Appraising Afro-American Legends (I)


Every year, the United States Government commemorates the history and achievements of Afro-Americans in February. This event, known as the African-American history month is used to remember and celebrate Afro-American heros.

In this write-up an attempt is made to revisit some of the most outstanding Afro-Americans in polities arts and sports right from the time of abolition of slavery, through the civil rights movement  demonstrations to the modern times.

The personalities chosen, though inexhaustive, are just examples of how successful Afro-Americans have been. There are other hundreds of Afro-Americans who have succeeded in each of the categories considered here. They are worth celebrating. They are of great pride and inspiration to Africa and ought to be remembered in February of each year.

Frederick Douglas: Douglas is the formost African-American abolitionist. He is the first African-American leader of national stature in United States history. Born in February 1817 on the eastern shore of Maryland, his mother was a slave named Harrit Baily. In 1825, he was sent to Baltimore to live with Hugh Auid as a house servant at the age of eight. His mistress taught him the rudiments of reading and writing unit her husband stopped her. With this basic  background, Douglas began his self-education.

Douglas quickly became a nationally recognized figure among abolitionists. He was the first black citizen to hold high rank (as U.S minister and consul general to Haili in U.S Government.

In 1845, he bravely published his narrative of life and related his experiences as a slave.

The Civil War, beginning in 1861, raised the issue of what role the black man would play in his own liberation, since one of the main objectives of the war was emancipation of the slaves. Douglas kept this issue alive. In  1863, as a result of his political and military expediency, president Abraham Lincoln asked him to recruit African-American soldiers for the Union Army, as the war proceeded, Douglas discussed the use and treatment of African-American soldiers by the Union forces with Lincoln . In consequence, the role of African-American soldiers was upgraded and the military effectiveness increased.

Charles Drew (1904-1950): Born on June 3, 1904 in Washington, D.C, Charles Drew excelled in academic and sports during his graduates studies at Amherst College in Massachusetts. He was also a student at McGill University Medical School in Montreal, where he specialized in physiological anatomy.

Charles Drew conducted research about blood plasma and transfusions in New York City. It was during his work at Columba University where he made his discoveries relating to the preservation of blood. By separating the liquid red blood cells from the near solid plasma and freezing the two separately, he found that blood could be preserved and reconstituted at a later date.

Charles Drew’s system for the storing of blood plasma (blood bank) revolutionized the medical profession. Dr Drew also established the American Red Cross Blood Bank, of which he was the first director. He organized the world’s first blood bank drive, nicknamed “Blood for Britain”, and was  supplying to the British during the World War II. The British military used his process extensively during the world War II, establishing mobile blood banks to aid in the treatment of wounded soldiers at the front lines. In 1941, the American Red Cross decided to set up blood donor stations to collect plasma for the U.S. armed forces.

After the war, Charles Drew took up the chairmanship of surgery at Howard University, Washington, D. C. He received the Spingarn Medal for his contributions to medical sicnece. He died at the early age of 46 from injuries suffered in a car accident in North Carolina.

Other famous Afro-American Scientists include George Washington Carver (1860 – 1943) one of the best known agricultural scientists of his generation, Herman Branson, Emmet W. Chappelle, Marie M. Daly, and Ruth Ella Moore among others.

Condoleeza Rice:

Born on November 14, 1954 condoleeza rice is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush. Rice was the first African-American woman secretary of state, as well as the second Africa-American (after Colin Powell), and the second woman (after Madeleine Albright). Rice was President Bush’s National Security Advisor during his first term, making her the first woman to serve in that position.

Before joining the Bush administration, she was a professor of political science at standford university where she served as provost from 1993 to 1999. Rice also served on the National Security Council as the Soviet and East European Affairs Advisor to President Bush during the dissolution of the Soviet Union and German reunification.

Following her confirmation as Secretary of State, Rice pioneered a policy of transformational diplomacy, with a focus on democracy in the Middle East. Her emphasis on supporting democratically elected governments faced challenges as the Islamist militant Hamas captured a popular majority in Palestinian elections. At the same time influential countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt maintained authoritarian systems with U.S support.

In March 2009, Rice returned to Stanford University as a political science professor while in September 2010, she became a faculty member of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a director of its Global Center for business and the economy.

There was a speculation that Rice would run for the Republican nomination in the 2008 presidential primaries. “I have always said that the one thing that I have not seen myself doing is running for elected office in the United States”, she said.

Rice is a woman of great intelligence and a pride to mankind. Many Americans are still wishing Condoleezza Rice could become the first woman to rule the White House.

General Collin Luther Powell

Collin Luther Powell was born on April 5, 1937 in Harlem, a neighbourhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, to Jamaican immigrant parents Maud Arial and Luther Theophilus Powell. Powell was raised in the South Bronx and attended Morris High School, a former public school in the Bronx, form where graduated in 1954. While at school, he worked at a local baby furniture store where he picked up Yiddish from the shopkeepers and some of the customers. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from the City College of New York in 1958 and was a self-admitted C average student. He was later able to earn a Master of Business Administration degree from the George Washington University in 1971, after his second tour in Vietnam.

Collin Luther Powell is a great United States statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State (2001-2005), serving under Presidnet George W. Bush. He was the first African-American appointed to that position. During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987-1989); and Commander of the US Army Forces Command (1989) later. He was the first, and so far the only African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Powell is so far the only Afro-American to attain the highest office in the US military, as chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff between 1989 and 1993.

Certainly, this very popular General would have become the first Afro-American president if he had made up his mind to run for the American presidency in 1986.

Ichoku, a former director, Rivers State Ministry of Information, resides in Port Harcourt.


Anthony Ichoku