5 Black Leaders They Didn't Teach You About in School

February is Black History Month, so we're taking a deep dive into the stories of Black Americans who played an integral role in shaping the good ol' US of A.

Think you learned all of this in school? Think again. 

1. Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha Johnson

In the 1960s, The Stonewall Inn was a sanctuary for LGBT people to go out and dance with their friends and chill without police harassment (allegedly because the bar had mafia ties). On June 28, 1969, Marsha P. Johnson went out to celebrate her 25th birthday at The Stonewall Inn, but ended up starting a revolution. That evening the police raided the bar, but Johnson led the patrons to fight back- marking the beginning of the modern LGBT movement, inspiring marches and pride festivals across the country. While history often forgets this trans woman of color, it is important to remember her legacy fighting for LGBT rights and AIDS activism.



Shirley Graham Du Bois

2. Shirley Graham Du Bois

Shirley Graham Du Bois was much more than the wife of famed civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. Before they even got hitched, she was the author of Tom-Tom, the first all-black opera performed professionally in the US, she wrote biographies about influential people in black history, and helped massively expand the NAACP during the 1940s- all while raising two boys has a single mother.

Once Shirley married W.E.B. Du Bois, the two became the definition of #couplegoals. Shirley helped expand her husband's activism by recognizing the intersectionality between race and economics. When her husband was accused of being a communist during the Red Scare, Shirley traveled across the country, giving speeches to clear his name, and it worked- he was let go. Even after her husbands death, Shirley continued to fight alongside other Black activists like Malcolm, and worked with high profile political figures to create progress in modern America.      



Beverly Johnson


3. Beverly Johnson

In August 1974, Beverly Johnson became the first black model to appear on the cover of American Vogue. Not only did she open the door for other black models and diversity in fashion, she helped redefine American beauty standards.

This is MAJOR because, as writer Constance C.R. White put it-

"Because looking good — good enough to be seen by millions — speaks volumes about what we value, and that value wields a great kind of power."





Dr.Charles Drew











4. Dr. Charles Drew

Dr. Charles Drew saved countless lives with his creation of blood banks, and his innovative research on ways to process and store blood and plasma. He served as the Director of several American and British blood donation programs during WWII, including the American Red Cross, but left the position in protest to the organization's belief that the blood of African Americans should be kept separate. 

He continued his career as a professor and Department Head of Surgery at Howard University,, the Chief Surgeon at Freedman Hospital and the first African-American examiner for the American Board of Surgery before his death.



Guion S. Bludford









5. Guion S. Bluford

Prepare for takeoff!

Guion S. Bluford (also known as Guy) was a mission specialist on the Challenger space shuttle in 1983. As the first African American to travel into space, Bluford began his career as an Air Force pilot in Vietnam, where he won many awards for his outstanding performance. Bluford spent over 688 hours in space before his retirement from NASA in 1993, and is considered a distinguished astronaut and scientist. 

Sadie Kurzban