African Hereos: Here Are 10 Black Historical Figures Who Changed The World

African Hereos: Here Are 10 Black Historical Figures Who Changed The World

By Spy Uganda 

Martin Luther King, Kwame Nkrumah, Harriet Tubman, and Malcolm X, among other Black extraordinary leaders and individuals, have positively altered the course of Black history; paving the way for resilient generations who continue to carry the glowing torch of Black empowerment. These generational heroes are tenaciously making remarkable impacts across the globe today.

People of African descent have endured challenging times and have often had to risk their lives and their voices to change the injustice they experienced.

Reflecting on the bravery and generational impact of these Black figures, here are 10 historical Black figures who made unprecedented impacts on the world.

Toussaint Louverture (1743 – 1803)

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Toussaint Loverture was the leader of the slave uprising in Haiti. He spearheaded the successful military uprising in Saint-Domingue in 1791, and over the following years, consolidated his power and influence by re-establishing the plantation system with wage labor.

Millions of people of African descent, both free and enslaved, were motivated to seek freedom and equality throughout the Atlantic world by Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution. The only Atlantic slave society to overthrow its oppressors was led by Toussaint and other black Saint-Domingue leaders.

The colony was able to abolish slavery thanks to Louverture, and the country proclaimed its independence as the Republic of Haiti in 1804.

Sojourner Truth (1797 -1883)

Sojourner Truth (Isabella Baumfree) was an African-American abolitionist and proponent of women’s rights. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but managed to escape and reach freedom in 1826, along with her young daughter.

She was fervently religious and believed that God had called her to speak on slavery and other modern issues across America.

She gave a well-known extemporaneous speech entitled “Ain’t I a woman?” at a Women’s Rights Convention in Ohio, in 1851 in support of equal rights for women and blacks.

Frederick Douglas (1818 – 1895)

Fedrick Douglass, a former slave, rose to prominence as a leading figure of the Black movement and one of the most well-known black leaders of the nineteenth century.

He gave a speech to abolitionists who were gathering in Massachusetts at the time to discuss ending the practice of enslaving people. He described to them his time spent as a slave, and was such a gifted public speaker that he began touring the northern states; attempting to persuade large gatherings of people to stop the practice.

His anti-slavery speeches and autobiography, which detail his life as a slave, had a great impact on public opinion.

Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915)

Booker T. Washington overcame numerous obstacles that prevented him from pursuing an education despite being born into slavery. There were no schools nearby after his family was granted freedom by the Emancipation Proclamation.

However, he didn’t let that deter him. The former slave traveled across Virginia by foot and train for 500 miles without any money and a map at the age of 16 in order to attend school. He later founded Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he served as the school’s first principal and teacher because he was motivated to share knowledge with others.

Washington also served as a consultant to US Presidents Taft and Roosevelt. He was frequently regarded as the de facto leader of African-Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He argued for a gradual approach to enhancing Black Americans’ access to education and opportunities in life.

Ida B. Wells (1862- 1931)

Less than a year to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, which freed slaves, Ida B. Wells was born into slavery in Mississippi.

Wells was a trailblazing newspaper editor and journalist who made use of her position to look into the South’s lynching customs. She spent months traveling the South, conducting interviews with locals and looking into records of previous assaults. Although she was attacked for her publications, she moved to another state and continued to write about Black discrimination.

She was also a fearless advocate for women’s suffrage and civil rights, and a 1909 NAACP founding member.

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid in South Africa for the majority of his life.

Following the Rivonia Trial, he was detained and sentenced to life in prison for plotting to overthrow the government in 1962. Between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison, and Victor Verster Prison, Mandela spent 27 years in prison.

He later became the first elected president of South Africa after apartheid. Mandela was also admired for his capacity for forgiveness and willingness to engage with South Africa’s white community. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to end racial segregation in South Africa.

Haile Selassie (1930 – 1974)

Haile Selassie I (Lij Tafari Makonnen) ruled Ethiopia as its emperor. He was renowned for modernizing Ethiopia, for his exile (1936–41), and for being deposed in 1974.

In 1931, he established the Bank of Ethiopia and promoted the development of newspapers.

However, during this time, tensions with Italy, which had been occupying Eritrea since the 1890s, grew. Benito Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, gained confidence as a result, and decided to invade Ethiopia completely. The Italians pushed forward with an enormous amount of resources and a heavy reliance on chemical weapons.

Emperor Haile Selassie was exiled by May 2, 1936, and appeared before the League of Nations in Geneva in June to demand international action. He eventually succeeded in preventing Ethiopia from being colonized; the East African nation proudly stands as the only African country that was never colonized.

Haile Selassie I placed a lot of importance on education; among other things, he established the Ministry of Education, teacher training institutions, secondary education, and a long-term education planning committee.

He also contributed to the creation of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) in 1963.

Wangari Muta Maathai (1940 – 2011) 

Wangari Muta Maathai was political and environmental activist from Kenya.

In order to encourage environmental preservation in Kenya and Africa, she established the Green Belt Movement in 1977 in an effort to reduce poverty, end conflict, and plant trees throughout Kenya. She was motivated by a belief that there was a link between poverty and conflict, as well as environmental degradation.

She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.”

Emmett Till (1941 – 1955)

Emmet “Bobo” Louis Till was tortured and killed at age 14 by Roy Bryant and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, after the former’s wife, Carolyn Bryant – white store clerk, accused him of taunting her.

The body of Emmett attracted a large crowd after his mother, Mamie Till, decided to leave his casket open to show the world the injustice that had been done to her son.

His death sparked an unquenching uproar in the US, especially within the African American community, causing Black leaders and the youth to confront the threat of violence in the Jim Crow South. Speaking and making impact beyond the grave, Emmett’s death catalyzed the civil rights movement.

It also motivated the “Emmett Till Generation” movement’s founders and inspired Rosa Parks. He was also named in many of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Speeches.

Barack Obama (1961- Present)

The first African American president, Barack Obama, served as the 44th president of the United States. He completed two terms and achieved a number of notable feats.

Obama implemented health care reforms, stressing that Americans should remain united despite political disagreements. He also worked to strengthen the economy during the 2009 global financial crisis.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 for his efforts to enhance international relations and signed the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, to name a few of his accomplishments.

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