People who went against the odds

Opinion

By The Connection Staff

Black History Month is an important time of year to remember the hardships African Americans faced in the fight for equality. Some fought hard and loud while others were silently and more passively proving themselves in their work and in the world.

The reason that Black History Month began was to educate people about the contributions of African-Americans to history, to enlighten Americans by showing the value and richness African-Americans bring to our culture. Here are some of the many who rose up into history.

Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005)
Rosa Parks changed the world by simply showing civil disobedience by refusing to remove herself from her seat in the front of a public bus during racial segregation in 1955. Parks’s defiance to obey racist laws started the Montgomery bus boycott, which later became a symbol during the Civil Rights Movement.

Parks also served as secretary of the NAACP’s Montgomery chapter at the same time. Soon after the Montgomery bus boycott, she moved to Detroit and served as a secretary for former congressman John Conyers from 1965 to 1988. Today, we celebrate Rosa Parks’s public service and her courage on her birthday, Feb. 4.

Billie Holiday (1915 – 1959)
Billie Holiday is considered to have been one of the most important jazz vocalists of the 20th century. Her difficult life of poverty, abusive relationships and drug abuse helped give her voice its deep, raw emotion that is now legendary. Born Eleanora Fagan April 7, 1915, Holiday made her debut with the Benny Goodman Band in November 1933 at the age of 18.

Beginning in 1937, Holiday worked with Count Basie and by 1938 with Artie Shaw, becoming the first black woman singer to tour with a mostly white band. On April 20, 1939, Holiday recorded her most controversial song, “Strange Fruit,” which was an unabashed protest of Southern lynching. It became her second biggest-selling record after “God Bless the Child,” which sold millions.

She became one of the first African-American women to perform at venues such as a sold-out Carnegie Hall. Holiday was able to transform misery into song, creating extraordinarily powerful recordings. Holiday’s art continues to inspire other iconic musicians well into the 21st century.

Katherine Johnson (1918 – Present)
Katherine Johnson faced adversity because of her gender and race in NASA. She is the notable main character in “Hidden Figures.”

She asserted herself and showed great perseverance in her career during a time when eyes were on NASA to beat the cosmonauts. Johnson was a computer/ mathematician that went on to check many computations for John Glenn’s orbit, the moon landings and win many awards for her contributions.

In 2015, she was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work by President Obama. She is an underrepresented figure that helped send America to the moon and, soon, beyond.

Jackie Robinson (1919 – 1972)
Despite being one of the greatest baseball players ever, Robinson’s most important accomplishment was breaking the color barrier in baseball.

Robinson, in 1947, became the first African-American to play baseball professionally. People like Robinson started progress, and without them who knows where we would be.

Montford Point Marines (1942 – Present)
When the first African-Americans were allowed to enlist into the Marine Corps in 1942, they were not sent to the traditional boot camp locations, but were instead segregated and sent to Montford Point, a small installation base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Over the course of World War II, nearly 20,000 African American recruits received training at Montford Point. The initial intent to discharge them after the war was overturned in July 1948 by President Harry S. Truman.

The next year, Montford Marine Camp was deactivated, thus ending seven years of segregation. Since then, African Americans have been an integral part of not only the Marine Corps, but the U.S. military and nation at large.

Montford Point Marines strive to preserve the legacy of the original African Americans of Montford Point, as well as promote social betterment and enlightenment of their communities. Montford Point Marines accept veterans from any military branch and racial background proving that acceptance and inclusion will always triumph over segregation.

Barack Obama (1961 – Present)
Barack Obama became the 44th President of the U.S. and the first African-American President in American history.

Before this, he was a civil rights attorney for some time while also teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. He was a state senator of Illinois from 1997 to 2004 and a junior US senator from 2004 until his win in 2008.

His primary win in the presidential race was unexpected, especially with him only being a U.S. senator for a few years beforehand.

He overcame many boundaries to get to the presidency, and he won the 2009 Nobel Peace prize for his diplomacy and cooperation. President Obama set a standard that anyone can truly do anything.