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35 Black History Figures You May Not Know About From History Class

35 Black History Figures You May Not Know About From History Class
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Gordon Parks

If you’re a fan of arrestingly beautiful photos that stand the test of time, you’ll want to check out the work of photographer Gordon Parks (1912–2006). Parks took some of the most iconic photos of his generation for publications like Life magazine, Time and Ebony. When he directed the movie Shaft, he became the first African American to direct a major motion picture. Parks always felt he was doing something more important than just taking photos—he was using his camera to change hearts and minds by documenting the injustices of his time. He famously said that he used his camera to fight against poverty, racism and social wrongs.

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Perry Loving

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Mildred Jeter Loving

It may be hard to believe, but interracial marriage was once a crime punishable by law. In 1958, Mildred Jeter (1939–2008), who was of African American and Native American descent, married Richard Loving, a White man. The newlyweds were told they would face prison time if they didn’t leave the state of Virginia. They left their home, and she gave birth to three children, however they longed to return to their home state.

Mildred Loving wrote a letter to attorney general Robert Kennedy, who connected her with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The Lovings’ case eventually landed with the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that laws barring interracial marriage were unconstitutional. At last, the Lovings could return home, and more important, they opened the door for other couples to marry the person they loved regardless of skin color.

Chief Counsel Charles H. Houston

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Charles Hamilton Houston

Charles Hamilton Houston (1895–1950) was a Black attorney who worked tirelessly to fight for civil rights and overturn the bigoted laws of Jim Crow. He was part of nearly every Supreme Court case concerning civil rights during his era, including the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education, and he became known as “the man who killed Jim Crow.” In honor of Houston’s tireless work to make our country a fair place for every citizen, regardless of color, Howard University (where Houston once taught) named a hall for him and Harvard Law named an institute and a professorship after him. These essential books for understanding race relations in America are must-reads.





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