As we kick off the month dedicated to celebrating the life and accomplishments of colored people all over the world, let's take a moment to appreciate some "Hidden Figures" that helped make history by achieving the impossible.
1. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah
Brother of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
An influential 20th-century advocate of Pan-Africanism, Kwame Nkrumah was a founding member of the Organization of African Unity and was the winner of the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962. He led Ghana to independence from Britain in 1957 and served as its first prime minister and president. Nkrumah first gained power as leader of the colonial Gold Coast, and held it until he was deposed in 1966. Kwame Nkrumah was born around 1909 in Nkroful, Gold Coast where he was raised by his mother and his extended family who lived together in traditional fashion with more distant relatives often visiting. He lived a carefree childhood spending much of his time in the village, the bush, and on the nearby sea. After moving to the U.S., Nkrumah became an activist student organizing a group of expatriate African students in Pennsylvania and building it into the African Students Association of America and Canada while becoming it's president. In 1957, Nkrumah created a well-funded Ghana News Agency to generate domestic news and disseminate it abroad. In ten years’ time, the GNA had 8045 km of domestic telegraph line, and maintained stations in Lagos, Nairobi, London, and New York City. Due to past issues Nkrumah never returned to Ghana, but he continued to push for his vision of African unity. He lived in exile in Conakry, Guinea as the guest of President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who made him honorary co-president of the country. In failing health, he flew to Bucharest, Romania, for medical treatment in August 1971. He died of prostate cancer in April 1972 at the age of 62. Nkrumah was buried in a tomb in the village of his birth. While the tomb remains in Nkroful, his remains were transferred to a large national memorial tomb and park in Accra. Kwame’s legacy will be one that sets the standard for the future leaders of Africa and the United States.
2. Benjamin Banneker
“The only Benjamin we acknowledge is Banneker!”
Benjamin Banneker was born on November 9, 1731 in Baltimore, Maryland to a free African American woman and a former slave. He had little formal education and was largely self-taught. He is known for being part of a group led by Major Andrew Ellicott that surveyed the borders of the original District of Columbia, the federal capital district of the United States. Banneker studied astronomy and mathematics. He was later called upon to assist in the surveying of territory for the construction of the nation's capital. He also became an active writer of almanacs and exchanged letters with Thomas Jefferson politely challenging him to do anything he could to ensure racial equality. Banneker died on October 9, 1806 but his legacy lives forever. There is in fact a myth that the “Big Ben” clock in London, England was named after this great hero.
3. Beatriz Kimpa Vita
Beatriz Kimpa Vita was a Kongo Empire prophet and leader of her own Christian movement, Antonianism. This movement taught that Jesus and other early Christian figures were from the Kongo Empire. Her teachings grew out of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church in Kongo and caused her to upbraid the Catholic priests for not believing as she did. Antonianism was a new Christian sycretic religious movement formed in the Kingdom of Kongo between 1704 and 1706.. Among her beliefs, were that Jesus was a black man and that the Kongo was the real home of Christianity. She also held that heaven was for Africans. Beatriz also made polygamy legal in her movement. Beatriz prophesied a new golden age to her followers, one that would follow the end of European presence in the Kongo. European treasures would be found around the Kongo capital city of Mbanza Kongo by her followers, and trees would turn to silver and gold. Beatriz acknowledged papal authority, yet her cult was hostile to European missionaries, teaching that they were "corrupt and unsympathetic to the spiritual needs of Kongolese Catholics". Unfortunately, Vita was captured near her hometown and burned at the temporary capital of Evululu as a heretic in 1706 by forces loyal to Pedro IV. She was tried under Kongo law as a witch and a heretic with the consent and counsel of the Capuchin friars Bernardo da Gallo and Lorenzo da Lucca. Her legacy will forever be engrained in the minds of blacks around the world for her courageous and prophetic efforts.
4. El Preste Juan
Prestor John is a legendary Christian patriarch and king popularized in European chronicles and tradition from the 12th through the 17th century. He was said to have ruled over a Nestorian (Church of the East) Christian nation lost amid the Muslims and pagans of the Orient. The accounts are varied collections of medieval popular fantasy, depicting Prester John as a descendant of the Three Magi ruling a kingdom full of riches, marvels, and strange creatures. At first, Prester John was imagined to reside in India; tales of the Nestorian Christians' evangelistic success there and of Thomas the Apostle's subcontinental travels probably provided the first seeds of the legend. After the coming of the Mongols to the Western world, accounts placed the king in Central Asia, and eventually Portuguese explorers convinced themselves that they had found him in Ethiopia. African Prester John is in the Mirabilia Descripta of Dominican missionary Jordanus around 1329 and in discussing the "Third India", he records a number of fanciful stories about the land and its king, whom he says Europeans call Prester John. After this point, an African location of John became increasingly popular which may have resulted from increasing ties between Europe and Africa as 1428 saw the Kings of Aragon and Ethiopia actively negotiating the possibility of a strategic marriage between the two kingdoms. John’s legend has affected several hundred years of European and world history, directly and indirectly, by encouraging Europe's explorers, missionaries, scholars, and treasure hunters. For example, Marvel Comics has featured "Prester John" in issues of Fantastic Four and Thor. He was a significant supporting character in several issues of the DC Comics fantasy series Arak: Son of Thunder. His Avatar is the ally of the Pendragon in Mage: The Hero Defined. The 1992 video game Castles II: Siege and Conquest contains a sub-plot involving the search for Prester John's kingdom. Prester John also features in Tad Williams' epic trilogy, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn while Season 2 of Netflix's Marco Polo includes references to Prestor John.
This is here to encourage the collection and seeking out of knowledge because the power it holds is endless. Thank you.