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people in American history. Specifically it will discuss the three most significant people in American History since 1865: George Washington Carver, Shirley Chisholm, and Thurgood Marshall, and tell why they are significant and how they affected the course of U.S. history. Each of these three individuals was extremely important to American history. Black, driven, and significant, they helped change the course of education and agriculture, politics, and criminal justice, and they live on today as heroes of the Black community. They show that anyone can make a difference in American society, and that hard work and dedication really do pay off, for individuals, and for society.
Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm was born on November 30, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother and father were both Caribbean, and moved to New York a few years before Chisholm was born. She was the oldest of three daughters. Her mother, Ruby, took Shirley and her sisters back to Barbados in 1928, where they lived with their grandmother while their parents continued to work in New York. At the time, Barbados was still under British influence, and when Shirley began school, she went to a strict British-style school, and then continued at the Vauxhall Coeducational School. One of her many biographers writes, "Chisholm later credited her ease in writing and speaking to this early start in education and to the emphasis placed on communication skills in the island schools" (Haskins 41). By 1934, Chisholm, then ten years-old returned with her sisters to live with her mother and father in Brooklyn. The poverty-stricken family lived in a tiny apartment without any running hot water or heat, and Chisholm began to rebel at home and at school (Haskins 40-41).
Chisholm was bright and ahead of her classmates, but in New York, she became a disciplinary problem in school. New York school officials placed her in the third grade, but in Barbados she would have been in the sixth grade. She was bored, and so she began to act out at school and at home. She later remembered, "I became a discipline problem . . . Luckily someone diagnosed the trouble and did something about it. The school provided me with a tutor in American geography and history for a year and a half, until I caught up with and passed my age-grade level" (Haskins 41). She graduated from high school in 1942 and found herself courted by several college scholarships. She attended Brooklyn College and then Columbia University, and became involved in politics at both institutions. In 1949, she married Conrad Chisholm, and began working first as a teacher and then as an administrator in day care centers and schools in the New York area (Haskins 41).
In 1960, Chisholm formed the Unity Democratic Club with six other friends and activists. The Club promoted Black interests while attempting to get Black candidates elected. In 1964, Chisholm herself was urged to run for office and she ran for the New York State Assembly. She faced heavy opposition because she was Black and a woman. She won, and began to make her mark in politics. In 1968, after heavy opposition from Republican opponents, she ran for the U.S. Congress and won. She was the first black woman elected to Congress. Her biographer continues, "During her time in Congress, Chisholm was an outspoken advocate for the establishment of social programs and increased funding for day care, education, and other services to the public. She fought for a decrease in military spending and against apartheid in South Africa" (Haskins 43).
Chisholm was extremely important to U.S. History because of several factors. She came from a poor family but managed to overcome the odds and get a good education. She served her community and worked tirelessly for better education and day care for the children who needed it most -- Black inner city children with working parents. She ran for office and tried to change things in the nation, and in the world. She did not talk about change; she worked hard to make it happen. She was the first Black woman elected to Congress, so she showed other women they too could run for office and win. In 1972, she became the first female candidate for President, and although she did not get the nomination from the Democratic Party, she showed women everywhere that they should take a stand and do what they believed was right and just. She changed history when she ran for State Assembly and won, and it created a new time in American politics, which has always been dominated by rich white males who do not represent the melting pot that is America. History looks back at Chisholm, who retired from Congress in 1982, as a committed and tireless leader. She showed that a woman could have a family and a demanding career, and she paved the way for many other women to make their way into Congress and American politics at all levels. She changed the course of U.S. history by becoming the first Black woman elected to national office, and many followed after her. However, she also changed the course of U.S. history by founding a group that worked to promote Blacks and worked for Civil Rights and equality.
Thurgood Marshall was born with the name Thoroughgood Marshall in Baltimore, Maryland, on July 2, 1908. He died on January 24, 1993, and is buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. His parents were relatively well off for Blacks of the time. His mother was a teacher, and he was named for a grandfather who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Education was important in the Marshall household, but Thurgood always had an entrepreneurial streak in him. He worked at odd jobs throughout his youth, and worked on the railroad (as his father had) during his summers. After high school, he attended an all Black university called Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania. At the end of his junior year, he married Vivien Burey. Initially, Marshall thought that he wanted to be a dentist, but by his senior year he knew he wanted to be a lawyer. He graduated from Lincoln in 1930, and began to look for a law school he could afford. To afford the costs of school, he and Vivien moved in with his parents in Baltimore. Marshall wanted to attend the University of Maryland, but they would not admit Black students, so he attended Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., where he was first in his class and graduated magna cum laude in 1933 (Haskins 160-161).
Marshall began working at a law firm in Baltimore, but his real interest turned to Civil Rights and discrimination. He joined several Black groups such as the NAACP and eventually became the Baltimore chapter's legal counsel. His first case for the group involved a young Black man who sued the University of Maryland to admit him. Marshall won the case, and a long history of legislation and reform had begun. In 1936, he took a job as the assistant NAACP counsel in New York. Biographer Haskins continues, "The next several years were spent tracking down civil rights cases and doggedly following them through the courts. Then, in 1940, Charles Hamilton Houston announced his retirement from the NAACP, and Marshall was named his replacement as chief counsel of the NAACP in New York" (Haskins 161). His work led to the landmark case in 1949, "Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas," which overturned the Supreme Court ruling of "Plessy v. Ferguson" which allowed "separate but equal" educational opportunities for Blacks. Brown v. Board is one of the most famous cases in the country, and it opened up schools to desegregation, and really began the Civil Rights movement. Thus, Thurgood Marshall was on the cutting edge of legislation and reform that would eventually lead to equality for Blacks in America. The Supreme Court did not rule on the case until 1954, but when it did, it was in favor of desegregation of all of America's schools (Haskins 161).
Marshall's wife died in 1955 of cancer, and he remarried in 1956, and had two children by his second wife. In 1961 President Kennedy appointed him as a circuit judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In 1965, President Johnson appointed him the Solicitor General of the U.S. The Solicitor General decides which cases the Supreme Court will hear. Marshall knew he could continue his crusade for Civil Rights in this position. Haskins writes, "At the swearing-in ceremony, Johnson said, 'Thurgood Marshall symbolizes what is best about our American society: the belief that human rights must be satisfied through the orderly process of law'" (Haskins 162). Johnson nominated Marshall as a Supreme Court justice in 1967, and when confirmed by Congress, he became the first Black Supreme Court justice to serve on the Supreme Court. He served until 1992, handing down numerous decisions on Civil Rights…[continue]
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