10 of the most influential African Americans in history

10 of the most influential African Americans in history
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., discusses his planned poor people's demonstration from the pulpit of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., March 31, 1968. (AP Photo) (Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In celebration of Black History Month, in no particular order, here are 10 of the most influential African Americans in history.

Black History Month is a time to remember and reflect, especially at a time when the country is continually reminded of the discrimination African Americans have endured and are still subjected to by their fellow Americans. February is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of former slaves and civil rights leaders of decades past who helped put an end to segregation and slavery and inspired hope for African Americans.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

No single African American in history is perhaps as famous as Martin Luther King, Jr. A federal holiday on the third Monday each January celebrates his legacy. Entire sections of textbooks are devoted to his civil rights activism in the 1950s and 1960s. Dr. King made his mark by preaching nonviolent means of protesting segregation in the United States. MLK’s assassination at the hands of a white man in 1968 sparked riots and mourning across the world.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gestures and shouts to his congregation in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. on April 30, 1967 as he urges America to repent and abandon what he called its "Tragic, reckless adventure in Vietnam." (AP Photo)
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gestures and shouts to his congregation in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga. on April 30, 1967 as he urges America to repent and abandon what he called its "Tragic, reckless adventure in Vietnam." (AP Photo) (Source: Anonymous)
Martin Luther King Jr., during a speech in an undated photo. (AP Photo)
Martin Luther King Jr., during a speech in an undated photo. (AP Photo) (Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., discusses his planned poor people's demonstration from the pulpit of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., March 31, 1968. (AP Photo)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., discusses his planned poor people's demonstration from the pulpit of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., March 31, 1968. (AP Photo) (Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Rosa Parks

Best known for refusing to move to the back of a bus after being demanded she give up her seat to a white person, Rosa Parks was labeled as the “Mother of the Freedom Movement” following her bold disobedience subsequent arrest.

FILE - This Oct. 28, 1986, file photo shows Rosa Parks at Ellis Island in New York. A letter written by Parks describing the 1957 bombing of neighbors’ home has been purchased at auction by the couple who were targeted in the attack. Alabama State University announced that the Rev. Robert Graetz and his wife Jeannie purchased the letter by Parks describing the bombing of their home. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - This Oct. 28, 1986, file photo shows Rosa Parks at Ellis Island in New York. A letter written by Parks describing the 1957 bombing of neighbors’ home has been purchased at auction by the couple who were targeted in the attack. Alabama State University announced that the Rev. Robert Graetz and his wife Jeannie purchased the letter by Parks describing the bombing of their home. (AP Photo/File) (Source: AP)
Rosa Parks smiles during a ceremony where she received the Congressional Medal of Freedom in Detroit, Mich., Nov. 28, 1999. Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the modern civil rights movement, died of natural causes in her Detroit home Monday, Oct. 24, 2005, she was 92. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Rosa Parks smiles during a ceremony where she received the Congressional Medal of Freedom in Detroit, Mich., Nov. 28, 1999. Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the modern civil rights movement, died of natural causes in her Detroit home Monday, Oct. 24, 2005, she was 92. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Source: PAUL SANCYA)
FILE - In this Feb. 22, 1956, file photo, Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955. Yellowing court records from the arrests of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and others at the dawn of the modern civil rights era are being preserved and digitized after being discovered, folded and wrapped in rubber bands, in a courthouse box. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 22, 1956, file photo, Rosa Parks is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey in Montgomery, Ala., after refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger on Dec. 1, 1955. Yellowing court records from the arrests of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and others at the dawn of the modern civil rights era are being preserved and digitized after being discovered, folded and wrapped in rubber bands, in a courthouse box. (AP Photo/Gene Herrick, File) (Source: Gene Herrick)

Muhammad Ali

Born Cassius Clay in 1942, Muhammad Ali made his name in the sport of boxing as one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all-time. He changed his name in the early 1960s from “Cassius Clay,” which he associated with slavery, and adopted a new one from the Islamic tradition that symbolized a new black separatist movement in the United States. Ali was an objector to the Vietnam War, which moved him into the realm of left-wing activism and intersected race with a larger counterculture movement.

Zora Folley, left, moves in on champion Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) in first round of their heavyweight title fight in New York's Madison Square Garden March 22, 1967. (AP Photo)
Zora Folley, left, moves in on champion Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) in first round of their heavyweight title fight in New York's Madison Square Garden March 22, 1967. (AP Photo) (Source: AP)
Heavyweight champ training at N?Sele Gym in Zaire on Oct. 23, 1974 for the October 29 fight against George Foreman. (AP Photo/Horst Faas )
Heavyweight champ training at N?Sele Gym in Zaire on Oct. 23, 1974 for the October 29 fight against George Foreman. (AP Photo/Horst Faas ) (Source: Horst Faas)
Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands outside the federal court house in Houston following a hearing on an injunction to keep him out of the Armed Forces, April 28, 1967. The judge told Ali to refile his plea after induction proceedings. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman)
Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands outside the federal court house in Houston following a hearing on an injunction to keep him out of the Armed Forces, April 28, 1967. The judge told Ali to refile his plea after induction proceedings. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman) (Source: Ferd Kaufman)

Frederick Douglass

In Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, he outlines his life and subsequent escape from slavery, which proved instrumental to the abolitionist movement and the ultimate goal of ending slavery. Douglass lived during the Civil War in the middle of the 19th century.

FILE - This undated file image shows African-American social reformer, abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass. Douglass was the country's most famous black man of the Civil War era, a conscience of the abolitionist movement and beyond and a popular choice for summing up American ideals, failings and challenges. His withering 1852 oration in Rochester, New York ranks high in the canon of American oratory and is still widely cited as a corrective to the day’s celebratory spirit. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - This undated file image shows African-American social reformer, abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass. Douglass was the country's most famous black man of the Civil War era, a conscience of the abolitionist movement and beyond and a popular choice for summing up American ideals, failings and challenges. His withering 1852 oration in Rochester, New York ranks high in the canon of American oratory and is still widely cited as a corrective to the day’s celebratory spirit. (AP Photo, File) (Source: Anonymous)
A bronze statue of 19th-century orator and writer Frederick Douglass is seen in the Emancipation Hall of the United States Visitor Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 19, 2013, where it was dedicated. The bronze statue of Douglass is by Maryland artist Steve Weitzman. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A bronze statue of 19th-century orator and writer Frederick Douglass is seen in the Emancipation Hall of the United States Visitor Center on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 19, 2013, where it was dedicated. The bronze statue of Douglass is by Maryland artist Steve Weitzman. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Source: Carolyn Kaster)

W.E.B. Du Bois

W.E.B. Du Bois made his name as an author, academic, and activist in the generation before Rosa Parks and MLK. Du Bois is one of the founders of the NAACP, which remains one of the premier organizations for African American rights and activism.

Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, educator and writer, and leader of the American delegation, addresses the Congress of Partisans of Peace at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, April 22, 1949. (AP Photo/Jean-Jacques Levy)
Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, educator and writer, and leader of the American delegation, addresses the Congress of Partisans of Peace at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, April 22, 1949. (AP Photo/Jean-Jacques Levy) (Source: Jean-Jacques Levy)
President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, second from right, talks with 93-year-old American scholar Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois shortly before opening the World Peace Conference in Accra, Ghana, June 21, 1962. (AP Photo)
President of Ghana, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, second from right, talks with 93-year-old American scholar Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois shortly before opening the World Peace Conference in Accra, Ghana, June 21, 1962. (AP Photo) (Source: Anonymous)

Jackie Robinson

Like Ali in the 60s, Jackie Robinson was one of the most influential sports figures of his day. Robinson became the first African American to play for a Major League Baseball team, the Brooklyn Dodgers, which broke the league’s color barrier. Robinson’s career spanned a decade. His jersey number, 42, was “retired” by all MLB teams, meaning no player may ever use that number again, in 1997.

FILE - In this April 15, 1947, file photo, from left, Brooklyn Dodgers baseball players John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson pose at Ebbets Field in New York.Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, on April 15, 1947. AP Photo, File
FILE - In this April 15, 1947, file photo, from left, Brooklyn Dodgers baseball players John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson pose at Ebbets Field in New York.Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, on April 15, 1947. AP Photo, File (Source: Anonymous)
Brooklyn Dodgers third baseman Jackie Robinson (42) steals home and slides under catcher Yogi Berra's mitt in the eighth inning of the World Series game opener at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y., Sept. 28, 1955. Pinch-hitter Frank Kellert (12) stands at bat as steal is made. Umpire Bill Summes calls Robinson safe. The New York Yankees beat the Dodgers, 6-5. (AP Photo)
Brooklyn Dodgers third baseman Jackie Robinson (42) steals home and slides under catcher Yogi Berra's mitt in the eighth inning of the World Series game opener at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y., Sept. 28, 1955. Pinch-hitter Frank Kellert (12) stands at bat as steal is made. Umpire Bill Summes calls Robinson safe. The New York Yankees beat the Dodgers, 6-5. (AP Photo) (Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Jackie Robinson, 38, empties his locker at the clubhouse of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball club in Ebbets Field, closing out a ten-year starring stint with the club, in New York, Jan. 7, 1957. Robinson was quitting baseball to sit behind a desk as vice president in charge of personnel for Chock Full O' Nuts company. (AP Photo/Jacob Harris)
Jackie Robinson, 38, empties his locker at the clubhouse of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball club in Ebbets Field, closing out a ten-year starring stint with the club, in New York, Jan. 7, 1957. Robinson was quitting baseball to sit behind a desk as vice president in charge of personnel for Chock Full O' Nuts company. (AP Photo/Jacob Harris) (Source: Jack Harris)

Harriet Tubman

Born into slavery in 1822, Harriet Tubman was famous for her efforts to help escaped slaves after escaping herself in 1849. She served an important part of the “Underground Railroad,” a secret path through slave-holding states for runaway slaves to escape to the north. Tubman was also referred to as “Moses.”

A previously unknown portrait, c. 1868, of abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman is unveiled at The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, on Monday, March 25, 2019. The photograph is believed to be the earliest photo of Tubman in existence. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz)
A previously unknown portrait, c. 1868, of abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman is unveiled at The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, on Monday, March 25, 2019. The photograph is believed to be the earliest photo of Tubman in existence. (AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz) (Source: Sait Serkan Gurbuz)
Byusa Kironyo, 7, and his sister, Bwiza Kironyo, 5, both of Brockton, Mass., explore a statue of American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, after its unveiling, Sunday, June 20, 1999, in the South End neighborhood of Boston. The statue "Step on Board," celebrates Tubman's courage and activism on behalf of black freedom and dignity. It also honors those who responded to her inspiration and fled slavery in the American South. (AP Photo/Gail Oskin)
Byusa Kironyo, 7, and his sister, Bwiza Kironyo, 5, both of Brockton, Mass., explore a statue of American abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, after its unveiling, Sunday, June 20, 1999, in the South End neighborhood of Boston. The statue "Step on Board," celebrates Tubman's courage and activism on behalf of black freedom and dignity. It also honors those who responded to her inspiration and fled slavery in the American South. (AP Photo/Gail Oskin) (Source: GAIL OSKIN)

Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery, like Douglass and Tubman, and later escaped to become an abolitionist and activist for women’s rights. Religion was a focal point of Truth’s efforts. She played a major part in recruiting African American soldiers to fight for the Union (northern states) against the Confederacy (southern states) in the Civil War.

Born Isabella Baumfree to a family of slaves in Ulster County, New York, the sixty-seven year old abolitionist, Sojourner Truth, pauses from her knitting and looks at the camera in this 1864 photograph. She was not only an antislavery activist and colleague of Frederick Douglass but also a memoirist and committed feminist. Truth sold multiple copies of this image to support her work in these areas. (AP/Photo)
Born Isabella Baumfree to a family of slaves in Ulster County, New York, the sixty-seven year old abolitionist, Sojourner Truth, pauses from her knitting and looks at the camera in this 1864 photograph. She was not only an antislavery activist and colleague of Frederick Douglass but also a memoirist and committed feminist. Truth sold multiple copies of this image to support her work in these areas. (AP/Photo) (Source: XFP)
First lady Michelle Obama, second left, joins House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second right, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, right, to unveil the bust of abolitionist Sojourner Truth in Emancipation Hall of the US Capitol, Tuesday, April 28, 2009, in Washington. Obama said she hopes Truth, the first black woman to be honored with a bust at the Capitol, would be proud to see a descendent of slaves as America's first black first lady. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
First lady Michelle Obama, second left, joins House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second right, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, right, to unveil the bust of abolitionist Sojourner Truth in Emancipation Hall of the US Capitol, Tuesday, April 28, 2009, in Washington. Obama said she hopes Truth, the first black woman to be honored with a bust at the Capitol, would be proud to see a descendent of slaves as America's first black first lady. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (Source: Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a poet and a novelist during the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes’ first pook of poetry, The Weary Blues, and subsequent works, helped outline the economic situation of lower-class African Americans.

Langston Hughes, foreground, shown in his boyhood hometown of Lawrence, Kan., circa 1914. Hughes left Lawrence a year later to live with his mother in Lincoln, Illinois. He eventually moved to New York where he became the literary stalwart of the Harlem Renaissance cultural movement of the 1920s. Man in background is unidentified. (AP Photo)
Langston Hughes, foreground, shown in his boyhood hometown of Lawrence, Kan., circa 1914. Hughes left Lawrence a year later to live with his mother in Lincoln, Illinois. He eventually moved to New York where he became the literary stalwart of the Harlem Renaissance cultural movement of the 1920s. Man in background is unidentified. (AP Photo) (Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Maya Angelou

One of the best-known African American authors, Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, tells a coming-of-age tale that shows how racism affected a young girl, transforming her into the proud author she would later become. Angelou worked with MLK and other civil rights leaders to put a permanent end to segregation.

Maya Angelou holds copy of her book "I Know Why Caged Bird Sings", B&W photo on black
Maya Angelou holds copy of her book "I Know Why Caged Bird Sings", B&W photo on black (Source: AP)
In this photo taken on Nov. 15, 2005, poet and author Maya Angelou smiles during an interview in Santa Monica, Calif. Maya Angelou, who rose from poverty, segregation and the harshest of childhoods to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page, died Wednesday morning, May 28, 2014, at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
In this photo taken on Nov. 15, 2005, poet and author Maya Angelou smiles during an interview in Santa Monica, Calif. Maya Angelou, who rose from poverty, segregation and the harshest of childhoods to become a force on stage, screen and the printed page, died Wednesday morning, May 28, 2014, at her home in Winston-Salem, N.C. She was 86. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) (Source: Reed Saxon)

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