John Marrant: America’s First Black Preacher

John Marrant

TweetShareShareHe was among America’s first black preachers. A fiery Methodist who converted thousands—blacks, Indians, whites—to Christianity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His life story–of only 35 years–has inspired millions. John Marrant was born a free black June 15, 1755 in New York City. When his father died, at four, his mother moved…

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Alex Haley: How “Roots” Seeded a Historical Racial Myth

TweetShareShare “I was just trying to give my people a MYTH to live by” (Alex Haley, author of “Roots”). On February 23, 1993—29 years ago today–an investigative journalist broke a story that Haley’s best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning Roots: The Saga of An American Family was a “hoax.” Haley, this journalist claimed, had “invented 200 years of…

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Booker T. Washington: The Tuskegee Titan

Booker T. Washington

TweetShareShareHe’s on a very short list of highly influential Black Americans. He was a prolific author, outstanding orator, influential educator and inspiring leader. He was among the last Black American generation born into slavery. His name was Booker T. Washington (1856-1915). Booker was born into slavery in Virginia, sometime in 1856. After Lincoln emancipated the…

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George Washington Carver: God’s Peanut Man

George Washington Carver

TweetShareShare“When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” These weren’t just words to George Washington Carver (1864-1943). They were his legacy. Few Americans lived bigger and better lives. Carver was born a slave, but eventually became a botanist, educator, conservationist, and artist.…

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Biddy Mason: The Mormon Slave That Became a Californian Treasure

Biddy Mason

TweetShareShare“Biddy” spent nearly forty years as a slave for a Mississippi slave master. She never learned to read or write. And yet she saved her midwife salary to become a wealthy Black real estate magnate…and revered philanthropist. It’s quite the story. It’s also an inspiring tale that proves it’s not how you start life that…

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Robert James Harlan: Ohio’s Political Powerhouse

Robert James Harlan

TweetShareShareRobert James Harlan (1816-1897) may have been born a slave but he lived most of his life free as a bird. And this Ohio bird could sing…and travel…and succeed. Born in Virginia on December 12, 1816. Harlan’s mother was mulatto, and his father was white. Consequently, Robert’s light-skinned complexion often helped him. As a young…

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Antoine Dubuclet, Jr.: The Cajun Savior of Louisiana

Antoine Debuclet

TweetShareShareHe was one of America’s wealthiest Black businessmen. As a Republican State Treasurer he saved debt-ridden Louisiana following the Civil War. But his story runs counter to many of the popular narratives in Black history today. Consequently, it’s a tale that worth telling. His name is Antoine Dubuclet, Jr. (1810-1887). He was a sugar planter…

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Robert Gordon: The Coal Magnate of Cincinnati

Robert Gordon

TweetShareShare“I must never leave my work until I have done my best.” That was the work ethic of Robert Gordon (1812-1884), a former slave and Cincinnati Black businessman who became a millionaire dealing coal. Gordon was born into slavery sometime in 1812, near Richmond, VA. His master operated a coal yard and young Robert quickly…

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Mary Ellen Pleasant: San Francisco’s “Golden” Girl

Mary Ellen Pheasant

TweetShareShareShe was Black America’s first self-made millionaire. The most powerful woman in San Francisco’s Gold-Rush period. She was a “one-woman social agency” for emancipated Blacks. Her name was Mary Ellen Pleasant…and her legendary story is simply unbelievable. Born in 1814, we know little about Mary Ellen’s youth because she told different tales to “please her…

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