Throughout history there are hundreds of people who have helped to shape and form our world into what it is today. But we cannot speak about the impact that the leaders of the world have had without speaking of some very famous African-Americans that have also had a big hand in shaping our current world. African-Americans have made some of the greatest leaps, coming from a place of slavery to one where they were treated as equals. And although things such as slavery and concepts such as the Underground Railroad may be unfathomable to us today, they were once very much a reality and a way of life. And without some very brave and strong people, these things may still be in effect today. In this article we’ll look at one famous black man and one famous black woman, who both left their mark on the world.
One of the bravest people in all of black history was of course, Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman was a girl who was born into poverty and made to start working as a slave at a very early age. Harriet was very different from the other slaves however. Although all slaves would dream of a way out of their insufferable life, Harriet not only made sure that there was a way out for her, but for any other slave that she could help as well. Harriet Tubman worked as a slave in the 1800s when the Underground Railroad was being used to free slaves and it was this that she would become most famous for.
Harriet Tubman worked tirelessly on the Underground Railroad, making sure that slaves who were searching for freedom found their way from the South to the North. Over her life, Tubman made 19 trips to the dangerous South and helped over 300 slaves find their freedom! Tubman became a huge threat to those who fought hard for slavery and she had a $40,000 bounty placed on her head. Harriet Tubman is mostly famous for her wit and determination. She used tactics such as taking slaves on Saturday when they couldn’t be verified as missing until Monday in order to free people. And when the authorities were looking for Tubman and using posters that stated her as being illiterate, she would pretend to read a book so that she could go unnoticed.
Someone else who fought tirelessly for equal rights was Malcolm X, and many people can’t even speak of famous figures in black history without referring to this prominent character. Malcolm X was born in Nebraska and had huge dreams of becoming a successful lawyer. He was told however that black people couldn’t do such things and this led to what could have been a long demise for Malcolm. After being told that, Malcolm stopped trying in school and eventually made his way to Harlem, New York, where he found himself in trouble with the law a few times. In 1946, Malcolm was sentenced to 7 years in prison for burglary. However, instead of simply serving his time until his parole, Malcolm used the time to educate himself. He did this through textbooks and reading but his brother also played a large role in the education. Malcolm’s brother was a huge believer in the Nation of Islam and during his time in prison, Malcolm also became very interested in the religion and took to studying the teachings of the religion’s leader, Elijah Muhammad. The teachings did speak of freedom for the black man, but with an emphasis on being separated from the white man, not living with them.
Most of Elijah’s teachings were about how the white man was constantly trying to oppress the black man and keep him down. The teachings did speak of freedom for the black man, but with an emphasis on being separated from the white man, not living peacefully with them. After being freed from prison and made a minister by the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X began attracting much attention from the media. People either loved him or hated him because of his strong views but when he made a disparaging remark about John F. Kennedy shortly after the President’s assassination, Malcolm’s leader Elijah “silenced” him. Although it was fairly apparent that the silencing may have come as punishment for the words that were said about the late President, Malcolm knew the real reason behind the punishment.
It had only been a short while before this that Malcolm X had learned of his leader, Elijah’s, unfaithfulness to their own religion. According to the Nation of Islam, people were to remain celibate until they married and Malcolm had adhered to this belief fervently. However, after finding out that Elijah Muhammad had many affairs, with children resulting from some of them, Elijah wanted Malcolm to keep it quiet. Malcolm was horrified that someone he had respected and admired for so long would be capable of hypocrisy and so, he left the Nation of Islam.
After he left the faith, the Nation of Islam became enraged with Malcolm and tried to make attempts on his life several times. Malcolm was still very much in the public eye, now that he fought for integration and equality for all instead of just the black man. But he never went anywhere without a bodyguard. The guards were not enough however when, on the very sad night of February 21, 1965, three men from the Nation of Islam rushed the stage at an event Malcolm was speaking at and shot him 15 times at close range. Malcolm X died instantly.
There are so many powerful and famous black people in history that it’s impossible to cover them all at once. However, Harriet Tubman and Malcolm X are certainly two people who come to mind when thinking of prominent figures in history. Their strength, resolve, and determination made many things possible for many people and they will certainly live on in our hearts forever.