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Icons Made History on Global Stage


James Baldwin with Marlon Brando at the March on Washington in 1963.
Novelist James Baldwin and actor Marlon Brandon during the March on Washington in 1963. Public Domain
Paul Robeson starred in "Othello" on Broadway in the 1940s with Uta Hagen as Desdemona.
Paul Robeson starred in “Othello” on Broadway in the 1940s with Uta Hagen as Desdemona. Public Domain
Every February, the United States dedicates 28 days to celebrate and acknowledge the legacy and impact of African Americans.  During this time, the country remembers iconic figures who have changed the fabric of American history. But what about those who stood on the global stage to ignite change? 

Many African-Americans left their hometowns, families and friends behind to explore the world. They wanted to escape the confines of racism and segregation in the United States. As a result, an entirely new African-American subculture sprouted up in Europe, Africa and other foreign countries. .

These black elites used their respective crafts to send  messages and become  advocates for change in a deeply segregated America.

James Baldwin, an accomplished novelist and essayist, contributed his insightful prose, which generated race-related conversations among blacks and whites alike.

Paul Robeson used his acting abilities and talents to spread the message of the voiceless African Americans who were watching his rise to success.

Josephine Baker in 1951.
Josephine Baker in 1951. Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress
Josephine Baker was an African-American entertainer who took to the world stage and devoted her career to changing racial tensions in the United States.

“Growing up, I’ve never learned about women like Josephine Baker,” says Stephanie Outing, a junior at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“We always learn about black leaders like Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King in class,” Outing said. “It’s refreshing to learn about more than just what the textbook taught me.”

Najmah Tillard, a Howard University student, commented on Black History Month and its importance to the culture.

“Attending a historically black university has exposed me to a plethora of black intellectuals and historical figures,” Tillard said, “but as a people we have to always want to learn more about ourselves.”

Kai Hayden covers international issues for






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