Many Americans are aware of the historic contributions African-Americans like Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and, of course, Barack Obama have made towards bettering the United States. But these aren't the only African-Americans who have helped the United States in one way or another or that have made a difference so that our future can be more brighter. So many people have contributed greatly to the ongoing struggle for justice and equality and yet have remained woefully under-appreciated. Many I can say I had never heard of but I am glad & proud that I do now. Here are a couple that stands out

Irene Morgan: Returning to Baltimore on a Greyhound bus after visiting her mother in Virginia, Irene Morgan, a young mother of two, refused to yield her seat to white patrons when the bus got crowded in the summer of 1944. Although Morgan paid the $100 fine for resisting arrest, she refused to pay the $10 for “violating” the Virginia law requiring segregated seating on buses. That act of defiance attracted the attention of the NAACP, with Thurgood Marshall serving as a lead attorney. Appealing the case all the way to the Supreme Court, the state ruling in Morgan v. Virginia was overturned. The Supreme Court ruled segregation in interstate travel illegal in 1947, setting an important precedent in dismantling Jim Crow.

William Still: The New York Times acknowledged William Still as the “Father of the Underground Railroad” in his 1902 obituary. Later in life, the former slave became a wealthy man, leaving between $750,000 and $1 million upon his death. Working tirelessly on the Underground Railroad, it’s estimated that Still helped as many as 60 slaves a month escape to freedom. His most enduring legacy remains the meticulous records he kept about Underground Railroad activity and, most importantly, the fugitive slaves themselves that are found within his 1872 book, “The Underground Railroad.”
**********Can you imagine being a millionaire in 1902? WOW**********

Annie Turnbo Malone: Her most famous employee, Madam C.J. Walker, has overshadowed her legacy but Annie Turnbo Malone, born in Metropolis, Illinois in 1869, was a millionaire by the 1920s. Developing hair care products that were sold door to door, Malone’s business really boomed when she relocated to St. Louis in 1902. Naming her products Poro, which she copyrighted, Malone trained agents to sell Poro products nationally as well as built her own factory and beauty training school known as Poro College before relocating to Chicago. Distinguished also for her philanthropy, Malone donated large sums of money to black colleges and students as well as organizations assisting needy children and families.

Benjamin “Pap” Singleton: Following the Civil War, former fugitive slave Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, who actively helped other runaways, returned to his native Tennessee intent on helping other black people. White Tennesseans’ refusal to sell the land at fair prices prompted Singleton, along with partner Columbus Johnson, to stake out land in Kansas for black people. Part of the Black Exodus or the Exoduster Movement of 1879, Singleton, known as the “Father of the Exodus,” personally facilitated the relocation of hundreds of black Tennesseans to the Midwest. At least 50,000 African Americans left the South for the Midwest from 1879 to 1881 in response to the federal government pulling the plug on Reconstruction.


  • We can use Malone's life and legacy as a template for how we should address unemployment problems. She created an industry in spite of the barriers she faced and we can do the same today. Malone was so much larger than her beauty products or Children's home. She gave her service to better the lives of her people through her generosity and philanthropy and provided opportunities that otherwise would have not happened. The Annie Malone Historical Society is quickly building up a coalition to get Malone's name in our history books. She deserves the recognition and credit that has been given to Walker. Malone is the ORIGINAL FOUNDER of the black hair industry and the first black millionaire. Please share her life and legacy; go to the website www.anniemalonehistoricalsociety.org and like us on Facebook.

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