Black history is full of incredible and inspiring individuals who have made significant contributions to society and culture. While some of these figures are well-known, many others have been overlooked and deserve to be recognized. In celebration of Black History Month, I will spend some time this month looking at Black people who have made contributions that should be celebrated. In this piece, I highlight five lesser-known Black historical figures who have made important contributions and deserve to be remembered.
Robert Purvis (1810-1898) Robert Purvis was an American abolitionist and leader of the Underground Railroad. He was born in Charleston, South Carolina, to a free Black family and was educated in the North. Purvis became an abolitionist after witnessing the treatment of enslaved individuals and was one of the most prominent Black leaders in the anti-slavery movement. He was instrumental in the Underground Railroad, helping hundreds of enslaved individuals escape to freedom. He also helped establish the American Anti-Slavery Society and worked closely with other leaders such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison.
Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) Ida B. Wells was an American journalist, suffragist, and civil rights activist. She was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, and became an advocate for racial justice after experiencing discrimination and violence. Wells was an early leader in the anti-lynching movement and wrote extensively about the horrors of lynching, using her journalism to bring attention to the issue and to fight for justice. She was also a suffragist, advocating for women’s right to vote and equality for women. Wells was a powerful voice in the struggle for racial and gender equality, and her work continues to inspire and influence social justice movements today.
Walter Francis White (1893-1955) Walter Francis White was an American civil rights activist and leader. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to a mixed-race family and was a leader in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for more than two decades. White was a prominent figure in the fight against lynching, using his light skin to investigate and document cases of racial violence. He also led the NAACP’s efforts to challenge segregation and discrimination in the courts and worked closely with other civil rights leaders such as Thurgood Marshall and W.E.B. Du Bois.
James Armistead Lafayette (1748-1830) James Armistead Lafayette was an enslaved individual who worked as a spy for the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He was born in Virginia and was enslaved by William Armistead, who allowed him to join the Continental Army as a spy. Lafayette provided valuable information to General Lafayette and General Washington, helping the American forces to gain a decisive advantage in the war. He later became a free man and lived out the rest of his life as a farmer and respected member of his community.
Martin R. Delany (1812-1885) Martin R. Delany was an American abolitionist, journalist, and physician, and soldier. He was born in Virginia to an enslaved mother and a free father and was one of the first Black Americans to study medicine. Delany was a prominent abolitionist and was involved in the Underground Railroad, helping enslaved individuals escape to freedom. He also wrote extensively about the struggles of Black Americans and was a vocal advocate for their rights and equality. Delany was a visionary and a trailblazer, paving the way for future generations of Black leaders and activists.
These five lesser-known Black historical figures have made important contributions to American history and deserve to be recognized and remembered. Robert Purvis, Ida B. Wells, Walter Francis White, James Armistead Lafayette, and Martin R. Delany all fought against racial oppression and are part of the American tapestry that enriches all of our lives.