5 Highly Influential Black Americans Who Changed the World before Their Death.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Too often we get caught up in our daily lives, going to work, watching TV, or going out with friends, and we forget that the world we live in now was made for us. We are experiencing the effects of people who have sacrificed everything, and maybe even their lives, to make a difference in the world. Veterans, political figures, founders of important organizations, you name it. People have fought in huge and even seemingly small ways to make a change that would bring about a better world.

But, in today’s world, we often forget about the past. If those who have made a huge difference in our world have died and are no longer with us, it’s easy to forget. It is wise though to remember their sacrifice and the influence they have had on our life whether they are dead or alive in our years of living. Because without them, things could have been a lot worse.

Take a look at the most influential black Americans and remember:

Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

With a name as iconic as this, who can forget her? Rosa Parks was born in Alabama and is most well-known for what she did on a bus one afternoon. Parks had the world listening to her song, when in 1955, she refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. Like the “shot heard ‘round the world”, Parks is considered as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement and the driving force that began it all.

She was arrested on December 1st, 1955 for this “crime” due to the city’s segregation laws at the time. On December 5, she had a whole group behind her, boycotting the bus system organized by none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. The black population made up a majority of those who rode the buses. And, in the next year, a Supreme Court law was passed that segregation on the bus was unconstitutional. And, so the fight began.

Without Rosa Parks, the Civil Rights movement may not have begun. She was the face of this movement, and she instigated the change in race relations in the US.  She made her voice heard and inspired the cry of millions. Not many have the honor to be remembered so. She died in Michigan in 2005 at the ripe old age of 92.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

This is a perfect following to the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement. He could very well be called the father of it. Without her, would it have given him the power and inspiration to do what he did and follow a dream? King was a minister in Georgia, a job which he took over after his father. He grew up in a middle-class, well-educated, and religious family.

He had an experience working for a summer in the North, and he could see the racial interaction differences between the North and the South. Even though he came from a stable background, he was still subjected to the consequences of prejudice in his home town.

He took inspiration from Gandhi, and he organized many famous and influential peaceful protests in the South including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington in 1963. There he gave his well-known “I Have a Dream” speech in which he discusses the dream of a non-segregated society. He won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Sadly, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968 while giving a speech by a man named James Earl Ray. His room, room 306, is still preserved as it was the morning of his death, and the hotel has been taken over by the National Civil Rights Museum. Because of his efforts and the efforts of others including but not limited to Malcom X, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended Jim Crow Laws.

Would America have been the same without Mr. King? Would it have gone down a darker path of destruction into further segregation and racism? King changed the world and led his people to victory.

Harriet Tubman (1820-1913)

Let’s go back a bit in time to where black Americans were struggling yet again for their rights and freedoms, but this time, they were starting from scratch. Harriet Tubman, another mother of a movement, was born a slave before the Civil War, and she was able to eventually escape from slavery in 1849. But, she was brave enough and felt called to return to her people to liberate hundreds of people from bondage.

She made repeated journeys back down south to rescue more, and she was dedicated to this cause. In order to bring slaves up North, Tubman used the Underground Railroad, and intricate set of paths and homes to hide in. Abolitionists believing in the cause were the conductors, and Tubman was the Moses, rescuing slaves from the tyranny and imprisonment of their masters. But, her influence didn’t stop there.

Once the Civil War began, Tubman worked as a spy for the Union side, and even after the war she kept busy. She was so dedicated to helping people regain dignity and purpose. She helped former slaves adjust to their new life as free men and women. Perhaps slavery wouldn’t have been outlawed if not for Tubman? Did she help spread the abolitionist fire in people’s hearts and minds? I know that hundreds if not thousands are grateful to her for her contribution to this world.

Tubman had incurred head injuries during her life as a slave that plagued her until her death. She died in 1913 at a rest home.

Soujourner Truth (1797-1883)

Now, let’s stay in the same time period and discuss another powerhouse of influence, Sojourner Truth. Her real name was Isabella Baumfree, and she was born a slave. But, like Tubman, Truth was able to escape with her life from the bondage of slavery. And, she became a part of the abolitionist cause fighting for the freedom of black Americans. But, she was also involved in other causes, especially the fight for women’s rights.

One of her most famous contributions was a speech she made at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851 entitled Ain’t I a Woman? It was recorded and published in a newspaper after the convention. It was made on the spot, and it was a passionate, emotional speech appealing to the humanity of the audience.

She was also the first black woman to fight against a white man in court. She was fighting against the illegal sale of her son. She was a symbol for freedom, strength, dignity, and pride for both men and women. She died at home in 1883.

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

One would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Frederick Douglass, the famous orator, author, and abolitionist. He escaped from slavery and married the woman who assisted him in his escape, Anna Murray. While he was a slave, Douglass was taught his alphabet and eventually learned to read. Realizing the power this knowledge could give, he began to teach other slaves around him how to read on a weekly basis, but it caused him and others personal danger.

After he escaped from slavery, he created a newspaper entitled The North Star. He also wrote the book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in 1845, which became a best seller. In it, he shared the tragic and violent experience he had as a slave. Once he gained his freedom, Douglass had a relationship with William Lloyd Garrison, editor of The Liberator, and he became a regular speaker at anti-slavery meetings. His booming voice became well-known, and he fought for the cause of abolition.

And not only was he working for the cause of abolition, but he was a proponent of the cause of women’s rights. He spoke in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848 at the Women’s Rights Convention, believing that how can he fight for one group’s freedoms if he thought another group should be continued to be held in bondage.

He even discussed issues with the President during the Civil War and actually ran as Vice President in 1872! HIs influence is long stretching and long-remembered, and he did so much to change the world before his death. Douglass died in 1895 of a heart attack.

There are so many more influential black Americans to be mentioned: Phyllis Wheatley, Malcom X, Coretta Scott King, and more: people who fought for freedom, civil rights, and a peaceful future. We hope their story will never be forgotten, and our gratitude is endless, for what would the world have been like without them? Their influence stretches far and wide. The world is entirely changed because of their efforts. Just imagine it: without these figures, there might not have been the Civil Rights Movement, women gaining the right to vote, or even the end of slavery! They were brave enough to make their voices and their stories heard. They were selfless enough to sacrifice their time, energy, and eventually lives to the causes they so loved.

Staff Writer; George Harris