Famous African American Men
Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806)
Born on November 9, 1731 near Elliott City, Maryland, Benjamin Banneker was one of America’s greatest intellectuals and scientists. Benjamin Banneker was an essayist, inventor, mathematician, and astronomer. Because of his dark skin and great intellect he was called the “sable genius.” Benjamin Banneker was a self-taught mathematician and astronomer. While still a youth he made a wooden clock which kept accurate time past the date that Banneker died. This clock is believed to be the first clock wholly made in America. In 1791, he served on a project to make a survey for the District of Columbia, helping to design the layout for our Nation’s capital. Deeply interested in natural phenomena, Banneker started publishing an almanac in 1791 and continued its publication until 1802. He published a treatise on bees, did a mathematical study on the cycle of the seventeen-year locust, and became a pamphleteer for the anti-slavery movement. He was internationally known for his accomplishments and became an advisor to President Thomas Jefferson. He died on his farm on October 9, 1906.
George Washington Carver (1860-1943)
If an honest history of the deep South is ever written, Dr. George Washington Carver will stand out as one of the truly great men of his time. Born of slave parents in 1860 in Diamond, Missouri, Dr. Carver almost single-handedly revolutionized southern agriculture. From his small laboratory on the campus of Tuskegee Institute flowed hundreds of discoveries and products from the once neglected peanut. From the peanut Dr. Carver discovered meal, instant and dry coffee, bleach, tar remover, wood filler, metal polish, paper, ink, shaving cream, rubbing oil, linoleum, synthetic rubber, and plastics. From the soybean he obtained flour, breakfast food, and milk. It is highly doubtful if any person has done as much for southern agriculture as Dr. Carver. Dr. Carver died in 1943 and was buried next to Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute. On July 17, 1960 the George Washington Carver National Monument was dedicated at Dr. Carver’s birth site. This was the first U.S. federal monument dedicated to a African-American.
W.E.B. DuBois (1868-1963)
Author, Educator, Intellectual
No single title does credit to the prodigious talents of Dr. W.E.B. DuBois. Born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, he has been labeled an educator, author, historian, sociologist, philosopher, poet, leader and radical. In 1903 his famous book Souls of Black Folks was published. Perhaps his greatest fame came from his debate with Booker T. Washington over the type of education needed by African Americans. Washington stressed vocational education, whereas DuBois insisted on training in the liberal arts and in the humanities. He was one of the founders of the NAACP and editor of its famous journal The Crisis. He was also the first Black to receive a doctoral degree from Harvard University. In 1919 he initiated the Pan African Conferences in Paris. On behalf of the NAACP at the United Nations, he tried to get a firm anti-colonial commitment from the United States in 1945 and in 1947 presented a protest against the Jim Crow laws. His theme in his later years was always economic democracy and the channeling of Black Power through a unified Black society. He died on October 27,1963 in Accra, Ghana where he had established his new home.
Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950)
Founder of Black History Month
Carter Godwin Woodson, the father of “Black History,” was born on December 19, 1875 in New Canton, Virginia. Despite the pioneering efforts of many Black writers and scholars, the systematic treatment of Black history was not achieved until 1915 when Carter G. Woodson, an ex-coal miner and school teacher, organized the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Over the years, the still thriving association has published many important volumes in the field of Black history. In 1916, Dr. Woodson started The Journal of Negro History, a scholarly repository of research which is used by students of history throughout the world. He initiated the observance of Black History Week in 1926. Eleven years later the association began the publication of The Negro History Bulletin, a more popular vehicle for disseminating the findings for scholars and researchers. “Dr. Woodson firmly believed that the achievements of Blacks properly set forth will crown him as a factor in the early human progress and a maker of modern civilization.” His life and work are eloquent testimonies to that belief. He died on April 13, 1950.
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