Black History Month honors the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history. Among prominent figures are George Washington Carver, who derived nearly 300 products from the peanut; Rosa Parks, who sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and galvanized the civil rights movement; Kamala Harris, who is the first African American/Asian American woman elected to be the Vice President of the United States; and Indiana’s own, Madam C.J. Walker, who was the first U.S. woman to become a self-made millionaire.
Here’s a sampling of the strong and heroic African Americans that have shaped our nation:
- While Rosa Parks is credited with helping to spark the Civil Rights movement when she refused to give up her public bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955–inspiring the Montgomery Bus Boycott—the lesser-known Claudette Colvin was arrested nine months prior for not giving up her bus seat to white passengers.
- Thurgood Marshall was the first African American ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and served on the court from 1967 to 1991.
- George Washington Carver developed 300 derivative products from peanuts among them cheese, milk, coffee, flour, ink, dyes, plastics, wood stains, soap, linoleum, medicinal oils and cosmetics.
- Madam C.J. Walker was born on a cotton plantation in Louisiana and grew her wealth after inventing a line of African American hair care products. She established Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories of Indianapolis and was also known for her philanthropy and dedication to the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
- Amanda Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. She was named the first National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.
- Jackie Robinson became the first African American to play Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. He led the league in stolen bases that season and was named Rookie of the Year.
- Barack Obama became the first Black president of the United States in 2008.
- On January 20, 2021, Kamala Harris became the first woman of African and Asian descent to become vice president. Harris’s mother immigrated to the United States from India and her father immigrated from Jamaica.
La Porte County Public Library is proud to offer a variety of materials honoring African Americans who have given so much of themselves to better our nation and world.
Looking for more?
The US Census Bureau’s Facts for Features series offers invaluable facts based on the surveys they’ve collected on the African American population.