The US celebrates Black History Month every February to recognize the role of African Americans in history. Alabama is commonly connected to black history as it pertains to civil rights (learn more here BCRI.org), but several prominent Alabamians deserve special acknowledgement for their important contributions and accomplishments in many other fields. While is impossible to create a complete list, the following Alabamians have been significant to history in many areas, including sports, science, politics, education and music.
- Baseball legends Satchell Page (Mobile), Willie Mays (Westfield) and Hank Aaron (Mobile) have all called Alabama home. Page is known by many as one of the best pitchers to play baseball. After careers marked by milestones and records, The World Series MVP award was named in honor of Willie Mays and MLB introduced the award for best overall offensive player in honor of Hank Aaron.
- In the boxing ring, Alabama heavy-hitters include Evander Holyfield (Atmore) and Joe Louis (LaFayette). Louis is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. Holyfield is the only boxer to win undisputed championships in 2 weight classes.
- Other Alabamians excelled on an international level in track and field. Jesse Owens (Oakville) and Carl Lewis (Birmingham) both won 4 gold medals in the same Olympics – Owens in 1936 and Lewis in 1984. In 1948, Alice Coachman, former Tuskegee Institute student, was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
- Of course, the list of notable Alabamians in sports must include Bo Jackson (Bessemer) and Charles Barkley (Leeds). Bo Jackson is the only athlete in history to receive All-Star honors in both baseball and football. Although long retired, Charles Barkley still holds NBA regular season and play-off records.
- Scientists Dr. Mae Jemison (Decatur), George Washington Carver (Tuskegee) and Dr. Percy Julian (Montgomery) are credited with firsts in scientific fields. Dr. Jemison was the first black woman to go to space. George Washington Carver was a professor at what is now Tuskegee Institute who worked to enrich the lives of farmers by promoting alternating crops to minimize soil depletion. Dr. Julian conducted research that laid the groundwork to produce cortisone and birth control pills.
- Alabamians have played an important role in music history. Prominent African Americans from Alabama represent many styles of music. Jazz great Erskine Hawkins (Birmingham) was a big band leader and trumpeter who composed many songs that appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Harlem Hit Parade (now known as the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)
- W.C. Handy (Florence), the Father of the Blues, was a published writer, trumpet player and composer who it attributed with increasing the popularity of blues music. Singers Nat King Cole (Montgomery), Percy Sledge (Leighton), Brittany Howard (Athens) and Lionel Richie (Tuskegee) have all reached the heights of international success in several other musical genres.
- Leaders in national politics include Condoleezza Rice (Birmingham) and Alexis Herman (Mobile). Rice was the first female African American to serve as Secretary of State and was the first woman to serve as National Security Advisor. Alexis Herman was the first African American to serve as Secretary of Labor.
Although civil rights history seems to dominate the conversations of prominent African Americans in Alabama, there are many lasting legacies in many fields to make all Alabamians proud.
Alabama Goods has several products made by very talented African Americans. Stop by today and let us show you their work.