Here are 5 outstanding African Americans who made contributions during the 20th century to change our world. These 5 black history people usually rise to the top in the spotlight during black history month.
1) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. is the father of the modern civil rights movement. He was born Michael Luther King, January 15, 1929, in Atlanta Georgia.
Dr. King earned his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955 (a Doctorate in Theology).
He married Coretta Scott King in 1953. The young 26 year-old Martin organized the Montgomery bus boycott with the Reverend Ralph David Abernathy and the NAACP in 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat to whites.
King became the first leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. By 1961, he was supporting freedom rides to integrate Southern lunch counters and rest rooms.
His famous "I Have a Dream Speech" was delivered on the Washington D.C. mall in 1963. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated in 1968 as he was preparing to lead a labor protest march on behalf of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee.
2) Rosa Parks
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1956 that segregation on common carrier buses was illegal. The decision was reached primarily because of the Montgomery bus boycott that lasted one year.
Rosa Parks, an African American seamstress, refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger (December 1, 1955). Arrested for her act, Parks eventually found justice in the courts.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton presented her with the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor for a U.S. civilian.
3) Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall, (1908-1993), was born in Baltimore, Maryland. "Mr. Civil Rights," changed history in 1954 when he successfully argued Brown vs. the Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Brown case outlawed segregation in schools.
Marshall was educated at Lincoln University and Howard Law School. He began practicing law in 1933, became assistant special counsel for the NAACP in 1936, then chief counsel in 1938.
He was the first director/chief counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (1940-1961).
In 1961, President John Kennedy appointed him Second Circuit United States Court of Appeals judge. By 1965 he was appointed solicitor general in the Department of Justice.
Marshall was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 becoming the first African American on the court.
Thurgood Marshall is considered the most prominent civil rights lawyer of the 20th Century.
4) Jackie Robinson
U.S. Army Lieutenant and former UCLA football great Jackie Robinson (1919-1972), entered major league baseball in 1945 by signing a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers’ farm team, the Montreal Royals.
Robinson, the first ever black player at the start of the 1947 season, was one of three African Americans on the roster of a major league baseball franchise by the end of 1947 (joined by Larry Doby of the Cleveland Indians, and Henry Thompson of the St. Louis Browns).
5) Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, won an Olympic gold medal in Rome as a light heavy weight in 1960.
He defeated Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the heavy weight championship for the first time. Ali won the crown again in 1974 by beating George Foreman.
"The Greatest" became the first in boxing history to win the heavy-weight title three times when he took out Leon Spinks in 1978.
Ali refused to be drafted into the U.S. Army (he was a conscientious objector on religious and moral grounds). He was stripped of his first title in 1967.