24 books for white people to read beyond Black History Month These great reads will help any reader discover the rich range of the African-American experience

For many years I was a clueless white guy. I suffered from one-ness. What I really needed was two-ness, and maybe three-ness and four-ness. I came to see my whiteness not as privilege but as insufficiency, thanks to W. E. B. Du Bois and his 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk.

In a remarkable passage, the great scholar, author and activist described the Negro as “a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, — a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eye of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideas in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”

Here is the good news. I am not there yet, but I am gaining on two-ness. My white skin is no longer a prison of cluelessness. With the help of African-American friends and colleagues, I am beginning to see America through the eyes of not the Other but others. Through their generosity, I have been invited to ask questions. I heard or saw things I didn’t understand. I did not yet know how to learn, nor did I have the courage to ask a question that might come off as racist. My fear was met by encouragement from the likes of Rev. Kenny Irby, DeWayne Wickham, Dr. Karen Dunlap, Keith Woods, Dr. Lillian Dunlap. “Don’t worry,” they indicated by one means or another. “Ask away. No one is going to leave the room or show you the door.”

Some of my clueless questions:

“When I see a police car, unless I am speeding, I think protection. Tell me why when you see a cop car you may think oppression?”

“I don’t get the absence of so many black fathers in the lives of their children. What is up with that?”

“I have learned to hate the N-word. When I hear it from black rappers, should I be offended?”

“I keep running into this idea of ‘good hair’ vs. ‘bad hair.’ As someone with very bad hair, I think that anyone with any kind of hair has good hair. What am I missing?”

There came a time during these interrogations when I felt a little fatigue setting in from my colleagues. And then Karen Dunlap, my boss and president of the Poynter Institute, made it explicit. It gets tiring, she explained, bearing the burden of white people’s ignorance about black people and African-American culture. “You know,” she gave me a Sunday school teacher look, “you could read something.”

Read something. Yes, read something!

And so I have. Over the past two decades I have developed quite a nice collection of what I might generally describe as African-American literature, some of it written by white journalists or scholars but most of it created by black poets, playwrights, scholars, novelists, essayists and critics. My collection is now large enough to be displayed, and I recently did just that in the library of the Poynter Institute.

I am not claiming this to be an expert collection of works, and certainly not a model one. But it is my collection, and I believe it has made me a better friend, colleague, parent, citizen and human being. I offer this list, with brief annotations, at the END of Black History Month to encourage readers not to limit their learning to the shortest month of the year.

So please learn, grow — and enjoy.

  • My Soul Is Rested: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South, by Howell Raines. A superb oral history of the key moments and key figures of the struggle.
  • The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride. “What color is God?” a dark-skinned boy asks his light-skinned mother. “God is the color of water.”
  • Reporting Civil Rights (Parts One and Two) Library of America edition of great American journalism on race and social justice, 1941-1973.
  • The Authentic Voice: The Best Reporting on Race and Ethnicity, edited by Arlene Morgan, Alice Pifer and Keith Woods. Rich examples reveal the power of inclusiveness in all the stories we tell.
  • The Sound of Freedom: Marian Anderson, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Concert That Awakened America, by Raymond Arsenault. A great biography of a great American artist by the historian who also gave us Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice.
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip Hoose. Before Rosa Parks became an American icon, a young teenage girl, Claudette Colvin, refused to give up her seat on a bus. Written for young readers, but important for all.
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander. First came slavery, then came segregation, then came mass incarceration.
  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Framed as a letter to his adolescent son, the author digs down to consequences of the continuing exploitation of black people in America. By the author who has made the most eloquent case in favor of reparations for continuing effects of slavery.
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. “Stares unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery.” Another must-read is The Bluest Eye, a terrifying novel about cultural definitions of beauty and the tragedy of self-hatred.
  • Fences, by August Wilson. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama, this play depicts what it means for a father to love his son — even at times when he doesn’t like him.
  • Woodholme: A Black Man’s Story of Growing Up Alone, by DeWayne Wickham. An orphan, black and poor, grows up to be one of America’s most prominent newspaper columnists.
  • Crossing the Danger Water: Three Hundred Years of African-American Writing, edited by Deirdre Mullane. If I had to recommend a single volume, this anthology would be it: more than 700 pages of history, literature and insight.
  • In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, by Alice Walker. Glowing essays expressed in what the author of The Color Purple calls “Womanist Prose.”
  • March (Books One, Two and Three), a trilogy, graphic-novel style, on the life and times of congressman John Lewis, with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. A work for adults and young readers.
  • Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family, by Condoleezza Rice. This family memoir by the former U.S. secretary of state carries us back to when she was 8 years old and her young friends were murdered in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, by Taylor Branch. Widely hailed by critics of all races as “a vivid tapestry of America.”
  • Race Matters, by Cornel West. From W. E. B. Du Bois to Cornel West, African-American intellectuals have helped Americans of all colors understand the sources of racism and the need for change.
  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, James Weldon Johnson. The 1912 short novel narrates what it means for a person of mixed race to “pass for white” within the system of American apartheid.
  • The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation, by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff. Winner of a Pulitzer Prize. The stories behind the stories of civil rights, including the inspirational courage and leadership of African-American journalists and publishers.
  • On the Bus with Rosa Parks, by Rita Dove. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, her poetry captures a unique vision of the love and spirit of those who struggled against segregation.
  • Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver. Bought this as a college student in 1968 along with Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gon’ Get Your Mama! by Julius Lester. Written from a California state prison by a key figure in the Black Panther movement.
  • Black and White Styles in Conflict, by Thomas Kochman. Are black people and white people the same — or different? Turns out, the answer is “both,” according to the white sociologist who drills down into American culture to reveal the sources of our misunderstanding.
  • The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin. Framed as a letter to his young nephew on the 100th anniversary of emancipation. A searing call for justice.
  • The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. The poet was black a black man in a white world, a gay man in a straight world. His experience of two-ness created, I would argue, one of the most impressive bodies of poetry in American history. Were there not an unofficial color line in the Pulitzer Prize judging, he would have won — and more than once.

In building this list, I emphasize again that it is only special in that it is mine, and in that it has led me to a place I wanted and needed to be. There are countless worthy works not on my list, and countless more that are soon to be written. If I may borrow a phrase from the late Julius Lester: Look out, Whitey! Read some of these books and, who knows, you may get a clue. May there be two-ness in your future — and more.

Simeon Booker’s life and legacy cannot be overstated ‘Every black journalist working today should pause for a moment and thank Simeon Booker’

The life of Simeon Booker was celebrated Monday at Washington National Cathedral, a beautiful memorial service for an extraordinary journalist. Mr. Booker — and I feel compelled to call him mister — was a capital pioneer, admired by everyone who knew that he played a role in helping to better this nation.

In 1952, he became the first black reporter to work at The Washington Post. “He integrated a whole industry,” said Don Graham, former publisher of the Post whose dad, Philip, was the only white newspaper leader in America who would give Mr. Booker a chance. But that was just one milestone. Simeon Booker went on to brilliantly chronicle the civil rights movement as a reporter for Jet and Ebony magazines, covering protests and murders and otherwise bringing bright light to the struggle for freedom and equality. He smoked Kent cigarettes and wore bow ties. He became famous for his reporting on Emmett Till’s 1955 murder and trial, and it was Mr. Booker’s Jet that published the provocative photos of the 14-year-old’s mutilated body in an open casket.

Every black journalist working today should pause for a moment and thank Simeon Booker. Thank him as an exemplar of the brave black journalists who confronted danger and evaded it while unearthing essential stories in the segregated Deep South of the 1950s and ’60s. A bunch of us came to the National Cathedral just to be there for him, to salute what he meant and to hug each other. Jeff Ballou, Bryan Monroe, Mike Fletcher, Wes Lowery, Courtland Milloy, Paul Delaney, Sarah Glover, Betty Anne Williams, Fred Sweets, Bernie Shaw, Reggie Stuart. Just to name a few. We all owe him something.

Congressman John Lewis, who knows too much about danger, said of Mr. Booker at the memorial service: “He never shied away, ran away from a story.” Lewis saw him during the 1961 Freedom Rides. Saw him in Selma, Alabama. Saw him everywhere. “He did the hard, necessary work to get the story,” Lewis said, noting that without Simeon Booker “the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.”

Back in Mr. Booker’s heyday, Lewis noted, black reporters could be beaten just for holding a camera and a pen. They sometimes wore disguises, dressed as sharecroppers to blend in. They were intrepid and fearless. Today, we have journalists enraged just because they were trolled on Twitter. Mr. Booker died at age 99, cheered for the magnificent life he led and the example he set. I don’t think he was worried about trolls.

Daily Dose: 12/8/17 John Lewis will not attend civil rights museum opening

What’s up, gang? The week’s finally coming to an end, and it’s been a doozy on the news front. This is going to be a serious weekend of self-care for quite a few of us. Also, it’s snowing across a lot of America, so that’s fun too.

I used to work in local news. It’s a cutthroat business that involves sometimes covering the most mundane of topics that just might interest a small pocket of people. But there are some staples in the industry that never change. Car accidents, store openings and, of course, house fires. That’s where we catch up with Rhoda Young. She’s apparently a citizen reporter in Norfolk, Virginia. And when she came upon one such blaze, she covered it the way she knows how. This is genuinely the best fire coverage you’re going to see all year.

So, not only is Roy Moore allegedly a sexual miscreant, he’s also apparently a racist. The guy running for Senate in Alabama has had numerous women go public with the fact that he tried to or did date them when he was an adult and they were in high school. He was banned from a local shopping mall back in the day for this. His campaign has been a pretty slimy one, and now it’s come to light that he’s got some pretty wild views on slavery. Views like, America was better when we had it.

John Lewis is not here for the nonsense. The civil rights icon and Georgia congressman is not planning on attending the opening of a civil rights museum in Jackson, Mississippi, because President Donald Trump will be there. I can’t imagine how Lewis feels about this in his heart of hearts. He worked his whole life to make sure that black folks have had the same rights as the rest of America, and here comes this guy trying to swoop in late — in Jackson, of all places. That’s got to hurt.

Shohei Ohtani is yet to set foot in a big-league batter’s box, but his presence is already making waves around the majors. If you don’t know who he is, he’s a two-way guy who some scouts think could both pitch and play the field if any franchise would let him. That’s unlikely, as the novelty of said deal would probably not be worth the risk from an injury/wear-and-tear standpoint, but it still could prove to be an interesting situation. Anyway, the negotiations for his bidding have been hotly intense, and MLB is definitely watching closely.

Free Food

Coffee Break: I’ve never been to Boston. Not because I’ve avoided it for any particular reason, but I’m also in no rush to go. Haven’t ever really heard anything good about it, whatsoever, particularly when it comes to black folks. Now, the Boston Globe is taking a look at racism in the city.

Snack Time: If you ever find yourself in a situation with an armed robber and you could keep your composure the way this dude working at Walgreens did, then more power to you. Icy.

Dessert: Need new music? Big Sean and Metro Boomin got you covered.

James Baldwin’s essential ‘The Fire Next Time’ gets an arty and brilliant makeover With over 100 photos of the early civil rights movement and an introduction from Congressman John Lewis, this book is a collectors’ item

Fifty-four years after James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time revolutionized the way we talk about race, it still feels eerily present. Taken out of historical context, Baldwin’s words read like they were written yesterday, not published in The New Yorker more than five decades ago. At the time, Down at the Cross: Letter from a Region in My Mind was so impactful that after the essay was published, photojournalist Steve Schapiro, who often shot for Life magazine, persuaded his employer to run a full profile of Baldwin. The assignment led to Schapiro shooting some of the most iconic images of his long and legendary career, including one of a young, then relatively unknown Martin Luther King Jr. These images, many of them never before published, are featured alongside Baldwin’s words in a new limited edition letterpress edition of The Fire Next Time, released by art book publisher Taschen.

There are 1,963 first-edition volumes — a nod to the original publication year — and this rerelease of The Fire Next Time is the third in a literary letterpress series that combines iconic works of nonfiction with the work of acclaimed image-makers. Nina Wiener, Taschen managing editor and lead on the Baldwin project, noted that the series is ongoing.

“It features work of great nonfiction writers in the second half of the 20th century in English,” she said, “with a focus, at this point, on New Journalism.”

The two other books in the series reimagine Gay Talese’s 1966 Esquire story Frank Sinatra Has A Cold coupled with photographs by Phil Stern, and Tom Wolfe’s 1968 The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test alongside photo-essays by Lawrence Schiller (who conceived the idea to include Baldwin in this series) and Ted Streshinsky. The Baldwin volume is a silk screen hardcover with an embossed case and is letterpress printed on two different stocks of natural uncoated paper. It’s 272 pages and retails for $200.

The previous two books in the series, said Wiener, are “very large, very heavy and very expensive,” but Wiener’s team — composed of Lawrence Schiller, art director Josh Baker, designer Jessica Sappenfield and captioner Marcia Davis — decided to create The Fire Next Time on a more intimate scale. It’s smaller and designed in such a way to encourage the reader to actually, well, read.

“We thought it was extremely important,” said Wiener, “that we had the captions written by someone with a strong knowledge of the history of the civil rights movement — but who could also connect it to the events of today. Marcia Davis, a longtime editor with The Washington Post, worked with us on the captions. She’s the main reporter there who’s been covering Ferguson and had been covering social justice issues … for the last 20-plus years. She’s just fantastic … and she managed some pretty relevant stories in very short word count that the captions allowed for — an art unto itself. She was a critical part of making this book work.” This is not your average coffee-table book.

According to Wiener, Baldwin was Schapiro’s entrée into covering the civil rights movement. “It was through him that he met activist Jerome Smith, and one thing led to another. … He was meeting a lot of the Freedom Riders and SNCC members, and eventually [he] photographed Martin Luther King,” she said. “[In] the first picture that he took of King, Ralph Abernathy is in the foreground talking to a couple of children, and [King] was in the background, totally out of focus. Steve didn’t even know who King was at that time.”

Because of Schapiro’s desire to cover Baldwin in his element, he traveled to the South with him and ended up documenting, although Schapiro didn’t quite grasp the magnitude of it at the time, the beginnings of the civil rights movement. John Lewis, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Alabama Gov. George Wallace, the Freedom Riders and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, key players in the battle for civil rights, were captured in Schapiro’s resolute search for authenticity.

Besides Baldwin’s words and Schapiro’s photographs, this new edition features an introduction by activist U.S. Rep. John Lewis and a note from Baldwin’s sister (and executor of his estate) Gloria Karefa-Smart.

“We spent a lot of time working on how to organize the book,” said Wiener. “Initially we anticipated organizing pictures chronologically, but we felt that the visual story was not as interesting that way, and we ended up going with more of a thematic organization.”

Because of its intimacy, this is a book that we can open to learn from, and to find glimmers of hope in, for a long time to come.

Historical situations that could have been peacefully solved by a white lady with a Pepsi Selma. Stonewall. The storming of the Bastille. Tragically, all that was missing was Pepsi.

Judging by the rapid-fire responses to Pepsi’s latest ad, releasing a commercial in which police violence and injustice can be solved by offering uniformed officers with guns a can of carbonated corn syrup is the ultimate lead balloon.

Join the conversation

A quick primer for the uninformed: On Tuesday afternoon, Pepsi published a video featuring Kendall Jenner, who is famous because her family prances around on TV doing basically nothing. In an attempt to be timely, or “with it” or something in that general vicinity, Pepsi elected to depict the civil unrest that’s marked much of the past three years as the country became increasingly aware of the fact that it’s not exactly safe to be an innocent black person around police. Basic plot points: Kendall is blond and modeling, and she sees a crowd of brown people with signs traipsing past her. When one of them wordlessly tells her to join them, she rips off her blond wig, hands it to an unimportant black lady, starts marching and gets woke. Thoroughly ensconced in her wokeness, Kendall and the crowd meet a wall of police officers. Kendall offers a Pepsi and a smile, and all is right with the world, no one gets hauled off in paddy wagons with their hands in zip ties, and tear gas is basically an imaginary substance no one uses.

The answer to hundreds of years of race-based subjugation, violence and oppression was a white lady with a Pepsi.

Who knew?

That sound you hear right now is millions of hands slapping against foreheads, wondering how we could have missed this obvious and simple solution.

Just think how many situations in history could have been solved, if only there’d been a woke white lady with a Pepsi. It’s a lot, which is why I’m generously offering my services to help us parse this incredible discovery. If only we had a time machine and an unlimited supply of Pepsi, the world would be a completely different place. For example:

Tiananmen Square

Guy driving tank sees a white lady holding out a Pepsi, decides against brutally massacring students protesting for democracy. Hundreds, if not thousands, of lives are spared. China becomes the world’s biggest democracy, and no one cares what Donald Trump has to say about currency manipulation.

The Trail of Tears

If someone had only gotten Andrew Jackson a Pepsi, maybe we could have spared thousands of Native Americans from sickness, cruelty and displacement. Maybe we wouldn’t be so pressed to get this dude off the $20 bill. But no, instead, we’re getting Harriet Tubman, the pistol-toting narcoleptic. See what happens when there’s no white ladies with Pepsi?

Bloody Sunday

Not only would congressman John Lewis not have had to go through the trauma of thinking he might die on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, all for the sake of some silly little voting rights, Ava DuVernay never would have been snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Selma. I can’t believe this. Not having white ladies with Pepsis ruins everything.

That period when Bloody Mary was being really terrible to Protestants

Fine, maybe we could have fixed Queen Mary I’s penchant for creatively murdering Protestants if her favorite lady-in-waiting had an ice chest full of Pepsis. But then maybe Elizabeth I never would have ascended to the throne, we wouldn’t have that whole “I don’t wish to make windows into men’s souls” speech and Cate Blanchett wouldn’t have had to tell everybody at Tillbury that “I have the body of a weak, feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king.”

Totes not worth it. Hard pass. Sorry, Protestants.

Any Riot, Ever

See: The Stonewall riots. The Rodney King riots. The Watts riots. The King assassination riots of 1968. The Wilmington race riots. The Tulsa race riots. The Storming of the Bastille.

Look, the next time someone is denied one’s civil rights and gets murdered simply for being oneself, or a group gets pissed off at the lady with big dresses and funny hair telling poor people to eat brioche, maybe we should all just take a deep breath and find a white lady with a Pepsi. Honestly, Marie Antoinette would probably still have her head attached to her body if only she’d had enough Pepsi.

The Duel of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton

We could have had President Alexander Hamilton maybe (notwithstanding the whole Reynolds pamphlet scandal), after the election of that lech Thomas Jefferson, but no. Hamilton had to go and get into a duel with Aaron Burr, and instead of shooting a harmless Pepsi can off someone’s head, what resulted was the death of the architect of our whole complicated financial system. Thank God for Ron Chernow and Lin-Manuel Miranda; otherwise, none of us would know any of this.

Every lynching ever

Somehow, cracking open a Pepsi just eases whatever inclinations you might have had to throw on a white robe and hood and terrorize, torture and kill members of a community. But only if it comes from a white lady. Funny how that works. White ladies (with Pepsi): Clearly magic.

But really, folks, drinking too much sugary fizzy water, no matter the brand, will give you diabetes and contribute to obesity. Until they release an ad in which Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Chelsea Handler band together to solve gang violence in Chicago, maybe we can all just drink La Croix instead.


UPDATE: Pepsi has pulled its ad featuring Kendall Jenner. In a statement released Wednesday morning, the company said this: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace, and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

John Lewis helped squash ‘Trumpcare’ bill The Georgia congressman’s speech is an instant classic

In every presidential administration, there’s a moment where, specific partisanship aside, you can point to when you look back on things and say, That’s when things got real. On Friday, Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), delivered the kind of speech on the House floor that you’ll instantly want to watch again after you’ve seen it once. TL;DR: This ain’t happening on my watch.

“My heart breaks for the disabled, for women, for seniors, and working families,” Lewis said. “My heart aches for those who are living paycheck to paycheck. My heart mourns for innocent, little children whose very life depends on if their families can pay the bills. This is the right and wrong of it. This is the heart and soul of the matter. We cannot abandon our principles. Mr. Speaker, we cannot forget our values.”

The bill never had the votes and now the White House is scrambling on how to spin this. The Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” is still the problem, apparently. “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future,” Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said after “Trumpcare” was pulled.

Lewis is an American treasure, but we all already knew that. Every once in a while, he reminds us emphatically why that’s the case.

Rep. Steve King’s tweet draws serious pushback on Twitter Forget checking for the Nicki Minaj-Remy Ma beef, we’re checking for elected officials now

It’s no secret that racism is still alive and kicking. Whether it’s rooted in overt oppression, or quieter microaggressions, it still rears its ugly head very often.

Twitter isn’t the newest thing kids are doing these days, but it seems to be the new wave for elected officials. From our commander in chief right down to our representatives — firing off questionable tweets seems to be the thing. Remember “Twatching” — checking tweets without a person’s knowledge? Well, we seem to be doing a lot of that these days when it comes to our elected officials’ accounts.

The latest outburst came over the weekend from U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), when he tweeted “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” The tweet was praised by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups on Twitter. It’s clear King (and a number of others here) need a history lesson. Political commentator Angela Rye gave them just that when she said, “we built this joint for free.” In other words: This nation was built on the backs of someone else’s enslaved babies. Per usual, Twitter reacted to the foolishness — here’s what folks had to say:

On this day in black history: Malcolm X assassinated; John Lewis, Barbara Jordan and Nina Simone are born Black History Month: The Undefeated edition Feb. 21

1936 — Happy birthday, Barbara Jordan (1936-1996)
Barbara Jordan became the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She was a lawyer, educator and one of the leaders of the civil rights movement. She is known for her opening statement at the House Judiciary Committee hearings during the impeachment process against then-President Richard Nixon. She was also the first black woman to deliver a keynote address at a Democratic National Convention.

1933 — Happy birthday, Nina Simone (1933-2003)
Born Eunice Waymon, Nina Simone was a singer, songwriter and musician who became a civil rights activist. She owns a broad catalog of music, as her talents represent styles in jazz, classical, gospel, folk and R&B. Born in the North Carolina, she enrolled in Juilliard School of Music in New York. She recorded influential records such as “Mississippi Goddam,” “I Loves You Porgy” and “I Put A Spell On You.”

1940 — Happy birthday, John Lewis (1940-present)
John Lewis is a civil rights leader and political activist who was an early member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He is the U.S. representative for Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, having served since 1987. Lewis is the dean of the Georgia congressional delegation. While serving as chairman of SNCC, he was one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington. He was a key contributor to the civil rights movement and still moves the needle for equality today. Lewis has received a number of awards, including the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

1961 — Otis Boykin patents the electrical resistor
Otis Boykin invented the electrical resistor, U.S. patent 2,972,726, the electrical device used in all guided missiles and IBM computers. Boykin’s noteworthy inventions include a wire precision resistor and a control unit for the pacemaker. He graduated from Fisk College in 1941 and took a job with the Majestic Radio & TV Corp. When he died in 1982 of heart failure, he had 26 patents in his name.

1965 — Malcolm X (1925-1965) assassinated in Audubon Ballroom
Born Malcolm Little, the minister and human rights activist, was shot in New York just before delivering a speech to his newly founded Organization of Afro-American Unity. After becoming el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, Malcolm X was known as a prolific orator and one of the most influential people in history. His life was chronicled in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to by Alex Haley, and in the movie Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee.