On this Independence Day, I would like us to pay homage to nine African-Americans who have not only fought for our Independence and civil rights, but have also opened doors for African-Americans in military and political offices.
1. Crispus Attucks
Crispus Attucks was the first person shot to death by British Redcoats during the American Revolutionary War. Attucks was killed in Boston, Massachusetts on 1770, at was it is known now as the Boston Massacre. He has been immortalized as “the first to defy, the first to die,” and has regarded by historians as true martyr for American Independence.
2. William Carney
William Carney was one of the first African-American soldiers to be awarded the Medal of Honor. Carney was awarded on May 23, 1900, nearly 40 years after he served in the Civil War. Carney was a popular speaker at patriotic events, and has been remembered for his role in the Battle of Fort Wagner when he saved the American flag.
3. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was the first African-American general in the United States Air Force, and commanded the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. Davis retired as a lieutenant general in 1970, then was raised to a full general in 1998 when President Bill Clinton awarded him a fourth star. Davis was a highly decorated general who was awarded the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, Army Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, and numerous other awards of distinction. Molefi Kete Asante also listed Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.
4. Guion Bluford Jr.
Guion “Guy” Bluford, Jr. was the first African-American astronaut to travel into space. Bluford made the heroic trek aboard the Challenger on Aug. 30, 1983. He has received many medals, awards, and accolades, and was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997.
5. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a patriot and a matyr who never engaged in military violence. Dr. King’s efforts led to the adoption of several federal civil rights acts and ground-breaking Supreme Court decisions. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and will be honored with a National Memorial in Washington.
6. Andrew Young
Andrew Jackson Young Jr., was a leading civil-rights activist in the 1960s who served in the U.S. House of Representatives, and was the first African-American to serve as the U.S. Representative to the UN. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, France’s Légion d’honneur, and the The NAACP Springarn Medal.
7. Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American to serve as Supreme Court Justice. Marshall spent the earlier part of his career fighting to dismantle racial segregation, then served on the Supreme Court for 24 years, continuing the fight for racial equality.
8. Colin Powell
Colin Powell was the first African-American to serve as the United States Secretary of State. During his military career, he served as National Security Advisor, as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command, and served in the Gulf War as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Powell’s civilian awards include two Presidential Medals of Freedom, the President’s Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Secretary of State Distinguished Service Medal, the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal, and the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award.
9. Barack Obama
Barack Obama is the first African-American president of the United States of America. In foreign policy, he has gradually withdrew combat troops from Iraq, signed the New START arms control treaty with Russia, and successfully found and killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In 2009, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace prize.