Celebrate Black History: 5 African Americans Who Achieved Enormous Success
We’ve got some extraordinary people to tell you about in celebration of Black History Month. We’re thrilled to celebrate these pioneers for all they have achieved and taught us throughout history.
These historical figures remain beacons of hope, knowledge, and resolve. Their stories remind us to pursue our goals, dreams, and ambitions with determination, as tomorrow may bring unexpected opportunities.
Blanche Kelso Bruce (1841-1898)
1841 was a tumultuous time in African American history. The Supreme Court declared Africans aboard the slave ship Amistad as free people. However, true freedom for African Americans remained a fleeting thought. Many states had ideas and agendas, and slavery was still widespread and legal.
Blanche Kelso Bruce was born in 1841 into slavery but didn’t let that stop him. Instead, he gained his education from the tutor hired to educate his master’s son. When the Civil War began, Bruce fled and returned after emancipation. Later, he served the Mississippi state legislature as a senator from 1875 to 1881 and presided over the senate in 1879.
Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934)
Born to enslaved parents on the confederate side of the country, Maggie Lena Walker was no stranger to adversity. However, she pushed herself to rise above these circumstances and succeeded in many admirable ways.
Walker learned math and accounting and became a teacher. She also ministered to the sick and elderly in Richmond, Virginia, and supported many other local charitable organizations.
Walker published St. Luke Herald, a newspaper for the African American benevolent organization, the Independent Order of St. Luke’s. Her knowledge and skills encouraged others to embrace their economic power and establish institutions.
She later started a community insurance company for women and founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903. Jordan became the first woman of any race to charter a bank, which was quite a feat back then.
Major Richard R. Wright, Sr. (1855-1947)
Major Richard R. Wright Sr. may not be a household name, but he was a trailblazer for civil rights who paved the way for better-known leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Wright Sr. began his life in the throngs of slavery. After emancipation, he went to Storrs School and became valedictorian at the first commencement ceremony for Atlanta University.
He later became the highest-ranking Black officer during the Spanish American War. Afterward, he returned to education, becoming the first president of Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth. He actively engaged with scholars, editors, and civil rights activists until 1902.
Emmett Scott (1873-1957)
Emmett Scott, a native Texan, began his career as a journalist. A son of former slaves, Scott worked with Booker T. Washington and was instrumental in developing the Tuskegee Institute.
He later became the commissioner of Liberia and wrote the pamphlet Is Liberia Worth Saving? This pamphlet was a treatise on the country's potential and the need for U.S. aid. The pamphlet called for assistance in combating slave traders, rebuilding Liberian colonies, and promoting independence through resources, housing, and education.
During World War I, Scott was appointed as Special Assistant for Negro Affairs to the Secretary of War. This role made Scott the highest-ranking African American in the administration.
After the war, Scott remained politically active, serving the Republican National Committee.
Barbara Jordan (1936-1996)
Barbara Jordan is another key figure in Black history, and a fellow Texan, too! Jordan was born in Houston and gained many “first” titles in Texas and the nation.
She became the first African American elected from the deep south since 1898 and the first Black Congresswoman from the south. Jordan practiced law in 1960 while also serving as a county judge's administrative assistant. That same year, Jordan also worked on the JFK election campaign.
In 1966, Jordan ran for a Senate seat and won. As a result, Jordan became the first African American state senator in the nation since 1883, shortly after Blanche Kelso Bruce ended his final term. State senators can act as governor in the governor and lieutenant governor's absence. In 1972, Jordan became the first Black chief executive by assuming this role.
Despite a lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis and later leukemia, Jordan changed gears and accepted an appointment to the Lyndon Johnson Chair in National Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She taught classes there until the 1990s and delivered national affairs speeches.
The Final Word
Each of these pioneers lived in tumultuous times, yet, they achieved goals and careers that others thought impossible. Given the circumstances of their times in history, their achievements are nothing short of extraordinary. They envisioned and reached for their goals and succeeded.
You can never know whether you will succeed if you never try; this is true for everyone. Never allow life circumstances, poor health, other people’s opinions, or lack of money to hold you back, push you down, or shatter your dreams.
And if you need help getting started, we’re here for you. We have the financial tools to help you begin. Through our LINC program, you can access many other resources within your community.