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4 African-American Leaders Who Changed Society

Black History Month is upon us and thanks to many courageous African-Americans, society has quelled many problems associated with racism. This month celebrates those who dedicated their lives to make the world a better place today. They fought for freedoms and worked hard to try to eliminate racism.

Here are four extremely influential, and sometimes lesser-discussed, African-American leaders who we should remember this month:

Malcolm X

A Civil Rights activist and Muslim minister, Malcolm X was one of the most influential African-American leaders of the 20th century.

Born Malcolm Little, on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska, Malcolm X’s childhood was marked by racist attacks against his family. Shortly before his 21st birthday, he was arrested and convicted of larceny.

In prison, he  discovered and embraced the Nation of Islam, a religious and social movement that promotes Black self-reliance and pride, and supports the separation of the races. He started using X in place of his last name to represent his African heritage, stolen by white culture.

During the 1950s, he became a leader of the Nation of Islam and helped build a unified front of Black and Muslim communities that confronted social injustice. But in 1964, conflicts among leaders of the Nation of Islam led Malcolm X to cut ties with the movement.

During a pilgrimage to Mecca, Malcolm X discovered a spirit of brotherhood among Muslims that transcended race. Back in the United States, he began to share that message but was cut short when assassins gunned him down on February 16, 1965.

Frederick Douglass

Black History Month Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery and became an admired orator and a compelling voice in the Abolitionist Movement.

As a young man growing up in Baltimore during the 1830s, Douglas took advantage of every opportunity to teach himself to read. He saw education as the key to freedom. As he grew older, he risked being beaten in order to teach other slaves how to read.

Douglass escaped in 1838 and fled to New England where he joined the Abolitionist Movement. He traveled throughout the Northeast and delivered brilliant lectures about the horror of slavery. His commitment to speaking out put him in continual danger, and he was repeatedly attacked.

In 1845 Douglass published, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave,” an autobiographical account of slavery. The book inspired the Abolitionist Movement and is considered a classic piece of American literature.

Daisy Bates

Daisy Bates, a Little Rock, Arkansas, journalist played a key role in desegregating public schools. Bates and her husband published a small newspaper that tracked violations of the Supreme Court’s ruling that outlawed segregated schools.

In 1957, Bates mentored nine African-American teens who attempted to enroll in an all-white high school. The National Guard was called in, and crowds of angry white parents threatened violence, but Bates and the students stood their ground.

Bates was arrested and later exonerated. Her reports led President Dwight Eisenhower to send troops into Little Rock to enforce desegregation.

Asa Philip Randolph

Asa Philip Randolph brought the power of organized labor to African-American workers. A native of  Crescent City, Florida, Randolph moved to New York City to pursue a career in theater but found a more important role in the early 20th century American Labor Movement.

In 1917, Randolph  launched a union for African-American elevator operators in New York City. He also organized a union to represent an all-Black group of Pullman train car porters despite angry opposition from the Pullman company.

In 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt refused to take action against the discriminatory practices of the defense industry. Randolph called for 10,000 Black citizens to march on Washington. Days before the march, Roosevelt ordered an end to workplace discrimination.

Randoph was elected vice president of the AFL-CIO  in 1955 and helped create and alliance between organized labor and the Black community. In 1963, he organized the March on Washington, the largest civil rights protest ever held in the United States.

Guest writer Drew C. works as a blog writer at If you have any questions about car insurance, be sure to visit his website. When he isn’t working, Drew enjoys coaching his son’s soccer team, biking, and spending time with his family.


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