“If you know your history, then you would know where you’re coming from. Then you wouldn’t have to ask me, who the ‘eck do I think I am.”
– Bob Marley, Buffalo Soldier
Over the years, many innovative and inspiring people from the Caribbean, or of Caribbean descent, have made their mark on what we celebrate as “Black History.” In honor of this year’s 44th celebration of “Black History Month,” POTENT Magazine would like to honor 5 Black History makers that helped define the legacy of the US and their global impact.
1.) Constance Baker Motley- Judge
African-American Civil Rights activist, lawyer, judge, State Senator, and borough President of Manhattan, New York – Constance Baker Motley became the first African American woman judge. Both of her parents were from Nevis in the Caribbean.
2.) Jan Earnst Matzeliger- Inventor
Born in Paramaribo (Dutch Guyana, Now Suriname), Matzeliger was the son of a Dutch engineer and Surinamese slave. He is known for making one of the “greatest forward step in the shoe industry,” when he invented the shoe-lasting machine in the US. In the young days of shoemaking, shoes were made by hand, and Jan transformed the shoe industry with his invention.
3.) Susan S. Taylor- Editor/ Writer
Author, writer, journalist, and editor – Susan S. Taylor is most known for her longest-standing position as the Editor in Chief for the African-American iconic magazine Essence from 1981-2000. Her father is from the Caribbean island St. Kitts.
4) Claude McKay- Poet
Known as one of the key-figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Claude was a Jamaican-American writer/poet during the time of musical and artistic evolvement. His work ranged from vernacular literature celebrating peasant life in Jamaica, to poems challenging white authority in America.
5.) Shirley Chishlom- Congresswoman
In January 2014, Shirley Chishlom became the 37th honoree of the U.S. Postal Services, Black Heritage stamp series. She was the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress in 1968 and became the first woman to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972. Despite all of her grand accomplishments, one of the greatest things people remember about her is how she was always proud to say she was a child of Barbadian and Guyanese parents!
As descendants of the Caribbean and citizens from all corners of the world, knowing our history and where we come from helps define who we are as a people, and inspires us to continue to leave a positive and iconic mark on this Earth during our own time.