As Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday approaches, January 15, I thought about the time my oldest son, Kobi, came home from middle school upset because of a few stories told in class during Black History Month. I had him sit down and tell me what he had learned. Kobi proceeded to tell me about one of the stories where a boy was killed because he dated a white girl. The part that bothered him was the details of the death. Kobi’s innocent eyes saw pictures of this beaten boy to the point of disfiguration. Now, I understand it’s important to review history, but it’s pertinent to consider the impact some information may have on children. Kobi, being half black, took the brutal death personally and was scared to be African-American. I never want my son to be scared because of the color of his skin. I would have preferred for Kobi to learn about the many inspirational African-American leaders who had qualities to change the world.
There are many inspirational African-American leaders who have changed the world. This post gives five facts about five inspirational African-American leaders.
George Washington Carver– Born 1864
- Accepted to college, but the school turned him away because of his skin color after he arrived on campus
- Attended college later and was the only African-American student. He said, “No man has enough learning.” In college, he studied techniques that helped plants grow stronger and healthier. Became recognized as a promising botanist.
- Became the first black graduate of a white college and its first black teacher.
- Known as the “Peanut Man.” He created dozens of new things from it- peanut milk, peanut flour, even peanut-skin cream.
- Received his Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Simpson College
The quality we can learn from George Washington Carver is persistence. He was rejected from college because of the color of his skin, but he didn’t let this stop him. He persisted, and therefore, greatly impacted the world.
Benjamin Banneker– Born 1731
- A mathematician and astronomer
- Had to borrow books. He did not own any of his own until his late 20’s. The first book he bought was the Bible.
- Figured out how to predict an eclipse of the sun
- Wrote almanacs about the sun and the moon
- Invented America’s first clock
The quality we can learn from Benjamin Banneker is hard work. He worked on his father’s farm and taught himself at night about the moon and the sun.
Barack Obama– Born 1961
- The 44th President of the United States
- The first African-American United States President
- A civil rights lawyer
- Wrote Dreams from My Father
- The first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review
Barack Obama has taught us all that you can be anything you dream to be if you have the courage to pursue it.
Oprah Winfrey– Born 1954
- Winfrey quote, “For me there is no real power without spiritual power. A power that comes from the core of who you are and reflects all that you were meant to be.”
- Became the first African-American TV news anchor reporter with WTVF-TV
- Had one of the most influential television shows of all time for over 20 years: The Oprah Winfrey Show
- Created the Oprah Magazine
- Created the most influential book club: Oprah’s Book Club
Oprah Winfrey has taught us the power of influence. She is probably the most influential woman in the world.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.”
- Received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Morehouse College
- Received his doctorate in Systematic Theology from Boston University
- Fought for freedom through nonviolence. He received the Nobel Peace Prize and declared “every penny” would be used in the ongoing civil rights struggle.
- Named “Man of the Year” by Time Magazine
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has taught us about the need to serve. He lived his life serving in any capacity that would better the lives for all African-Americans.
In summary, in a world with plenty of hate, it’s imperative to instill the light of persistence, hard work, dreaming big, influence, and service in not only African-American children but in all of our children. These are the qualities that have been demonstrated by five inspirational African-American Leaders. Let us focus on these qualities as we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday soon. ❤️
Davis, D. (2011) The Oprah Winfrey Show: Reflections on an American legacy. Abrams, New York: Harpo.
Krensky, S. (2009). DK Biography: Barack Obama. New York: DK Children.
Krensky, S. (2008). A man for all seasons: The life of George Washington Carver. New York, NY: Amistad.
Welch, C. (2008). Benjamin Banneker. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner Publications.