Rosa Parks Mrs. Rosa Parks, born on February 4, 1913, has been called the "mother of the civil rights movement" and one of the most important citizens of the 20th century. On December 1, 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat near the front of a Montgomery, Alabama city bus to a white passenger. The bus driver had her arrested for violating the law. By "sitting down" for what she believed in, and refusing to give up her bus seat, Mrs. Parks made history. The following night, fifty leaders of the Negro community (among them was the young minister, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) met to discuss the issue. The leaders organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott that would continue until the bus segregation laws were changed. The citywide boycott of the bus system by blacks, in which they refused to use the bus for transportation, lasted for 382 days.
Zora Neale Hurston Born in the small all-black town of Eatonville, Florida, Zora Neale Hurston was to become, for 30 years, the most prolific African American female author in the United States. Despite this, Hurston and her work drifted into obscurity until her rediscovery in the 1970s. Much of this neglect can be attributed to the controversy that always seemed to surround this independent and free-spirited woman. Protected from racial prejudice as a child and inspired by her mother, Hurston grew into an outspoken, eccentric, and racially proud woman, one who chose to write about the positive side of black Americans. After moving to Washington, D.C., she attended Howard University and first published her writing in 1921. Hurston moved to New York City in 1925 and became one of the members of the Harlem Renaissance. After attending Barnard College on a scholarship and completing her undergraduate work in 1927, she returned to Florida to collect black folklore and was awarded a Julius Rosenward Fellowship in 1934 for her collection of folklore. During the 1930s, her novels Jonah's Gourd Vine and Their Eyes Were Watching God were published. Her career produced seven books and more than fifty shorter works from autobiography to folklore to music and mythology. After World War II, her fortunes declined until her death in 1960, a penniless inmate at the Saint Lucie County Welfare Home. Although she was believed married three times, she died alone, and her grave remained unmarked until novelist
Booker T. Washington Born into slavery, Booker T. Washington was the most prominent spokesperson for African Americans after the death of Frederick Douglass. Much more conciliatory than Douglass, Washington sought--but never demanded--social betterment for African Americans through economic progress. As a boy, he picked Washington as his last name. After emancipation his mother and stepfather moved to West Virginia, where Washington worked in the coal mines but attended school whenever possible. In 1871, Washington returned to Virginia and enrolled in the Hampton Institute. After graduation in 1875, he first taught in West Virginia and then studied at the Wayland Seminary before returning to teach at Hampton. In 1881 he left Hampton to begin the single most important undertaking of his life: founding the Tuskegee Normal School in Alabama. Washington, his small staff, and their students worked as carpenters to build Tuskegee. In its first year of operation Tuskegee had 37 students and a faculty of three; when Washington died in 1915, Tuskegee had 1,500 students, a faculty of 180, and an endowment of $2,000,000. African Americans have criticized Washington for what they saw as his overly-deferential attitude to his white benefactors and for his position that university education was basically irrelevant for blacks, who should concentrate on vocational training. This, along with his acceptance of segregation, increasingly led W.E.B. Du Bois and other leaders to speak out against Washington. In October 1915 Washington collapsed while delivering a speech in New York City and was hospitalized. He asked to be returned home to die and was taken back to Tuskegee, where he died the next day at home on his beloved campus.
Malcolm X One of the most controversial figures in the civil rights movement, Malcolm X's career was cut short by an assassin. Born Malcolm Little, his minister father died when he was 6. After a childhood spent in institutions and foster homes, Malcolm headed east, settling in Boston and supporting himself with odd jobs and pimping. In 1943 he moved to New York where he began to lead an increasingly marginal life. After receiving a 10-year sentence for burglary in 1946, he was transformed in prison, becoming a follower of Elijah Muhammad's Nation of Islam movement. Paroled in 1952, he was ordained as a minister, taking the name Malcolm X. His militant stance and depiction of whites as "blue-eyed devils" won him considerable press coverage and a good deal of suspicion from the white community; in many ways he seemed the antithesis of Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached non-violence. In 1963 he formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity, and in 1964 he made a pilgrimage to Mecca and converted to orthodox Islam. At the time of his death, Malcolm X seemed to be moderating his hostile view of whites. Nonetheless, he spoke in the months before his death of his fear that he might be assassinated by opponents in the Nation of Islam or by the U.S. government. His assassin was apparantly a member of a dissident black group, though mystery still remains about the event.
Martin Luther King, Jr. The most influential leader in modern civil rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta, Georgia. His father was a Baptist minister, providing a strong religious tradition for King. He attended the Atlanta public schools and was graduated with his A.B. from Morehouse College in 1948 when he was 19 years old. He went on to Crozer Theological Seminary and graduated in 1951 at the top of his class, going from there to Boston University for his Ph.D. There he met and married Coretta Scott in 1953. By then an ordained minister, King took the pastorate of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and quickly became involved in the civil rights movement. He soon found himself in the forefront of a boycott of Montgomery's segregated buses, which led to a Supreme Court decision in 1956 against Alabama's segregation laws. Following this triumph King was made president of the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference, committing his life to nonviolent activism and bringing the civil rights movement to the forefront of American public life. Between 1960 and 1965, King continued to lead numerous demonstrations and protests on behalf of civil rights, leading the 1963 March on Washington where he delivered his most quoted speech, "I have a dream...." In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed on April 3, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee; he was there to support striking sanitation workers. His death devastated the nation.
John Lewis – Civil Rights John Lewis was born February 21, 1940 outside Troy, Alabama. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Philosophy from Fisk University. He was also a graduate from the American Baptist Theological Seminar in Nashville, TN. From young, John had a strong commitment to the civil rights movement. As a student, he organized many sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters. In 1961, John volunteered to participate in the Freedom Riders. They were organized to challenge segregation at interstate bus terminals across the south. John was severely beaten by mobs and risked his life by participation in the Rides. From 1963-1966, he was the chairman of SNCC. Though young, John was a recognized leader of the civil rights movement. By 1963, he was recognized as one of the "Big Six" leaders on the civil rights movement. In 1977, John was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency. In 1980, he left ACTION and became Community Affairs Director of the National Consumer Co-op Bank in- Atlanta. John Lewiss first electoral success came in 1981 when he was elected to the Atlanta City Council. While serving on the Atlanta City Council, he was an advocate for ethics in government and neighborhood preservation. He resigned from the Council in 1986 to run for Congress. Elected to Congress in November 1986, John represents Georgias Fifth Congressional District. The Congressional District encompasses the entire city of Atlanta, Georgia and parts of Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties. In 1996, John was unopposed in his bid for a sixth term.
Jane Matilda Bolin – 1 st Black Woman Judge Jane Matilda Bolin was born April 11, 1908 in Poughkeepsie, New York. In 1931, she received her LL.B from Yale University School of Law. She worked with her father who was also lawyer until passing the New York bar exam and then moving to New Your City to practice law with her husband. In 1937, she was appointed assistant corporation council for New York council. At the age of 31, she was chosen as the first African-American judge in the United States. She presided over the Domestic Relations Court of New York City, which is now called the Family Court of the State of New York. Jane was forced to step down, upon reaching the age of mandatory retirement, however, she continued to stretch out a hand to her community. She became a volunteer reading teach for the New York City Public Schools for a few years.
Clara Hale Mother to Many Clara Hale was a mother to over 500 children of diverse ethnic backgrounds for 25yrs. In 1940, she realized that she could become a foster mother and began taking in children from the Harlem community. Many children were victims of drug abuse. In the beginning stages, she had 22 babies of heroin-addicted women in her five-room apartment. She began to establish a home for infants addicted before birth. It was the first and only known program in the US that was designed to deal with infants born addicted to drugs. In 1975, the Hale House became the Center for the Promotion of Human Potential, which was a licensed voluntary childcare agency; at that time, it was the only black voluntary agency in the country. Clara has left her loving imprint in the hearts and lives of many. In 1993, Clara "Mother" Hale dies. Though this was a tragic loss, Lorraine Hale carried on her mission.
Juneteenth African-American Emancipation Day On June 19, 1865, the Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Tex., to inform inhabitants of the Civil War's end two months earlier. Two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Granger's General Order Number 3 finally freed the last 250,000 slaves whose bondage, due to the minimal Union presence in the region, had been essentially unaffected by Lincoln's efforts. June 19th-which was quickly shortened to "Juneteenth" among celebrants-has become the African- American addendum to our national Independence Day, for, as Juneteenth jubilees remind us, the Emancipation Proclamation did not bring about emancipation, and the prevailing portrayal of Independence Day ignores the ignominious incidence of slavery entirely.
Juneteenth Today The state of Texas made Juneteenth an official holiday on Jan. 1, 1980, and became the first to grant it government recognition. Several states have since issued proclamations recognizing the holiday, but the Lone Star State remains alone in granting it full state holiday status, a day when government employees have the day off. Nonetheless, supporters and celebrants of Juneteenth continue to grow in number and in diversity; today, Juneteenth is promoted not only as a commemoration of African-American freedom, but as an example and encouragement of self-development and respect for all cultures.