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Inspirational African Americans

In honor of black history month and beyond, I will be pinning notable African Americans who have given me inspiration.

Dr. Eliza Ann Grier. Born a slave she became the first African American to practice medicine in Georgia

Kenneth Chenault was born on June 2, 1951, in Mineola, New York. He worked as an attorney before transitioning into business, joining American Express in 1981. Chenault was named CEO of American Express in 2001, becoming one of the first African Americans to hold this position in a Fortune 500 company.

1846-1910 A dentist by trade, Dr. George F. Grant also distinguished himself as an educator, scholar, and inventor. Grant earned acclaim as both an innovator in dental practice and as a frequent and vocal commentator on the development of dentistry. Even at leisure, his active mind never stopped working overtime: he filed the first U.S. patent for a golf tee.

Dr. Harrison Wilson Jr. Served As President Of Norfolk State For 20 Years From 1975- 1997, He Also Was Head Basketball Coach At Jackson State From 1951-1960. He Is The Grandfather Of Seattle Seahawk Quarterback Russell Wilson. Russell is The second Black Quarterback To Win The Superbowl Super Bowl since Doug Williams led the Washington Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XXII.

Martina Arroyo (born February 2, 1937) is an American operatic soprano who had a major international opera career during the 1960s through the 1980s.

On Feb. 9, 1995, Bernard Harris left the confines of the space shuttle Discovery, floated among the stars and became the first African-American to walk in space. Over his career with NASA, Harris has logged more than 438 hours in space and traveled more than 7 million miles.

Melvin B. Tolson 1898-1966 - Known for his complex, challenging poetry, Melvin B. Tolson earned little critical attention throughout most of his life, but he eventually won a place among America's leading black poets. He was, in the opinion of Allen Tate, author of the preface to Tolson's Libretto for the Republic of Liberia, the first black poet to assimilate "completely the full poetic language of his time and, by implication, the language of the Anglo-American tradition."

Born into humble circumstances on February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama, Henry Louis 'Hank' Aaron ascended the ranks of the Negro Leagues to become a major league baseball icon. Aaron played 23 years as an outfielder for the Atlanta Braves, during which time he broke many of baseball's most distinguished records, including most career home runs (755)--a record that stood for more than two decades.

Hank Aaron Biography - Facts, Birthday, Life Story

Born in New York circa 1797, Sojourner Truth was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. Her best-known speech on racial inequalities, "Ain't I a Woman?", was delivered extemporaneously in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention. She was commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp on February 4, 1986.

Ruby Dee is an American actress, playwright, screenwriter, activist, poet and journalist, perhaps best known for starring in the 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun. She's also known for her civic and activist work with husband Ossie Davis.

Sir Sidney Poitier is an American born Bahamian actor, film director, author, and diplomat. In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field.

The dream continues...

"It's lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself." - Muhammad Ali Happy 71st Birthday! Photo credit © Richard Corman

Dr. Ben Carson is the Director of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  When he assumed this post at age 32 he was the youngest person to do so in Johns Hopkins history.  Although Dr. Carson has performed many successful surgeries throughout his career, he is probably most famous for being the first surgeon in the world to successfully separate twins conjoined at the back of the head (craniophagus twins).  Dr. Carson lead a 70-member surgical team in the 22 hour successful operation to separa

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Leroy "Satchel' Paige - Leroy "Satchel' Paige was a legendary pitcher in both the Negro Baseball League and the Major Leagues. There are many hall-of fame baseball players who have said that Satchel Paige was the best ever. In 1971 Satchel Paige was the first Negro League baseball player inducted into the Hall of Fame, but that is only the cap on an amazing story of an amazing man.

Hattie McDaniel - Although her role of "Mammy" was and still is controversial, Hattie McDaniel was the first black performer to win an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in "Gone With the Wind." She was also the first black woman to sing on the radio.

Jane M. Bolin - Judge Jane M. Bolin was the first black women graduate of Yale Law School and the first black female judge in the United States. Bolin was born in Poughkeepsie, New York on April 11, 1908. From her earliest days in her father’s law office, Bolin knew she wanted to be an attorney. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1928 and earned her J.D. degree at the Yale Law School in 1931.

First Black Woman Judge : Jane M. Bolin

Mary McLeod Bethune - Mary McLeod Bethune was an extraordinary educator, civil rights leader, and government official who founded the National Council of Negro Women and Bethune-Cookman College. She was also the first African American woman to be involved in the White House, assisting four different presidents.

Shirley Chisholm - In 1968 Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman to serve in the United States Congress. Chisholm was a model of independence and honesty and championed for several issues including civil rights, aid for the poor, and women's rights. In 1972 she ran for President of the United States, making her the first black person to do so. Although she did not win the Democratic nomination, she gained an impressive 10% of the votes.

Quincy Jones - Musician, Composer, Producer, Arranger, Philanthropist, and Film and Television Executive. Quincy Jones was convinced at an early age to explore music by his teenage friend Ray Charles. He played in various bands through the 50's, began composing for film and television in the mid 60's and eventually produced over 50 scores. He has worked with musicians Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin and Celine Dion. Jones founded a charity for youth in 1985. He is known for producing music like "We Are the World" and movies like "The Color Purple."

Quincy Jones Biography -- Academy of Achievement

Mary Leontyne Price was born in Laurel, Mississippi, on February 10, 1927. Ms. Price made her sensational Metropolitan Opera debut on Jan. 27, 1961, as Leonora in Verdi’s "Trovatore," the first African-American to open a season at the Metropolitan Opera. But prior to that, during the late 1950s, operagoers in Vienna and Salzburg had already heard her powerful Mozart performances as Donna Elvira in "Don Giovanni."

Leontyne Price News - The New York Times

Debi Thomas - On February 8, 1986 Debi Thomas became the first African American to capture the United States Figure Skating Championship. One month later she would then go on to win the World Championships. She is also the only African American to win a medal in the Olympics, winning a bronze medal in the 1988 Winter Olympic Games. Debi was inducted into the Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000 and is currently an orthopedic surgeon.

Henry Lewis - Born in 1932, Henry Lewis was the first black symphony orchestra conductor. After serving as a guest conductor of major symphony orchestras in the USA and abroad, he became conductor and music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, a small community ensemble. He transformed the ensemble into a nationally recognized orchestra that annually performed more than a hundred concerts.