Black Heroes Who Often Go Unrecognized During Black History Month

There are so many Black heroes throughout history that are not given the proper credit and recognition they deserve. We celebrate the accomplishments of Martin, Malcolm, Harriet, and Rosa, but we often forget other important names. We may not have to know all that they accomplished, but here are four black heroes who should be recognized and celebrated during Black History Month.

Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls was black man born into slavery in South Carolina. After the civil war he became a ship pilot, a sea captain, but also a politician. In 1862, he freed himself and his crewmembers from slavery when he led an uprising on the Confederate ship. After taking over the ship, he sailed it to the north where they all could be free. His accomplishment eventually helped then President Lincoln to accept Blacks into the Union Army. During his time as a politician, he helped to author and pass legislation that would award South Carolina with the first free and compulsory public school system in the United States.

Claudette Colvin

Everyone knows and applauds Rosa Parks for the brave stand she took in not giving up her seat. Almost a year before Rosa Parks took her stand on the bus Claudette Colvin was dragged and arrested from the bus in Montgomery. At the time of her refusal to give her seat Claudette was only 15 years old. She was the first person to be arrested for defying bus segregation in Montgomery.  Even though history does not give her the proper credit, it was her actions that March day that eventually led to Rosa Parks, the bus boycott, and the eventual Supreme Court ruling to end segregation on buses.

Matthew Henson

Many do not know the name Matthew Henson, but he is credited with being the first man to reach the North Pole in 1909. He was born to sharecroppers in Nanjemoy, Maryland. He is the first African American Arctic explorer. This is not often an accomplishment that is celebrated, but with the fascination of explorers reaching the North Pole, Matthew Henson deserves to be celebrated for achieving the feat first, before any other man.

Martin Delany

Delany was an outspoken nationalist. Many consider Delany to be one of the first nationalists and he is referred to by many as the grandfather of Black Nationalism. Martin Delany was also one of the first three Blacks to be admitted into Harvard Medical School. During the 1833 outbreak of cholera in Pittsburg, Martin Delany stayed when many fled to treat patients. Martin Delany was also the first Black field officer in the United States Army during the American Civil War.

As we come to the end of Black History Month, it seems important to recognize and learn a bit about these four lesser known black heroes who did their part to change the world.



David McGuire

Mr. McGuire is a middle school teacher in Indianapolis, Teach Plus Policy Fellow, and currently enrolled in a doctoral program at Indiana State University for Educational Leadership. Driven by the lack of having an African American male teacher in his classrooms growing up, David helped launched the Educate ME Foundation, which is geared towards increasing the number of African American male teachers in the classroom. A born and raised Hoosier, he is dedicated to improving educational outcomes for all students in Indianapolis. He describes his educational beliefs as a reformer grounded in the best practices of traditional public schools, where he was mentored by strong leaders. David graduated from Central State University with a degree in English and also holds an MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.