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5 Black History Icons You Didn’t Learn About in School

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Black history is more than just Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and Frederick Douglass. These five activists not only fought for social and civil justice, but also created some of the most important things we use today. They challenged social norms during a time when conforming to society’s constraints was the only “acceptable” way of living. Here is your quick run-down of five Black history icons that you didn’t learn about in school.


1. Claudette Colvin

While Rosa Parks was a very famous activist that fought for social and civil justice during an era of bus segregation, Claudette Colvin was arrested nine months prior to Parks at just 15-years-old when she refused to give up her seat to a White person on a bus in Alabama. However, her teenage pregnancy made the local NAACP hesitant to allow her to lead the movement.


2. Martin Delany

After being admitted to Harvard Medical School in 1850 and then being dismissed after only three weeks due to outcry from an extremely racist student body, Delany founded the first all-Black unit in American military history. He is the reason that the United States Colored Troops was founded and went on to enlist 179,000 Black troops.


3. Fred Hampton

As an honorary member of the Black Panthers in Chicago, Fred Hampton made it his goal to make sure that everyone could eat. Hampton was the hero who brought about the women, infants and children food assistance program that we know today as WIC, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. He also worked hard to achieve free breakfast programs for underprivileged children.


4. Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls became a politician after he was freed from slavery in 1862. He then went on to author some of the very first legislation that would mandate free compulsory education for all American children. After the Civil War ended, Smalls purchased his former slave master’s house and became a business owner.


5. Pauli Murray

Like Claudette Colvin, Pauli Murray refused to give up her seat on the bus long before Rosa Parks, but was never acknowledged for it. Murray was also the first person within the Civil Rights movement to openly voice the issue of sexism that they saw within it. Pauli Murray also challenged social norms which were much more prevalent during their time by identifying as a straight man.


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Erica Dabney is a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University. Some of her favorite activities include discovering new music, tearing down the patriarchy and dining out at black-owned restaurants in Richmond. She plans to graduate with her bachelors in journalism in 2019.
Keziah is a writer for Her Campus. She is majoring in Fashion Design with a minor in Fashion Merchandising. HCXO!