The Unsung Heroes of Black History Month


Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Sasha Legagneur, Staff Writer

Black History Month is a yearly observance – in the United States, the Netherlands, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Canada – of the achievements of those originating from Africa’s peoples. Throughout history, Africans and their descendants have often suffered from oppression, inequality, and cruelty.

From the exchange of black African slaves and apartheid in South Africa to segregation laws in the United States, people of color have suffered a tremendously due to the shade of their skin. Certain people believe that they are racially superior to those of African descent, often basing these beliefs off of theories such as social Darwinism (which claims that blacks are inferior to other races due to innate biology) and individual factors such as outright prejudice, which is due to what people have been taught to believe.

Although many believed that Africans and their descendants could never amount to the status and level of other ethnicities, the tremendous and revolutionary achievements made by people of color have shown otherwise. These people have shown that success in not found in the color of your skin. Rather, success is derived from hard work, determination, a passion to improve, wanting to break conformity, and defying standards.

Some of the most acknowledged figures of Black History Month include Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, among many others. These people have broken barriers and opened new paths for the black community.

Contrastingly, there are many individuals who are not widely discussed, but have made enormous contributions to society. Madame C.J. Walker and James Armistead are just two of the many unsung heroes of Black History Month.

Madame C.J. Walker created hair care products that were specifically made for African American hair. Walker is known as the richest female entrepreneur and businesswoman in America at the time of her death in 1919. Born as Sarah Breedlove in Louisiana, she suffered from a scalp infection that concluded in her own hair loss. Inspired by her personal struggle, Breedlove created and advertised her haircare products around the country. She built “Madame C.J. Walker Laboratories” to design her products and to train aspiring beauticians. Walker was one of the first American women to become a self-sustaining millionaire. Despite the prejudice she faced, her drive to prosper led her down a thriving and opportunistic path.

Some say that James Armistead was the most crucial spy in the American Revolution. Born in New Kent, Virginia, Armistead’s master gave him permission to join the revolution. He worked as a double agent for both the British and the Americans. When Marquis de Lafayette needed information on Benedict Arnold, Armistead’s skills were put into play. Disguised as an escaped slave, he entered Arnold’s camp. He then reported what he heard to Lafayette. A huge blockade was made against the British until the surrendered on October 19, 1781. Rex Ellis, the associate director for curatorial affairs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, said, “If he had not given the information that he gave at the strategic time he did, they would not have had the intelligence to create the blockade that ended the war.”

These magnificent minds are symbols of the creativity and intelligence that lies within the African American community. They show that when you push them, they will push even harder. Because of their incomparable contributions, we optimize the month of February as a period of remembrance that are all people are equal, and that your race, color, and heritage are all things that should be celebrated and treasured.