam War. He became an astronaut in 1979. He later participated in three other missions. With the completion of his fourth flight, Bluford has logged over 688 hours in space.

Ralph Bunche

Source: NobelPrize.org

 

In 1950, Ralph Bunche became the first black man to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He attended Harvard for a degree in political science on a scholarship, and then went on to teach and work on a doctorate from Harvard as well. In 1950 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for having arranged a cease-fire between Israelis and Arabs during the war, which followed the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Mr. Bunch went on to teach at Howard University and was an active member of New York City Board of Education. He also was a tremendous part of the Civil Rights Movement, in which he used his influence and network.
“Blacks should maintain the struggle for equal rights while accepting the responsibilities that come with freedom; whites must demonstrate that democracy is color-blind.” –Ralph Bunche

DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Source: FroLab.com

 

One of raps greatest duos, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, Will Smith. Although this group was a springboard for Will Smith’s acting career, these two made history by becoming the first rap act to win a GRAMMY in 1989. The Philadelphia based group had a different sound than their peers, but stood in solidarity with the remaining rappers by boycotting the 1989 show. “What I really wanted to accomplish is, next year, or two years from now, the rappers would be able to have what I didn’t have.” Jazzy Jeff was demanding the music industry to not only respect rap but recognize and award the art as well. DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince were later invited to perform at the 1990 GRAMMY’s.

Jack Johnson

Source: TheRoot.com

Jack Johnson aka “The Galveston Giant” traveled to Sydney, Australia in 1908 to compete for the heavyweight championship. He won the fight against Tommy Burns and had to defend his title five times over the next two years. Even James Jeffries, who was once the heavyweight champ, came out of retirement to fight Johnson. White fans encouraged the match between Johnson and Jeffries, hoping for a victory for Jeffries in “The Fight of the Century.” Johnson soundly beat Jeffries and was later inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Source: MyFlorida.com

 

J. Rosamond Johnson began his career as a music teacher in Jacksonville’s public schools, but in 1899 moved to New York with his brother, James Weldon Johnson, to pursue a career in show business. James Weldon wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and John put the words to music. The song was so popular that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) dubbed it The Negro National Anthem. With a business partner, the Johnsons produced The Shoo-Fly Regiment of 1906 and The Red Moon of 1908; all-Black Broadway operettas. Under the Bamboo Tree was the most successful of James’ shows. He also performed as a pianist in “A Concert of Negro Music” at the great Carnegie Hall concert.

Bayard Rustin

Source: NPS.gov

Strategist. Activist. Organizer. Bayard Rustin is the brain behind much of the Civil Rights Movement, specifically the 1963 March on Washington. This march was one of the largest non-violent protests ever held in the United States, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his well-known “I Have A Dream” speech. Rustin mentored Dr. King in the practice of non-violent resistance and protests. Many have not heard of Mr. Rustin because he was an openly gay man during this very tense era. He was discriminated against because of his race and sexual orientation.

Robert Smalls

Source: PBS.org

Robert Smalls became the first black man to successfully sail an armed Confederate ship with 17 black passengers (nine men, five women, and three children) from slavery to freedom during the Civil War. He had successfully maneuvered tightly surveyed and guarded waters. Once free, he served the Union Army as Captain; becoming the first African-American captain of a vessel. Mr. Smalls also served five terms in Congress and advised President Abraham Lincoln alongside Frederick Douglass.

“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”Robert Smalls

Josiah T. Walls

Source: BlackPast.org

Josiah Walls became the first African American to serve in Congress. He was the only black Representative from Florida until the early 1990s. Congressman Walls was unseated twice on the recommendation of the House Committee on Elections. His six years in Congress did not come without trouble. He was strongly opposed for each election, including once by a former confederate general. As congressman, Mr. Walls promoted grants for railroads and secure Cuban and West Indian port connections. After Congress, he was elected mayor of Gainesville. Along with being a Congressman, Mr. Walls was also a farmer. His farming experience eventually led him to Tallahassee, in which he became Farm Director of State Normal College for Colored Students, which is now known as Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.
“It is the duty of the men of today, in whose hands is intrusted the destiny of the Republic, to remove from the path of its upward progress every obstacle which may impede its advance in the future.”Josiah T. Wells

Daniel Hale Williams

Source: MyHero.com

Called “The Father of Black Surgery,” Daniel Hale Williams’ name is absent from many medical history books. In 1893, Dr. Williams was met with a stab victim with a severe chest wound. The victim would need to have his pericardium (membranous sac around the heart) sutured; the first surgery of its kind. Dr. Williams successfully performed this surgery and it is now considered the first open-heart surgery. Dr. Williams worked as chief surgeon of the neglected Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., a hospital specifically for former slaves. He turned the activity of the hospital around to improve surgery, begin ambulance services, and hired a multi-racial staff including black physicians and nursing staff. Dr. Williams also co-founded the National Medical Association, a professional organization for black medical practitioners who could not become members of the American Medical Association because of their race.

Jonathan Jasper Wright

Source: SCAfricanAmerican.com

Jonathan Jasper Wright was the first African American to serve on a state Supreme Court. When Mr. Wright was initially refused admission to the Pennsylvania bar because of his race, he was later named justice of the South Carolina State Supreme Court. Although he was 30 years-old with little experience, he served alongside two white Democrats. While a justice, false allegations were brought against him that resulted in his resignation. Mr. Wright relocated to Charleston to set up a law practice, teach classes from his office, and establish Claflin College’s law department; now Claflin University. After his passing, his reputation was subjected to suspicion, racism and neglect, to the extent that official portraits could no longer be found.


Get Up and Go!

Please clear the way and let me pass,
If you intend to give up here:
It seems a shame that you should yield
Your life without its fullest share.You are a coward for your pains,
To come this way, and then blow out:
Real men are made of stuff to last,
Which they, themselves, would never doubt.Get up! You broken bits of flesh!
Take courage and go fighting on;
For every black man there’s a day,
Which pride in race has well begun. –Marcus Garvey

The men listed above have shown courage and strength by blazing trails for this generation. Racial barriers did not hinder their ability to fight for equality in education, theater, politics, and music. Thank you for persevering. Thank you for being a pillar of strength. Thank you for your strategic leadership. Thank you for your creativity. Thank you for your intelligence. Thank you for your physical and mental endurance, even if it cost you your life. Thank you for your example to get up and go.

As the month of February winds down, I hope you have taken time to reflect on the beautiful, inspiring figures in Black History. Although February is National Black History Month, do not let this be the only time you educate yourself and others on forgotten faces and names in this nation’s history.

Who are the other men in Black History you would include on this list?

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Rasheda Likely, originally from Pensacola, FL, finds joy in authoring bi-weekly devotional blogs, spearheading advertising efforts, and serving as secretary for The Wade-O Radio Team. While being on the TWORS team, she successfully completed a Bachelors of Science in Biology and began her studies for a Masters of Science degree in Biology. Rasheda looks forward to impacting the lives of others through the ministry of TWORS the way TWORS has impacted hers.

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