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Great African Americans you should know.

Benjamin Banneker Mary McLeod Bethune George Washington Carver Frederick Douglass W.E.B. DuBois Marcus Garvey Fannie Lou Hamer Dr. Percy Lavon Julian Paul Robeson Sojourner Truth Harriet Tubman Granville T. Woods Carter G. Woodson Ida B. Wells Phillis Wheatley

Benjamin Banneker 1731 - 1806 Mathematician, Inventor

Born on November 9, 1731 near Elliot City, Maryland, Benjamin Banneker was one of America's greatest intellectuals and scientists. Benjamin Banneker was an essayist, inventor, mathematician, and astronomer. Because of his dark skin and great intellect he was called the "sable genius."

Benjamin Banneker was a self-taught mathematician and astronomer. While still a youth he made a wooden clock which kept accurate time past the date that Banneker died. This clock is believed to be the first clock wholly made in America. In 1791, he served on a project to make a survey for the District of Columbia, helping to design the layout for our Nation's capital. Deeply interested in natural phenomena, Banneker started publishing an almanac in 1791 and continued its publication until 1802. He published a treatise on bees, did a mathematical study on the cycle of the seventeen-year locust, and became a pamphleteer for the anti-slavery movement. He was internationally known for his accomplishments and became an advisor to President Thomas Jefferson. He died on his farm on October 9, 1806.

Mary McLeod Bethune 1875 - 1955 Founder of Bethune-Cookman College

Born on July 10, 1875 in Mayesville, South Carolina, Mary McLeod Bethune ranks high among great women in America. The last of seventeen children of sharecroppers, Mary Bethune lifted herself from cotton field to the White House as an advisor to the President of the United States. Her greatest accomplishment, however, was almost single-handedly building Bethune-Cookman College in 1923. With only one dollar and fifty cents, nerve, and determination, she set out to build a school for the Blacks who were working in the railroad labor camps in Florida.

Slowly the school emerged from old crate boxes and odd rooms of old houses near the Daytona Beach city dump. Bethune served as the school's president until 1942. Today Bethune-Cookman graduates thousands. In 1935, she received the NAACP Spingarn Medal as a symbol of distinguished achievement. Also in 1935, President Roosevelt appointed her national director of the National Youth Administration's Division of Negro Affairs. She died on May 18, 1955 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

George Washington Carver 1860 - 1943 Agricultural Scientist

If an honest history of the deep South is ever written, Dr. George Washington Carver will stand out as one of the truly great men of his time. Born of slave parents in 1860 in Diamond, Missouri, Dr. Carver almost single-handedly revolutionized southern agriculture. From his small laboratory on the campus of Tuskegee Institute flowed hundreds of discoveries and products from the once neglected peanut. From the peanut Dr. Carver discovered meal, instant and dry coffee, bleach, tan remover, wood filler, metal polish, paper, ink, shaving cream, rubbing oil, linoleum, synthetic rubber, and plastics. From the soybean he obtained flour, breakfast food, and milk.

It is highly doubtful if any other person has done as much for southern agriculture as Dr. Carver. Dr. Carver died in 1943 and was buried next to Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute. On July 17, 1960 the George Washington Carver National Monument was dedicated at Dr. Carver's birth site. This was the first U.S. federal monument dedicated to an African American.

Frederick Douglass 1817 - 1895 Journalist, Activist, Ambassador

When Frederick A. Douglass was born in 1817 on a Maryland plantation, his given name was Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey. Frederick Douglass constantly fought against his slave condition and was constantly in trouble with the overseer. When he escaped on September 3, 1838, and he settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, he changed his name to Frederick A. Douglass.

In 1845, against the advice of his friends, Douglass decided to write an account of his life, fully aware of the possibility that this would mark him as the Bailey runaway slave. The autobiography was called The Narrative Of The Life And Times of Frederick Douglass. Besides writing his autobiography, in 1845 Douglass founded and edited the North Star newspaper.

When the Civil War broke out, Frederick Douglass urged President Lincoln to free and arm the slaves. He was also a great spokesman for universal suffrage, women's rights, and world peace. In 1848 Douglass participated in the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. In 1872 he ran for vice president on the Equal Rights Party ticket. In 1889 he was appointed minister to Haiti. He died on February 20, 1895.

W.E.B. DuBois 1868 - 1963 Author, Educator, Intellectual

No single title does credit to the prodigious talents of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. Born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, he has been labeled an educator, author, historian, sociologist, philosopher, poet, leader, and radical.

In 1903 his famous book Souls Of Black Folks was published. Perhaps his greatest fame came from his debate with Booker T. Washington over the type of education needed by African Americans. Washington stressed vocational education, whereas DuBois insisted on training in the liberal arts and in the humanities. He was one of the founders of the NAACP and editor of its famous journal The Crisis. He was also the first Black to receive a doctoral degree from Harvard University.

In 1919 he initiated the Pan African Conferences in Paris. On behalf of the NAACP at the United Nations, he tried to get a firm anti-colonial commitment from the United States in 1945 and in 1947 presented a protest against the Jim Crow laws. His theme in his later years was always economic democracy and the channelling of Black power through a unified Black society. He died on October 27, 1963 in Accra, Ghana where he had established his new home.

Marcus Garvey 1887 - 1940 Leader and Philosopher

Among Black leaders Marcus Garvey was unique. Born August 17, 1887 in St. Ann's Bay, Jamaica, Marcus Mosiah Garvey's popularity was universal. His program for the return of African people to their motherland shook the foundations of three empires. All subsequent Black power movements have owed a debt to his example.

In building his Universal Negro Improvement Association he sought "To improve the condition of the race with the view of establishing a nation in Africa where Blacks will be given the opportunity to develop by themselves." In his famous Philosophies and Opinions, Marcus Garvey wrote, "Where is the Black man's government? Where is his president, his country and his ambassadors, his army, his navy, his men of big affairs?"

Founded in 1914, the UNIA grew in just five years to include over six million followers. He built newspapers, schools, churches, a shipping company, printing operations, food and clothing stores.

In 1919, he launched the Black Star Shipping Lines. His program was one of Black self-determination and independence and set the theme for all Black development today. He died in London, England on June 10, 1940.

Fannie Lou Hamer 1917 - 1979 Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

Fannie Lou Hamer was born October 6, 1917 in the Mississippi Delta. Inspired by the fighting spirit of her mother, Fannie Lou Hamer became widely known as the "Spirit" of the Civil Rights movement.

In the early 1960s a Black man or woman could lose their life trying to register to vote in some towns in Mississippi. But even at the risk of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer registered to vote. Because she encouraged others to do so, Fannie Lou Hamer was evicted from the farm where she lived, and her husband was fired.

Although neither her husband nor Fannie Lou could find work, they continued to organize people to register to vote. She helped found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which went to the 1964 Democratic National Convention and challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation. Because of these efforts an integrated delegation was eventually seated in 1968.

Fannie Lou Hamer also organized cooperatives to fight hunger and joblessness. The cooperative movement allowed Blacks to leave the plantations where they were sharecroppers and set up their own farms in a cooperative manner where they profited from the farms together.

Dr. Percy Lavon Julian 1899 - 1975 Scientist, Medical Researcher

Born in 1899 in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Percy Julian was one of the most famous Black scientists. Just as George Washington Carver demonstrated what could be done with the ordinary peanut, Dr. Julian took the soybean, which was until this time just another bean, and extracted from it an ingredient to relieve inflammatory arthritis.

Until the late thirties Europe had a monopoly on the production of sterols, the basis of Dr. Julian's research. These sterols were extracted from the bile of animals at a cost of several hundreds of dollars a gram. Substituting sterols from the oil of soybean, Dr. Julian reduced the cost of sterols to less than twenty cents a gram, thus making cortisone, a sterol derivative, available to the needy at a reasonable cost. In 1954 he founded Julian Laboratory, Inc. with research centers in Chicago, Mexico City and Guatemala, where he successfully developed synthetic cortisone.

Before his death of liver cancer, Dr. Julian found a way to mass produce the drug physostigmine, used to treat glaucoma, and perfected the mass production of sex hormones which led the way to birth control pills. Dr. Julian died in 1975.

Paul Robeson 1898 - 1976 Athlete, Entertainer, Activist

Paul Robeson was one of the most gifted men in the history of the world. He was an athlete, actor, author, attorney, a scholar, and concert singer. Born in Princeton, New Jersey on April 9, 1898, Paul Robeson showed that he was a man of many talents. He gave 296 performances as Othello on Broadway. He was subsequently recognized as an internationally famous singer and performed on concert stages throughout the world.

Robeson spoke and performed in over twenty languages and dialects, and became a spokesman throughout the world against exploitation, injustice, and racism. His attacks on injustice and racism in the United States became a severe international embarrassment to the United States government.

In 1950, Robeson's passport was revoked by the U.S. State Department, and President Truman signed an executive order forbidding Mr. Robeson to leave the United States under penalty of five years in prison and a $500 fine. In 1958 Robeson left the United States for England and did not return until 1963. Throughout his lifetime he fought against all forms of racism and oppression perpetuated on Blacks in the United States. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 23, 1976.

Sojourner Truth 1797 - 1883 Orator, Women's Rights Activist

Born Isabella in 1797 in Ulster County, New York, she ran away from slavery in 1843 and changed her name to Sojourner Truth. At a time when oratory was fine art, Sojourner Truth, through her strong character and acid intelligence, was among the best and most famous anti-slavery speakers of her day. Her deep, bass voice, her fierce intelligence, sense of drama, and the utter sincerity of her speeches quickly spread her fame throughout the North and astounded the unbelieving South. Frequently, efforts were made to silence her. She was beaten and stoned, but nothing could stop her. Her speeches touched the hearts of many and led to the strengthening of the abolitionist movement in the United States.

One of her most famous lines was delivered in response to a man who questioned her womanhood. Recounting the trials and tribulations that the slave woman suffered and speaking as a mother of children, Sojourner Truth asked, "Ain't I a woman!"

In October 1864 she addressed an audience with President Abraham Lincoln at the White House. She died on November 23, 1883 at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Harriet Tubman 1821 - 1913 Soldier, Leader of the "Underground Railroad"

Born in 1821 in Dorchester County, Maryland, one of eleven children, Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery in 1849 and joined the abolitionist movement. She became a conductor of the "underground railroad," and was frequently referred to as "Moses" because she delivered hundreds of slaves out of bondage, as did the "Moses" of ancient times. The underground railroad was neither a railroad nor underground, but a system for helping slaves to escape.

Strong, brave as a lion, cunning as a fox was Harriet Tubman, who made at least nineteen journeys into the deep South and led over three hundred slaves to freedom. Although she could not read or write, Harriet Tubman was one of the leading conductors of the underground railroad.

During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman served both as a nurse and a spy for the Union Army. When she died on March 10, 1913 in Auburn, New York, Harriet Tubman was buried with full military honors.

Granville T. Woods 1856 - 1910 Electrical Inventor

Born on April 23, 1856 in Columbus, Ohio, Granville Woods was the individual most responsible for modernizing the railroad. During his lifetime, Granville T. Woods earned over thirty-five patents ranging from a steam boiler furnace in 1884, an incubator in 1900, to the automatic air-break in 1902. Many of his electrical inventions were sold to the American Bell Telephone Company and the General Electric Company. The Westinghouse Air-break Company eventually obtained his air-break patent.

His most noteworthy device in the area of electric railway travel was his induction telegraph, a system of communication for moving trains. Because of the many accidents and collisions which were occurring on the railways, Granville T. Woods invented his synchronous multiple railway telegraph for the purpose of averting accidents by keeping each train informed of the whereabouts of the one immediately ahead of it or following it, in communicating with stations from moving trains, and in promoting general social and commercial intercourse. The inventions of Granville T. Woods revolutionized the railway industry. He died on January 30, 1910 in Harlem Hospital, New York City.

Carter G. Woodson 1875 - 1950 Founder of Black History Month

Carter Godwin Woodson, the father of "Black History," was born on December 19, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia. Despite the pioneering efforts of many Black writers and scholars, the systematic treatment of Black history was not achieved until 1915 when Carter G. Woodson, an ex-coal miner and school teacher, organized the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Over the years, the still thriving association has published many important volumes in the field of Black history.

In 1916, Dr. Woodson started The Journal of Negro History, a scholarly repository of research which is used by students of history throughout the world. He initiated the observance of Black History Week in 1926. Eleven years later the association began the publication of The Negro History Bulletin, a more popular vehicle for disseminating the findings for scholars and researchers. "Dr. Woodson firmly believed that the achievements of Blacks properly set forth will crown him as a factor in the early human progress and a maker of modern civilization." His life and work are eloquent testimonies to that belief. He died on April 13, 1950.

Ida B. Wells 1862 - 1931 Journalist, Leader of the Anti-Lynching Movement

Born in 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Ida B. Wells in her time was perhaps the most famous Black journalist in the country. She was a correspondent for the Detroit Plain-Dealer, The Christian Index, The Peoples Choice, and had written for the New York Age, the Indianapolis World, and several other newspapers around the country. In 1891 Ida B. Wells became editor of the Memphis Free Speech newspaper.

Her writings were feared because of her special emphasis on the horrors of lynching. She published The Red Record, the first serious statistical treatment of the tragedy of lynching. In 1898 she led a delegation to President William McKinley for support in the fight against the Lynch Law. In her letter she wrote "That nowhere in the civilized world, save in the United States, do men go out in bands of fifty to hunt down, shoot, hang, and burn to death a single individual unarmed and absolutely powerless."

Ida B. Wells organized many civic and self-help clubs in Chicago. She was one of the six African Americans who signed the initial call for the great national conference out of which grew the NAACP in 1909.

Phillis Wheatley 1753 - 1784 World Famous Poet

Born in 1753 in Senegal, West Africa but sold into slavery at eight years old, Phillis Wheatley became the most famous female poet of the eighteenth century. At age thirteen years old and while still in slavery, Phillis Wheatley's poems were being circulated throughout England. In 1770 her first poem was published in London entitled Poems On Various Subjects Religious and Moral. In 1772, she was freed by her master, Mrs. S. Wheatley, and went to England. On both sides of the Atlantic her poems won widespread admiration.

In 1776, she wrote a poem entitled "To His Excellencey General Washington." After he read it, George Washington invited her to visit him at Cambridge. The abolitionists pointed to her skill as a poet as proof that Blacks were not inferior and should be freed. She died on December 5, 1784 in Boston, Massachusetts.
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Title Annotation:African World History
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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