Photo Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Every February, communities come together to honor the most historic and iconic moments, inventions, and contributions in Black culture. This celebration is referred to as Black History Month.
As we often recognize the efforts of freedom fighters and literary leaders like Madam CJ Walker and Maya Angelou, we also want to recognize those frontrunners – new, old, or in progress – who were born during the month their culture is remembered and cherished.
From Langston Hughes to Sherman Hemsley, the list of Black history makers born during Black History Month is endless, so each day we’ll honor those who were born throughout the 28 days of February.
Today, we recognize those born on Feb. 6.
Melvin Tolson (b. 1898 – d. 1966)
Photo Credit: Houston Public Media
Melvin Tolson was an instrumental force in making Marshall, Texas’ Wiley College debate team one of the strongest debate teams in the country – period. With his leadership, a team comprised of four students and an alternate paved the path for interracial college debates and highlighted the fact the Black students were just as capable and ready of engaging in an intelligent debate as white students. So much so, that they took on Harvard University’s debate team and won. Oprah Winfrey and Denzel Washington teamed up in 2007 to bring this story to life in the major motion picture The Great Debaters.
Robert Townsend (b. 1957 – )
Photo Credit: Gabe Ginsberg
Many recognize Robert Townsend for his roles in classics like Hollywood Shuffle and The Five Heartbeats, but his film and television credits go far beyond two movie titles. Townsend helped transform the face of Black cinema when he starred in and directed a tale about an actor whose big dreams as a “respected performer” are limited to stereotypical roles because of his ethnicity. More than 30 year later, Townsend’s film is used to teach film in colleges and universities around the country. Over the course of his career, the Chicago-born creator has gained 42 film and television credits, 26 production credits, and 37 director credits.
Bob Marley (b. 1945 – d. 1981)
Photo Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Bob Marley is an iconic figure and transcendental musician who used music to chronicle the day-to-day struggles of Jamaican culture, and sonically capture the woes of the impoverished and oppressed. Marley’s legacy stems from decades of love, peace, and faith practiced in everyday life. He’s influenced countless musicians and been sampled in more songs across than any one person can count. And though Marley was never recognized via the Recording Academy when he was living, he posthumously received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.