DAR Legends: 7 Pivotal Black Figures

By @TrueGodImmortal

We've covered some black women that are truly important and vital to the movement of Civil Rights and black expression, but we've rarely covered the men and the fighters that went against the system and attempted to win. They were fearless, they were honest, and they were willing to fight at all costs. It's impossible to document every pivotal figure in the black community, but I wanted to take a moment to discuss 7 of the most pivotal black figures in history. 7 figures that were controversial, outspoken, important, and game changing. Let's take a look at the 7 pivotal figures that I've chosen here.

*Martin Luther King Jr. 

-Of course, there was no way to write a list on the pivotal black figures in history and leave out MLK. For all his work for integration and equality, my biggest memory of MLK remains the truth and knowledge he gained in his last year or two. He was aware that perhaps his message of integration was ill advised or at least poorly planned, and despite his name being used for everything non-violent or passive, MLK was a true fighter. He would be known as the most popular or well liked activist, because his message was safer, but truth be told, Martin was working towards bigger and better things in his activism. With a focus on economic justice and revolutionary change, MLK went with a much more radical position in his final months. It was so radical that the so called "activists" who wanted comfortable change, and they rejected The Poor People's Campaign. In addition to the March on Washington, Selma, the "I Have A Dream" speech, the Chicago work, and his opposition to the Vietnam War, MLK was outspoken and had a gift verbally to excite the masses. He was flawed like most activists and people, but he was one of the most important figures at a time when he was needed.

*Muhammad Ali  

-Yes, we've covered the history of Ali and what he means to the black community before, but the truth is, to fully understand what he represents and who he is, you have to take a look at his politics, or rather the lack there of. Ali was himself through and through, one of the most outspoken athletes and one of the most important people of his generation. His stance against going to war versus Vietnam nearly cost his career and subsequently his life, but he stood for his principles and everything in between. In addition to that, there were multiple instances when Ali didn't hold back on matters of the community or the reality of racism. He faced racism regularly being an outspoken black winner who couldn't be stopped. For all the battling he did in the ring as a boxer, his true fight came outside of it, and he set a precedent for many athletes that followed him. His courage, his words, his confidence, his honest demeanor made him an icon and hero to most. Ali was one of a kind.

*Marcus Garvey

-When we talk about legends in the black revolution, there aren't many with the legacy of Marcus Garvey. With his focus and precision, Marcus was a black nationalist that was dedicated to achieving black unity. He would teach, preach, and enlighten our own to want independence and embrace racial segregation for the cultural and possible economic benefits. Garvey wasn't necessarily perfect, but he was aware in what he was pushing and despite rubbing some popular black figures the wrong way (including W.E.B. Dubois), perhaps Garvey had the foresight. Instead of begging for equality from those who oppressed us and held us down, maybe we need our own independence and to build our own as well. Still, his methods weren't exactly the smartest or the most pure, but his theories, the Black Star line, and his Pan-Africanism would inspire many movements and activists in the years following, making him a pivotal, albeit controversial, figure.

*Medgar Evers 

-One of the more forgotten names of the Civil Rights Movement, Medgar Evers was a true revolutionary and activist. His beginnings were humble like most, as he was starting out seeking education and was enlisted in the Army at one point. Somewhere along the way, Medgar became interested in activism, starting off on a smaller level with the RCNL and their boycott of gas stations that deprived black customers usage of the restrooms. Medgar took a more conventional approach to activism as he joined the NAACP as a field secretary and worked to help integrate schools, public parks, and buses. He was at the forefront of the public investigations on the death of Emmett Till and his protests made him a target of white supremacists and racists. His unfortunate death was the result of the KKK and collusion with the FBI, and though he would die as the first black man allowed in a white hospital in Mississippi, his legacy as an activist lived on far beyond his years here on earth.

*Black Wall Street 

-While not an exact person or even a figure, there was no way I could do this list and not include one of the most important movements in black history. Our history is often butchered and hidden, but there is one thing that they cannot hide from us: the truth of Black Wall Street. When black business and economics began booming in Greenwood, Tulsa, something happened. Black strength finally arose after the oppression of before and led by doctors, workers, businessmen and more, Black Wall Street became so viable that it caught the attention of white racists and supremacists. The truth was, they didn't want us to integrate with them, they didn't want us to have our own, they didn't want us to have anything aside from the scraps they wished to give us. Oklahoma represented a symbol of hope, a beacon of independence, and a number of Black Americans went there to escape the nonsense they would experience elsewhere. Names like O.W. Gurley and J.B. Stradford were important in the development of Black Wall Street, as their entrepreneurial spirit was impressive. This was an up and running community until 1921 when Black Wall Street was attacked and bombed by Law Enforcement, the government, and the City of Tulsa. Hundreds of buildings were lost, over 6,000 residents were arrested, 10,000 people were left homeless, and lives were ruined in what is known as the Tulsa Race Riot. The saddest part? All of that was intended to stop what they called a negro uprising. What does that mean? That means the power of blacks united was too much for white people to handle.... even if we created our own resources and economics. That says so much.

*Fred Hampton 

-While his time on earth was short lived, I always have taken to the plight of Fred Hampton. A true revolutionary and a true soldier for the cause, he was one of the most pivotal people in the Black Panther Party during the ascension. Fred was an outspoken leader in his own right, but what stood out about his speeches were the passion behind them. He delivered his words and his wisdom with conviction and honesty, igniting a fire under the Chicago chapter of the Panthers and the world over every time he spoke. While many have praised the important Bobby Seale and Huey Newton of course, for me, Fred Hampton is just as important, as he worked to maintain peace amongst Chicago gangs, and tried his hardest to forge many alliances amongst people of color. He would fight against FBI allegations and investigations to keep his chapter of the Panther Party alive and well, and unfortunately, the details of his murder speak of betrayal, disgust, and the work of the government and the police to take away yet another one of the black fighters who didn't fear the system or the racists behind it. Fred Hampton is and will always be a legend.

*Malcolm X 

-Of course, we've covered Malcolm in this section before. He's a legend and an inspiration in his own right for a number of reasons, but in terms of my personal opinion, he's the most pivotal figure on the list. He is imperfect personally and as an activist, starting years ago as Detroit Red, a hustler who was trying to survive. After a jail stint led him to Islam, Malcolm began one of the most outspoken figures of the era and one of the most precise speakers of the generation. He gave his speeches with conviction, spoke of black economic and social power being necessary, and would even grow to reject the ideology and teachings of the Nation of Islam for the actual teachings of Islam itself. He is responsible for some of the most infamous speeches of our time, including the legendary "The Ballot Or The Bullet", and Malcolm is one of the true pillars of black culture through all he represents. He was a top speaker, a teacher, still a student, and someone who passed on his knowledge to the world. Malcolm, like all of the legends on this list, were pivotal for their era and their time and still are important today.



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