Dr. Ida Gray 1867-1953 Dr. Ralph Bunche 1904-1971



Dr. Ida Gray 1867-1953 Dr. Ralph Bunche 1904-1971
Dr. Ralph Bunche
Bunche was born in Detroit, the
grandson of a slave. He graduated in
1927 from UCLA, summa cum laude
and received his master's from
Harvard University. In 1950, Dr.
Bunche achieved what no other
diplomat had been able to
accomplish: successfully end the
first Arab-Israeli War. He was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first Black
to receive this prestigious honor. His efforts also earned
him the NAACP Spingarn award and the Medal of
Freedom from President John F. Kennedy.
Dr. Ida Gray
Dr. Ida Gray Nelson became the first Black woman
in American History to earn a Doctor of Dental
School degree. She graduated from University of
Michigan Dental School in 1890 and established a
successful private practice. She became very active
in several women's organizations, and was often
singled out as a symbol of what Black women could
Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson was the first Black
heavyweight boxing champion of the
world. He is considered by some
experts as the best heavyweight of all
time. In his life, he had fought 113
bouts in the ring; his last fight was in
1945 at the age of 67. Johnson was
elected to boxing's Hall of Fame in
Madame C.J. Walker
Madame C.J. Walker (born Sarah Breedlove) was
America's first Black millionaire businesswoman. She
attended night school to educate herself and began
working on her experiments. After many failed
attempts, she hit upon the right combination of oils
that revolutionized the hair care industry and changed
the looks of Black women. In 1905, she patented the
straightening comb. Together, these two items could make a woman's
hair shiny and smooth. The Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing
Company was extremely successful, and Madame Walker was an
exceedingly kind and generous benefactress of the Black community.
Dr. Charles Richard Drew
Dr. Charles Richard Drew was a world
renowned surgeon, medical scientist,
educator and authority on the preservation of
blood. He was the pioneer of blood plasma
donation, leaving mankind with an
important legacy - the blood bank.
During WWII, he became the first Director of
the American Red Cross Blood Bank. During
the 1940's, Dr. Drew was recognized as one
of the world's leading physicians. In 1941, he
resigned from his position after a
directive went out stating that blood from
White donors should not be mixed with blood
from Black donors. He said "there is absolutely no scientific basis to
indicate any difference in human blood from race to race." Every blood
bank in the world is a tribute to the genius of Dr. Drew.
"My commitments have always
been to justice for all people,
regardless of race, creed or color"
Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
When Thurgood Marshall was appointed
and confirmed as a Supreme Court
Justice, another page in history was
turned, as the first Black became elevated
to the highest court in the land. This
appointment came after a long and
illustrious career as a champion of civil
rights. He argued cases that had legal
reverberations nationwide: Smith vs.
Allwright (1944) established voting rights
for Blacks; Morgan vs. Virginia (1948)
outlawed the segregation of interstate
buses; and Brown vs. the Board of
Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954)
removed the legal basis for segregation in
public schools. In 1967, President Johnson appointed him to the
Supreme Court, where he worked on behalf of the economically,
politically and legally deprived.
Garrett A. Morgan
Garrett Morgan is best known as
the inventor of the traffic signal and
of a gas mask used by firemen and
soldiers during WWI. Morgan left
school at the age of 14 and began
working on his inventions. The gas
mask was developed in response
to the need for functional safety
equipment by firefighters in the
early 1900's. In 1916, a tunnel
under Lake Erie collapsed, and
many men died. Morgan and his
brothers, wearing the gas masks,
courageously volunteered to go down and save the
people who were trapped. For this heroic feat, he
earned honor and recognition all over the country. In
1923, he patented the automatic traffic signal, which
became the forerunner of the traffic lights we use each
day. Through his creative mind and astute business
skills, the world is a safer and more orderly place to live.
"The color of the skin is in no way
connected with strength of the
mind or intellectual powers."
Benjamin Banneker
Benjamin Banneker
Benjamin Banneker was a
self-taught mathematician,
outstanding astronomer, author of
almanacs, surveyor, humanitarian
and inventor. In 1753, he built
the first wooden clock ever made
in the United States; and in 1792
he published an almanac that was
the first scientific book written
by a Black American. He was a
surveyor on the team that helped
design Washington, DC. He was appointed by President
George Washington, making him the first Black presidential
appointee in the United States. In a 12 page letter to
Thomas Jefferson, he refuted the statement "Blacks are
inferior to Whites", and Jefferson changed his opinion.
Banneker was living proof of his statement "the color of
the skin is in no way connected with the strength of the
mind or intellectual powers."
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune has
left her mark indelibly printed on
the walls of time as an
outstanding educator, a giant of
race relations, advisor to US
presidents, and the first Black
woman in the United States to
establish a school that became a
four-year accredited college. She
sought education in every way
possible. Mary Jane did not
attend school until she turned
11, since there were no schools
open near her home. She received a scholarship
which enabled her to go on to higher education. After
graduation, she started a small school outside the city
dump. Through numerous difficulities and many years,
the school grew into Bethune College. By 1923, it had
merged with Cookman Institute and had a student body
of 600, full faculty and an $800,000 campus. She was
appointed by Presidents Hoover, FD Roosevelt, and Truman to positions in the government.
"One had better die fighting
against injustice than die like a
dog or a rat in a trap."
Ida B. Wells Barnett
Ida B. Wells Barnett
Ida B. Wells Barnett was the cofounder of the
NAACP, an anti-lynch crusader and a most
courageous Black woman journalist. She was
born to slave parents and orphaned at the age
of 14. However, she managed to put herself
through school, including Fisk University. She
began to write for Free Speech, a Black
newspaper. Under a pen name, Ida wrote a
shocking, detailed expose on the activities of
the lynch mobs. That night, her office and every
copy of Free Speech was destroyed. She moved to New York to
continue her crusade, and often traveled to Europe to publicise the facts
about lynchings. Ida wrote a statistical journal "A Red Record" about the
lynchings in the US; and fought an important case in front of the State
House of Illinois and won.
"Every man and woman is born into the
world to do something unique and
something distinctive and if he or she does
not do it, it will never be done."
Benjamin E. Mays
Benjamin E. Mays
Benjamin Mays was a man of exceptional
qualities: a minister, a scholar, and
recipient of 43 honorary degrees. He was
an authority on Black religion, and taught
his militant views to Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. and many other civil rights leaders. He is
best known as the president of Morehouse
College, where he served in this position
for 27 years. Much of his philosophy was
expressed in this 1945 radio address:
“It will not be sufficient for Morehouse
College, or any college for that matter, to produce clever graduates,
men fluent in speech and able to argue their way through but honest
men, men who can be trusted in public and private life - men who are
sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society
and who are willing to accept responsibility for correcting the ills.”
Mordecai W. Johnson
Rarely has anyone, Black or White, provided more
evidence of a productive life than Dr. Mordecai
Johnson. In 1926, he was named the first Black
president of Howard University. At this time it was only
a group of unaccredited departments; but by the time
he resigned 34 years later, Howard was a fully accredited
University with 10 schools and colleges, including a Law
College, College of Dentistry, and a Medical School that
produced about half of the Black doctors in the country. Johnson was
awarded many honorary degrees, including the NAACP's Spingarn
Medal. A tribute to Johnson states "in the face of criticism and pressure
and at great personal sacrifice, you have at Howard University
maintained academic freedom - the very life blood of a university in a
"The air is the only place free
from prejudices"
Bessie Coleman
Bessie Coleman
In 1922, Bessie Coleman
became the first Black
woman pilot. After WWI,
Bessie made a firm decision
to learn to fly, but due to
prejudice of both her race and
sex, she could not get
accepted to any flight schools
in the US. With money she
had earned as a manicurist
and in a restaurant, she
headed to France, where she
studied under the best
European flyers. When she
returned to the US, her goal was to open her own flight
school, thinking "what use is an achievement if it
cannot be shared?" Unfortunately, while flying an
exhibition show to raise money for her school, Bessie
suffered a fatal accident. As a tribute to her courage and
perseverance, it is said that every year on Memorial Day,
pilots fly over her grave and drop flowers in her honor.
John Sweat Rock
John Sweat Rock was a Civil War
abolitionist who is remembered in part for
coining the phrase "Black is Beautiful". He
was a teacher for several years. He was
denied admission to medical school because of
his race, and instead got a degree in
Dentistry. A few years later, he was admitted
to medical school, and began practicing as both a doctor
and a dentist. When his health got bad, he turned to
abolitionist activities, spearheading a "Black is Beautiful"
campaign which spurred him into earning a law degree.
One of the Supreme Court Justices was in support of
slavery, so Rock was not permitted to practice law until
Chief Justice Taney's death in 1864. Rock achieved many
goals in his lifetime through perseverance, but is best
remembered for his great contributions in crusading for
Black rights.
Black Herit
age Month

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