‘Biography and History’

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.” — Carter G. Woodson

Travel and a busy work week preempted my plan to post a Black History Month story about Black Philanthropy and Philanthropists every day. So…to catch up, here are nine (since my last post was Feb 2) names and stories that are among my favorite.

Each of these biographies is powerful, informative and inspirational. Which one do you find most inspiring?

Catherine Ferguson, who founded a school for child laborers in NYC

Catherine Ferguson, who founded a school for child laborers in NYC

  • Catherine Ferguson (1779–1854)former slave, who despite being illiterate became a pioneering educator and philanthropist in New York and founded a school in the early 1800s.
  • William Leidesdorff (1810–48), a San Francisco’s most prominent early Black citizen and businessman, who became one of the wealthiest man in California.
  • Bridget “Biddy” Mason (1818–91), an African American nurse and a Californian real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist.
  • Lucy Gonzales Parsons (1853-1942), a Black Mexican American, likely born a slave, who became a great orator and activist on class struggles around poverty and unemployment.
  • Madam CJ Walker (1867–1919)entrepreneur and social activist noted for charitable contributions to black institutions, including the single largest gift made by an African American woman to the Indianapolis YMCA building fund)
  • Oseola McCarty (1908-99), poorly educated washerwoman who donated $150K to university for scholarships.
  • Thomas Cannon (1926-2005), Virginia postal worker who lived modestly in order to give to and help others; was known as “The Poor Man’s Philanthropist.”
  • Matel Dawson (1941-2002), a forklift operator with a ninth-grade education who gave more than $1M to universities for scholarships and to charities.
  • Wangari Maathai (1942-2011), Kenyan environmentalist who began paying women a few shillings to plant trees and went on to become the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

— VF (#BHM Day Three – Day Eleven) 

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