Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

5 Black People Who Changed the World (That You Might Not Know About) 

It’s February, and all though many people associate it with Valentines Day, it’s also Black History Month! During the month of February, we get to celebrate all the movers and shakers of black history.Tradionally, we talk about all the well known history makers like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman and others. 

Below are 5 black history makers who you may not know about! 

  1. Bessie Coleman  

“The air is the only place free from prejudices. 

She was the first Black/Native American woman to get her pilot’s license. Coleman was rejected by American aviation schools because of her skin and gender. So, she packed up and went to France where she got her international pilot’s license in 1921. Upon her return to the United States, Coleman became known for her amazing stunts and was dubbed “Queen Bess.”   

  1. James Baldwin  

“The history of America is the history of the Negro in America. And it’s not a pretty picture.” 

Grandson of a slave, James Baldwin was an American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic. As a gay black man in America during the Civil Rights Movement, his experience is expressed in his writing. A lot of his life was spent abroad because he wanted to escape all the racism and homophobia in the U.S. Yet, his works always reflected the experiences of a black man in white America. Last year, a documentary on his life was released called “I Am Not Your Negro.” 

  1. Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige  

“Money and women. They’re two of the strongest things in the world. The things you do for a woman you wouldn’t do for anything else. Same for money.” 

He was known as perhaps the best pitcher in baseball history. Because of his skin, he was denied entry into Major League Baseball, so he began his career in the Negro Leagues in 1926. He was the first Black pitcher in the American League, and the first representative of the Negro Leagues to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Joe DiMaggio once called Paige “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.” 

  1. Ida B. Wells 

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” 

The daughter of slaves, Ida B. Wells was an African American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist and an early leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Wells fearlessly led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s. She later went on to become an important resource for other groups looking for African American justice.  

A lot of us know about Susan B Anthony, 19th century suffragette, BUT she really only fought for the voting rights of white women. Anthony firmly stood against the 15th amendment which originally granted free black men the right to vote. She once said, “I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman.” 

  1. “Baby” Esther Jones 


She was a Harlem jazz singer who performed regularly at the Cotton Club as “Baby Esther.” She is undeniably the inspiration for famous cartoon beauty Betty Boop. It was originally believed that popular white actress and singer Helen Kane was the muse for this wide eyed beauty, so much so that Helen Kane sued the Paramount for exploiting her persona and taking her most famous phrase “Boopoop-a-doop.” 

During the trial, it is revealed that Kane and Baby Esther performed together and that is where she got the iconic phrase. By the time all this came to light, Esther Jones had passed and gained nothing from the revelation. So does that make Betty Boop black? No, but without “Baby” Esther Jones she would not be as iconic.


Black history is so rich and so important to the history of America. This month is more than just the big names, record holders or famous firsts. It’s also about those that with their contributions have made life a lot easier. As a black history month bonus, below is a quick list of things black people invented/improved upon that you may not have even known about!!

  • Gas Mask – Garrett Morgan (1912)
  • Traffic Light – Garrett Morgan (1923) 
  • Super Soaker – Lonnie G. Johnson (1991)
  • Blood Bank – Charles Richard Drew M.D.
  • Over 300 uses for peanuts – George Washington Carver
  • Potato Chips – George Crum
  • Ice Cream Scoop – Alfred A. Cralle
  • First surgeon to SUCCESSFULLY perform open heart surgery – Daniel H. Williams
  • Air Conditioning Unit – Frederick M. Jones (1949)
  • Clothes Dryer – G.T. Sampson (1862)
  • Door Knob – O. Dorsey (1878)
  • Fire Extinguisher – T. Marshall (1872)
  • Lawn Mower – L. A. Burr (1889)
  • Refrigertor – J. Standard (1891)
19 Bi-racial, bi-lingual WPUNJ Junior Double Major in Financial Planning and Pop Music
Similar Reads👯‍♀️