Join us in celebrating Black History Month. Learn more about influential African American historical figures below.
Medgar Wiley Evers
Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an American civil rights activist in Mississippi, the state's field secretary for the NAACP, and a World War II veteran who had served in the United States Army. He worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, end the segregation of public facilities, and expand opportunities for African Americans, which included the enforcement of voting rights.
Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives. She was elected in 1968 and represented the state of New York. She broke ground again four years later in 1972 when she was the first major party African American candidate and the first female candidate for president of the United States.
John Mercer Langston
John Mercer Langston was the first Black man to become a lawyer when he passed the bar in Ohio in 1854. When he was elected to the post of Town Clerk for Brownhelm, Ohio, in 1855 Langston became one of the first African Americans ever elected to public office in America. John Mercer Langston was also the great-uncle of Langston Hughes, famed poet of the Harlem Renaissance.
Robert Smalls (1839-1915). Civil War experts might know the name of Robert Smalls, but the average American doesn’t. Smalls was a slave on a Confederate transport ship when he led an uprising that freed the people being held onboard. They would subsequently sail north to freedom. This mutiny helped lead Abraham Lincoln to reconsider the use of African Americans as soldiers in the Civil War, something many were opposed to. Smalls would later go on to serve in the United States Congress.
Hiram Rhodes Revels
Hiram Rhodes Revels was the first African American ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He represented the state of Mississippi from February 1870 to March 1871.
Lewis Latimer (1848-1928). You know that Thomas Edison created one of the first light bulbs to work. But did you know that originally his bulbs would only last a few days? This was definitely not long enough to be practical. Enter Lewis Latimer, the son of escaped slaves and an inventor in his own right, who created a filament that extended the life of the bulb. This made the light bulb cheaper and more efficient, making it possible for them to be used on the streets and in the average person’s home.