Influential Black Leaders

Martin Luther King Memorial in Washington DC

African Americans have played a central role in the black history of the U.S. and continue to do so today. Since 1976, when Black History Month was officially initiated, these leaders are celebrated every February.

However, the achievements of black Americans started to be promoted much earlier than that. In 1926, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) started sponsoring a national Negro Week. This was held in the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (the escaped slave who became a prominent author, prominent activist, and public orator.)

Influential black leaders have fought for racial equality over many decades. Each one becomes a shining example for the next generation.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X

The most prominent black leader who started the shift toward equality throughout the U.S. is Martin Luther King Jr. His vision is still not complete, but his powerful words still resonate globally.

Malcolm X started with radical views on black empowerment and was a strong believer in separatism. After renouncing the teachings of Islam, Malcolm X changed his views and returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca with hopes for the integration of all races in the U.S.

Rosa Parks and Oprah Winfrey

Women have played a prominent leading role too, and none more so than Rosa Parks. Her refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in 1955, resulted in a black boycott of Montgomery buses for over a year. Martin Luther King Jr. became their spokesperson in what was the beginning of the civil rights movement.

Besides her difficult and abusive childhood, Oprah Winfrey built a business empire and was once featured in an Atlanta parent magazine. Winfrey has proven that she has positively influenced Americans and has become a leading example of what African Americans can achieve.

Barak and Michelle Obama

The 44th president of the U.S. was also the first African American president. The Obama family is the modern representation of black history and the couple are considered significant leaders of our times.