Recognizing 10 Notable African Americans in Honor of Black History Month

This month we recognize and honor the innovations and sacrifices People of Color have contributed to the United States and to the world. Contributions to humanity should be celebrated throughout the year and recognized for how they have made a difference.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month during the Celebration of the United State’s Bicentennial. During his speech, President Ford urged all citizens to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

GrantWatch has a category specifically for BIPOC grants on its site. This category includes grants to nonprofits, schools, businesses, and government agencies led by or serving Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) as well as Native and Latinx populations. And in honor of Black History Month, GrantWatch is highlighting 10 African Americans who have made a significant impact on history.

10 Notable African Americans

1. Ruby Bridges

From the age of six, Ruby Bridges became an influential leader in the civil rights movement. On November 14, 1960, Bridges was the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in New Orleans. While surrounded by protestors shouting hateful comments and threats at her, Bridges had to be escorted by federal marshalls into the school.

However, through it all, Bridges remained strong at an incredibly young age to make a difference. In adulthood, Bridges continued to be an activist for change. As part of this work, Bridges created the Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999. The mission of the foundation is to fight racism and provide equal opportunities for children. Click here to discover grants for children.

2. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett

Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is an immunologist and leads the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). She was part of the team that helped create the Moderna vaccine for COVID-19. Before starting her career, Corbett received a B.S. in Biological Sciences and Sociology from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. She also received a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Click here to discover grants for research.

3. Morgan Freeman

Most people know Morgan Freeman for his acting and have more than likely seen at least one of the films he has been in during his career. The Academy Award-winning actor has also received a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award. In addition, his talent has earned him a total of seven NAACP Image Awards presented by the U.S.-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to honor outstanding performances. During his career, Freeman has supported more than 20 charities and has been a role model to other people of color who have acting aspirations. Click here to discover grants for Arts and Culture.

4. Frederick Douglass

Many people have heard the name Frederick Douglass before and know about his role as a leader in the abolitionist movement. However, Douglass is often forgotten for his work with literacy. Not only did Douglass teach himself how to read and write, but he also helped many other slaves become literate. It was his work with literacy that taught him the injustice of slavery and showed him the way out. He believed reading and writing would lead to freedom. Click here to discover grants for Literacy and Libraries.

5. Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe

Bravery, loyalty, honor — these are just some of the words to describe the late Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn C. Cashe. In 1989, Cashe joined the army after graduating high school. And after serving 9 years, he graduated from Drill Sergeant School in 1998. He later became a squad leader and a platoon sergeant in the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. However, on Oct. 17, 2005, Cashe went above and beyond duty, when an explosive device struck his vehicle while he was serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Cashe saved six soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter from the burning vehicle and died soon after from his wounds. He will forever be remembered as a hero. Click here to discover grants for Veterans.

6. Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer will go down in history for defying odds and breaking barriers. As a child, Hamer had polio leaving her with many long-term effects. She later became physically disabled due to a severe beating in a Mississippi jail, which injured her kidneys, eyes, and caused a limp. While living with several disabilities herself, Hamer still continued participating in the civil rights movement and refused to give up fighting.

Hamer is most known for leading the charge to register black people in Mississippi to vote, as well as co-founding the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Along with her work in voter registration, Hamer also organized a strike for black cotton pickers. She helped residents, specifically on farms, gain access to better food. Her work made her a role model for other women at the time, as she collaborated with the National Council of Negro Women and helped form the National Women’s Political Caucus. Click here to discover grants for disabilities. And click here to discover grants for social justice.

7. Simone Biles

Simone Biles is one of the greatest female gymnasts of all time. The 24-year-old is the most decorated U.S. women’s gymnast ever with 32 World/Olympic medals. She is also the first woman to win four gold medals at a single World Championships since 1974. Click here to discover grants for Sports and Recreation. And click here to discover grants for women.

8. Dr. Jane Wright

In 1967, Dr. Jane Wright became one of the highest-ranked African American women to work at a nationally recognized medical institution. After becoming a professor of surgery at New York Medical College, she later moved up to head of the cancer chemotherapy department and associate dean of the college. Wright contributed vastly to chemotherapy and created the technique of using human tissue culture to test certain drugs on cancer cells. Click here to discover grants for Health and Medical.

9. Solomon Carter Fuller

When it comes to the history of Alzheimer’s Disease, most people credit the discovery of the disease to Alois Alzheimer, who it is named after. However, credit should also go to Solomon Carter Fuller, who was a neurologist and psychiatrist that worked for Alois at the Royal Psychiatric Hospital in Munich. Fuller conducted numerous research on victims of the disease before there was a name for it. In addition, he published the first comprehensive review of the disease. Click here to discover grants for aging and seniors.

10. Dr. Edmund W. Gordon

Edmund W. Gordon has been a notable leader in education and a member of the National Academy of Education since 1979. At 100 years old, Gordon is still making a difference in the world of education and proving that there is always more to be done. During his career, Gordon held positions at numerous leading universities in the nation, such as Howard University, Yeshiva, Columbia, City University of New York, and Yale. He was also a guest professor at Harvard University and City College of New York.

Gordon is most well-known for is his role in creating the Head Start Program, which provides early childhood education to low-income families. President Lyndon B. Johnson asked Gordon specifically to help form the Head Start Program, and it only took Gordon and his team six months to build the program. The legacy of his program still exists today and helps more than a million children every year. Click here to discover Preschool grants.

GrantWatch looks forward to recognizing the achievements and contributions of many more Persons of Color throughout the year.

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