As Black History Month comes to an end…

When I first decided to write a post a day for Black History Month, I didn’t expect that it would be so time-consuming! I also didn’t expect to have learnt as much as I have. I hope that all of you who have been reading these posts, have not only learnt a lot, but that these posts have caused you to think critically about some of the issues raised. There were many controversial issues discussed this month, for example, the issue of race within the Black community (I don’t rate Rosa Parks), and Human Zoos (Saartjie Baartman).
You may have noticed, that many of the people discussed aren’t the regular people you may find in schools on displays, and talked about in the media at this time every year. People like Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Mary Seacole didn’t make it into this blog precisely because they are so well-known and their stories, though inspirational, get recycled year in and year out. I wanted to acknowledge some people who often aren’t spoken about. Their stories may be well known to some, but to the average person, not so much. After all, Black History Month is a chance to educate those who may not be aware of important men and women who have helped shape the world we all live in today.
This post is a tribute to those who haven’t featured this month, but have played a major part not only in Black history but in the worlds history.

1000509261001_2098673023001_Martin-Luther-King-The-King-YearsMartin Luther King, Jr.  (15 Jan 1929 – 4 April 1968)


Harriet Tubman (c.1822 – 10 March 1913)


Patrice Lumumba (2 July 1925 – 18 Jan 1961)


Hattie McDaniels (10 June 1895 – 26 Oct 1952)


Muhammed Ali (17 Jan 1942 – )


Alek Wek (16 April 1977 – )


Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 Dec 2013)


Wilma Rudolph (23 June 1940 – 12 Nov 1994)


Barack Obama (4 Aug 1961 – )

Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott (27 September 1953 – )


Sir Trevor McDonald (16 Aug 1939 – )

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole (c.1805 – 14 May 1881)


Malcolm X (19 May 1925 – 21 Feb 1965)

Sir Arthur Lewis


Sir Arthur Lewis (23 Jan 1915 – 15 June 1991)

Sir Lewis was born in St.Lucia and was raised by his mother after his father passed away at age 7. He excelled in school and finished school at the age of fourteen after being skipping 2 school years. He continued his academic achievements by earning his Bachelors (first class honors) and completing his scholarship funded Ph.D at the London School of Economics by the age of 25. He set a record by finishing first in his class with first class marks in 7 of 9 subject. He stayed at LSE before becoming a full-time lecturer at the University of Manchester at 33 years old. He developed important economic concepts and started to become known and sought after during the late 50’s when many former colonies started to gain independence from European countries. He was appointed as Ghana’s first economic advisor in 1957 and helped to draw up its Five-Year Plan (1959-1963). A few years after being appointed as Vice Chancellor of the University of West Indies in 1959, he was knighted for his efforts and contributions to economics. He spent over 20 years as a professor at Princeton University, during which, he was named as the first president of the Caribbean Development Bank, as well as receiving the Nobel prize in Economics in 1979.

His other achievements include:
Member of the Colonial Advisory Economic Council
Committee for National Fuel in Britain
Managing Director of the United Nations Special Fund
First West Indian to head the University of the West Indies
Established the School of Engineering at University of the West Indies
Chancellor of the University of Guyana
Wrote 81 professional articles and 10 books

After his death in 1991, he continued to be remembered. The University of Manchester named a building after him in 2007, there is a college in his native St.Lucia named after him, and he is featured on the rear of the $100 Eastern Caribbean note.



Wangari Maathai


Wangari Maathai – (1 April 1940 – 25 Sept 2011)

Born and raised in Kenya, Maathai was selected for the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr Foundation program, which allowed her to study in the United States. She obtained her undergraduate  and masters degrees in biology and moved back to Kenya in 1966 where she became a research assistant in the microanatomy at the School of Veterinary Medicine at University College of Nairobi. In 1971 she became the first Eastern African woman to receive her Ph.D in veterinary anatomy.

She went on to help establish the Green Belt Movement in 1977, a movement which has planted over 51 million trees, and trained over 30,000 women and helping them earn income and preserve land and resources. In Oct 1989, she opposed the proposal of a 60 story complex in Uhuru Park much to the anger of the Kenyan government, but eventually won, with the project being cancelled in January 1990.

She helped to promote free and fair elections in Kenya in 1992, but was again opposed by the government. She went into hiding but was allowed to leave after pressure on the Kenyan government from Mikail Gorbachevs environmental organisation Green Cross International.
In 1999, she planted a tree in protest of a government plan to privatize large areas of land in the Karura Forest, but was attacked. In the international outrage that ensued, President Daniel Moi banned the allocation of all public land. In 2001, the government again planned to take forest land and give it to supports, when Maathai (who of course protested), was arrested and then released. She was arrested and released without charge a few months later, after planting more trees in Uhuru Park.
The disappointment of failing in the 1997 elections didn’t faze her, as she ran again in 2002, but this time was appointed Assistant Minister in the Ministry for Environment and Natural resources after winning 98% of the vote. Her crowning achievement came in 2004, when she became the first African woman, and the first environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She was elected as the first president of the African Unions Economic, Social and Cultural Council in 2005, and was one of 8 flag bearers at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

When she succumbed to ovarian cancer in 2011, the world mourned a woman who risked her life, to fight not only for the environment, but for freedom. She represents a strong African woman, who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. She was actually thrown in jail for 6 months after critising a judge. Why was she in front of a judge? Because her husband divorced her, by Maathais reasoning that she was “too educated, too strong, too successful, too stubborn and too hard to control”. She was released after 3 days when she agreed to apologise.

“In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.” – Wangari Maathai


Olaudah Equiano


Oluadah Equiano (c.1745 – 31 March 1797)

Even though 12 Years a Slave portrayed the pain and struggles of Solomon Northup, there is another story which predates Northups which in some ways is even more remarkable.
Coming from Igboland, Nigeria, the young Equiano was first taken to Barbados as a slave in 1754, shipped to Virginia, and was fortunate enough to purchase his own freedom in 1766. After travelling and remarkably learning the French horn, he settled in London and wrote his autobiography, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789) which depicted his experiences as a slave, was instrumental in the British Slave Trade Act of 1807. If this rags to riches story wasn’t enough, he married an English woman in 1792, and had two children. One can only imagine what life was like for two mixed race girls growing up in late 1700’s London. He also helped to select slaves in South America for Dr. Charles Irving, and managed them as they worked on sugarcane plantations. He became one of the leading abolitionists of his day, lecturing and touring with his book in the 1780’s, and was appointed to help resettle some of Londons free Black people in Freetown, present day Sierra Leone.


Here’s a link to his epic story: