navigation bar Houghton Mifflin Social Studies States and Regions
feature logo Weekly Reader ® Current Events

The Struggle for Equality

During February's Black History Month, Americans celebrate the achievements of prominent African Americans, such as the ones described below. Speeches, TV shows, newspaper and magazine articles, and school programs honor African Americans and others who worked for equal rights for all citizens.

Rosa Parks(1913–2005)

Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama. She was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 when she refused to give her bus seat to a white passenger. At the time, a city law required black people to give their seats to white people on crowded buses. Parks' actions helped start the civil rights movement, which led to greater equality for African Americans.

Langston Hughes(1902–1967)

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri. He went to college and became a writer in the 1920s. Hughes published 50 books. He wrote poetry, plays, novels, songs, and children's stories. Many of his books are about the struggle for equality. One of his fictional characters says, “I've been insulted, eliminated, locked in, locked out, and left holding the bag. But I am still here.”

Thurgood Marshall(1908–1993)

Thurgood Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He became the first African American to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Named after his great-grandfather, who had been enslaved, Marshall always tried to help poor people and other African Americans. Before becoming a justice of the Supreme Court in 1967, Marshall helped end segregation in schools.

Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson(1919–1972)

Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia. After graduating from college, Robinson joined the Army and became a lieutenant. In 1947, he became the first African American to play for a major-league baseball team. Robinson's spectacular skills won him many fans, and he became one of the greatest players of his time. Throughout his life, Robinson tried to help other people. He once wrote, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

Barbara Jordan(1936–1996)

Barbara Jordan was born in Houston, Texas. She was the first African American woman elected to the Texas state legislature. In 1972, she was elected to the United States House of Representatives. Jordan always believed that if people worked hard, they could overcome any barriers and become successful.