William Grant Still

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William Grant Still,  (born May 11, 1895, Woodville, Miss., U.S.—died Dec. 3, 1978, Los Angeles), American composer and conductor, and the first black to conduct a professional symphony orchestra in the United States. Though a prolific composer of operas, ballets, symphonies, and other works, he was best known for his Afro-American Symphony (1931). Still was brought up by his […]

Muhammad Ali

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Muhammad Ali’s Early Years and Amateur Career Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., the elder son of Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr. (1912-1990) and Odessa Grady Clay (1917-1994), was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky. It was a red-and-white Schwinn that steered the future heavyweight champion to the sport of boxing. When his beloved bicycle was […]

Ellen and William Craft

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William and Ellen Craft’s daring escape from slavery in 1848 made them famous throughout antebellum America, heroes in the eyes of abolitionists and criminals in the eyes of slavery supporters. The unusual circumstances of their flight to freedom were a major factor in their celebrity. Ellen, so light-skinned as to be nearly white, disguised herself […]

Duke Ellington

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Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the most prolific composer of the twentieth century in terms of both number of compositions and variety of forms. His development was one of the most spectacular in the history of music, underscored by more than fifty years of sustained achievement as an artist and an entertainer. He is considered […]

Crispus Attucks

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In 1770, Crispus Attucks, a black man, became the first casualty of the American Revolution when he was shot and killed in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Although Attucks was credited as the leader and instigator of the event, debate raged for over as century as to whether he was a hero and […]

Bessie Coleman

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Bessie Coleman, the first African American female pilot, grew up in a cruel world of poverty and discrimination. The year after her birth in Atlanta, Texas, an African American man was tortured and then burned to death in nearby Paris for allegedly raping a five-year-old girl. The incident was not unusual; lynchings were endemic throughout […]

Paul Robeson

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Paul Robeson was a famous African-American athlete, singer, actor, and advocate for the civil rights of people around the world. He rose to prominence in a time when segregation was legal in the United States, and Black people were being lynched by racist mobs, especially in the South. Born on April 9, 1898 in Princeton, […]

Assata Shakur

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On May 2, 2013, the FBI placed Assata Shakur, now living in Cuba, on its Most Wanted Terrorists list, which has included the likes of Osama Bin Laden and other Al Quaeda figures, some of whom were executed by drones. This was the day after the State Department was due to release its list of […]

Lewis Latimer

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1848-1928  Lewis H. Latimer was a leading engineer in the formative years of the electric power industry at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. He was a key member of the legendary group of inventors led by Thomas Edison. Latimer was born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, on September 4, 1848, […]

Jan Matzeliger

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Jan Ernst Matzeliger was born on September 15, 1852 in Surinam (South America), the child of a biracial marriage. His father was a white engineer from Holland and his mother was a black woman in the Dutch colony.  By his third birthday Matzeliger was sent to live with his father’s sister.  By the time he […]

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  • February 4th, 2014 by The Zodiac

Dick Gregory

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A renown comedian, Dick Gregory (born 1932) used his wit and humor to advance his deep interest in civil rights and world peace. Dick Gregory was born Richard Claxton Gregory on October 12, 1932, into poverty and deprivation in St. Louis, Missouri. In some ways his humble beginnings fueled the topical racial comedy which catapulted […]

James Baldwin

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Although he spent a great deal of his life abroad, James Baldwin always remained a quintessentially American writer. Whether he was working in Paris or Istanbul, he never ceased to reflect on his experience as a black man in white America. In numerous essays, novels, plays and public speeches, the eloquent voice of James Baldwin […]

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  • February 2nd, 2014 by The Zodiac