By JoAnn Snavely
February is Black History Month, and this week the Herald’s own Nicole Chedraoui and I have teamed up to talk about the inspiring history of African American politicians of the past and those changing the world now! You can find Nicole’s article linked at the top of this article. African American politicians have come so far, jumping over many hurdles and obstacles to accomplish great feats. Some of the most influential African American figures of the past like Fredrick Douglas, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and Malcolm X paved the way for some of today’s most powerful leaders like Barack and Michelle Obama, Vice President Kamala Harris, Ayanna Presely, and Raphael Warnock. From the Civil Rights Movement, The Voting Rights Act, and desegregation, to today’s Black Lives Matter movements, the African American community never fails to demonstrate how powerful they are.
THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT
The Voting Rights Act was passed July 2, 1965. This act guaranteed the right to vote that could not be denied based on race or previous positions of servitude. This ensured African Americans their right to vote without being denied because of their skin color. Since then, African Americans have been a significant part of elections, with the African American voter turnout sometimes being the defining difference between winning a swing state or not. One example of this is Georgia’s senate election. Georgia’s own Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossof made history with the 2020 senate election. The senate runoff brought an unprecedented African American voter turnout in support of the senators. Their votes were the determining factor in that particular election. If it wasn’t for the African American voter turnout, who knows who would’ve won. This election put into perspective the power of the African and POC communities have.
Frederick Douglass is among one of the most notable African American activists. He was an escaped slave who helped many slaves escape alongside Harriet Tubman through an underground railroad. The Underground Railroad was a series of secret routes and safehouses trailing from the south to the north for safety. This route helped many slaves escape to freedom. Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman went on to become some of the most memorable and successful activists in the Civil War; they went on to save hundreds of African American slaves. They also went on to be leaders of the abolitionist movement, serving as figureheads for the movement.
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING
Another trailblazer in the civil rights movement is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The North Carolina native is one of the most well-known activists to ever exist. He was known for marching for civil rights and paved the way for every social justice movement that followed. He led by example and helped set the example for how to protest peacefully. He showed us how we can change the world and effectively make social change without the need for violence; this revolutionized the way peaceful protesting works.
Malcolm X was an African American Muslim minister, supporter of African American nationalism, and social justice activist who is most famously known for his stance that almost directly opposed Martin Luther King Jr.’s anti-violence initiative. Malcolm X affected how African Americans saw themselves by encouraging the development of the “black nationalism” movement in the ‘60s which encouraged the values of independence and autonomy among African Americans. We can learn from Malcolm X’s impact on culture by recognizing his speeches and embracing our own culture, especially among POC, instead of emulating what they may be told is the standard.
All of these staples in African American history revolutionized the way politicians of today work. Even if they aren’t given enough credit, they changed the way any social/political movement will work for years to come