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7 things that you may not know about Rosa Parks

7 things that you may not know about Rosa Parks
1. Parks had been thrown off the bus a decade earlier by the same bus driver – for refusing to pay in the front and go around to the back to board. She had avoided that driver’s bus for 12 years because she knew well the risks of angering drivers, all of whom were white and carried guns. Her own mother had been threatened with physical violence by a bus driver in front of Parks, who was a child at the time. Parks’ neighbor had been killed for his bus stand, and teenage protester Claudette Colvin, among others, had recently been badly manhandled by the police.

2. Parks was a lifelong believer in self-defense. Malcolm X was her personal hero. Her family kept a gun in the house, including during the boycott, because of the daily terror of white violence. As a child, when pushed by a white boy, she pushed back. His mother threatened to kill her, but Parks stood her ground. Another time, she held a brick up to a white bully, daring him to follow through on his threat to hit her. He went away. When the Klu Klux Klan went on rampages through her childhood town, Pine Level, Ala., her grandfather would sit on the porch all night with his rifle. Rosa stayed awake some nights, keeping vigil with him.

3. Many of Parks’ ancestors were Indians. She noted this to a friend who was surprised when in private Parks removed her hairpins and revealed thick braids of wavy hair that fell below her waist. Her husband, she said, liked her hair long and she kept it that way for many years after his death, although she never wore it down in public. Aware of the racial politics of hair and appearance, she tucked it away in a series of braids and buns — maintaining a clear division between her public presentation and private person.

4. Parks’ arrest had grave consequences for her family’s health and economic well-being. After her arrest, Parks was continually threatened, such that her mother talked for hours on the phone to keep the line busy from constant death threats. Parks and her husband lost their jobs after her stand and didn’t find full employment for nearly 10 years. Even as she made fundraising appearances across the country, Parks and her family were at times nearly destitute. She developed painful stomach ulcers and a heart condition and suffered from chronic insomnia. Raymond, unnerved by the relentless harassment and death threats, began drinking heavily and suffered two nervous breakdowns. The Black press, culminating in JET magazine’s July 1960 story on “the bus boycott’s forgotten woman,” exposed the depth of Parks’ financial need, leading civil rights groups to finally provide some assistance.

5. Parks worked alongside the Black Power movement, particularly around issues such as reparations, Black history, anti-police brutality, freedom for Black political prisoners, independent Black political power and economic justice. She attended the Black Political Convention in Gary and the Black Power conference in Philadelphia. She journeyed to Lowndes County, Alabama, to support the movement there, spoke at the Poor People’s Campaign, helped organize support committees on behalf of Black political prisoners such as the Wilmington 10 and Imari Obadele of the Republic of New Africa and paid a visit of support to the Black Panther school in Oakland

6. Parks was an internationalist. She was an early opponent of the Vietnam War in the early 1960s, a member of The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and a supporter of the Winter Soldier hearings in Detroit and the Jeannette Rankin Brigade protest in D.C. In the 1980s, she protested apartheid and U.S. complicity, joining a picket outside the South African embassy and opposed U.S. policy in Central America. Eight days after 9/11, she joined other activists in a letter calling on the United States to work with the international community and no retaliation or war.

7. Parks was a lifelong activist and a hero to many, including Nelson Mandela. After his release from prison, he told her, “You sustained me while I was in prison all those years.”



11 things that you may not know about Maya Angelou (1928-2014)


maya-angelou1) Maya Angelou’s actual name was Marguerite Ann Johnson and her brother, Bailey Jr, actually  nicknamed her “Maya.”

2) After being sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend, Freeman, the shock made Maya mute and she and Bailey Jr. were sent to live with her grandmother.

3) The literary icon gives her high school teaher Bertha Flowers credit for helping her to speak again after five years  of silence and for igniting her interest in literature. Angelou once stated that the period of silence actually allowed her to absorb her surroundings more intensely.

4) She had a cameo in the 1993 film , Poetic Justice. She met Tupac Shakur on set, made him cry , and didn’t even know who he was.

5) She mastered six other languages  besides English, including French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and the West African language Fanti.

6) She considered Oprah Winfrey  her dear friend and the daughter she always wanted.

7) She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry.

8) During the time of decolonization, Angelou made the decision in 1961 to relocate to Cairo, Egypt, where she became an associate editor for a weekly English-language newspaper. The following year, Angelou moved to Accra, Ghana, where she lived for five years.

8) She  befriendes Malcolm X  and planned on helping him build his new Organization of Afro-American Unity  before he was killed. Angelou met the black activist Malcolm X while living in Ghana. She moved back to the U.S. in 1965 to help him build his civil rights organization, but he was assassinated shortly after their return. Grieving, she took a step back from the movement, living in Hawaii and LA.

9) According to the New World Encyclopedia, DNA tests taken in 2008 indicated that Angelou was descended from the Mende people of Sierra Leone in West Africa.

10) She was  friends with Nelson Mandela , and they first met while she was a journalist in Cairo in 1962. Shortly after his death in Dec. 2013, she recited a poem in memory of the former South African president in a video that has racked up more than 1 million views on the YouTube channel for the U.S. Department of State.

11) She once said that she wanted the following phrase carved on her tombstone: “I did my best, I hope you do the same ».

8 things that you may not know about Nina Simone (1933-2003)


1) Nina Simone was her stage name. The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2) Her career was root in activism. At the age of 12,  She refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stance. Many of her songs in the ’60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era. Unfortunately, her activism wasn’t always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to play, and radio stations didn’t play her songs.

3) Simone  was awarded two other honorary degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

4) Her longtime guitarist, Al Schackman, said Simone once walked up to Martin Luther King, Jr., and said, “I’m not non-violent.” King reportedly replied, “That’s OK, sister, you don’t have to be.” Simone advocated using any means necessary to get equal rights for black Americans. The Civil Rights movement escalated when young black men were being drafted to fight in Vietnam. Simone became very vocal in the movement, making her less marketable in the mainstream media.

5) During the late ’60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry’s play of the same title. Simone even struck up with a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-70s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

6) One of her most famous song was banned : “Mississipi Goddam” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write.  She was fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

7) She uses her style to make a statement. Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation.

8) In 2010, an 8 foot sculpture  of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tyron, North Carolina.

11 things that you may not know about Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)

f8fa0fea81dc68ef13829996865a794a1) Muhammad Ali was originally named Cassius Clay in honor of a nineteenth-century white farmer and abolitionist who emancipated the forty slaves he inherited from his father.

2) The thing that motivated him to become a boxer was his beloved bicycle. When it got stolen in 1954,  12 year old Ali reported the theft to a policeman who gave boxing lessons at a local community center. The officer, who was also a boxing trainer, suggested that Ali learn how to fight, and six weeks later Ali won his first amateur boxing match by a split decision.

3) He never turns down an autograph request.As a young boy, Cassius Clay asked his idol, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson for an autograph. Robinson rudely told the boy « I don’t got time. » Young Cassius never forgot how hurt he was by Robinson’s rejection.

4) Demonstrating his newfound conversion to the Nation of Islam and friendship with Malcolm X in February of 1964, Cassius Clay announced that he was revoking his “slave” surname and dubbed himself “Cassius X before becoming Muhammad Ali.

5) In 1967, during the Vietnam War, the heavyweight champion was not only arrested, but in addition the New York State Athletic Commission immediately suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Ali was convicted of draft evasion, fined $10,000 and sentenced to the maximum of five years in prison. He remained free though while the conviction was appealed. In 1970 the New York State Supreme Court ordered his boxing license reinstated, and after 3 years Ali returned to the ring by knocking out Jerry Quarry in October 1970.

6) It was learned, many years after the fact, that there was also a secret war against Ali taking place behind the scenes. Declassified National Security Agency files showed that Ali was one of several individuals spied on during what was called “Operation Minaret.”
7) Ali was known for talking trash. He even composed his own verses in which he taunted his opponents and praised himself. People at Columbia Records were so impressed by his taunts that they decided to release a 1963 spoken-word album called I Am the Greatest, in which the twenty-one-year-old performed his “trash talking,” backed my musical accompaniment.
8) In 1975, Ali was watching the news on TV and a story came on about an elderly community that was closing because it didn’t have enough money. The next day the boxing champ went to the center and wrote a $100,000 check to keep the community center from closing. He also secretly gave a diamond ring worth thousands of dollars to a little girl in a wheelchair and routinely gave $100 bills to impoverished people he met on the streets.

9) He was  involved in charitable work and philanthropy around the world, he also fought multiple times abroad. Ali fought 15 of his 56 professional bouts outside the United States, including his famous 1974 « Rumble in the Jungle » match against George Foreman in Zaire.

10) He Saved 15 Hostages From Saddam Hussein in 1990. After Hussein invaded Kuwait, he took 15 public hostages as a human shield against what he thought would be an inevitable United States invasion. Against the public attacks of the George H.W. Bush administration, Muhammad Ali flew into Iraq in an attempt to free the hostages. Hussein made Ali wait a week before even meeting with him, but eventually the leader spoke to the humanitarian boxer and allowed him to bring the 15 hostages home not because  Hussein was such a big boxing fan, but because he respected that Ali had spoken out against the oppression and hypocrisies of the American government in the 1960s.

11) Since 2013, the Muhammad Ali Center in Ali’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, honors him with the “Three Days of Greatness.



7 things that you may not know about Martin Luther King

MLK-embroidered-shirt-huffington.jpg7 things that you may not know about Martin Luther King

1) King’s birth name was Michael, not Martin.
The civil rights leader was born Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929. In 1934, however, his father traveled to Germany and became inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. As a result, King Sr. changed his own name as well as that of his 5-year-old son.

2) According to the King Center, the civil rights leader went to jail nearly 30 times.

3) In 1956, the King’s home was bombed, in response to his involvement with the Montgomery Bus Boycott the year before. Though his wife and first born daughter were home at the time, no one, thankfully, was injured.

4) He escaped an assassination attempt a decade before his death. On September 20, 1958, King was in Harlem signing copies of his new book, “Stride Toward Freedom,” in Blumstein’s department store when he was approached by Izola Ware Curry. The woman asked if he was Martin Luther King Jr. After he said yes, Curry said, “I’ve been looking for you for five years,” and she plunged a seven-inch letter opener into his chest.

5) He was under surveillance by the FBI for years

6) Though he died at only age 39, medical autopsy revealed that his heart was like a 60 yr. old, thought mostly to be due to stress.

7) Dr. King was the author of many books and famous speeches. He is known as one of the greatest communicators of all time. It is known that one of his most memorable speeches, I Have a Dream, was improvised at the end when he left the prepared text in response to gospel singer Mahalia Jackson’s cry, “Tell them about the dream Martin”

10 things that you may not know about Denzel Washington


10 things that you may not know about Denzel Washington

1. Washington is named after his father, who was named after the doctor who delivered him, Dr. Denzel. The actor often points out how, although both first names are spelled the same, his father’s name is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable (Den-zel), whereas the actor’s name is pronounced with the stress on the last (Den-zel).

2. Washington attended Fordham University where he first studied biology, in the hopes of becoming a doctor, and then switched to political science. Feeling indecisive, Washington dropped out of college for a semester and worked as a creative arts director at a YMCA summer camp. After Washington took part in a staff talent show at the camp, he was told he should consider acting. He then returned to Fordham and finished school, graduating with a B.A. in Drama and Journalism.

3. Tom Hanks said working with Washington on Philadelphia (1993) was like « going to film school ». Hanks said he learned more about acting by watching Denzel than from anyone else.

4. The actor put his journalism degree to use when he spent months on the beat with Washington Post reporters to prepare for his role in 1993’s « The Pelican Brief. »

5. In a 1996 Newsweek cover story about the biology behind the perception of beauty, Washington was cited as a key example in a scientific explanation about why some humans are very good looking.

6. Son, Malcolm, was named in honor of Malcolm X.

7. In 2006, he donated $1 million to Save Africa’s Children.

8. Received an honorary degree (Doctor of Humane Letters) from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia on May 20, 2007.

9. Supports charities such as the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, and the Gathering Place (an AIDS hospice).

10. He is the second black actor (after Sidney Poitier) to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role (for Training Day (2001). Poitier received the honorary Academy Award that same year.

10 Things that you may not know about Muhammad Ali


1. A red-and-white Schwinn bicycle launched his boxing career.
When the 12-year-old Clay’s beloved bicycle was stolen in October 1954, he reported the theft to Louisville, Kentucky, police officer Joe Martin and vowed to pummel the culprit. Martin, who was also a boxing trainer, suggested that the upset youngster first learn how to fight, and he took Clay under his wing. Six weeks later, Clay won his first bout in a split decision.

2. He was originally named in honor of a white abolitionist.
The fighter, like his father, was named for Cassius Marcellus Clay, a 19th-century farmer and anti-slavery crusader who emancipated the 40 slaves he inherited from his father. The abolitionist, a second cousin of Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, edited an anti-slavery newspaper, commanded troops in the Mexican-American War and served as minister to Russia under President Abraham Lincoln. In defying Southern conventions of the time, Clay faced more than death threats. He was beaten, stabbed and shot by political opponents but lived to the age of 92.

3. Before becoming known as Muhammad Ali, he changed his name to Cassius X.
The morning after defeating Liston, the new heavyweight champion confirmed reports that he had become a member of the Nation of Islam. With Malcolm X at his side, the champ told reporters that he had renounced his surname, which he called his “slave name,” and would be known as “Cassius X” until Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad gave the name of Muhammad Ali on March 6, 1964.

4. Ali was banned from boxing for three years.
As the Vietnam War raged in 1967, Ali refused to serve in the U.S. military for religious reasons. The heavyweight champion was arrested, and the New York State Athletic Commission immediately suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. Ali was convicted of draft evasion, sentenced to the maximum of five years in prison and fined $10,000, although he remained free while the conviction was appealed. In 1970 the New York State Supreme Court ordered his boxing license reinstated, and he returned to the ring by knocking out Jerry Quarry in October 1970. The following year, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction in a unanimous decision.

5. He never turns down an autograph request
As a young boy, Cassius Clay asked his idol, boxer Sugar Ray Robinson for an autograph. Robinson rudely told the boy « I don’t got time. » Young Cassius never forgot how hurt he was by Robinson’s rejection. To this day, he has never once turned down a request for an autograph. He even has a special P.O. box for anyone who wants his autograph

6. Ali helped give us Rocky.
In 1975, Ali fought a little-known boxer named Chuck Wepner (« The Bayonne Bleeder »). Ali was a heavy favorite, and he did win, but it took him the full 15 rounds to get the decision. Wepner’s courage in going the full distance with the famous world champion inspired a young, unknown writer/actor named Sylvester Stallone to write the screenplay for his classic film Rocky. Rocky’s opponent in the film, Apollo Creed, was based on Ali.

7. He recorded an album of spoken verse.
Muhammad Ali recorded an album for Epic Records in 1964 titled « I Am The Greatest. » The track, « The Gang’s All Here » was produced by Sam Cooke.

8. Ali was the first man to knock down Sonny Liston, George Foreman, and Chuck Wepner.

9. Aside from being a boxer and a singer, Ali also starred himself in a four motion pictures in December 1969 which he took the lead in a Broadway called Buck White.

10. The city of Louisville dedicated Muhammad Ali Boulevard in 1978. Shortly thereafter, twelve of the 70 street signs related to it were stolen, presumably by memorabilia collectors.