No matter who you are, chances are you know who Martin Luther King, Jr. was, and a little about Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth as well as Rosa Parks, John Lewis and other civil rights heroes as well as the names of black sports heroes and singers and actors and people like that. But here are some facts about lesser-known African Americans that I think you will find very interesting!
1. Cathay Williams (September 1844 – 1893) was an American soldier who enlisted in the United States Army under the pseudonym William Cathay. She was the first African-American woman to enlist, and the only woman documented to serve in the United States Army posing as a man She served for two years before a doctor discovered that she was a woman, leading to her discharge.
2. Condoleezza Rice, like Martin Luther King, Jr., started college when she was just 15 years old. She got her bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Denver and her master’s degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame. MLK, Jr. majored in sociology at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
3. Ida Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931), was a journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, feminist, Georgist, and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement as well as one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of In 1884 she refused to give up her railcar seat for a white man and bit a conductor on the hand when he tried to force her. She was dragged off the train. She sued the railroad and initially won, but the decision was overturned.
4. In 1848, a slave husband-and-wife team William and Ellen Craft ingeniously escaped to the North and eventually to England, when she dressed as a white man and he posed as one of her slaves.
5. Henry “Box” Brown (c. 1816 – June 15, 1897) escaped to freedom in 1845 at the age of 33 by arranging to have himself mailed in a wooden crate in 1849 to abolitionists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
6. Matthew Robinson, the older brother of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, was a star athlete in his own right. He won a silver medal in the 200-yard dash in the 1936 Olympics — coming in second to Jesse Owens
7. Civil rights activist Paul Robeson, a multitalented actor and singer, was considered for a U.S. vice presidential spot on Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party ticket.
8. Tice Davids, a runaway slave from Kentucky, was the inspiration for the first usage of the term “Underground Railroad.” When he swam across the Ohio River to freedom in 1831, his former owner assumed he’d drowned and told the local paper if Davids had escaped, he must have traveled on “an underground railroad.” (Davids actually made it alive and well.)
9. Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress and the first Black major-party presidential candidate, survived three assassination attempts during her 1972 campaign.
10. Barack Obama is a lot of firsts, but he’s also a Grammy award winner. His audio books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, won Best Spoken Word Album in 2008.
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