In celebration of Black History Month, here are a few African American leaders who helped pave the way for other athletes, aviators, journalists, astronauts and activists.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
Before becoming the leader of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and delivering the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. was a Boy Scout. From ages 11 to 13, King was registered as a member of Troop 151 in Atlanta, Georgia. His troop met at Ebenezer Baptist Church, now part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
Distinguished Eagle Scout Emery Moorehead played 12 seasons as a tight end in the National Football League and was on the Chicago Bears team that won Super Bowl XX in 1986. In his career, Moorehead had 224 receptions for 2,980 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Distinguished as the first Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the Tuskegee Airmen destroyed 251 enemy airplanes during World War II. The men received 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses, eight Purple Hearts, 14 Bronze Stars, three Distinguished Unit Citations, and 744 Air Medals and clusters for their service.
Before Venus and Serena Williams, there was Althea Gibson, who dominated the tennis courts in the 1950s. At 15, she won her first American Tennis Association National championship. She held that title for nine years. Later, she became one of the first Black athletes to compete in international tennis. Gibson was the first Black player to win the French Open (in 1956) and Wimbledon (1957 and 1958), and she won the U.S. Open in 1957 and 1958. Gibson was also the first Black woman to compete on the Pro Golf Tour.
As a journalist and newspaper publisher, Daisy Bates documented the battle to end segregation in Arkansas. She played a lead role in helping the Little Rock Nine integrate Central High School in 1957. Bates received an honorary degree from the University of Arkansas, among many other awards for her activism.
After serving in the Air Force for 13 years, Guion Bluford was named an astronaut and, in 1983, became the first African American in space. In all, he participated in four space shuttle flights from 1983 to 1992 and rose to the rank of colonel. Bluford is also an Eagle Scout.