Table of Contents
- Molefi Kete Asante (August 14, 1942 – )
- Frederick Douglass (February 1818 – February 20, 1895)
- Yaa Asantewaa (1840 – October 17, 1921)
- Kwame Ture ( June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998)
- Ella Baker (December 13, 1903 – December 13, 1986)
- Carlos Cooks (June 23, 1913 – May 5, 1966)
- Frantz Fanon (20 July 1925 – 6 December 1961)
- Dr. Albertina Sisulu (21 October 1918 – 2 June 2011)
- Assata Shakur (July 16, 1947 – )
- Julius Nyerere (13 April 1922 – 14 October 1999)
- Carter G. Woodson (Dec 19, 1857 – Apr 5, 1950)
- Anna Cooper (August 10, 1858 – February 27, 1964)
Molefi Kete Asante (August 14, 1942 – )
One of the greatest minds in African history, Dr. Molefi Kete Asante has written over 70 books and 400 articles. He is President and Senior Fellow of the Molefi Kete Asante Institute for Afrocentric Studies , one of the few International African Think-Tanks, and holds a Ph.D. degree in communications from the University of California, Los Angeles.
He has served as an assistant professor at Purdue University and UCLA, and as professor and head of the Department of Communication at State University of New York at Buffalo and as professor and department chair of the African American Studies department at Temple University in New York. He founded the first Ph.D. program in African American Studies in the nation of Zimbabwe, and was in charge of the first diplomas in journalism in the nation.
In 1996 he was enstooled (made a chief) of Tafo in Ghana, and in 2011, he was made a Wanadu (intermediary of the King) of the Court of Amiru Hassimi Maiga of the Songhay Kingdom in Mali. Asante has directed more than one hundred and forty Ph.D. dissertations making him one of the leading producers of African American doctorates.
He has won over 100 awards, honorary doctorates and distinguished professorships. He is the leading authority on African culture and philosophy.
Frederick Douglass (February 1818 – February 20, 1895)
Nothing can be said about our ancestor Frederick Douglass that has not already been said. If pictures are worth a thousand words, videos are worth a volume. Here is the best documentary on Frederick Douglass that we have found.
Yaa Asantewaa (1840 – October 17, 1921)
Yaa Asantewaa was appointed queen mother of Ejisu in the Ashanti Empire—now part of modern-day Ghana—by her brother Nana Akwasi Afrane Okpese, the Ejisuhene—or ruler of Ejisu. When her brother died in 1894, the British used his death as an opportunity to seize control of the Ashanti Empire, starting the War of the Golden Stool.
The Ashanti government was built upon a sophisticated bureaucracy in Kumasi, with separate ministries to handle the state’s affairs, and so Asantewaa was not allowed to act alone. Earlier, the King of the entire area had been banished by the British as well, and the council was convened to decide how to rescue him.
There was a disagreement among those present on how to go about this. Yaa Asantewaa, who was present at this meeting, stood and addressed the members of the council with these now-famous words:
Now I see that some of you fear to go forward to fight for our King. If it was in the brave days of Osei Tutu, Okomfo Anokye, and Opoku Ware I, Chiefs would not sit down to see their King to be taken away without firing a shot.
No European could have dared speak to Chiefs of Asante in the way the Governor spoke to you this morning. Is it true that the bravery of Asante is no more? I cannot believe it. It cannot be!
I must say this: If you, the men of Asante, will not go forward, then we will. We, the women, will. I shall call upon my fellow women. We will fight! We will fight till the last of us falls in the battlefields.
With this, she took on leadership of the Asante Uprising of 1900, gaining the support of some of the other Asante nobility. In the end, the British won and exiled all Asante leaders – including Asantewaa.
Yaa Asantewaa died in exile in the Seychelles on 17 October 1921. Yaa Asantewaa’s dream for an Asante nation free of British rule was realized on 6 March 1957, when the Asante protectorate gained independence as the new nation of Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah.
The Asante empire had fallen, but Queen Yaa Asantewaa’s legacy of courage and resistance stands today as a representative of the fighting spirit of the Asante people.
Kwame Ture ( June 29, 1941 – November 15, 1998)
Stokely Carmichael, who would later change his name to Kwame Ture, has been called the father of Black Power. He worked alongside Ella Baker, the founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Honorary prime minister of the Black Panther Party. Bestselling author. All-African People’s Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) leader. Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) is a legend, one whose work as a civil rights leader fundamentally altered the course of history — and our understanding of Pan-Africanism today.
Ella Baker (December 13, 1903 – December 13, 1986)
Ella Baker played a key role in some of the biggest civil rights organizations and campaigns of the 20th century. In 1938 she joined the NAACP under W.E.B. DuBois. She was named director of branches in 1943, making her the highest ranking woman in the organization.
In her position as the Director of Branches, she led revolutionary leadership conferences around the country while pushing for greater autonomy for field officers.
Ella Baker’s philosophy emphasized four things that the Pan-African Alliance has integrated into its platform:
- She believed that the strength of an organization grew from the bottom up and not the top down.
- She believed that the work of the branches was the life blood of the NAACP.
- She recognized that the bedrock of any social change organization is not the eloquence or credentials of its top leaders, but rather, it lies in the commitment and hard work of the rank and file membership and willingness and ability of those members to engage in a process of discussion, debate, and decision making.
- She especially stressed the importance of young people and women in the organization.
She was the founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee after leaving Martin Luther King’s new organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) around 1957.
She mentored so many activists like Diane Nash, Stokely Carmichael, Rosa Parks, and Bob Moses that she has been called the most influential woman in the civil rights movement. Her legacy lives on in The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.
Carlos Cooks (June 23, 1913 – May 5, 1966)
The most important link between Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X was World War II Veteran Carlos Cooks. After Marcus Garvey was deported, it was Carlos Cooks who administered the Advance Division of the UNIA.
He founded the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement based on three objectives:
1. The total mobilization of all the material resources of the Black race in all areas of the world, binding them together into one grand racial hegemony, whose only purposes shall be the welfare and security of Black people everywhere
2. The activation of African-Community Leagues in all communities where people of the African ethnic group are in the majority. The economy of all African communities must be marshaled, controlled, and channeled in a progressive direction, so that the commerce business life, and body politics of the community be controlled totally by the resident majority.
3. The synchronization of all organizations, regardless of religious passions, or sectional sentiment, to one overall aim and endeavor towards the complete freedom of Africa, for the benefit of the African peoples of the world. This should include moral, physical and material support to the needy cause of the valiant Africans at home who are fighting against tremendous odds.
It was Carlos Cooks who maintained an African Nationalist Legion, mentally prepared and physically ready to join the African Liberation struggle, who designated August 17th – the birthday of Marcus Garvey – as the first Black holiday, official or unofficial, and who first formed an independent school, complete with a course in Kiswahili at a time (1954) when many of our people didn’t even know where Africa was, let alone what Swahili was.
His Nationalist Manifesto can be read here, and the books below should be in the libraries of every real revolutionary!
Frantz Fanon (20 July 1925 – 6 December 1961)
“For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.”
During World War II, he joined the Free French forces, fighting in Italy and then Germany where he was wounded in the back during the Alsace campaign. Decorated for bravery, Fanon stayed on in France to study psychiatry and medicine at Lyon University.
According to the Oxford University Press, ‘Living in France confronted Fanon with the racial contradictions of French republican ideology. It made him realize that for all the talk of liberty, equality, fraternity espoused by the Fourth Republic, a French Caribbean man like himself would never be seen as a true citizen. The Republic might claim to be universal but in reality his presence was unnerving for a French society where whiteness was the norm and blackness was equated with evil. It was a painful experience that led him to write his first book, Black Skins, White Masks, in 1952.’
Fanon’s influence extended to the liberation movements of the Palestinians, the Tamils, and was a key influence on the Black Panther Party, particularly his ideas concerning nationalism.
After his death from Leukemia, his body was returned to Algeria and buried with full military honors by the Algerian National Army of Liberation.
Dr. Albertina Sisulu (21 October 1918 – 2 June 2011)
Wife of revolutionary Walter Sisulu (who spent 25 years in custody on Robben Island alongside Nelson Mandela), Ma Sisulu joined the African National Congress (ANC) Women′s League in 1955, and took part in the launch of the Freedom Charter the same year. She would later serve as a key member of the United Democratic Front in the 1980s.
Sisulu was arrested and held in solitary confinement for almost two months for her political involvement in 1963, and would be banned from political activism throughout the 60s.
President Jacob Zuma paid tribute to Ma Sisulu in the wake of her death. “Mama Sisulu has, over the decades, been a pillar of strength not only for the Sisulu family but also the entire liberation movement, as she reared, counseled, nursed and educated most of the leaders and founders of the democratic SA”.
According to Wikipedia, for more than 50 years, Sisulu committed herself to The Albertina Sisulu Foundation, which works to improve the lives of small children and old people. She was honored for her commitment to the anti-apartheid struggle and her social work when the World Peace Council, based in Basel, Switzerland, elected her president from 1993 to 1996. She recruited nurses to go to Tanzania, to replace British nurses who left after Tanzanian independence. The South African nurses had to be “smuggled” out of SA into Botswana and from there they flew to Tanzania.
In 2004 she was voted 57th in the SABC3’s Great South Africans.
Assata Shakur (July 16, 1947 – )
Before I (Asad Malik) came into consciousness, the autobiography of Assata Shakur was one of the first books I read. I can therefore attribute my genesis in part to her. A true revolutionary, Assata Shakur was mentored by then political science instructor and legendary historian Dr. Leonard Jeffries while a student at CCNY.
She became a Black Panther and then a member of the Black Liberation Army – fighting on the front line of the domestic insurgency of the 1960s and 70s.
In 1972, Shakur was the subject of a nationwide manhunt after the FBI alleged that she was the “revolutionary mother hen” of a Black Liberation Army cell that had conducted a “series of cold-blooded murders of New York City police officers”, including the “execution style murders” of New York Police Officers Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones on May 21, 1971 and Gregory Foster and Rocco Laurie on January 28, 1972. Later, Assata was even identified as the “soul of the Black Liberation Army”, making her “the final wanted fugitive, the soul of the gang, the mother hen who kept them together, kept them moving, kept them shooting”.
By 1973, she was officially labeled by law enforcement as the most dangerous woman in America.
She was convicted and imprisoned shortly thereafter, but was rescued by a group of BLA members. Three members of the Black Liberation Army visiting her drew concealed .45-caliber pistols, seized two guards as hostages and drove a prison van through an unfenced section of the Clinton Correctional Facility for Women in New Jersey. A mile away, two cars were waiting to transfer the crew away from the scene, and to take Assata underground into a network of BLA safehouses.
She was taken to safety in Cuba where she remains today.
Julius Nyerere (13 April 1922 – 14 October 1999)
First President of free and liberated Tanzania, also known as Baba wa Taifa (Father of the Nation), Julius Kambarage Nyerere was the author of ‘The Arusha declaration’, a five part manifesto that outlined the creed of the political party of which he was the head, the Policy of Socialism, he Policy of Self Reliance, the TANU Membership; and a Resolution.
It is for this declaration and his intellectual contribution to political philosophy that he is included in this list. To read the entire Arusha Declaration, click here.
Julius Nyerere’s legacy remains in contention due to strongman political strategies and failed policy.
Carter G. Woodson (Dec 19, 1857 – Apr 5, 1950)
Father of Black History Month and the author of The Miseducation of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson authored more than 16 books, 125 book reviews, and 100 articles.
Carter G. Woodson died on April 3, 1950 of heart disease. At the time of his death, he was working on a six volume Encyclopedia Africana. He left behind no children and was never married. When asked why, his response was “I am married…to my work”. His Washington, D.C. home has been preserved and designated the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site.
Anna Cooper (August 10, 1858 – February 27, 1964)
Anna Cooper’s life was distinguished by her vocation as an educator and a political, social and community activist. Throughout her life she was concerned with the welfare of women and African- Americans, and devoted her energies to writing and speaking extensively on her belief in empowerment through education.
She participated in conferences on racial and gender equality and education, including the World’s Congress of Representative Women at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, the Woman Suffrage Congress in 1893, and the Pan-African Conference in London in 1900. She was also the first woman to become a member of the American Negro Academy, an intellectual organization founded by the Rev. Alexander Crummell, an Episcopal priest, to further higher education and racial equality.