Every week this month, we featured on our Facebook page people of color who have had great cultural or historical impacts on our society.
Each of those features is listed below. These individuals may not be as familiar as other celebrated Black figures, but they undeniably represent the significance of diversity, tolerance and social progress – along with the power and unity of the human spirit.
Happy Black History Month!
Alain LeRoy Locke
After graduating from Harvard, Alain attended Oxford University as the first Black Rhodes Scholar. He later earned his PhD in philosophy from Harvard and then served as a professor of philosophy and literature there for 40 years!
In 1945, Locke became known as the Father of the Harlem Renaissance when he edited the anthology The New Negro, a groundbreaking publication featuring the early works of some of the most influential Black voices.
Gwendolyn was a highly regarded poet whose works reflected the Black experience at the time. In 1950, she became the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry “Annie Allen.”
Before her passing in 2000, Gwendolyn wrote several other influential books, earning her a place among the most celebrated American poets of the 20th century.
At the age of six, Ruby was the first Black student to integrate a Louisiana elementary school. After passing an exam to determine if she could compete academically at the school, Ruby walked to class every day escorted by four marshals, undeterred by threats and slurs from many in her community.
Though Ruby’s first year of school was challenging, she never missed a day. Her bravery accelerated the Civil Rights movement, and she went on to establish The Ruby Bridges Foundation, which advocates for tolerance and social change. She has written two books and has received the Carter G. Book Award.
Mary Fields (“Stagecoach Mary”)
Mary Fields was the first Black female contract mail carrier, who was known for her fearlessness, reliability and generosity.
She was born into slavery and after emancipation worked at a convent where she performed housekeeping duties and what was considered “men’s work” because of her size and strength.
At the age of 63, Mary received a postal contract between Cascade, Montana, and St. Peter’s Mission. Her job was to both deliver and protect the mail. She delivered by stagecoach and was never without her pistol and rifle, as her route was often beset by bandits and thieves.
Mary delivered mail for eight years, earning the name “Stagecoach Mary,” before retiring in Cascade. She was celebrated in her community, notorious for her quick temper and barroom escapades and loved for her generosity and kindness, especially towards children.
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