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The Alexandria Library celebrates Black History Month this year by highlighting the lives and careers of six outstanding individuals in the African American community.

Bayard Rustin (1912–1987) was a human rights activist known for his work during the Civil Rights Movement. Rustin was a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest advisors, especially on techniques of nonviolent resistance. Rustin was extremely active in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and helped to create the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). From 1965–1979, Rustin served as the head of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the AFL-CIO's African American constituency group, working to integrate unions and promote unions among African Americans. He felt that injustice everywhere should not be tolerated and must be protested.
Marsha P. Johnson (1945–1992) was one of the most prominent figures of the gay rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s in New York City. Always sporting a smile, Johnson was an important advocate for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, those effected by H.I.V. and AIDS, and gay and transgender rights. She participated in the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, a pivotal milestone in the quest for LGBTQ+ civil rights, and was an important figure in the LGBTQ rights movement and community during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Johnson would go on to create a trans rights group with Sylvia Rivera called Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).
Ermias Joseph Asghedom (1985–2019), known professionally as Nipsey Hussle (often stylized as Nipsey Hu$$le), was an American rapper, entrepreneur, and activist. His debut studio album “Victory Lap” was released in 2018 and was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Rap Album category. Hussle opened the Marathon Clothing store on June 17, 2017, which he founded along with partners Carless, Civil, and his brother Samiel Asghedom.[81] Opening the store at this intersection in the Crenshaw commercial district was important to him because he wanted to invest and provide opportunities in his neighborhood of Hyde Park.
Nichelle Nichols (1932–2022) was an American actress, singer and dancer whose portrayal of Uhura in Star Trek and its film sequels was groundbreaking for African American actresses on American television. From 1977 to 2015, she volunteered her time to promote NASA's programs and recruit diverse astronauts, including some of the first female and ethnic minority astronauts. An enthusiastic advocate of space exploration, Nichols served from the mid-1980s on the board of governors of the National Space Institute (today's National Space Society), a nonprofit, educational space advocacy organization.
In September 2020, Najah Aqeel (born 2006), a 14-year-old freshman in Tennessee, was warming up for a volleyball match when her coach told her the referee would be disqualifying her because of her hijab. At the time, Aqeel refused to remove the hijab in order to play, forgoing the match and leaving her feeling singled out for her religious beliefs. Her decision to not play sparked nationwide support as the young athlete and her family embarked on changing the rule. After a months-long campaign, the long-standing rule was overturned, allowing US high school volleyball players who wear the hijab to play in matches.
David Price (born 2001) first conceptualized the idea for The Safety Pouch at age 16 after having "The Talk," a conversation on handling police interactions during traffic stops with his parents. David knew he needed to create a product to facilitate safer traffic stops for drivers and police officers. David officially brought The Safety Pouch to market in 2020, and he has been on a mission since to create equitable traffic stop interactions for everyone.


For more information and research of African American studies please see our subject guide and research guide.

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Last updated: January 2024