Archives pour la catégorie Heroes

Anténor Firmin (1850-1911)

Anténor Firmin (1850-1911) was born in Haïti. In 1885, he published a book on « the equality of human races, positive anthropology » where he tackled the pseudo-scientific theorists of racism. A true precursor, unparalleled genius, enlightened thinker, champion of the defense of Black people, Anténor Firmin has greatly contributed to the birth of awakenings of conscience. In advance of his time, he knew how to refute western racism through scientific and rigorous argumentation. He also highlighted the essential role of African cultures in the history of civilization, from the Egyptians to the first Black Republic of Haiti.

Hamilton Naki (1926-2005) The secret Black surgeon


Hamilton Naki was a laborer who became a self-taught surgeon of such skill that Dr. Christiaan N. Barnard chose him to assist in the world’s first human heart transplant in 1967 in Cape Town, but whose contribution was kept secret for three decades because he was a black man in apartheid-era South Africa, died on May 29 at his home in Langa, near Cape Town. The transplant, which took place on Dec. 3, 1967, at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, made medical history. Dr. Barnard began to acknowledge Mr. Naki’s work only after the end of apartheid in 1991. In an interview shortly before his death in 2001, he called Mr. Naki « one of the great researchers of all time in the field of heart transplants. »
Mr. Naki, who left school at 14 and had no formal medical training, spent five decades working at the University of Cape Town. Originally hired as a gardener there in about 1940, he acquired his formidable surgical skills through years of silent observation and covert practice at the university’s medical school. He retired in 1991. In 2003, the university awarded Mr. Naki an honorary master of science degree in medicine.
Although South Africa’s apartheid laws forbade blacks from performing surgery on whites, Mr. Naki’s skills were so esteemed that the university quietly looked the other way. He worked alongside Dr. Barnard for decades as a lab technician, perfecting his craft and assisting in many operations on people. Operating on animals, Mr. Naki also taught surgical techniques to generations of medical students. Mr. Naki learned to anesthetize animals, and eventually to do surgery on them, operating on rabbits, pigs, dogs and even a giraffe. Many of the animal surgeries he performed, including coronary bypasses and heart and liver transplants, helped to perfect techniques that were later used on humans.
« Hamilton Naki had better technical skills than I did, » Dr. Barnard said in an interview quoted in The Daily Telegraph of London this week. « He was a better craftsman than me, especially when it came to stitching, and had very good hands. »
But because of his race, Mr. Naki’s role in the world’s first heart transplant remained unknown for years. On Dec. 2, 1967, Denise Darvall, a young white South African woman, was hit by a car as she was crossing a Cape Town street. Taken to Groote Schuur Hospital, she was declared brain-dead. Her family gave permission for her heart to be transplanted into the chest of Louis Washkansky, a 55-year-old grocer whose own heart was failing.
As a black man, Mr. Naki could not operate on Ms. Darvall even after she was dead. But Dr. Barnard so prized his ability that he drafted him as a member of the team that would lift out her heart.
In a painstaking operation lasting many hours, Mr. Naki’s team removed Ms. Darvall’s heart, washing it repeatedly to cleanse it of her blood before introducing some of Mr. Washkansky’s. On Dec. 3, Dr. Barnard transplanted the heart into Mr. Washkansky, who lived for 18 days before dying of pneumonia. Hamilton Naki was not allowed to appear on photos with the team. If he accidentally got on a picture, the hospital said he was with the cleaning service, making him a secret surgeon. During his years at the university, Mr. Naki lived on the outskirts of Cape Town in a one-room shack without electricity or running water. When he retired, he was paid a gardener’s pension, far less than a lab technician’s. In 2002, Mr. Naki was awarded the Order of Mapungubwe, one of South Africa’s highest honors, for outstanding contribution to medical science.
In an interview with The Guardian of London in 2003, Mr. Naki expressed little bitterness about a lifetime spent working in the shadows. « I was called one of the backroom boys, » he said. « They put the white people out front. If people published pictures of me, they would have gone to jail ». Hamilton Naki died in 2005.

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr (1887-1940)

Happy birthday Marcus Garvey!

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr (1887-1940)  The angel of black success


Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Jr. was born in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica on August 17, 1887. In 1910, he began traveling throughout Central America, the Caribbean and Europe. In his travels, he saw that Black people of the time owned nothing, regardless of where he went in the world, and were not united. He was determined to do something about it. Founded in 1914, the UNIA grew in just five years to include to include over six million followers. He built newspapers, schools, churches, a shipping company, printing operations, food and clothing stores. The purpose of the organization was « to unite all people of African ancestry of the world to one great body to establish a country and absolute government of their own ».
Garvey moved to Harlem in 1916. He started speaking on street corners at night and lecturing at various halls and churches, spreading his powerful message of unity, social freedom, political freedom and economic freedom for Black people. Garvey had an amazing ability to communicate his ideas in a way that Black people could « feel » and relate to. In May of 1916, Garvey began a historic 38-state tour and took the United States by storm.
In May of 1917, Garvey started the New York Division of the U.N.I.A. with 13 members. By 1926, the membership of the U.N.I.A. had grown to over 6 million members. Marcus Garvey built the largest Black organization in history. Marcus Garvey’s built huge businesses, encouraged entrepreneurship, and got millions of people buying from Black-owned business. He taught us all to be proud of our race and to unite as a people. In his own words, he taught us all to « Be Black, Buy Black, Think Black, and all else will take care of itself! ».  In 1919, he launched the Black Star Shipping Lines. His program was one of Black self-determination and independence and set the theme for all Black development today. Convinced that blacks should have a permanent homeland in Africa, Garvey sought to develop Liberia. The Liberia program, launched in 1920, was intended to build colleges, universities, industrial plants, and railroads as part of an industrial base from which to operate. However, it was abandoned in the mid-1920s after much opposition from European powers with interests in Liberia. In 1928, Garvey travelled to Geneva to present the Petition of the Negro Race. This petition outlined the worldwide abuse of Africans to the League of Nations. In September 1929, he founded the People’s Political Party (PPP), Jamaica’s first modern political party, which focused on workers’ rights, education, and aid to the poor. Also in 1929, Garvey was elected councilor for the Allman Town Division of the Kingston and St. On 10 June 1940, Garvey died after two strokes. The impact of Marcus Garvey has been huge. Schools, colleges, highways, and buildings in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the United States have been named in his honor. The UNIA red, black, and green flag has been adopted as the Black Liberation Flag. Since 1980, Garvey’s bust has been housed in the Organization of American States’ Hall of Heroes in Washington, D.C. Malcolm X’s parents, Earl and Louise Little, met at a UNIA convention in Montreal. Earl was the president of the UNIA division in Omaha, Nebraska and sold the Negro World newspaper, for which Louise covered UNIA activities. Kwame Nkrumah named the national shipping line of Ghana the Black Star Line in honor of Garvey and the UNIA. Nkrumah also named the national soccer team the Black Stars as well. The black star at the center of Ghana’s flag is also inspired by the Black Star. During a trip to Jamaica, Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King visited the shrine of Marcus Garvey on 20 June 1965 and laid a wreath. In a speech he told the audience that Garvey « was the first man of color to lead and develop a mass movement. He was the first man on a mass scale and level to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny. And make the Negro feel he was somebody. »
Dr. King was a posthumous recipient of the first Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights on 10 December 1968 issued by the Jamaican Government and presented to King’s widow. In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Marcus Garvey on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.  In 1969, the parliament of Jamaica proclaimed Marcus Garvey as the country’s first national hero.

Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1830-1901)

ELIZABETHElizabeth was the daughter of Thomas Jennings, a successful tailor, and an influential member of New York’s black community. By 1854, she had become a schoolteacher and church organist. She taught at the city’s African Free Schools, and later in the public schools. During the same year, she was told to get off a streetcar and then forcibly removed by the crew and a police officer. The driver insisted Jennings get off and wait for a colored streetcar. She said no.
« I told him . . . I was a respectable person, born and raised in New York . . . and that he was a good for nothing impudent fellow for insulting decent persons while on their way to church, » she later said.
Jennings filed a lawsuit against the driver, the conductor, and the Third Avenue Railroad Company in Brooklyn. In 1855, she received a verdict in her favor and was awarded damages of two hundred and twenty five dollars plus costs. The next day, the Third Avenue Railroad Company ordered its cars desegregated. A month after the verdict, a black man was refused admission to a car of the Eighth Avenue Railroad, another of the first four companies, and won a similar judgment against that company. New York’s public transit was fully desegregated by 1861.
She operated the city’s first kindergarten for black children. She died in 1901.

Miss Lucy Craft Laney (1854-1933)

Lucy Craft Laney was born in Macon, Georgia on April 13, 1854, eleven years before slavery ended. She was the seventh of ten children born to Rev. and Mrs. David Laney. Rev. Laney was a noteworthy Presbyterian minister and an outstanding carpenter. Using the money he saved doing side jobs, Mr. Laney was able to purchase his wife’s freedom and promise his children a better life.
Although there were laws that prohibited blacks from reading during Miss Laney’s time, with the help of Ms. Campbell, the slave owner’s sister, Lucy was able to read by the time she was four. Ms. Campbell’s generosity and her parent’s open-arm policy with strangers and family taught Lucy the importance of giving and sharing. These lessons would be the foundation for her success. In 1869 at the age of 15, Lucy entered the first class of Atlanta University. In 1873, she was graduated with three other students and went on to start a teaching career that would change the lives of an entire community of people and influence the nation.
Miss Laney began her teaching career in Macon, Milledgeville, and Savannah before, due to health reasons, settling in Augusta, Georgia. With the encouragement of the Christ Presbyterian Church, USA, Miss Laney started the first school in Augusta, Georgia for black boys and girls. The school opened on January 6, 1883 in the basement of the Christ Presbyterian Church then on 10th and Telfair Street with little money and only six students. Miss Laney did not have much, but what she did have was dedication and determination, which would prove to be all this unique woman would need. In 1885, the first class was graduated from Miss Laney’s school. By that time, the school had 234 students and needed a bigger facility and more money. Armed with a one-way ticket, only a little money, her prayers and her desire, Miss Laney traveled to Minnesota to tell the Presbyterian Church Convention about her school and to request funding so that they could expand. Unfortunately, although Miss Laney spoke well, she was unable to convince the Convention to commit to funding her school. However, they did pay for her return trip home. Miss Laney was unsure how she would proceed from there, but knew that her mission was a good one and that her school would continue. Shortly after her trip to Minnesota, Miss Laney received a letter from Mrs. Francine E. H. Haines, President of the Woman’s Department of the Presbyterian Church, USA who had heard her speak at the convention. Mrs. Haines was so impressed with Miss Laney and her mission that she was able to secure funding for the expansion of the school in the amount of $10,000.00. Miss Laney was so touched by the kindness of this stranger that she named the new school the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. In 1886, the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute was chartered by the state of Georgia and moved into its new location at 800 Gwinnett (Laney-Walker Blvd.) Street. Miss Laney was a forward thinking person. She believed that the only way for blacks to be successful in America was by being well educated. She also believed that in order for the race to continue its women’s must be educated as well. Her students studied the classics, Latin, Algebra, and various trades. She produced well-rounded young adults who also studied the arts and music and participated in sports. Miss Laney assured that students who graduated from Haines Normal were ready to compete in society.
In addition to starting her own school, the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Miss Laney started the first black kindergarten in Augusta, Georgia and the first black nursing school in the city, the Lamar School of Nursing. Many people were influenced by the work that Miss Laney did at Haines. Ms. Mary McCleod Bethune who worked with Miss Laney for a year was so impressed by Miss Laney’s accomplishments that she went to Florida and founded Bethune-Cookman College for Blacks. This outstanding institution continues to thrive and produce thousands of African American students. After a life of selfless dedication to the education of her people, which focused on the education of her people, Miss Laney died on October 23, 1933. Thousands of people came to her funeral. Her body was buried on the corner of the lawn of the Haines & Normal Industrial Institute. Miss Laney’s spirit lives on and her strong legacy continues to this day. Throughout her life Miss Laney received many honors. President Ware of Atlanta University paid many tributes to her and she received several honorary degrees from various other colleges and universities. After her death, the Haines Normal & Industrial Institute was renamed the Lucy Craft Laney Comprehensive High School in her honor, Gwinnett Street was renamed Laney-Walker Boulevard in the honor of her and that of Dr. Charles T. Walker, pastor, civic leader, founder of Tabernacle Baptist Church and co-founder of Atlanta University. There are several other schools throughout the USA that have been named in Miss Laney’s honor. In 1974, in honor of her contributions to Georgia and its children, the portrait of Miss Laney was commissioned by then Governor Jimmy Carter and unveiled in the Georgia State Capitol. In 1983, Miss Laney was inducted into the Women of Achievement of Georgia. In 1987, Miss Laney’s home was damaged by fire, purchased by Delta House, Inc., and later restored and made into a museum, which promotes the legacy through art, history, and the preservation of her home. The Haines Alumnae Association later placed an eternal flame on her grave site, which reminds us all of a great woman.

Samuel Sharpe (1801-1832)


Samuel Sharpe, was an enslaved person who fought for freedom by organising a general strike in Jamaica. He was born in Jamaica in 1801 and brought up in Montego Bay. He was a literate and well respected deacon who was in charge of a missionary chapel in Montego Bay. He learned to read and write and became known as an inspirational Baptist preacher, who amazed people with the power of his sermons. He travelled widely throughout his parish, speaking about the injustices of slavery and pointing out that the Bible said ‘no man can serve two masters’. White people, he said, had no more right to hold black people in slavery, than if it were the other way round. He keenly followed the developments of the abolition movement in England, by reading local and foreign papers. When he was 31 years old, Sharpe organised a rebellion in the mistaken belief that freedom had already been granted by the British Parliament. The rebellion, which started in December, 1831, was timed to have maximum impact, as Sharpe knew that if the ripe cane was not cut it would be ruined. Sharpe suggested that the enslaved people did not go back to work after their three day Christmas holiday. He hoped the owners would pay the slaves to cut the cane, so that it would not spoil. Sharpe told his followers that they should only fight physically for their freedom, if the planters did not accede to their demands.The uprising lasted 10 days and spread throughout the entire island, mobilizing as many as 60,000 of Jamaica’s 300,000 enslaved population. Sam Sharpe was captured and executed in Market Square, Montego Bay on 23 May, 1832. Just before his death, he had said to a visitor: « I would rather die upon yonder gallows than live in slavery ». Sharpe’s owners were paid £16 in ‘compensation for their loss of property’. In 1975, the government of independent Jamaica proclaimed Sharpe a National Hero with the posthumous title of Rt. Excellent Samuel Sharpe. Also in 1975, Sam Sharpe Teacher’s College in Granville, a suburb of Montego Bay, was founded and named in his honour. He is also on the modern Jamaican $50 dollars bill.

Matthew Alexander Henson (1866-1955)-1st Afro-American to reach the North Pole


Matthew Henson’s mother died when he was very young. After she died, his father moved his family to Washington D.C. Then his father died when Matthew was only eleven years old. The uncle with whom he lived was so mean to him that Matthew ran away from home. He was only thirteen years old. He had no place to go, so he found a job at a small restaurant, and the owner took pity on him and let him sleep on the floor of the restaurant at night.
Next a sea captain hired him to work on his ship. During the next few years he sailed around the world, learned to read, and learned about ships and navigation. At one point when he was between voyages, he worked for a man who owned a store which sold supplies to men embarking on expeditions. This is where he met Robert Peary. Peary was so impressed with Henson’s credentials he made him his assistant and right-hand-man on his expeditions. The first trip they made together was to Nicaragua to chart the jungle there. He spent twenty years of his life traveling and exploring with Robert Peary. He was with Peary for seven years in the Arctic where they covered 9,000 miles on dogsleds. On the final trip in 1909 they finally reached the North Pole. Henson said he was the first man there because he was at the front of the sled and Peary was riding in the back of the sled. Peary, of course, took credit for being first since it was his expedition. His attitude toward his assistant changed, and Henson was pushed out of the limelight . Peary wanted the attention to be focused only on him, and he did not want Henson to receive credit for his hard work. After the expedition, Henson could not get a very good job. Then four years later President Taft assigned to him the title of clerk in the New York Customs House. He held this post for 23 years. During those years Henson attended Harvard University and earned a master’s degree. After many years he began to be recognized for his contribution to the polar exploration. In 1944 Matthew Henson received the Congressional Medal of Honor. In 1954 President Eisenhower presented him with an award. Another honor was bestowed on him when the Explorer’s Club accepted him as a member. A ship was named after him; the U.S.N.S. Henson, schools were named after him, and other honors were given in his memory. Matthew Henson was survived by an only son, Anauakaq, whose mother was an Inuit woman named Akatingwah. Anauakaq once visited his father’s family and the site where Henson was buried. In 1988 Henson’s body was moved to Arlington National Cemetery where he was interred near the place where Robert Peary was buried. Those in attendance included his American family as well as his Inuit family. At last, Matthew Henson was recognized for his contribution to the successful North Pole expedition.

William Still (1821-1902), abolitionist, writer, and businessman


Often called « The Father of the Underground Railroad, » Still helped as many as 60 slaves a month escape to freedom, interviewing each person and keeping careful records, including a brief biography and the destination of each person, along with any alias that they adopted, though he kept his records carefully hidden. He is one of the many who helped slaves escape from the United States. During one interview of an escapee, he discovered that the man, Peter Still, was his own brother. They had been separated since childhood, and his brother knew little about the rest of his family. Still later published The Underground Rail Road Records, which chronicles the stories and methods of 649 slaves who escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Peter Still later collaborated on a book detailing his experiences.
Still was born near Medford, in Burlington County, N.J. His father, Levin Steel, was a former slave who had purchased his own freedom and changed his name to Still to protect his wife Sidney, who had escaped from slavery in Maryland. After her first escape attempt had failed she ran to her husband with two of their four children and changed her name to Charity. Their son William was the youngest of eighteen children. From early boyhood he worked on his father’s farm and as a woodcutter. He had little formal schooling, but read what was available and studied grammar on his own. He left home when he was twenty, finding employment with neighboring farmers. In 1844 he went to Philadelphia, where he worked at various jobs, including handyman in several households. In 1847 he married Letitia George, who became the mother of his four children. The year of his marriage, Still found employment in the office of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery. His duties were janitorial and clerical, but he soon became involved with aiding fugitives from slavery. He was in a unique position to provide board and room for many of the fugitives who rested in Philadelphia before resuming their journey to Canada. One of those former slaves turned out to he his own brother, Peter Still, left in bondage by his mother when she had escaped forty years earlier. William Still later reported that finding his brother led him to preserve the careful records concerning former slaves which provided valuable source material for his book The Underground Railroad (1872). When Philadelphia abolitionists organized a vigilance committee to assist the large numbers of fugitives going through the city after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, they named William Still chairman. John Brown’s wife stayed with the Still family for a time following the Harpers Ferry raid, and several of Brown’s accomplices received aid from Still. Although he concluded his work in the antislavery office in 1861, Still continued his association with the society, serving for eight years as vice-president and president from 1896 to 1901. While working for the abolition society Still began purchasing real estate. During the Civil War he opened a store handling new and used stoves, and later established a very successful coal business. In 1864 he came to Camp William Penn, where Negro soldiers were stationed. Although the executive committee of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery had asked Still to write his book, the work and its publication and distribution were a product of his own effort. His stated purpose was to « encourage the race in efforts of self elevation » He believed that the most eloquent advocates of Negroes were Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, and other self-emancipated champions. It was his mission as a Negro to record their heroic deeds and he hoped the book would serve as additional testimony to the intellectual capacity of his race. « We very much need works on various topics from the pens of colored men to represent the race intellectually.’ He told one of his sales agents. Still’s book went into three editions and became the most widely circulated work on the Underground Railroad. He proudly exhibited it at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, a powerful reminder of the condition of Negroes slavery. Still worked in other ways to improve the status of Negroes. In 1855 he traveled to Canada to visit communities where refugees from United States slavery settled. His positive reports counteracted some of the criticism of Negroes in Canada then in circulation. Five years later he cited the examples of successful Negroes in Canada to argue for the emancipation of all slaves. In 1859, he started a campaign to end racial discrimination on Philadelphia railroad cars by exposing the injustice in a letter to the press. Eight years later the campaign ended successfully when the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law forbidding such discrimination. In 1861 Still helped organize and finance a social, civil, and statistical association to collect data about Negroes. When some Philadelphia colored citizens opposed Still’s crusade for equal service on the streetcars, he wrote A Brief Narrative of the Struggle for the Rights of the Colored People of Philadelphia in the City Railway Cars (1867). He helped manage homes for aged Negroes and destitute Negro children, as well as an orphan asylum for the for the children of soldiers and sailors.
He died of heart trouble caused by Bright’s disease, and was survived by his widow, two daughters, and a son.

Mae Carol Jemison (October 17, 1956 – )


Mae Carol Jemison (October 17, 1956 – ) is an American physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first black woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour. Jemison was the youngest of three children; she was born in Decatur, Alabama, but was brought up in Chicago, Illinois. In 1977, she graduated from Stanford University with degrees in chemical engineering and Afro-American studies. She received a medical degree in 1981 from Cornell University. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) selected Jemison for astronaut training in 1982. In addition to her native English, Dr. Jemison speaks fluent Russian, Japanese, and Swahili. Dr. Jemison founded the International Science Camp in Chicago in 1994; it is a program designed to interest children in science and space. Jemison has practiced medicine in Western Africa and founded the Jemison Group to research an develop technology and the Jemison Institute for Advanced Technology in Developing Countries at Dartmouth College.