In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Merely 10 years later, the book had created such a stir that President Lincoln declared her “the little woman who started this big war.” Today, the book is still known as a classic example of anti-slavery literature.
In 1900, James Weldon Johnson and his brother penned “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” to celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. The words were so powerful and the tune so memorable, that the song spread from classroom to classroom, family to family, and was eventually embraced as the Black National Anthem.
In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois published his most famous book, The Souls of Black Folk, which delved into the psychology of the mind of a Black man and the famous concept of “double-consciousness” which he describes as such:
It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
This concept still resounds in the hearts of many Americans as the population has become increasingly more diverse.
Today, there are many famous Black Americans who continue to use their status to influence change in society. Notable activists include Oprah Winfrey, the renowned talk show host whose Angel Network has helped countless people around the world; Alonzo Mourning, the former basketball player whose foundation has raised more than $6 million to help those less fortunate; and Maya Angelou, the writer and poet whose work speaks of healing and reconciliation throughout the nation.