February 22, 2022
Foley and Mansfield continues to celebrate Black History Month by recognizing unknown black heroes.
Often overlooked civil rights heroes, Rustin, Hansberry, and Motley, were trailblazers and took great risks to fight for what they believed in. Through their work, people became aware of or learned about racism, national oppression, and discrimination, they learned more about black and LGBTQ culture, more rights were granted to minority groups and seeds of hope were planted in peoples’ minds.
Bayard Rustin was an unyielding activist for civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and equality for all. As a key advisor to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he promoted nonviolent resistance, participated in one of the first Freedom Rides, organized the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and fought tirelessly for marginalized communities at home and abroad. As an openly gay African American, Mr. Rustin stood at the intersection of several of the fights for equal rights. If you want to learn more about the life and work of Rustin, click here rustin.org.
Hansberry was a child of the civil rights movement—her parents fought and won a long legal battle against housing segregation in Chicago, which inspired her to write the play, A Raisin in the Sun, in 1956. When A Raisin in the Sun opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959, it made theatrical history as the first work by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. Hansberry’s play is captivating and engaging. She captures the emotions of a struggling black family aspiring to leave a worn-down apartment in a poor section of town and live a better life in a segregated America. It’s incredible how relevant her story is today. Hansberry is known for her drama, but she was a prolific political writer and speaker.
Constance Baker Motley
Constance Baker Motley was an unlikely civil rights hero. From the late 1940s through the early 1960s, Motley played a pivotal role in the fight to end racial segregation, putting her safety at risk in one racial powder keg after another. She was the first African American woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, and the first to serve as a federal judge. During Black History Month, she is celebrated far less often than Thurgood Marshall, whom she served as a key lieutenant, and Martin Luther King, Jr., whom Motley represented at critical moments. “And the reality is that outsiders—people of color, women—face disadvantages in workplaces that others do not, and they have to find ways to work around them. And it comes at a personal and sometimes professional cost," says Motley’s biographer, Tomiko Brown-Nagin. All costs Motley was willing to pay.