February 21, 2023

Black History Month: 4 Black Leaders from Baltimore You Should Know About

This year, we’re celebrating Black History Month by shining a spotlight on Black leadership. Baltimore is one of the most diverse cities in the country, with a rich history of black American leaders. Frederick Douglass spent his youth in Baltimore and worked as a shipbuilder on Lancaster Street. Billie Holiday also spent her childhood years in Baltimore, and a statue of her stands tall on Pennsylvania Avenue. Enslaved and free Black Americans built the nation’s first railroad, and the city eventually became “the largest free black community of any American city” during the Civil War years.

This allowed the city to flourish and come alive with Black culture. Artists, musicians, writers, and innovators continue to thrive in Baltimore and throughout Maryland today. Below, we invite you to join us as we explore the city’s history through the lens of four influential black leaders from Baltimore:

4 Black Leaders from Baltimore You Should Know About

  1. Lillie Carroll Jackson

Lillie Carroll Jackson was born in 1889 and grew up in Baltimore when Jim Crow laws kept Black and White communities segregated. She spent two years working as a teacher and eventually went on the road evangelizing with her husband and three children. After returning to Baltimore, she had to undergo surgery for mastoiditis. She prayed and asked God to help her survive the surgery, and in return, she promised to serve others throughout her life. Staying true to her promise, she began protesting segregation. She eventually became one of the first Black leaders from Baltimore to advocate for non-violent resistance. Today, you can visit the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum in Baltimore to learn more about the “Mother of Freedom.”

2.      Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall is one of the most famous Black leaders from Baltimore. Marshall graduated first in his class from Howard University Law School and began his own practice in the 1930s. During that time, he led the local NAACP chapter in Baltimore and challenged several segregation policies at state universities. Eventually, he became the NAACP’s chief legal counsel and a key leader in the fight against segregation. Marshall came before the Supreme Court during Brown v. Board of Education and helped to overturn “separate but equal” laws in the U.S. In 1967, he was nominated to the Supreme Court himself. He became America’s first Black Supreme Court justice.

3.      Erricka Bridgeford

Erricka Bridgeford is a Black activist who helped establish Baltimore Ceasefire weekends, events that are aimed at reducing violence in the city. She helped grow the program after her brother was murdered in 2007. Bridgeford is also the director of training for Community Mediation Maryland and continually advocates for justice in the legal system. For example, a bill she helped pass in 2015 offers resources to families of homicide victims. Throughout her life, Bridgeford has embodied progress and Black achievement as a modern black leader from Baltimore. You can watch the award-winning short film, SAGE, here to learn about her work and involvement with Baltimore Ceasefire.

4.      Vivien Thomas

Vivien Thomas grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and became a pre-med student at the state’s Agricultural and Industrial College. However, the 1929 stock market crash eliminated his savings. He had to leave school, and one year later he was offered a position as a lab assistant at Vanderbilt University. After years of honing his skills, he transferred to Johns Hopkins in 1941 and developed a procedure to treat “blue baby syndrome”.  Thomas taught other surgeons about heart and lung operations, and today medical professionals perform surgeries using his pioneering methods. In 1976, Johns Hopkins University presented him with the degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws.

Strengthen Baltimore’s Youth with MissionFit!

At MissionFit, we recognize the fact that community, family, and healthy social relationships are essential to setting goals. We are highly dedicated to strengthening Baltimore youth through classes and an open gym. It’s our goal to encourage positive traits, like respect and teamwork, and provide children with a place to gain self-confidence and enjoy some exercise. To learn more about our classes or donate to support our mission, visit our website. We’re making health a possibility and a priority for Baltimore’s youth and helping to foster more black leaders from Baltimore. If you want to support us, here are two easy ways to do so:

  1. Donate here if you believe community, family, and relationships impact health!
  2. You can put your online shopping to good use by donating a percentage of your purchase with AmazonSmile! To get started, sign in here, search for “MissionFit” and select us as your charity of choice.

February 21, 2023

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