In 1474, Queen Anacaona was born in Yaguana, which is now modern day Leogane, Haiti. Yaguana was the capital of Xaragua, a heavily populated kingdom which was also very prosperous. Anacaona means “Golden Flower” in the native Taino language; she was the younger sister of the king of the Xaraguas’, Behechio. In 1494 Christopher Columbus visited the Xaragua kingdom for trade and was met by Anacaona and the king. Anacaona was seen as an equal negotiator with the king. She and her brother were able to successfully and peacefully negotiate trade with the Spaniards. She was held in high regard with her people even before she became queen, her legendary beauty and leadership made her popular and memorable. She would later marry the king of Maguana, Caonabo, which helped expand her influence over the Taino people of Xaragua and Maguana.
Fannie Lou Hamer was born on October 6th, 1917 in Montgomery County, Mississippi. The daughter of sharecroppers; her attention went to helping her family earn money to survive at the age of six. At the age of twelve she dropped out of school to work full-time with her family. In 1944 Miss. Hamer would marry Mr. Perry “Pap” Hamer, and the couple worked as sharecroppers on a cotton plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi. They never had children because Miss. Hamer was having surgery to remove a tumor and the doctor gave her a hysterectomy as well. This act was against her will and a violation of her human rights.
Lauretta Mary Aiken was born in Brevard, North Carolina in 1894, she was one of twelve children born to James Aiken and Mary Smith. Her father was an entrepreneur and a volunteer fireman who subsequently died in an accident involving an exploding firetruck. In the year 1910 her mother was hit by a truck and killed on Christmas Day. More tragedy stuck the young life of Mabley, by the age of fifteen she was raped twice and each time became pregnant from her attacker. She was forced to give both of her children away before she left North Carolina for Cleveland, Ohio. Mabley was fourteen when she began her career as a comedian on the “chitlin circuit” under the Theater Owners Booking Association. Jack Mabley was a fellow performer would become her boyfriend and the man whose last name she used in her stage name. Aiken was given the nickname “Moms” because of her nurturing qualities; it is said that one of her brothers did not agree with her career choice, so she created her stage name “Moms Mabley” and her life was never the same again.
Born on November 4th, 1942 in Harlem, New York to Rupert and Gladys Bath, Patricia’s path to greatness was piqued when her mother brought her a chemistry set as a young girl. From early on, Mrs. Bath was a hard worker and chose greatness. At the age of 16, she was picked as one of the few students to attend a cancer research workshop sponsored by the National Science Foundation. She impressed the program head so much that he included her findings in a scientific paper presented to the workshop attendees. Due to her efforts, she was awarded the Mademoiselle Magazine’s Merit Award in 1960.
Malcolm Little was born on May 19th, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska to parents Earl Little and Louise Norton. His parents were both members of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, Earl Little was known as the outspoken Baptist Preacher who took a strong stance against racism. Because of his father’s stance against racism Malcolm’s family experienced constant death threats from the Ku Klux Klan and other whites who opposed his father. The threats caused his family to move several times eventually settling outside of East Lansing, Michigan in 1929. Two years later Earl Little was murdered by a band of whites who disliked his opposition to their system of supremacy. His death was ruled an accidental suicide but neither his family nor his neighbors believed the official report.
After the loss of his father Malcolm’s family experienced economic hardships which took a toll on their quality of life. The constant threats along with the hardship took a negatively affected Malcolm's mother Louise, she eventually experienced a decline in her mental health, and declared legally insane by the state and committed to a Michigan mental asylum. Malcolm’s early childhood experiences with racism left a bitter taste in his mouth towards whites, despite his adversity his continued to excel academically in all-white school settings. Once Malcolm was told by one of his white male teachers, “it was unrealistic for a nigger to want to be a lawyer.” This experience did not help motivate Malcolm to continue excelling academically. He eventually dropped out of school and was placed in several juvenile delinquent homes until he left Michigan for Boston in 1941.
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On January 2nd, 1814 Oscar Micheaux was born in Metropolis, Illinois to parents Calvin and Belle Micheaux, who were former slaves. One of thirteen children, Oscar went on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest surprises. As a seventeen year old, he left his home for the big city of Chicago, Illinois where he got a job as a Pullman porter. At the time this was one of the best jobs for blacks in the days of Jim Crow. By learning the philosophies of Booker T. Washington and Horace Greeley, Micheaux was able to acquire two 160-acres tracts of land in Gregory County, South Dakota, in 1905; despite having no farming experience.
After spending several years in South Dakota as a homesteader, he compiled material to use in his first novel, “The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer”; which was loosely based on his life and published in 1913. Later, in 1917, it was rewritten and became his most famous novel, “The Homesteader”. Oscar self-published and distributed the novel by going door-to-door to small businessmen and fellow homesteaders. In 1915, due to financial troubles, Micheaux lost his homestead, causing him to move to Sioux City, Iowa and establish the Western book and Supply Company, where he continued to write and sell novels.
On the Shoulders of Giants
The mission of On the Shoulders of Giants, Inc. is to provide an innovative and informative approach to educating middle school, high school, college age and young adults, about the history , culture, influence and impact of the heroes and culture of the African diaspora.