Every February, we expect to see a spotlight on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. These remarkable trailblazers should be celebrated, but there are many more heroes and sheroes we don’t often hear about. Check out some of them below, and learn more from the fantastic resources in our collection.
Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin did the same thing and was arrested for it.
Learn more about Claudette Colvin:
- Claudette Colvin Refuses to Move: Courageous Kid of the Civil Rights Movement by Ebony Joy Wilkins, illustrated by Mark Simmons
- Lift Every Voice: A Celebration of Black Lives edited by Hearst Books
- Black Trailblazers: 30 Courageous Visionaries Who Broke Boundaries, Made a Difference and Paved the Way by Bija Bayne, illustrated by Joelle Avelino
In addition to being a civil rights activist, Ralph Bunche was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the leaders who contributed to creating the United Nations.
Learn more about Ralph Bunche:
- The Absolutely Indispensable Man: Ralph Bunche, the United Nations, and the Fight to End Empire by Kal Raustiala
- Righting Wrongs: 20 Human Rights Heroes Around the World by Robin Kirk
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune
Educator and founder of Bethune-Cookman University, Mary McLeod Bethune, started the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training Institute for Negro Girls with only $1.50. She successfully grew her school from six to 250 students in just two years.
Learn more about Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune:
- Historically Black: American Icons Who Attended HBCUs by Alonzo Vereen, illustrated by Gordon Rowe
- Mary McLeod Bethune: Pioneering Educator by Amy Robin Jones
- School Clothes: A Collective Memoir of Black Student Witness by Jarvis R. Givens
Benjamin Banneker was a surveyor, farmer, mathematician and self-taught astronomer known for creating one of the country’s first almanacs and building a clock out of wood.
Learn more about Benjamin Banneker:
- African American Inventors and Scientists by T.M. Moody
- America’s Founding Fathers, episode 26: Benjamin Banneker’s Survey (stream on Kanopy)
- Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBTQ+ People Who Made History by Sarah Prager, illustrated by Sarah Papworth
Dr. Patricia Bath
Ophthalmologist and laser scientist Dr. Patricia Bath revolutionized the field by discovering and inventing a new device and technique for cataract surgery.
Learn more about Dr. Patricia Bath:
- The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath by Julia Finley Mosca, illustrated by Daniel Rieley
- Female Innovators Who Changed Our World: How Women Shaped STEM by Emma Shimizu
- Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight by Michelle Lord, illustrated by Alleanna Harris
You can also learn more about these unsung heroes and sheroes in these resources:
- Illustrated Black History: Honoring the Iconic and Unseen by George McCalman with April Reynolds
- Our virtual Roots programs with The Third Institute on YouTube