In 2023, let's dig deeper and discover notable individuals making history today.
Black History Month is a time we celebrate and teach students about the contributions of African Americans throughout history. For many of us, this means celebrating iconic figures like Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. These individuals and their actions have become synonymous with the Civil Rights Movement and the fight for equality in America.
However, as we take time to reflect on the past, we must also consider the present and the future. While Parks and Tubman are important figures in Black history, many other notable individuals have made significant contributions in their own right.
Black History month in 2023 is a wonderful opportunity to show students the contributions of a diverse group of African Americans, past and present. Let’s highlight women who broke the status quo, LGBTQ+ advocates, and movements that continue the work begun by civil rights champions of the past.
Here are some noteworthy figures worth teaching.
The traditional Black women celebrated this month include Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Ida B. Wells, and Ruby Bridges. They should be celebrated for their work in civil rights. There is, however, a legacy of phenomenal Black women across all areas of culture that are notable in their own right, breaking cultural barriers and excelling within a new culture of excellence. Here are ten names to recognize:
Madam C.J. Walker, businesswoman & pioneer in women’s hair & beauty
Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Godmother of Rock & Roll
Althea Gibson, first African-American tennis player to win a Grand Slam
Maya Angelou, world-renowned poet and role model
Misty Copeland, the first principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre
Patricia Harris, first Black female American ambassador & first appointed to the Cabinet
Emma Azalea Smith Hackley, renaissance women of the late 19th-early 20th century
Billie Holiday, influential jazz singer who worked with an all-white orchestra
Vernice Armour, the first Black female combat pilot
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, respected journalist & TV personality
An area widely ignored in typical history classes, modern curriculums can use Black History month to shine a light on these incredible advocates for the LGBTQ+ community. From performers to playwrights, activists to politicians, Black individuals can be now recognized in our history for the gains they are making. Here are a few to learn more about:
Alvin Ailey, choreographer & champion for dance in underserved communities
Gladys Bentley, entertainer during the Harlem Renaissance
Stormé DeLarverie, circus performer & advocate for women
Lorraine Hansberry, activist & playwright best known for “A Raisin in the Sun”
Barbara Jordan, civil rights leader, attorney, & first African-American on Texas Senate
Lori Lightfoot, prosecutor & first Black female mayor elected in Chicago
Alice Walker, poet, novelist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Color Purple”
Phill Wilson, American HIV/AIDS advocate & advisor to President Obama
Black Girls Code empowers young women to learn the art of computer programming through school programs and workshops.
Common Ground Foundation founded by the rapper Common serves children through the arts and community service through mentorship.
#1000BlackGirlBooks, founded in 2015 by award-winning activist Marley Dias to collect 1,000 books featuring girls of color for libraries, launched a literacy movement.
SONG (Southerners on New Ground) includes thousands of rural, immigrant, working-class LGBTQ+ advocates working towards justice for all members, especially on political ground.
Celebrate more than just traditional Black History Month this year by focusing on changemakers in our society, both past and present. These individuals and organizations actively make a difference by creating their own history their way for a modern world.