People of African descent have been a part of Virginia's-and America's-story since European colonization of the continent began. Yet the contributions of African Americans have often been ignored, obscured, or under appreciated by those who recorded history. In observance of African American History Month, the Library of Virginia is pleased to honor eight distinguished Virginians as African American Trailblazers for their contributions to the state and nation.
The men and women featured as Trailblazers offer powerful examples of individuals who refused to be defined by their circumstances. Their biographies are a testament to the determination and perseverance displayed by extraordinary people during challenging times. Through education and advocacy, these individuals demonstrate how African Americans have actively campaigned for better lives for themselves and their people. It is these many contributions that the African American Trailblazers program seeks to share.
Check The Richmond Times-Dispatch each Tuesday and Thursday during February for African American Trailblazer profiles.
2012 African American Trailblazers: Program and Reception
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Time: 6:00 PM-8:00 PM
Place: Lecture Hall & Lobby
Free but reservations required. Seating is limited. Call 804-692-3535 by February 17 to RSVP. Eight honorees-from the past and present-who have had a significant impact on the history of Virginia will be honored at this celebration. A reception follows the program. Sponsored by Dominion.
Michael L. Blakey (February 23, 1953– ), Williamsburg
Physical anthropologist Michael L. Blakey helped analyze and interpret the important evidence uncovered at the African Burial Ground in Manhattan
Noah Davis (March, 1804–April 7, 1867), Fredericksburg
author of an emancipation narrative
Born into slavery, Noah Davis raised more than $4,000 to free himself and his family members during the 1840s and 1850s.
James Farmer (1920–1999), Spotsylvania County
Civil rights leader
As director of the Congress of Racial Equality and as initiator of the Freedom Rides, James Farmer played a critical role in the national civil rights movement.
John Jasper (1812–1901), Richmond
An extraordinary orator who preached throughout the eastern United States, John Jasper in 1867 established Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, in Richmond.
Willie Lanier (August 21, 1945– ), Richmond
Athlete and entrepreneur
Willie Lanier broke through racial barriers in professional football by becoming the first African American to play middle linebacker, the position that directs the defense on the field.
Oscar Micheaux (1884–1951), Roanoke
Often recognized as the country's first African American filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux established a film office in Roanoke, where he produced at least six silent movies.
Yvonne B. Miller (July 4, 1934–July 3, 2012), Norfolk
The first African American woman elected to the House of Delegates and to the Senate of Virginia, Yvonne B. Miller worked tirelessly as a politician, educator, and advocate for underrepresented Virginians.
Irene Amos Morgan (1917–2007), Gloucester County
Principal in a civil rights case
Irene Morgan's challenge to the Virginia law requiring segregated seating on interstate buses resulted in a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States.