Lives of Several Critical African-American Term Paper

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, in 1963 brought him worldwide attention. He spearheaded the Aug., 1963, March on Washington, which brought together more than 200,000 people. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize." (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2003)

However, King's leadership in the civil-rights movement was challenged in the mid-1960s as others such as Malcolm X grew more militant. Indeed, his life paralleled the life of his hero Mahatma Gandhi. The originator of the nonviolent protest, Gandhi too took criticism as more militant colleagues pushed against non-violence in his later years.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s interests, however, broadened from civil rights to subsume criticism of the Vietnam War and a deeper concern over poverty. His plans for a Poor People's March to Washington were interrupted (1968) for a trip to Memphis, Tenn., in support of striking sanitation workers. On Apr. 4, 1968, he was shot and killed as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel (since 1991 a civil-rights museum). (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2003)

Jay-Z is an interesting figure to represent the advancement of black leaders in the American business schema - however, the next few paragraphs will make his selection an obvious one.

Jay-Z began his life, and therefore his career, in the infamous Marcy Projects in Brooklyn in New York City. A poor child of divorced parents, Jay-Z turned to selling drugs to support his love of music - soon, however, his success in the music arena eschewed any need for "hustling."

Jay-Z lives on as one of the pioneers of hip-hop music, but his leadership and influence did not end there. He began his own record label and continually signed cutting edge African-American acts, allowing them to continue in the tradition of pushing forward African-American music.

As the current culmination of his career, Jay-Z is the CEO of Def Jam records, a historic record label that has spawned black music in America for decades. Fortune recognizes him as one of America's most influential businessmen: "Jay-Z's story is more than a rags-to-riches tale of a small-time drug dealer who breaks out of one of the worst housing projects in Brooklyn to amass a fortune of some $320 million. In "getting his executive on," as the kids call it these days, he is not only redirecting the hip-hop culture he helped popularize -- from hooded-sweatshirt thug-chic to button-down-shirt sophistication -- but injecting the music business with a new sensibility. Like fellow hip-hop moguls Russell Simmons and Sean "Diddy" Combs, he is at heart an entrepreneur. Unlike them, he has signed on to go into the belly of a major corporation (Def Jam, which pulled in about $1 billion in revenues last year, is part of Universal Music Group)." (Fortune, 2005)

Jay-Z has taken hip-hop and turned himself into an industry mogul in a way that few African-Americans have - he has led not only by his music but his unorthodox leadership in a generally white corporate world.

Part Three

Thomas William Burton was born on May 4 in 1860. He was an African-American doctor, poet and administrator - one of the first black Americans in all three of these fields.

According to his biography, "From Madison County, Kentucky, he was born near Tates Creek. His father (Edward) and mother (Eliza) were slaves and he was the youngest of fifteen children. His father died when he was five and his mother died in 1869. In 1881, Burton attended Brea College in Kentucky. In 1889 he moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, working with Dr. William Chavis, waiting tables, working in a lumberyard and in private families to pay for school. From 1890 to 1891 he attended the Medical College of Indiana, a year later the Eclectic College of Physicians and Surgeons where he graduated on March 24, 1892." (African-American Desk Reference, 2005)

After becoming a full-fledged doctor, Burton moved to Springfield, Ohio, April 5, 1892, and started his own practice of medicine and surgery. On August 3, 1893, he married Miss Hattie B. Taylor, of Cynthiana, KY. In 1897, after serving as a doctor in the Army he wrote a few articles for the Eclectic Medical Journal, printed monthly at Cincinnati, Ohio. Burton also saw the need of a State medical society composed of Negro physicians.

He and a colleague, Dr. H.R. Hawkins, of Xenia, Ohio, organized the "Ohio Mutual Medical Association." In 1910 he published his first book "What Experience Has Taught Me; An Autobiography of Thomas William Burton."

He writes in this work, "In my opinion a man is at his best at forty; but we, as Negro physicians, dentists, and druggists, will have to outlive a mountain of obstacles and impediments. A third of the patients we chance to get employ us on probation or for convenience, and we are net kept very long before we are discharged and one of the opposite race takes our place and holds the patients, though the time may be long or short. Therefore he gets both money and credit." (Burton, 1910)

Burton surmounted so many obstacles in order to become one of the first leading African-American doctors respected by not only blacks but by white American patients and doctors alike. He forged the path for tens of thousands of African-American doctors who followed him; and also other professionals such as lawyers who also surmounted obstacles to enter fields that were never traditionally open to African-Americans throughout American history.

These figures are singular leaders in African-American history. They have influenced all aspects of culture in America and have forged a path of success for all future African-American and other minority leaders.


Adams, Russell. (1963) Great Negroes Past and Present, pp. 106-107. Chicago, Afro-Am Publishing Co.

Bennett, Lerone, Jr. (1964) What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Chicago, Johnson.

Have a Dream: The Story of Martin Luther King in Text and Pictures. New York, Time Life Books, 1968.

African-American Desk Reference. (2005). Thomas W. Burton. New…

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