Angela Davis
Civil rights activist, professor, and member of the original Black Panther Party, Angela Davis has authored several books on the topics of race, feminism, democracy, and freedom. In her teen years, she organized interracial study groups that were dispersed by the police. John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s song, “Angela,” was written in support of Davis, who, after being wanted by the FBI, was tried for suspected involvement in a murder, but was later acquitted. In 2019, she was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2020, she was named Time Magazine’s 1971 Woman of the Year (the campaign honored 100 Women of the Year who had been too long overlooked).

Further reading: https://www.biography.com/activist/angela-davis

Wilma Pearl Mankiller
Wilma Pearl Mankiller was the first female Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation. After a myasthenia gravis diagnosis (a condition that breaks down communication between the nerves and muscles, making it hard to speak and control the limbs), Mankiller resolved to use her life to serve others. She organized a project to construct an 18-mile-long water system and replace dangerous housing in Bell, Oklahoma, a small village on the Cherokee reservation, where residents were living in unsafe homes and lacked running water. Mankiller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999 for her activism.

Further reading: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/wilma-mankiller

Maxine Hong Kingston
The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Kingston writes of her experiences as a first-generation Chinese American in her unique East-meets-West literary style. She earned a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, where she participated in protests, including the Civil Rights Movement. Kingston has led poetry and meditation workshops for veterans of military conflicts. She has earned numerous awards for her work, including the National Humanities Medal, which honors those whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened citizens’ engagement with literature, history, language, and other humanities subjects.

Further reading: https://english.rutgers.edu/20042005/1855-maxine-hong-kingston.html

Malian Emperor Mansa Musa
Mansa Musa was the Muslim ruler of West Africa’s exceedingly wealthy Malian Empire from 1312-1337, which was known for its gold, copper, and trade practices. Upon his return from Mecca, Mansa Musa commissioned architects and scholars to build mosques and universities throughout the region, subsequently making the city of Timbuktu internationally famous as a hub of trade and education. His fame began to spread around the world, as the world was known at that time. He was said to have spent so much gold in Egypt that he crashed the economy.

Mansa Musa was arguably the richest man to ever live.

Knowledge of this emperor is important to American history because it gives a glimpse of what Black people were doing pre-slavery—establishing and practicing education, architecture, and religion, all cornerstones of thriving civilizations. Black history didn’t start at slavery, and we should never teach it as such.

Further reading: https://www.ancient.eu/Mansa_Musa_I/

Poet Laureate Joy Harjo
Member of the Muscogee Creek Nation in Oklahoma, Joy Harjo is the USA’s first Native American Poet Laureate. Her people were forced to leave their lands in the early 1800s. Two centuries later, Harjo returned to her homeland and dug into her history. She writes of the connection with her ancestors, their history, and her place in it. She was recently awarded a second stint as America’s Poet Laureate.

Further reading: www.joyharjo.com

Dr. Hector Garcia
Born in Mexico, raised and educated in Texas, Dr. Hector Garcia served in the Army during World War II. He ran his medical practice in Corpus Christi and provided healthcare at low to no cost to impoverished patients. Garcia championed educational and medical benefits. He fought against poll taxes and school segregation. He also founded the American GI Forum. He worked to make Mexican-Americans part of mainstream America. In 1984, Dr. Garcia received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the first Mexican-American to ever do so.

His motto was, “Education is our freedom, and freedom should be everybody’s business.”

Further reading:
https://www.humanitiestexas.org/programs/tx-originals/list/hector-p-garcia
https://www.drhectorpgarciafoundation.org/bio