Lesser-Known Heroes

Learn about these lesser-known heroes during
Black History Month in February
During Black History Month, we celebrate the African-American story. As with all history, it's a rich pageant of players both famous and obscure. While we've all heard of such icons as Frederick DouglassMartin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, many others, less famous, have nevertheless carried the torch of freedom and advancement for all. Here are a few of these heroes:

  • Claudette Colvin (b. 1939): On March 2, 1955--nine months before Rosa Parks--15-year-old high school student Colvin was arrested for refusing to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus to a white woman. Her act of civil disobedience eventually helped overturn Alabama's segregation laws.
  • Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895): In 1864, the Delaware native became the first U.S. black woman to earn a medical degree. She founded a Boston practice for poor women and children, and wrote a related medical manual.
  • The Rev. James H. Cone (1938-2018): The Methodist theologian and author popularized liberation theology, asserting that black churches embodied the Gospel message of deliverance from oppression, mandating political and social change as well as faith.
  • Robert Smalls (1839-1915): Smalls learned to sail as a slave on the Charleston, S.C., docks. In May 1862, he commandeered a Confederate ship and piloted it into Union waters, freeing himself and 17 others, including his family. A successful businessman, Smalls eventually bought the plantation of his birth, helped Frederick Douglass convince Pres. Lincoln to admit African-Americans as Union soldiers, and became a two-term congressman.
Black history is the study of a lifetime. Here are some additional titles for grades K-12  to get you started.


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