Explore some of the most influential Black figures through history
Black History Month is a time to celebrate and bring light to Black culture and Black excellence. Take a look at some of the few influential figures who each have a different story but have contributed to Black excellence by achieveing something great.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in falling, but in rising every time we fall!” - Nelson Mandela
On 19 July 1918, the tiny village of Mvezo welcomed Mr Rolihlahla ‘Nelson’ Mandela, who many people soon saw grow into one of the world’s most memorable figures. He is mostly known for his selfless work to help bring apartheid to an end as well as being a global advocate for human rights. Nelsons political involvement led him to help form the ANCYL – African National Congress Youth League. After being wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years, at the age of 71 Nelson Mandela was released. Soon after in 1994, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected president – achievement the nation has and will never forget as it signified great change for the country. Sadly, Nelson Mandela passed away on the 5 November 2013, at the age of 95 Mr Rolihlahla ‘Nelson’ Mandela’ will be remembered for humility his great work during his lifetime.
At the age of seven is when Rolihlahla became ‘Nelson’. The name was as given to him by a school teacher as the custom was to give all schoolchildren “Christian” names.
Marsha P. Johnson
“I may be crazy but that don’t make me wrong” – Marsha P. Johnson
Born as ‘Malcom Michaels Jr’ in New Jersey on June 27 1944, relocated to New York during the 60s and began her new life as ‘Marsha P. Johnson’. Marsha quickly grew to be one of the city’s most well-known transgender and gay activist. Apart from confidently showcasing her vibrant personality commonly known for saying “you’ve got to have soul”, Marsha was involved in several activist movements and organisations such as Gay Liberation and STAR: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries – an organisation of which Marsha founded herself. Sadly, in 1992 the death of Marsha P. Johnson was announced but is still remembered for being an outspoken advocate for gay rights and all her courageous works.
P in her middle name stands for “Pay It No Mind”.
“Money is a means to wealth, not the wealth itself” - Akala
Kingslee James Daley stage name ‘Akala’, was born on the 1 December 1983 & grew up in the diverse city of London. Younger brother to rapper ‘Ms Dynamite’, Akala has proven his own talents over the years by not only being an award winning mobo hip-hop artist, but also being an English rapper, poet and political activist. Akala has become an admirable figure due to his ability to deliver informative & heart-felt speeches on equality and race.
In 2009, Akala alongside BAFTA founded ‘The hip-hop Shakespeare company’ which is a music theatre production company exploring the works of William Shakespeare and of modern day hip-hop artists.
“Since I don’t look like every other girl, it takes a while to be okay with that. To be different. But Different is good” – Serena Williams
Serena Jameka Williams born in Saginaw, Michigan 26 1981 was the baby of her family with 4 elder sisters. Serena’s father Richard Williams, started teaching tennis the best level of his ability to age 3 Serena in the courts of Crompton. Crompton, a place notoriously known for its crime was Serena’s fathers’ encouragement to teach his daughters to work hard in order to succeed in life. From her teen years Serena was already noticed and being much-admired for her talent in the sport. Despite some health complications that kept Serena away from the game for several months, undeniably her love for the game came through. Now one of the world’s most known tennis players playing in various sporting events including Wimbledon and the Olympic Games.
Serena and her sister Venus were the first African-American women to own part of an NFL team after purchasing shares of the Miami Dolphins in 2009.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture” - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Recognised as an author and feminist activist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie born September 15 1977 in to the town Enugu, Nigeria has become an iconic figure within today’s society. Although moving to the United States in 1997 for higher education, Chimamanda stays true to her Nigerian, Igbo roots – this is often displayed within her speeches and her novels as they are centred on her own personal life and country’s history. One of her novels ‘Half Of A Yellow Sun’ focusing on the Biafra war in Nigeria has been described as ‘heart-felt’ and received positive reviews all over the world; the novel was also turned into a movie. Chimamanda describes Nigeria as her home and frequently goes back to deliver workshops and teach.
Her most watched Ted Talk ‘We should all be feminists’ has approximately 104k views.
Want to see more influential Black figures? Pop into the Campus Centre throughout October and find our gallery to explore more from Black History Month!