Black History Month: Who Influenced You?
Posted February 2, 2000
Ralph Abernathy: Civil rights leader and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr.
"A lot of people tend to overlook Abernathy because the spotlight was always on Martin Luther King Jr., but he was an integral part of the civil rights movement. His work inspired me to take a leadership role on campus (Brown is the president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council). His style is much like my own, though behind the scenes, working hard to make things happen. He was also a member of my fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi."
Althea Gibson: First black person to play in the U.S. Nationals (now the U.S. Open) and Wimbledon. She won both tournaments in 1957.
"Althea and I attended the same junior high school in Harlem, she many years before me. As our most famous alumni, Althea was held up as a role model for us all. The teachers would talk to us about her, giving us a sense of pride that we could do whatever we wanted in life."
Audre Lorde: Poet, teacher and activist who fought for gay and lesbian rights as well as the preservation and celebration of black culture.
"She was a fierce, intelligent, compassionate right-on lesbian sister who spoke truths. Her work has challenged me to continually seek and examine different ways of ensuring 'othered' voices are heard."
Maya Angelou: Prize-winning poet, historian, author, actress, playwright, civil-rights activist, producer and director.
"She is one of the most influential African-American women in my life. When I've felt lost, her words have helped me find my way. Her poetry and stories have made me cry, laugh and feel insurmountable pride in being a black woman. She is the perfect embodiment of strength, talent and wisdom."
George Washington Carver: Former slave, educator and scientist who developed industrial applications from farm products, such as peanuts, sweet potatoes and pecans.
"He represents someone who overcame significant disadvantages, excelled as an international scholar, and taught thousands of students. His research had a significant impact on the lives of many Americans. He gave me a true goal to aspire to: helping to improve people's lives by teaching the next generation of researchers and teachers."
Ted and Beverly Mason: My father and mother.
"They are wonderful role models. They made sure I had everything I needed while I was growing up and put me on the right path. I can only hope I can be nearly as good a parent for my daughter as my mom and dad were for me. They are my heroes."
Mary Church Terrell: Writer, lecturer and educator best known for her efforts to overcome racial injustice against black women.
"She realized early on that black women had to be at the forefront of change to fight discrimination. Her efforts have empowered women like me to succeed and venture into places that were once forbidden."