By Hannah Fales & Shreya Damle
Black History Month is a time for celebration, remembrance, and reflection. It’s a time to recognize the joyous and inspiring impact African Americans have had on the United States—as well as the struggles. This includes contributions to the creative arts, politics, sports, and technology, as well as to the courage, stamina, kindness, and power.
Out of respect and admiration, Tremendousness would like to use our platform to highlight some of the inspiring Black figures from our history, as well as offer ways on how you can celebrate this month.
Information designer and illustrator Shreya Damle was the creative mind behind this design. As a lover of portraits, Shreya saw an opportunity to create a poster filled with some of the greatest minds and spirits of the Black community. This poster is available for free download here: 2023 Black History Month Poster.
Here’s everyone on the poster
Ashe was a tennis player from the 1970s. He is known for his three Grand Slam singles titles and his leadership in the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals). His passion for the sport and pride in the profession led to male tennis players gaining more control over their income and tournament schedules.
Martin Luther King Jr.
King was one of the most prominent figures in the Civil Rights Movement. He was an American Baptist minister and activist, known for his nonviolent approach to raising awareness of racial discrimination and ending segregation. His ideals are still echoed to this day.
Chisholm was a politician. In 1964, she ran and became the second African American in the New York state legislature. Soon after that, she fought to become the first Black woman to be elected to the United States Congress. It was there that she was able to write legislations for racial and gender equality.
Angelou was a poet, singer, dancer, activist, and world-famous author. Her many books, including “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, “Just Give me a Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie”, “On the Pulse of the Morning”, earned her recognition from many both national and international organizations. In 2011, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom as a testament to her contributions in the creative arts.
Carter G. Woodson
Woodson was an author, scholar, journalist, and founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. He spent his career studying the contributions of African Americans in the United States. In 1926, Woodson launched what was known as Negro History Week, which grew into today’s Black History Month.
Lewis was a politician and civil rights activist. He helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and served as its Chairman for three years. Though he was only 23 years old at the time, Lewis is recognized to this day as one of the most prominent figures in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1986 he was elected to Congress, where he served his country for 17 terms.
Parks is remembered as a civil rights icon, known for her foundational role in the Montgomery bus boycott. The boycott lasted 381 days until the U.S. supreme court outlawed bus segregation. Parks and her husband, Raymond Parks, were a part of many organizations dedicated to social justice. Throughout her life, she received awards such as the Spingarn Award, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal.
Owens was a track and field athlete. He is best known for his exceptional performance in the 1936 Olympics when he won four gold medals: the 100 meter sprint, the long jump, the 200 meter sprint, and the 4×100 meter relay.
Wiley is a Los Angeles native and New York-based visual artist known for his vibrant and highly patterned portraits. These powerful pieces are based on a restaging of classical paintings and sculptures in which he replaces the European aristocrats with contemporary Black subjects, drawing attention to the absence of African Americans from historical and cultural narratives. In 2018, he painted Barack Obama’s presidential portrait, which was the first representation of an African American and first painting by an African American in the presidential portrait collection.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, and an award-winning writer. She previously served as the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles and is the founder and executive director of One Pen One Page, an organization providing free creative writing programs for underserved youth.
A native of Stockton, California, Walker gained national and international recognition for her cut-paper silhouettes depicting historical narratives haunted by sexuality, violence, and subjugation. Her work leads viewers to a critical understanding of the past while also proposing an examination of contemporary racial and gender stereotypes. She was awarded a MacArthur fellowship in 1997, at the age of 28, becoming one of the youngest ever recipients of the award. Walker is regarded as among the most prominent and acclaimed Black American artists working today.
Mae C. Jemison
Born in Decatur, Alabama, Jemison is a doctor, engineer, and astronaut who in 1992 became the first African American woman to travel to space. In 1973, at the age of 16, she graduated high school and attended Stanford University in California. As one of the only African American students in her class, Jemison experienced racial discrimination in school. She later served as president of the Black Student Union and choreographed a performing arts production called Out of the Shadows, about the African American experience.
Williams is an American tennis player who revolutionized women’s tennis with her powerful style of play, winning more Grand Slam singles titles (23) than any other woman or man during the open era. Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Williams’s activities outside of tennis include ventures in fashion, beauty, and accessories. Her autobiography, On the Line (written with Daniel Paisner), was published in 2009.
Height was a civil rights and women’s rights activist. As president of the National Council of Negro Women, she focused primarily on improving the circumstances of and opportunities for African American women. In the 1990s, she drew young people into her cause in the war against drug abuse, illiteracy, and unemployment. The numerous honors bestowed upon her include the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1994) and the Congressional Gold Medal (2004).
Leland Devon Melvin
Melvin is an engineer, educator, former NASA astronaut and NFL wide receiver. He served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist for missions STS-122 (2008) and STS-129 (2009), helping to construct the International Space Station. Upon hanging up his space boots, he led NASA Education and co-chaired the White House’s Federal Coordination in STEM Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan.
Marsha P. Johnson
Johnson was one of the most prominent figures of the gay rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s in New York City. Always sporting a smile, she was an important advocate for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, those affected by H.I.V. and AIDS, and gay and transgender rights.
Obama, the 44th president of the United States and the first African American president, was elected over Senator John McCain of Arizona on November 4, 2008. A former senator from Illinois whose campaign’s slogans included “Change we can believe in” and “Yes we can,” he was subsequently elected to a second term over Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. A winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, Obama’s presidency was marked by the landmark passage of the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”, the killing of Osama bin Laden by Seal Team Six,; the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage.
Fitzgerald was a jazz singer who became world famous for the wide range and rare sweetness of her voice. Her clear tone and wide vocal range were complemented by her mastery of rhythm, harmony, intonation, and diction. She collected 14 Grammy Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. She also received a Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime achievement (1979) and the National Medal of Arts (1987).
Guyse was a popular actress and singer through the 1940s and 50s. She made her big debut at a nightclub in Detroit. From there, she went on to star in Broadway plays, independent movies, and the TV series Green Pastures, where she earned an Emmy for her role.
So what can you do to celebrate and learn?
One of the best ways you can celebrate Black lives is by educating yourself on the culture’s rich history, as well as continuing oppression. We are lucky to be living in a time where we have access to all sorts of historical content at the touch of our fingertips. Dive into Black-written novels, tv shows, films, podcasts, or lectures to gain new perspectives and self awareness.
There are many ways you can support the Black community. A great way to get started is by uplifting Black-owned businesses. This not only helps strengthen local economies, but it also promotes the practice of embedded accessibility in a business structure.
Even a small donation can leave a lasting impact on a community. A donation to nonprofits and charities is a wonderful way to uplift movements and meaningful programs. Here is a list of potential organizations you can support.
Image: Illustration by Shreya Damle / Tremendousness.