Black History You Didn't Learn in School

Inspired by JayJewels93's Twitter hashtag, we've compiled some black history you may not have learned in school.We all know about the famous African Americans, like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks, who changed history. Here are some other influential people who may not have been in your textbooks.

1. Bayard Rustin – He organized the 1963 March on Washington and brought nonviolent methods to the civil rights movement. However, he was passed over for leadership positions in the movement because of his open homosexuality. To learn more about Bayard Rustin, watch BROTHER OUTSIDER, a documentary about his activism.

2. Phillis Wheatley – Born in West Africa in 1753, Wheatley was sold into slavery at the age of 7. The family was interested in her education, so the slave owner’s daughter taught Wheatley how to read and write. She was soon studying Latin and Greek as well. Her first poem, “On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield” was published in both America and London, making her the first published African American author.

3. Henrietta Lacks – Lacks had cervical cancer and went to Johns Hopkins hospital to receive treatment. While she was undergoing radiation, her doctors took some cell samples from her body without her consent. These cells, called HeLa cells, revolutionized medicine by allowing scientists to study the life cycle of abnormal cells. HeLa cells were even used by Jonas Salk to create the polio vaccine.

4. Madame C.J. Walker – Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madame C.J. Walker, was the first female self-made millionaire. In 1905, Walker started her own line of hair care products specifically for African Americans. She built her business by travelling around the country and promoting her products. She also donated the most money by an African American to construct the Indianapolis YMCA. At the time of her death, she was the owner of a business worth more than $1,000,000. 

5. Hattie McDaniel – McDaniel played Mammy in the iconic movie, Gone with the Wind. She began her performing career early and was the first African American woman to sing on US radio. She went on to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy, becoming the first African American to receive an Academy Award. Sadly, all of the African American actors in the movie, including McDaniel, were prohibited from attending the premiere in Georgia.

Shruti Kansara is a sophomore at Bryant University majoring in international business with a double concentration in applied analytics and computer information systems and a double minor in French and international affairs. In her spare time, she volunteers with Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and serves as a local titleholder for the Miss Rhode Island America organization.

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