Home News Celebrating Black History, Ohio’s Rich Legacy: Celebrating Ten Influential Black OhioansCelebrating Black...

Celebrating Black History, Ohio’s Rich Legacy: Celebrating Ten Influential Black OhioansCelebrating Black History,


Ohio has a vibrant history shaped by the remarkable contributions of Black Ohioans across various fields, including politics, business, arts, education, and social justice. While it’s challenging to limit the list to just ten, here’s a spotlight on individuals whose legacies continue to inspire:

  1. Charles Young: The third African American graduate of West Point, Charles Young rose to the rank of Colonel in the US Army. He was the highest-ranking Black officer in the military until his death in 1922. His home in Wilberforce, Ohio, is now a national museum.
  2. Jane Edna Hunter: A social worker and visionary leader, Hunter founded the Phillis Wheatley Association in Cleveland. This organization provided housing, job training, and social support to young Black women migrating to the city, shaping the lives of thousands.
  3. Garrett Morgan: A prolific Cleveland inventor, Morgan’s most famous creation was the early traffic signal system. Additionally, his gas mask design was later used to protect soldiers in World War I. Morgan was also a successful businessman and an early NAACP member.
  4. John Mercer Langston: Born in Virginia, Langston became Ohio’s first Black attorney and went on to serve as a US Congressman. He was also a founder and Dean of Howard University’s law school, and the US Minister to Haiti.
  5. Maya Angelou: Although known for her work in other states, the iconic writer, poet, and civil rights activist spent part of her childhood in Ohio. Her experiences during this time undeniably shaped her powerful voice.
  6. Paul Laurence Dunbar: One of the first nationally recognized Black poets, Dunbar earned acclaim for works that often used Black dialect to portray both the hardships and joys of African American life at the turn of the 20th century. His house in Dayton is now a museum.
  7. Toni Morrison: Born in Lorain, Morrison was a Nobel Prize-winning novelist whose works like “Beloved” and “Song of Solomon” powerfully explored African American experiences, family, and history.
  8. Jesse Owens: An Olympic legend, Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, shattering the myth of Aryan superiority promoted by Hitler’s Nazi regime. Owens hailed from Cleveland, Ohio.
  9. Carl B. Stokes: Stokes made history as the first Black mayor of a major US city when he was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1967. His brother, Louis Stokes, also served as Ohio’s first Black congressman.
  10. John Parker: A conductor on the Underground Railroad, Parker risked his life to help hundreds of enslaved persons escape to freedom. His house in Ripley, Ohio, is now a historical site.

Legacy of Impact

These figures represent just a fraction of the remarkable Black Ohioans who have enriched the state and nation. Their stories of resilience, innovation, and leadership continue to resonate, reminding us that Black history is an integral part of Ohio’s history.

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