Discover These Lesser Known Black Historical Figures

Charles Richard Drew, known as the Father of the Blood Bank, made big advancements in the medical community despite racial discrimination.

Courtesy of Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

Charles Richard Drew, known as the “Father of the Blood Bank,” made big advancements in the medical community despite racial discrimination.

For Black History Month, it is important to recognize important black figures from our history who paved the way for black people today. Learn about a few of the lesser known black historical figures who accomplished great things.


Charles Richard Drew
Also known as “The Father of the Blood Bank,” Charles R. Drew helped develop an improved way of preserving blood and plasma for transfusion. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Amherst college in 1926, a time when racial discrimination was common. As one of 13 other Black students of 600 attending Amherst, he experienced a lot of racism and hostility from his classmates. He then moved on to finish his doctorate in 1940 at Columbia University where he developed a more efficient way of storing large amounts of blood and plasma. His discoveries led him to become the head of the Blood for Britain Project (BFB), a program that collected and sent blood for both military and civilian use during World War II.
American Chemical Society


Annie Lee Cooper
Despite the fact that her name is mostly unknown, Annie Lee Cooper played an impactful role in the civil rights movement. She was born and raised in Selma, Alabama. While attempting to vote in 1963, she was turned away with hostility, even though Black women were granted the right to vote in 1920. “I’ve tried to register several times, even before Dr. Martin Luther King came. They rejected me once and told me I failed the registration test. The other times, they never let me in the place. Once I stood in line from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., but never got in to register,” Cooper said in an interview with Jet Magazine. One of her attempts became violent when a police officer poked her in the neck with his club. The officer grabbed and twisted her arm, and she told him to let her go. After he didn’t listen, she turned around and took a jab at the officer’s face, knocking him to the ground. She was hit in the eye, pinned to the ground and arrested. She didn’t let this turmoil discourage her. She still continued to be an active advocate for civil rights.
Gale in Context
All That’s Interesting


Solomon Carter Fuller
Solomon Carter Fuller, born in Monrovia, Liberia in 1872, is known as the first Black Psychiatrist. He immigrated from Liberia in 1889 to attend Livingstone College, a historically black college in Salisbury, North Carolina when he was 17. While completing his graduate degree at the University of Munich Germany, he experienced a lot of racism, especially being a part of the medical field. Despite the obstacle of racial discrimination, he was one of those chosen by Alois Alezheimer to aid with research at Royal Psychiatric Hospital at the University of Munich. He later died of diabetes in 1953 in Framingham Massachusetts.
Black Post


Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander
Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander was the first Black woman to enroll in and graduate from University of Pennsylvania Law School. Sadie’s Dad, who was the first Black man to graduate from University of Pennsylvania Law School, left her mother and family when she was only a year old. Because of this she moved around a lot, between her mom’s and uncle’s houses. Before starting highschool, her mother decided it was best for her to stay in Washington DC and attend the infamously Black M Street High School (now known as Dunbar High School). After graduating highschool, Sadie’s plan was to attend the historically Black Howard University, where her uncle was the dean of education. Last minute her mother suggested she attend UPenn to continue her studies. After completing her bachelors, she enrolled in the UPenn Law School and completed her Law Review in her first year. Becoming the first Black woman at the university to receive this distinction.
West Philadelphia Collaborative History