History: July 16, 1862: Eight Great Black American Men

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A Brief History

On July 16, 1862 and July 16, 1882 we commemorate the birthdays of 2 significant African-American women, Ida Wells (who first developed statistics on lynching in the US) and VA Johnson (the first African-American woman to argue before the Supreme Court).  In honor of these historic Black American Women, today we choose to highlight the accomplishments of Eight Great Black American Men, people that young Americans can look up to, especially African-American youths.  Please note that Barack Obama is not included on this list only because his term as President is not over yet, and History has not evaluated his performance.  (We suspect he will certainly rate being included on future such lists.)  NOTE: Since this article has been written, President Obama has completed his second term and is absolutely to be considered a Great Black Man, and more importantly, a Great American.  Another omission on our part is Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. who although he accomplished a tremendous amount of good for the country through his work on civil rights, plagiarized his doctoral dissertation and we hesitate to glorify a cheater, while acknowledging his accomplishments.  Feel free to tell us other great African-American men you would like to see highlighted on a follow up list.  (The order listed has no significance.)

Digging Deeper

8.  Booker T. Washington. 

A multi-faceted man as an educator, author, civil rights proponent, and advisor to Presidents, Washington was probably the leading African-American advocate of the period 1890-1915.  Educated at Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute and Wayland Seminary, Washington was born into slavery and used Tuskegee Institute as his base for fighting for the rights of African-Americans in the Jim Crow days after Reconstruction.  He was an advocate of the education of Black youth and development of Black owned businesses as the primary way of advancing the common lot of African-Americans.  Washington’s adept use of the media, oratory and organization is legendary.

7.  Neil deGrasse Tyson.

A mainstay of the American Museum of Natural History, the University of Maryland and Princeton, this astrophysicist and cosmologist is a familiar face on television exposing this generation of Americans to the wonders of the cosmos.  Neil Tyson got his education at Harvard, the University of Texas and Columbia, and is one of today’s greatest scientists, as well as one of the greatest advocates of science.

6.  James Cleveland “Jesse” Owens. 

Perhaps the greatest track and field athlete of all time, this Cleveland, Ohio native (born in Alabama) went on to greatness at Ohio State University and in the 1936 Olympics, where is magnificent performance proved Hitler and Nazi Germany wrong about “Aryan” superiority.  Owens was as smart as he was athletic and enjoyed some commercial success while also mobilizing African-American voters.  A man of great dignity, he was not afraid to support racial equality publicly and eloquently.  In later years business went bad and Owens went bankrupt, but was appointed a special Goodwill Ambassador by the US Government and spoke to many audiences.

5.  Lebron James.

A high school honor student, James has lived with fame and fortune from an early age, and despite being raised by a single mom, has learned his life lessons so well that he has avoided the pitfalls that often plague rich and famous young people.  A dignified player on the court and a decent family man off it, he has become a spokesman for intelligent, non-violent dialogue at the present time of racial strife plaguing the US.  Meanwhile, he led the Cavaliers to the first major league sports championship in Cleveland since 1964.  When his career ends, he will be rated as the best or one of the best basketball players of all time, with a reputation as the hardest working man on the team.

4.  Daniel Cormier.

The current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in mixed martial arts, Cormier was a distinguished high school wrestler, winning the Louisiana State Championship 3 years in a row in high school.  Piling up a 61-0 record in junior college, he went on to great success at Oklahoma State, achieving a record of 53-10, including the post graduation accomplishment of being the US National Champion from 2003-2008.  Named a team captain for the 2008 US Olympic Wrestling team, Cormier was unable to compete due to kidney problems.  A college grad, this intelligent and classy individual is far from the stereotypical professional fighter.  Cormier displays a great work ethic, first class sportsmanship, and is a pretty darn good fighter, with a pro record of 18-1.

3.  George Washington Carver.

Okay, so he did not invent peanut butter.  Still, this inventor and botanist was a major proponent of peanuts and sweet potatoes as alternate crops to cotton in the war ravaged South.  Born into slaver himself, Carver devoted his life to making life better for other people and produced numerous helpful bulletins advising farmers how to maximize crops.  An early environmentalist, Carver was recognized by Time Magazine as a “Black Leonardo” in 1941. Rejected for admission to a white college, Carver got his degree in Botany by studying “Plants as Modified by Man” at Iowa State Agricultural College.  He was the first African-American student at that school, and certainly to this day remains one of their most honored alumni.  Carver later became the first Black faculty member at Iowa State.

2.  Dr. Ben Carson.

A graduate of Yale and the University of Michigan (Medical School), this brilliant neurosurgeon (now retired) was perhaps the finest in his field during his practice.  Capable of excelling at the most delicate of surgeries, Carson became the first surgeon to ever separate conjoined twins (“Siamese Twins”) attached at the head.  Carson continued his public service by running for President in the 2016 primary season, and despite dropping out of the race has continued to make his political views public and provides counsel to the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.  Carson is also a best selling author (6 books on best seller lists) and a prolific writer or professional medical papers.  In 1994 Carson founded a scholarship foundation for American youths.

1.  Benjamin Banneker. 

Born in Baltimore at a time when Maryland was a slave colony (and later state) in 1731, Banneker was actually born a free man to free parents.  A self taught scientist, Banneker became knowledgeable enough about astronomy to publish almanacs and became a competent surveyor.  Banneker’s proximity to what became Washington, D.C. and his prominence allowed him to correspond with Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson, especially about subjects such as slavery and racial equality.  Banneker is remembered today by streets, schools and parks being named in his honor and he has even appeared on a US Postage stamp.  One of Banneker’s unique political proposals what that a “Secretary of Peace” be established.  His inventiveness was demonstrated when he used a pocket watch as a model for a working wooden clock.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Blakley, Gloria and Allison J. Keyes. Great African Americans. Publications International, 2002.

Oughton, Taylor. Great African Americans Coloring Book (Dover History Coloring Book). Dover Publications, 1996.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.