Black America is what it is todlay largely because of the work of a handful of pathfinders who transcended time and their times by opening new paths and creating new ways of seeing and saying and doing.
These public benefactors, Black and White, opened locked doors, created new movements, said new words and sang new songs.
They were the discovers of the new country on the other side of the old rivers of hate and division.
And it can be said of them in general that neither Black nor White America would be the same today if they had not lived and dreamed and worked in the JPC years, 1942-1992.
But these pathfinders did not work or dream alone. They were, in fact, stand-ins and representatives of larger forces; they were products of and spokespersons for the millions of sustaining Blacks who were ultimately responsible for the 50 most exciting years in the history of Ameican race relations.
Among the men and women called by history to represent that history are the men and women cited on the following pages.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
The prototypical pathfinder, Martin Luther King Jr. was the leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Freedom Movement of the '60s. A minister and prophet of nonviolence, he was the third Black to receive a Nobel Peace Prize and the second American after George Washington to be immortalized with a national holiday in his honor.
MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE
The first Black woman to receive a major federal appointment, Mary McLeod Bethune inspired a whole generation of Black leaders, advised President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other presidents and played a role in developing a new sense of educational and political involvement. Founder and longtime president of the National Council of Negro Women, she was also a founder and the first president of Bethune-Cookrnan College. She was director of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration from 1936 to 1944.
The legendary contralto paved the way for other Black classical artists and is considered the mother of the new wave of opera stars. She gave perhaps her most memorable performance on Easter Sunday 1939 when she sang before 75,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the American Revolution barred her from singing in Washington's Constitution Hall. In 1955, she became the first Black singer in a featured role at the Metropolitan Opera, portraying Ulrica in Verdi's The Masked Ball. In 1958, she was named to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations and was awarded the Freedom Medal.
Cofounder of the NAACP and a major presence in Black America for more than 60 years, W.E.B. DuBois was one of the rounding fathers of Black America. As an NAACP official and as a founder of the Pan-African Movement, he shaped the freedom dialogue in Africa and African-America, and he defined the souls of Black and White folks in books [The Souls of Black Folk, Dusk of Dawn, DarkwaterJ that are as contemporary as today's headline. Hounded by reactionaries, he left America in 1961 and settled in Ghana, where he died on August 27, 1963, on the eve of the great March on Washington that echoed his mission and vision.
The greatest in his own mind and in the minds of many experts and fans, Muhammad All was an activist-champion who used the boxing ring to denounce injustice and war and to help raise the consciousness of Blacks. In 1964 his name became a household word when he defeated Sonny Liston for the heavyweight title and embarked on a crusade as a member of the Nation of Islam. Stripped of his title after he refused induction into the armed services as a protest against the Vietnam War he regained the championship in 1974. In 1978, he defeated Leon Spinks and became the only heavyweight to win the championship three times. …