This month, we are putting the spotlight on some hidden heroes of Black History. One of the best ways that we can empower Black people is continuing to share their accomplishments, achievements, trials and tribulations, victories, and their contributions to what we experience in our society daily.
Here are 6 Black History Heroes to learn about with your kids:
Before there was RBG, there was this boundary-breaking African American hero. Jane Bolin was the first black woman to be appointed judge in America. Not only that, she was also the first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School as well as being the first black woman to gain admission to the New York City Bar. And all of this before the year 1940! During her time as a judge, she did extremely important work fighting racial discriminations in the legal system. Because of her, publicly funded child care agencies legally cannot discriminate based on race or ethnicity.
This Black History month, we salute Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the very first Black general in the American military. During the Spanish War, he served as first lieutenant at an all-Black unit. Benjamin was so influential in his role that he later went on to become the special assistant to the Secretary of the Army. He was so lauded and revered as a hero to this country, that his 1948 retirement ceremony was overseen by none other than President Harry Truman.
Claudette Colvin is the teenage hero your kids need to look up to this Black History month. Everyone knows the story of Rosa Parks, but nine months before that bold moment, 15-year-old Claudette stayed seated first. On March 2, 1955, Claudette was taking the bus home in Alabama when she was asked to give up her seat and she refused. She was later arrested (and was only in high school!), but her role as main witness in the federal lawsuit Browder v. Gayle helped to end segregation on public transportation in Alabama.
Bayard Rustin is both a Black History hero AND an LGBTQ hero. He was just a child when he began protesting for change, as he stood alongside the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to ban segregation. Although he was involved in countless boycotts, protests, and initiatives, his most famous event that he organized was the iconic March on Washington, August 1963. You may remember Dr. Martin Luther King as the face of the event, as Bayard was asked to stay out of the public eye due to fear of his at-the-time illegal lifestyle as a gay man being exposed. Today we honor him not just behind-the-scenes, but loud and proud for his crucial work in the Black Civil Rights movement.
A true hero for the little ones, Ruby was just six years old when she was enrolled as the first black student in a white elementary school in 1960 Louisiana. And though she be but small, she sure is mighty! Her 6 year old self walked right by adult protesters who angrily threw racial slurs and crude words at her daily - and yet, her school attendance record was perfect. Look around at the diversity in your classroom - that’s because of Ruby Bridges.
It wasn’t that long ago - 1977 - that American news had never seen a Black anchor. That all changed in 1978 when Max Robinson became the first Black person to anchor the nightly network news. It was a long way from where he had come in 1959, where a Portsmouth, Virginia news station hired him to read the news, but was not allowed to show his face. Upon hearing this, he protested, leading him to be immediately fired. After successfully being named one of three co-anchors on World News Tonight, he helped to found the National Association of Black Journalists, which continues to advocate on behalf of Black journalists.
Want to delve further? Ask your child who interested them most in this article, and start a discussion on why. It’s a great gateway conversation to discussing race in our country with even the youngest ones. And remember, we don’t just celebrate these heroes in February - it’s year-round!
It takes a village!
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