Ten Black American Heroes You Should Know

Ten Black American Heroes You Should Know

Black Americans and their heroic stories are often unknown and not discussed. In the history of African Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and  Muhammad Ali are known and mentioned rightfully. But you often don’t know about other Black American heroes and the contributions they’ve made along the way.

There are numerous Black American heroes who have worked tirelessly in shining light on the issues African-Americans face. To celebrate Black History Month, let’s learn about these unsung heroes.

Here are the Ten Black American Heroes you should know:

Shirley Chisholm

famous people

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was the first African-American woman in Congress (1968). She was also the first African American woman to seek the nomination of one of the two major political parties for President of the United States (1972). From 1969-1983 she represented New York’s 12th congressional district. 

Shirley Chisholm was born in Brooklyn, New York, on November 30, 1924.  And She starts to work in early childhood. In the 1950’s she was involved in local democratic political parties and in 1964 she was elected to the New York State Assembly. She served seven terms and championed anti-poverty programs, food and nutrition programs, and educational reform.

She was also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Although her offered was unsuccessful, but her candidacy empowered her to raise issues of significance to African Americans and women and to forge the way for others. 

Bayard Rustin


Bayard Rustin, was an American leader for the social movements. He was a gay man who started Social movements for civil rights, pacifism, Socialism, and also rights for gays.

He was born on March 17, 1912, in West Chester Pennsylvania, and died on August 24, 1987, in New York. His family was involved in civil rights work so in 1936, he moved to Harlem, and start to earn a living in a nightclub as a stage singer, and from that period he continued activism for civil rights. 

Bayard Rustin was also recognized as Martin Luther King’s close advisor.  She is one of the most influential and effective organizers of the civil rights movement.

Claudette Colvin:


Claudette Colvin was born on September 5, 1939. She is a retired American nurse aide and she was also a pioneer of the civil rights movement in the 1950s. 

Few people know the story of Claudette. On March 2, 1955, at the age of 16, she was arrested. On a Crowded bus, she refused to give the seat to a white Woman. The bus driver ordered her to get up but she refused by saying that she would her paid fare and it was also her constitutional right. Then two police officers and put her in handcuffs. 

However, she was the first woman to refuse detained for her seat and her story isn’t nearly as well-known as Parks. 

Annie Lee Cooper:

Bleak Beauty Blog

Annie Lee Cooper was born in Selma, Alabama on June 2, 1910, and died on November 24, 2010. She is a black -American civil rights activist in 1955 and she is also best known for Selma Voting Right Movement, for punching Dallas County, Alabama Sheriff Jim Clark.

Annie Lee Cooper was a black woman, dropped out of school in 7th grade and moved to Kentucky and at the age of 52, she returned backed to Alabama. At that time she was not allowed to vote in her home state as she participating in the civil rights movements and also lost her job as a resting home nurse. While lined up at the Dallas Country, she was charged with criminal and attempted murder cases.

She was put in jail for 11 hours and at the jail, she singing spiritual songs and her predicament words passes to Dr. Martin Luther king. Shortly after that incident she allowed to vote for her home state, allowed for first-time votes for black African American women in a state. 

Dorothy Height:

A Mighty Girl

Dorothy Height was born on March 24, 1912, and died on April 20, 2010. She was a teacher, social Service Worker, and President of the National Council of Negro for the four-decade. 

Dorothy Height worked for Women’s rights.  She was also called as  “godmother of the women’s movement”. In 1963, among few women, she was one of the women who present on the speaking platform in Washington where Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream”. Throughout her life, she fought for equal rights for both African Americans and women. 

Jesse Owens:

The News-Herald

James Cleveland Owens was born on September 12, 1913, in Oakville, Alabama U.S., and died March 31, 1980, in Phoenix, Arizona. He recognized as “perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history.

He was a track-and-field athlete who set a world record in running board jump (also called long jump) at the 1936 Olympic game in Berlin and went unrivaled for 25 years. In the 1936 Olympics, he won four gold medals i.e. 100 meters, long jump, 200 meters, and 4 × 100-meter relays, and also achieve international fame. His four Olympic victories were credit with crushing Hitler’s myth.  His intention to use the Games to demonstrate Aryan Supremacy. Although he invited by the president to the White House the shake hands. 

Bessie Coleman:

Image courtesy of Siskel Film Center

Bessie Coleman was born on January 26, 1892, and died on April 30, 1926) she was the first black woman and first Native American civil aviator. Despite being the first Black Person to earn an international pilot license in the world. After her death, she knew Coleman a pioneer in aviation.

Coleman has an interest in flying. But for African American women as well as Native Americans, Flight training is not possible in the United States. So, she moves to France for flight school and she obtained Sponsorship to go to France flight School. Her pioneering role was an inspiration for the African-American, Native-American communities as well as for early pilots too.

Robert Sengstacke Abbott:

Chicago Literary hall of fame

Robert Sengstacke Abbott, also known as Bobby Sengstacke. He was born on May 29, 1943, and died on March 7, 2017. Robert was an African-American Photojournalist during the civil- rights movement.  He recognized for his famous portraits of Martin Luther King and other prominent civil rights leaders.

He was a famous Newspaper Journalist and editor. In 1950, he founded Chicago Defender weekly Newspaper. His newspaper played an integral role to encourage African Americans. Because of his newspaper, African Americans can migrate from the South for better economic opportunities.

Ethel Waters:

All that Philly Jazz

Ethel Waters was an American singer and actress, born on October 31, 1896, and died on September 1, 1977. She is the most influential popular singer. She started her career in the 1920s as a blues singer.

In 1939, she starts her Television Show. She made history by becoming the first black American person to start the TV Show ( Ethel Water Show). Ethel Water nominated for the primetime Emmy Award (the first African-American woman). and She nominated for an Academy Award(the Second African woman).

Gwendolyn Brooks:

Poetry Foundation

Gwendolyn Brooks, in this 2oth century he was the most revered American poetry. Gwendolyn was born on June 7, 1917, and died on December 3, 2000.

She is an American poet, author, as well as teacher. Gwendolyn also works often dealt with personal struggles and celebrations with ordinary people of her community.

In 1950, she win the Pulitzer Prize and she is the first African-American author to win the Pulitzer Prize. She is also the first African American woman to serve as a poetry consultant to the library of congress. She was also the poet laureate of the State of Illinois.  In the 1960s, She also worked in the political and social landscape including the civil rights movement and the economic Climate.

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