UPDATED: 9:25 a.m. ET, Feb. 11, 2022
Originally published Feb. 19, 2020
Black history is celebrated around these parts all year-’round, but the month of February — Black History Month — is specifically dedicated to embracing and uplifting Black culture, as well as historical and present-day monumental figures. These revered individuals have had a hand in molding their successors, allowing for them to seamlessly follow in their footsteps as the blueprint was already provided. Some of the Black history makers who have paved the way for generations to come are Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and Madam C.J. Walker.
Maya Angelou was not only a famed poet, but she was also a fervent civil rights activist and wrote an award-winning memoir in 1969, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” which was comprised of numerous poems and essays. Angelou’s acclaimed memoir was the first nonfiction bestseller by a Black woman. Angelou’s collection of poetry also includes “And Still I Rise,” which featured “Phenomenal Woman,” “I Shall Not Be Moved,” and a host of others. Maya Angelou won a number of awards, but her legacy extends far beyond her literary feats, as her impact will continue to transcend and shape generations to come.
Novelist James Baldwin fearlessly wrote about race, sexuality and humanity during a time when Black voices were being suppressed. Most famous for his novel, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” Baldwin also penned groundbreaking essays such as “Notes of a Native Son” and “The Fire Next Time.” The Harlem-born writer took literary risks, addressing social issues, allowing for writers who came after him to be valiant when sharing their thoughts on paper for the world to see.
Entrepreneur and self-made millionaire Madam C.J. Walker changed the trajectory of Black hair care, inventing products for Black women suffering from hair loss. Though she was born a slave, Walker had a larger vision for herself. After developing a scalp disorder causing her to lose a large portion of her hair, Walker began using home remedies and store-bought hair care products in hopes of reversing or improving the condition of her hair. After perfecting her formula, she opened a factory in 1908, as well as a beauty school in Pittsburgh. Two years later, in 1910, Walker shifted her business to Indianapolis where she amassed major success, making profits equivalent to several millions of dollars.
Maya Angelou, James Baldwin and Madam C.J. Walker are definitely three Black history makers that you should know.