Influential figures of Black History Month

Look beyond some of the more well-known figures to examine historical and contemporary activists who work continuously for equity and justice


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Beyonce and daughter Blue Ivy in the “Brown Skin Girl” music video

Tra'sean Nichols, Arts & Culture Writer

Black History has shaped America with its undeniable influence on our society. The rich dark pigment of the skin comes full of cultural influences that without them, we wouldn’t have the America we know today.

Many of us are familiar with some of the names, including Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X. But here are some other prominent figures that deserve some attention this Black History Month.

You can’t talk about Black history without Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., two prominent activists during the Civil Rights Movement. Both showcased the utilization of the First Amendment right to speech and peaceful protest, becoming more common today. Because of the two of them, and many more during the time, they significantly influenced modern-day society. Their philosophies of and emphasis on non-violent resistance garnered the attention of the world in the 1960’s. 

Another prominent example of Black history influencing modern-day society is the work of Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. Two very articulate poets changed Black literature and media with their work. The two remain an inspiration to many Black people who are trying their hand in writing. Whether it’s a poem, stories or even research, up-and-coming writers can always look to Angelou and Hughes for an ounce of inspiration. Their work both captures the struggles of the common Black man and woman while utilizing lyrical, even beautiful language to reach a wide audience. 

In more modern times, the media is constantly influenced by the work of Black people. One of the most critical people working in music and songwriting is Beyonce. There is no doubt that Beyonce has run the music industry for quite some time, getting her to start in the group Destiny’s Child with other Black performers Roberson, Rowland, Támar Davis, and sisters Nikki and Nina Taylor. Beyonce continues to grow through the industry, showcasing the extreme flexibility that her voice possesses. Throughout her career, she has stayed true to herself. Leading many projects that help empower young African-American girls, Beyonce has done more for society than just sharing her voice. These acts of kindness in our community aren’t often seen by the top A-list celebrities. One of her most notable songs, “Brown Skin Girl,” celebrates young Black girls while not shying away from the challenges many encounter.

Moving to a different line of work, one of the most influential people in the cinematic industry was the late Chadwick Boseman. Taking on what some call a defying role of Black Panther, Boseman is an inspiration to all. He gave a lot of people the ability to see a part of themselves in his movies, all while looking good doing it. Unfortunately, his untimely death left the world in a state of shock. His legacy will never go forgotten as it is captured in every movie, book, or piece of media he is in. 

America’s cultural foundation was built on the influences of Black creators throughout time. Although we are taking this month to honor and showcase these people, they deserve our appreciation throughout the entire year, as America wouldn’t have come this far without them.