Clara Luper Giving Speech Microphones Photo

9 Leaders from Black History You Should Know

Learning about the larger systems and historical events that have played central roles in shaping Black history is vitally important, but it is also valuable to explore the individual lives, ideas, choices, and legacies of key figures in that unfolding story.

Each year during Black History Month, the stories of figures like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks are often elevated—and with good reason. These figures made contributions to Black history and, by extension, American history, that cannot be overstated. But there are so many significant Black historical figures who often don’t get as much air time. Learning about the larger systems and historical events that have played central roles in shaping Black history is vitally important, but it is also valuable to explore the individual lives, ideas, choices, and legacies of key figures in that unfolding story. Knitting these approaches together allows both educators and students to not only gain a deeper grasp of a given history, but also humanize the key actors and the unique worlds they inhabited. 

We invite you to explore a number of key figures from Black history through this series of 9 Facing History profiles:

Daisy Bates | (1914-1999)

Daisy Bates | (1914-1999)

Journalist, civil rights activist, mentor to the Little Rock Nine, and speaker at the March on Washington.

—For more, see “Celebrating Daisy Bates"

Fannie Lou Hamer | (1917-1977)

Fannie Lou Hamer | (1917-1977)

Political activist, celebrated orator, co-founder of the Freedom Democratic Party, and co-organizer of Freedom Summer.

—For more, see “Fannie Lou Hamer: Unsung Woman of the Civil Rights Movement”

bell hooks | (1952-2021)

bell hooks | (1952-2021)

Influential scholar, professor, and public intellectual in domains including race, feminism, and education.

— For more, see “bell hooks Taught Us to Transgress”

Credit:
Cmongirl, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | (1929-1968)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. | (1929-1968)

Civil rights activist, minister, and political dissident.

— For more, see “King’s Life is a Demand”

Audre Lorde | (1934-1992)

Audre Lorde | (1934-1992)

Lesbian writer, activist, and pioneer in intersectional thought.

— For more, see “Exploring Audre Lorde’s Legacies”

Clara Luper | (1923-2011)

Clara Luper | (1923-2011)

Teacher and civil rights activist central to the Oklahoma City Sit-Ins.

— For more, see “Teaching to Transform: Dr. Karlos Hill on Educator-Activist Clara Luper”

Toni Morrison | (1931-2019)

Toni Morrison | (1931-2019)

Acclaimed novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist.
— For more, see “Remembering Toni Morrison”

Bayard Rustin | (1912-1987)

Bayard Rustin | (1912-1987)

Gay civil rights activist, organizer of the March on Washington, and political dissident.

— For more, see “Brother Outsider: Remembering Gay Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin”

Malcolm X | (1925-1965)

Malcolm X | (1925-1965)

Civil rights activist, minister, and political dissident.

— For more, see “Teaching Black History with Malcolm X”

Facing History and Ourselves invites educators to use our Black History Collection.
 

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