February 27, 2021 4 min read
Cicely Tyson (1924-2021)
Cicely Tyson was an African American model and actress was most noted for her vivid portrayal of strong African American women. Because she was only committed to representing positive images of Black woman, Tyson initially did not have steady work in film and television. This led to being discovered by Ebony magazine, in which she quickly rose to the top of the modeling world. Tyson is given credit for inspiring Black women to embrace their culture and beauty. Cicely Tyson was a phenomenal actress with a career that spanned over seventy years. Her notable credits included such films as Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,and a supporting role in the Rootsminiseries. She was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1977. Tyson also was also named a Kennedy Center honoree in 2015 and awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. In 2018, she received an honorary Academy Award.
Maya Angelou was an African American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry. She is also credited with a list of plays, movies, and televisions shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,tells of her amazing life up to age 17 which brought her international recognition and acclaim. She served on two presidential committees and was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.
Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)
Coretta Scott King was an African American author, activist, and civil rights leader. Although best known for working along side her husband, Martin Luther King Jr, Coretta established a distinguished career in activism in her own right. Among many roles, she worked as a public mediator and as a liaison to peace and justice organizations. When Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, Coretta King was thrust into the national spotlight. Just four days after the death of her husband, Mrs. King led a march of 50,000 people through the streets of Memphis. She calmed local and national racial tensions by illustrating dignity and courage during his public funeral in Atlanta. She would later lead the charge for a national holiday for her husband which was signed by President Ronald Reagan.
Shirley Chisolm (1924-2005)
Shirley Chisolm became the first African American congresswoman in 1968. In Congress, she was known for being a strong liberal who opposed weapons development, the war in Vietnam, and favored full employment proposals. In 1972, she became the first Black candidate to seek nomination for the President of the United States. She was also the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential domination. After withdrawing from the race, she continued to serve in politics. In 1977, Mrs. Chisolm was elected as Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus. In 1983, she retired her seat in Congress. She would later be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Rosa Parks (1913-2005)
Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her bravery and defiance sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Its success launched nationwide efforts to end racial segregation. Mrs. Parks received many accolades during her lifetime including the Martin Luther King Jr Award by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. In 1999, she was named one of the most influential people of the 20th century by TIME Magazine.
Harriet Tubman (1822-1913)
Harriet Tubman was an African American abolitionist, political activist, nurse, and advocate of the women’s suffrage movement. She was also a Union spy during the American Civil War. She was born into slavery but was able to escape with the assistance of friends. At age 30, Ms. Tubman ran away to the north to Philadelphia. Here she learned about the movement to abolish slavery. With this mindset, she created the Underground Railroad, which was series of paths that led slaves north to free territories. With the help of guides, Ms. Tubman led slaves to safehouses until they reached Canada. After the Emancipation Proclamation, she became the commander of a team in charge of espionage. This led to the creation of lifelines and escape routes for trapped slaves. Harriet Tubman was known as Moses, after the Biblical figure who led his people out of Egypt, just as she led her people out of slavery from the south. She continued to fight for the rights of African Americans until her death at the age of 93.
Oprah Winfrey (1954- )
Oprah Winfrey is an African American talk show host, actress, television producer, author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show which was the highest rated television show in history. The show ran from 1986 to 2011. Dubbed the “Queen of All Media” she came one of the first Black multi-billionaire of her time. She has also been ranked the greatest Black philanthropist in American history.
Michelle Obama (1964- )
Michelle Obama is an African American attorney, university administrator, and author. She was also First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. She is married to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. As first lady, Mrs. Obama served as a role model of women, and worked as an advocate for children and public services.
Kamala Harris (1964- )
Kamala Harris is American politician and attorney. She is the 49th and current Vice President of the United States. She has served as a United States Senator from California from 2017 until 2021. Before she took the position of senator, Harris was the State Attorney General. Harris became the first Black and first Indian American to be elected Vice President of the United States.