Black History Month

Underrated Black Historical Figures

By: Sophia Eastman

Who are some famous, impactful African American people you’ve heard of? I know some of the people you’re thinking of: Martin Luther King Jr. , Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, etc… all great people! But there are so many African Americans who have influenced America that you haven’t even heard of! After doing some research, I found 5 important black people who deserve to be known. What better way to celebrate Black History Month than educate yourself on underrated black historical figures?

Dr. Mae Jemison M.D.

Mae Jemison is my personal favorite on this list. THIS WOMAN. In 1981, she officially became a doctor. She continued doing dance lessons and choreographing into medical school. She became the first African-American woman in space on September 12th, 1992. In 1993, she appeared on an episode of Star Trek. Right now, at the age of 61, she is a college professor. She has 9 DOCTORATES. So basically, she is/has been a doctor, dancer, actress, astronaut, and a professor.

2. Major Martin Delaney

Martin Delaney (1812 - 1885) was raised in Pittsburgh. He was one of the first three black people to attend Harvard Medical School. During the cholera epidemics of 1833 and 1854 in Pittsburgh, he remained in the city and treated patients when most doctors fled the city in fear of catching the disease. During the Civil War, he recruited black people for the Union, and was promoted to a major.

3. Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831 - 1895) became the first black woman doctor in America in 1864. She began to practice medicine focusing on poor women and children in Boston. She worked for Freedman’s Bureau to help heal freed slaves. Lee Crumpler wrote one of the first medicinal books by an African - American, called A Book of Medicinal Discourses.

4. Shirley Chisholm

Shirley Chisholm (1924 - 2005) was the first black woman to be elected to Congress. She planned on becoming a teacher, but running a day-care got her interested in politics. After being elected in 1968, she played a crucial role in the creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which is a federal program aimed towards providing food for low-income women with children five or under, and low-income pregnant women. That’s a long sentence. In 1971, she was nominated for president, becoming the first black major-party presidential candidate (she was Democratic). Towards the end of her life, she was nominated as the U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica, but could not continue the nomination due to poor health. Her gravestone reads her presidential slogan “Unbought and Unbossed”.

5. W.E.B. Du Bois

Du Bois (1868 - 1963) was the co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which remains a prominent civil rights group today. He wrote many books that greatly influenced the racism of his time, including The Souls of Black Folk and The Crisis. He played a crucial role in permitting black people to fight in World War One. Du Bois was the first black person to receive a Ph. D from Harvard. He died one day before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech.

Mae Jemison


Martin Delaney

Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Shirley Chisholm

W.E.B. Du Bois