The ABC’s of Black History Month PDF Print E-mail
Written by David Dennis   
Thursday, 03 February 2011 08:48

Black History month has been a controversial concept for years now. Some people feel like it confines our celebration of our people to one month while others think it’s patronizing. Whatever the case, I never mind taking a few moments to talk about Black History. I also love the alphabet. So, I figured I’d put both of those things I love together and make an alphabet of people you should know and share this month.

A: Maya Angelou – She’s one of the most influential poets in American history as I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is her definitive work. She was nominated for a Pulitzer prize in 1971 and was the first person to deliver a poem at a presidential inauguration since 1961.

B: James Baldwin – Baldwin was a pivotal Black novelist from the 20th century. His novels, plays and essays put up a mirror to the Black community. His works dealing with identity and homosexuality are timeless.

C: Stokely Carmichael – "Black Power" has become a hackneyed phrase these days, but there was a time when it was a loaded message that brought pride to the African-American community. We can thank Carmichael, who started SNCC and was later the honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party, for that.

D: W.E.B. Du Bois – Du Bois was the pulse of the African-American community as the founder and editor of the NAACP’s journal Crisis. His book, Souls of Black Folk is a piece of literature that defined an age in Black revolution.

E: Marian Wright Edelman – African-American education has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few decades and we can attribute so much of this improvement to Mrs. Edelman. She founded the Children’s Defense Fund and continues to lead the Freedom Schools program that has helped shape millions of lives across the country.

F: Aretha Franklin – The Queen of Soul is currently fighting for her life in a battle with cancer, but before she became ill she sang "America The Beautiful" for Barack Obama’s inauguration. Her music redefined the woman’s role in soul music.

G: Greensboro Four – Four students took the initiative to hold a sit-in at a diner in Greensboro, N.C. Their sit-ins set off a chain of similar protests that ignited the Civil Rights movement.

H: Fannie Lou Hamer – Hamer was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party during the Democratic National Convention in 1964. She delivered a speech during the event that galvanized the nation when televisions across the country were fixed on her impassioned plea for equality.

I: Samuel Elmer Imes – Dr. Imes was only the second African-American to obtain a physics doctorate. His research uncovered a method of determining the distance between atoms – a discovery that changed the way we looked at molecular make-up.

J: Michael Jackson – The King of Pop. As Al Sharpton put it during Jackson’s memorial, the country was prepared to embrace a Black president because we first embraced an African-American pop icon. Jackson’s music will forever be apart of the fabric of American culture.

K: Coretta Scott King – Of course, we can dedicate this letter to Dr. King, but too often Coretta’s contribution is overlooked. She was the backbone to King’s movement and was a pillar of strength after he was assassinated.

L: Toussaint L’Ouverture – We can thank L’Overture for about half of the states in the U.S. He led the Haitian revolution, costing France millions of dollars, causing the country to sell the Louisiana Territory. L’Overture liberated Haiti and started a wave of revolts across the western hemisphere.

M: Toni Morrison – Many consider Morrison the greatest living American writer. In 1993 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature; the first African-American to win that award.

N: Huey P. Newton – He’s the co-founder of the Black Panther Party and a resilient symbol of Black Nationalism. The famous picture of Newton flanked by two members of the Black Panther is an iconic image of Black Power.

O: Barack Obama – The First African-American President of the United States. His legacy as the first African-American POTUS is still being written, but currently he’s facing the toughest rode to a successful term that we’ve ever seen.

P: Rosa Parks – Many say the Civil Rights Movement started when Rosa Parks chose not to sit in the back of the bus. While many see this as a singular act of bravery, this was actually a planned, calculated move to start a movement.

Q: Queen – In the vein of Roots, Queen was a monumentally popular and influential novel about slavery. The book, written by Alex Haley about his own ancestry, was later turned into a movie. The story reinvigorated Black America’s interest in researching our ancestry.

R: A. Phillip Randolph – Many people think that Martin Luther King just willed the 1963 March on Washington on his own, but the organizer of the event was Randolph. He also led other marches and was vocal in the fair employment movement, leading to the formation of the Fair Employment Practices Committee during World War II.

S: Dred Scott – The Dred Scott case was a landmark moment during slavery. Scott actually had the gumption to sue his former slave owner on the grounds that a slave in a free state would be declared free. The case further inflamed the battle between the North and South, increasing aggression leading to the Civil War.

T: Nat Turner – One of the most controversial figures during slavery, Turner’s revolt led to the murder of 55 whites, mostly women and children. After he was caught and hanged, slavery laws became stricter in the south.Some say his revolt was inspirational while others see it as a detriment to the anti-slavery movement.

U: Gene Upshaw – When Upshaw died in 2008, he was considered one of the most beloved figures in the NFL. He was the leader of the NFL Player’s Association and bargained for free agency in exchange for a NFL salary cap. Upshaw spoke for the players and had such a trusted following because of it.

V: Gustavus Vassa – Vassa, under the original name Olaudah Equiano, wrote the book The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa the African, an abolitionist biography about the African and American slave trades. Vassa purchased his own freedom and incited many anti-slavery sentiments based on his writing.

W: Carter G. Woodson – He’s the reason for the season. A scholar and educator, Woodson formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the Journal of Negro History, the Associated Publishers, and Negro History Bulletin. His Negro History week led to Black History month.

X: Malcolm X – X joined the Nation of Islam during his tenure in jail and emerged as a fierce national leader. Originally known as a radical, he returned from a 1964 pilgrimage preaching unity between whites and African Americans. His biography is a widely studied work.

Y: Roger Arliner Young – In 1940, she became the first African American to be awarded a Ph.D. in zoology. Her research set the groundwork for understanding radiation’s effects on sea urchins.

Z: Shaka Zulu – A ruler ahead of his time, Zulu united kingdoms in South Africa. His military prowess and leadership make him one of the most referenced rulers in history. He’s renowned for his military prowess and innovations in the field of weaponry.