People

Introduction

Descriptions of the women and men who have influenced and continue to influence my life as shown below are directly from sources listed beneath each section. Please click on the links below each paragraph to read more about my influencers. Each section also includes a brief statement in blue font on why my soul and spirit connect with each of them.

Jane Addams
A pioneer, an activist, a social worker, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a woman–Jane Addams led with her heart, values, resources and passion. She embodied  hope. She fought for justice, equity, and redistribution of resources. She was a fearless trailblazer and a force to be reckoned with.  She withstood the criticisms. She withstood the rejection. She persevered even when others tried to discourage her.  She took the U.S. government to task;  she decried World War I; she accepted her calling and she helped those who needed help. She fought for women’s rights. She fought for the right of others to be treated with basic human decency. She fought for people. As a social worker, I always look to Jane Addams for inspiration when the world’s passion and concern for the disenfranchised cannot be found.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Jane Addams (September 6, 1860-May 21, 1935) won worldwide recognition in the first third of the twentieth century as a pioneer social worker in America, as a feminist, and as an internationalist. At the age of twenty-seven, during a second tour to Europe with her friend Ellen G. Starr, she visited a settlement house, Toynbee Hall, in London’s East End. This visit helped to finalize the idea then current in her mind, that of opening a similar house in an underprivileged area of Chicago. In 1889 she and Miss Starr leased a large home built by Charles Hull at the corner of Halsted and Polk Streets.

Miss Addams and Miss Starr made speeches about the needs of the neighborhood, raised money, convinced young women of well-to-do families to help, took care of children, nursed the sick, listened to outpourings from troubled people. By its second year of existence, Hull-House was host to two thousand people every week. There were kindergarten classes in the morning, club meetings for older children in the afternoon, and for adults in the evening more clubs or courses in what became virtually a night school. The first facility added to Hull-House was an art gallery, the second a public kitchen; then came a coffee house, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, a cooperative boarding club for girls, a book bindery, an art studio, a music school, a drama group, a circulating library, an employment bureau, a labor museum.

As her reputation grew, Miss Addams was drawn into larger fields of civic responsibility.
www.nobelprize.org

Ella Baker
Ella Baker was not just a woman, she was an amazing leader who worked diligently and earnestly behind the scenes. As a community organizer who raised money to fund the many activities of the civil rights movement, she quietly left her mark on all that she touched. Ella Baker’s work was difficult and life-threatening. Speaking up against racism and legalized tyranny against Black and Brown people was not easy back then and it is not easy now. Yet, she was unwavering in her pursuit of justice despite the danger.  I often think of the strength, conviction and commitment that it must have taken to do this work. Ella Baker is my inspiration and her bravery will always reign with me.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Who Was Ella Baker?
The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights is named after a brilliant, Black hero of the civil rights Freedom Movement who inspired and guided emerging leaders. We build on her legacy by building the power of black, brown, and poor people to create solutions for one of the biggest drivers of injustice today: mass incarceration.

Ms. Baker played a key role in some of the most influential organizations of the time, including the NAACP, Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Like her, we spark change by unlocking the power of every person to strengthen their communities and shape their future.
www.ellabakercenter.org

James Baldwin
Unapologetically Black, in a state of rage, eloquent, passionate and unwilling to be silenced–James Baldwin left his mark on this world. He was introspective, systematic in his thinking, and committed to his truth and the ugly truth related to racism, classism and heterosexism in America. As a writer and playwriter, he forced his audiences to rethink  justice, inclusion, hate, bigotry and multiple identities. He used his platform to illuminate the unjust ways of the West and the pervasive damage it was inflicting on the marginalized.  Look at any of his interviews [look at his eyes] and watch him decimate anyone challenging him on why he finds any of the -isms to be extremely problematic. Whew–bigotry is no match for an articulate, well-read and no-nonsense man.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content:  A novelist and essayist of considerable renown, James Baldwin bore articulate witness to the unhappy consequences of American racial strife. Baldwin’s writing career began in the last years of legislated segregation; his fame as a social observer grew in tandem with the civil rights movement as he mirrored blacks’ aspirations, disappointments, and coping strategies in a hostile society. Tri-Quarterly contributor Robert A. Bone declared that Baldwin’s publications “have had a stunning impact on our cultural life” because the author “… succeeded in transposing the entire discussion of American race relations to the interior plane; it is a major breakthrough for the American imagination.” In his novels, plays, and essays alike, Baldwin explored the psychological implications of racism for both the oppressed and the oppressor.
www.poetryfoundation.org

Baldwin moved from Paris to New York to Istanbul, writing two books of essays, Notes of a Native Son (1955) and Nobody Knows My Name (1961), as well as two novels, Giovanni’s Room (1956) and Another Country (1962). The essays explored racial tension with eloquence and unprecedented honesty; the novels dealt with taboo themes (homosexuality and interracial relationships).

Being abroad gave Baldwin a perspective on the life he’d left behind and a solitary freedom to pursue his craft. “Once you find yourself in another civilization,” he notes, “you’re forced to examine your own.” In a sense, Baldwin’s travels brought him even closer to the social concerns of contemporary America. In the early 1960s, overwhelmed by a sense of responsibility to the times, Baldwin returned to take part in the civil rights movement. Traveling throughout the South, he began work on an explosive work about black identity and the state of racial struggle, The Fire Next Time (1963).
www.pbs.org

John Brown
“Just because you are not a slave does not mean that it should not be your care or concern.” John Brown would agree with my take on this. Too often, we do not care about other people’s plights because their misery is not ours. I am thankful to God that not all people take this position.  Humans need humans.  We are all interrelated.  We cannot exist alone.  We are created to be interconnected.  Our very existence depends on interconnectedness, human regard, and compassion. In the case of John Brown, his attempt to arm slaves never came to fruition, but his mission to abolish slavery was impactful.  Men like him–and others–is what led to slavery (in that form) to be dismantled. The work continues, however–the work continues… human trafficking is real.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: John Brown was a man of action — a man who would not be deterred from his mission of abolishing slavery. On October 16, 1859, he led 21 men on a raid of the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. His plan to arm slaves with the weapons he and his men seized from the arsenal was thwarted, however, by local farmers, militiamen, and Marines led by Robert E. Lee. Within 36 hours of the attack, most of Brown’s men had been killed or captured.

John Brown was born into a deeply religious family in Torrington, Connecticut, in 1800. Led by a father who was vehemently opposed to slavery, the family moved to northern Ohio when John was five, to a district that would become known for its antislavery views.

In 1847 Frederick Douglass met Brown for the first time in Springfield, Massachusetts. Of the meeting Douglass stated that, “though a white gentleman, [Brown] is in sympathy a black man, and as deeply interested in our cause, as though his own soul had been pierced with the iron of slavery.” It was at this meeting that Brown first outlined his plan to Douglass to lead a war to free slaves.
www.pbs.org

Sitting Bull
This holy man, leader, and warrior resisted. He resisted tyranny by the U.S. government.  He resisted tyranny by the U.S. military. He resisted the starving and killing of his people. He resisted all that was wrong by the ongoing genocidal killings of the Indigenous people. He resisted. His plight and those of his people lead me to the same question every time that I think about it and write about it, “What is wrong with people?” My heart cries for the trials and tribulations of the Indigenous people–then and now. Genocides are real.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota and holy man. Under him, the Lakota bands united for survival on the northern plains. Sitting Bull remained defiant toward American military power and contemptuous of American promises to the end.

Named Slon-ha, Slow, by his parents, the future leader was born around 1831. His birthplace was on the Grand River in South Dakota at a place the Lakota called “Many Caches” for the number of food storage pits they had dug there.

Later in life, the boy called Slow was given a more fitting name … Tatanka-Iyotanka. The leader’s name describes a buffalo bull sitting intractably on his haunches. It was a name the holy man would live up to throughout his life.

He was remembered among the Lakota not only as an inspirational leader and fearless warrior but as a loving father and gifted singer. Sitting Bull was an affable man and friendly toward others. His deep faith gave him prophetic insight and lent special power to his prayers.
www.aktalakota.stjo.org

Cesar Chavez
Lies, deception, trickery, greed, underhanded deals, abuse and injustice are all motivators of Cesar Chavez’s life’s work. As you read about my life’s influencers, a general thread connects them–the pursuit of justice. I love the United States and that is why I reserve the right to criticize it. The United States of America has a well-documented history of treating groups of people poorly, unfairly and inhumanely. When will this country get this right?  Now?  Never?  This question reminds me of an experience I had over 25 years ago.  I once went to New York City to partake in a major protest in support of Latinx farmworkers in the early 1990s (right around the time Mr. Chavez passed away). I remember walking among hundreds and hundreds of people with signs paying homage to Cesar Chavez.  I remember thinking–I need to know who he is and why he is so beloved.  More importantly, I need to understand the plight of farmworkers. To this day, I stand in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.  I boycott who they boycott. Boycotting restaurants, grocery stores, brands and store chains are not always convenient, but I stay the course and I am unwavering in my pursuit of justice. Long live Cesar Chavez!
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: The story of Cesar Estrada Chavez begins near Yuma, Arizona. Cesar was born on March 31, 1927. He was named after his grandfather, Cesario. Regrettably, the story of Cesar Estrada Chavez also ends near Yuma, Arizona. He passed away on April 23, 1993, in San Luis, a small village near Yuma, Arizona.

He learned about justice or rather injustice early in his life. Cesar grew up in Arizona; the small adobe home, where Cesar was born was swindled from them by dishonest Anglos. Cesar’s father agreed to clear eighty acres of land and in exchange he would receive the deed to forty acres of land that adjoined the home. The agreement was broken and the land sold to a man named Justus Jackson. Cesar’s dad went to a lawyer who advised him to borrow money and buy the land. Later when Cesar’s father could not pay the interest on the loan the lawyer bought back the land and sold it to the original owner. Cesar learned a lesson about injustice that he would never forget. Later, he would say, The love for justice that is in us is not only the best part of our being but it is also the most true to our nature.

In 1962 Cesar founded the National Farm Workers Association, later to become the United Farm Workers – the UFW. He was joined by Dolores Huerta and the union was born.

Cesar made people aware of the struggles of farm workers for better pay and safer working conditions. He succeeded through nonviolent tactics (boycotts, pickets, and strikes). Cesar Chavez and the union sought recognition of the importance and dignity of all farm workers.
www.ufw.org

Frederick Douglass
It is one thing to speak up when you disagree about something, but speaking up is on another whole level when people want you dead because of it. Frederick Douglass was part of an intricate network of Black and White abolitionists who worked behind closed doors and in a very public space to decry the horrors of slavery that enslaved generations of Black people for hundreds of years. I am grateful to walk after him. May I use my platform in a way to bring attention to the horrors of human trafficking that I too may walk honorably in the shadows of abolitionists who came before me.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Frederick Douglass was one of the foremost leaders of the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades prior to the Civil War. A brilliant speaker, Douglass was asked by the American Anti-Slavery Society to engage in a tour of lectures, and so became recognized as one of America’s first great black speakers. He won world fame when his autobiography was publicized in 1845. Two years later he began publishing an antislavery paper called the North Star.

Douglass served as an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and fought for the adoption of constitutional amendments that guaranteed voting rights and other civil liberties for blacks. Douglass provided a powerful voice for human rights during this period of American history and is still revered today for his contributions against racial injustice.
Excerpt by Sandra Thomas from the Frederick Douglas Family Initiatives website 
http://www.fdfi.org

Sattareh Farman Farmaian
I stumbled upon, “Daughter of Persia: A Woman’s Journey from Her Father’s Harem Through the Islamic Revolution”, at the start of my career as a college professor. I fell in love with the story of Satterah Farman Farmaian, an Iranian-born woman who became educated and trained as a social worker in the United States. She later started the profession of social work in Iran. Her book details her life of privilege, education abroad, the return to Iran to start social work, the Revolution, and her near-execution experience. I used her book in my Human Behavior and Social Environment course for years.  Students seemed to love her story and her courage. On a whim, I contacted her back in the late 1990s.  She was even more beautiful on the inside than she was on the outside. I will forever remember her humility and gratitude for an opportunity to serve others as a social worker.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Sattareh Farman Farmaian was a human rights activist who grew up in the harem of a Qajjar prince, studied social work in America, and became regarded as the ‘mother of social work’ in Iran.

Sattareh’s father was over 60 when she was born. She was the 15th of his 36 children, and the third child of his third wife, who was only twelve years old when she was married to him. Her only exposure to life outside the compound was through weekly visits to her father, who adjudicated disputes between the peasantry, and through spending the summer at the family’s country estate. Her father stressed the importance of education in order to assure a future for his children during turbulent times. The children of the harem learned Persian poetry and French, as well as attending school in a period when most Iranians, and almost all Iranian women, were illiterate.

She was educated in a Presbyterian school alongside girls from Iran’s religious minorities, where she was impressed by the American staff’s attempts to alleviate poverty and suffering in Iran. It was on a school trip to Isfahan, Persepolis and Shiraz that she decided that her mission in life would be to help the Iranian people and that to do so, she would need further education.

Months of rioting culminated in revolution. Sattareh continued to work until 1979, when a delegation of her own students, enflamed by radical rhetoric and their personal grievances held her at gunpoint, and forced her into a car, intending to have her executed. After an agonising delay in custody, she was confronted with a catalogue of charges including embezzlement, working for the CIA, Zionism and, most bizarrely, of improving the living standards of Iranians – and thereby delaying the revolution. However, she was released due to the intercession of an Ayatollah who was familiar with her humanitarian work. With his assistance, she obtained a passport and fled the country that had been the focus of her life’s work.

She wrote several papers on social work, as well as an autobiography which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Sattareh Farman Farmaian 1921-2012, 30th October 2019, by sister-hood staff
https://sister-hood.com/

Fannie Lou Hamer
Can you image beating a woman to a pulp and wrongfully arresting her just because she demands to have civil rights? Can you imagine being sterilized by doctors without consent? Can you imagine being denied the right to vote? Well, this is Fannie Lou Hamer’s story and the story of so many others–again and again. In my mind, Fannie Lou Hamer is one of the strongest people to every walk this earth. She survived arrests and assaults, but she never gave up or gave in. When I look at photos of Fannie Lou Hamer–hands up, disheveled appearance after yet another assault by angry racist White nationalists, wearied facial expressions, and declining health, I wonder how she was able to even survive to age 59. I love her for her courage. I love her for her passion. I love her because she paved the way for me–and so many others.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Fannie Lou Hamer, a Mississippi sharecropper, changed a nation’s perspective on democracy.

Hamer became involved in the civil rights movement when she volunteered to attempt to register to vote in 1962. By then 45 years old and a mother, Hamer lost her job and continually risked her life because of her civil rights activism. Despite this and a brutal beating, Hamer spoke frequently to raise money for the movement, and helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, to challenge white domination of the Democratic Party.

Deeply committed to improving life for poor minorities in her state, Hamer, working with the National Council of Negro Women and others, helped organize food cooperatives and other services. She continued political activities as well, helping to convene the National Women’s Political Caucus in the 1970s. She is buried in her home town of Ruleville, Mississippi, where her tombstone reads, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
www.womenofthehall.org

Martin Luther King, Jr.
As a civil rights leader, Dr. Martin  Luther King Jr was called an agitator by his critics. They called him a trouble-maker. They accused him of making it hard for other Black people. Many wanted him silenced–dead or alive. Those who know his work and his heart, however, know better. [He is the most written about influencer in my list.] His was an orator–unmatched to this day. His vision, his dreams, his commitment to the cause, and his attitude elevated him to an altitude that even he could not imagine in his 13 short and powerful years as a leader in the civil rights movement. I salute Dr. King for paving the way. I know what he has done for me.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: During the less than 13 years of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the modern American Civil Rights Movement, from December, 1955 until April 4, 1968, African Americans achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. Dr. King is widely regarded as America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence and one of the greatest nonviolent leaders in world history.

Drawing inspiration from both his Christian faith and the peaceful teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King led a nonviolent movement in the late 1950’s and ‘60s to achieve legal equality for African-Americans in the United States. While others were advocating for freedom by “any means necessary,” including violence, Martin Luther King, Jr. used the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, such as protests, grassroots organizing, and civil disobedience to achieve seemingly-impossible goals. He went on to lead similar campaigns against poverty and international conflict, always maintaining fidelity to his principles that men and women everywhere, regardless of color or creed, are equal members of the human family.
www.thekingcenter.org

Nelson Mandela
President Mandela epitomizes patience. When I become impatient about the persistence and prevalence of the -isms of the world, I think of him growing up under apartheid and his years of imprisonment. Needless to say, I think of him OFTEN.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, on 18 July 1918. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. In 1930, when he was 12 years old, his father died and the young Rolihlahla became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni1.

Hearing the elders’ stories of his ancestors’ valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.

True to his promise, Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President. He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. His life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.
www.nelsonmandela.org

Sojourner Truth
Ain’t I a Woman”, is a famous speech of Sojourner Truth that was delivered in Akron, Ohio in 1851. To this day, many women are afraid to boldly compare and contrast the life of Black and White women and Black and White people. Ms. Truth, however, boldly challenged the narrative that women are women and are all treated the same. As a former slave who successfully sued for the freedom of one of her children, she knew up close that the plight of Black and White women greatly differed. As a leader and abolitionist, she fought to bring attention to racism and sexism. Her leadership must have been filled with trials and tribulations and successes and wins. Her courage and convictions inspire me.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm!

I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man — when I could get it— and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?
Excerpt from Sojourner Truth’s speech at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio in 1851
www.thesojournertruthproject.com

Harriet Tubman
I often lay in bed thinking about the life of Harriet Tubman. I often say that the hands of God were all over her.  How else was she able to pull off such an amazing feat–again and again?  There is courage and then there is COURAGE! If God granted me one wish to interview anyone on this page, I would choose Harriet.  I wish that I could interview them all, but something about reading about Harriet leaves me with more questions than answers. I just want to know, “How did she do it?”  No,  I don’t mean how she literally did it because that is fairly well documented. I want to know–mentally and spiritually–how she did it. Harriett, how did you do it? God, how did she do it?
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1822, Tubman was named Araminta by her enslaved parents, Ben and Rit Ross. Nearly killed at the age of 13 by a blow to her head, “Minty” recovered and grew strong and determined to be free.

Changing her name to Harriet upon her marriage to freeman John Tubman in 1844, she escaped five years later when her enslaver died and she was to be sold. One hundred dollars was offered for her capture. Vowing to return to bring her family and friends to freedom, she spent the next ten years making about 13 trips into Maryland to rescue them. She also gave instructions to about 70 more who found their way to freedom independently.

Tubman successfully used the skills she had learned while working on the wharves, fields and woods, observing the stars and natural environment and learning about the secret communication networks of free and enslaved African Americans to affect her escapes. She later claimed she never lost a passenger. The famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison called her “Moses,” and the name stuck.

Tubman showed the same zeal and passion for the campaign to attain women’s suffrage after the American Civil War as she had shown for the abolition of slavery. Harriet Tubman died in 1913 in Auburn, New York at the home she purchased from Secretary of State William Seward in 1859, where she established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged.
www.nps.gov

Mary Church Turrell
Leaders are needed everywhere. Mary Church Turrell filled the void in leadership around the women’s suffrage movement, civil rights, and education.  She added the voice of women of color and people of color to the conversations. She valued education, hard work and community activism. She knew it was enough (resources) to go around and she worked to help others to get a share of that pie. She did not allow her privileged middle class upbringing to insulate her from the struggles of others. She cared. She connected. She advocated.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Mary Church Terrell was born into a prosperous Memphis family and graduated from Oberlin College in 1895. She became the first black woman appointed to the District of Columbia Board of Education. She was a founding president of the National Association of Colored Women and, in 1909, a founder of the NAACP. Terrell spent her life fighting for the causes of universal suffrage, and the freedom and equality of men and women of all colors in the eyes of the law. She celebrated the achievements of African Americans and women in her many public speeches, and was a much sought-after speaker, famed for her eloquence. Her early life and work helped sustain the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements of the twentieth century.
www.crowd.loc.gov

Ida B. Wells
Everything about slavery, Jim Crow, and the struggles of those fighting during the Civil Rights Movement is provocative, disheartening, racist, and just plain exhausting, but photos of smiling racist men, women and children taken with Black children, women and men hanging from trees with bludgeoned bodies are the most grotesque. This begs me to ask–again–what is wrong with people?  Ida B. Wells was just as livid as I am about Jim Crow years and the many lives lost due to lynching.  She committed her life to anti-lynching campaigns despite threats on her life and property. She subsequently fled to Memphis for her own safety. Ida B. Wells also challenged the movers and shakers of the Women’s Suffrage movement due to their racism and exclusion of Black women.  I think she would echo Sojourner Truth’s, “Ain’t I a Woman?”
~J. Meshelemiah

Ida B. Wells Barnett, in a photograph by Mary Garrity from c. 1893.

Website content: Ida B. Wells-Barnett was a prominent journalist, activist, and researcher, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In her lifetime, she battled sexism, racism, and violence. As a skilled writer, Wells-Barnett also used her skills as a journalist to shed light on the conditions of African Americans throughout the South.

Throughout her career Wells-Barnett, balanced motherhood with her activism. Wells-Barnett traveled internationally, shedding light on lynching to foreign audiences. Abroad, she openly confronted white women in the suffrage movement who ignored lynching.
National Women’s History Museum
Norwood, A, NWHM Fellow, 2017.

 

Malcolm X
Malcolm X is one of the most misunderstood Black men to have ever walked this earth.  He was a husband, a father, and one of the best orators to ever live. Yet, he is often criticized for his pursuit of justice. Yes, he believed in self-defense. [Don’t most people? According to the number of gun sells in America, this is clearly true.]  Yes, he spoke out boldly against racism. [More of us need to do this.]  Yes, he did not mince his words. [Don’t most people say what’s on their minds?] In the end, Brother Malcolm wanted organizations to work together. He wanted society to do what is right. He was unwavering in his pursuit of justice and civil rights. I believe that he would have embraced the term, Black Lives Matter. It is dangerous and simply irresponsible to keep denying racially minoritized people the right to their own realities. Oppression is real. I will always revere and feel gratitude for Malcolm X. He is a shining prince–a king–and a majestic figure all wrapped into one.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: Malcolm X was an African American leader in the civil rights movement, minister and supporter of black nationalism. He urged his fellow black Americans to protect themselves against white aggression “by any means necessary,” a stance that often put him at odds with the nonviolent teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. His charisma and oratory skills helped him achieve national prominence in the Nation of Islam, a belief system that merged Islam with black nationalism. After Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965,  The Autobiography of Malcolm X, popularized his ideas and inspired the Black Power movement.
www.history.com

As the nation’s most visible proponent of Black Nationalism, Malcolm X’s challenge to the multiracial, nonviolent approach of Martin Luther King, Jr., helped set the tone for the ideological and tactical conflicts that took place within the black freedom struggle of the 1960s. King wrote to his widow, Betty Shabazz: “While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race problem, I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had the great ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem” (King, 26 February 1965).
www.kinginstitute.stanford.edu

Whitney Young
As a child growing up in Cleveland, I never knew why a school was named after Whitney Young. I never bothered to look him up. In fact, I was not even sure that Whitney was a man because Whitney Houston was the only person I knew by the name Whitney. As an adult, however, I later found out that the school was founded in 1971 and that it was named after a social worker with an indisputable reputation for getting things done.  Whitney Young’s portfolio was so impressive that he was asked to serve as an adviser to President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and President Richard Nixon.  His savvy political skills and deeply analytical skills made him a natural fit for a career in politics, but he felt that he could do more good for the Black community though the National Urban League where he negotiated funding to stimulate the employment rate. He is credited for pulling thousands of African Americans off the unemployment rolls at the time. A social worker and social work educator at heart, Whitney Young will always be memorialized for his macro social work approach and attention to inclusive excellence as a practitioner.  He died too soon. He drowned in Lagos, Nigeria at the age of 49 in 1971.
~J. Meshelemiah

Website content: In 1961 Whitney Young was named President of the National Urban League.  Young came to the helm of this organization during the early years of the civil rights protests across the nation.  He took over an organization that had not veered from its original purpose, to help black migrants from the South find jobs, and provide assistance while they adjusted to their new northern industrial surroundings. Young, however, transformed the League into a major civil rights organization. He called for a “Domestic Marshall Plan,” a program to get rid of poverty and deprivation among African Americans similar to the Marshall Plan that had been launched to reconstruct Europe after World War II. Young also initiated the Urban League “Street Academy,” an alternative education program to prepare high school dropouts for college.  Whitney Young’s programs for integration and racial justice were explained in two books he authored, To Be Equal (1964) and Beyond Racism (1969).

Young increased the budget of the National Urban League and created thousands of new jobs for African Americans. He also took part in a number of major civil rights demonstrations including the March on Washington on August 28, 1963.
www.blackpast.org