Updated 5:36 PM ET, Sun June 28, 2020
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Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), Abolitionist and freed slave. Hero of the Underground Railroad. Universal History Archive/Getty Images
U.S. Representative Robert Smalls, circa 1850s. He was a former slave who parlayed his freedom into a pioneering role in Congress. He would go on to build the South Carolina Republican Party, and buy the house of the man who had owned him as a slave. Fotosearch/Archive Photos/Getty Images
circa 1870: Hiram R Revels (1822 - 1901), the first African-American to sit in the United States Senate. Having served in the Union Army as a chaplain, he was elected as a Republican Party Senator from Mississippi. MPI/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Ida B. Wells in 1920. She was a civil rights advocate, investigative journalist and feminist. Chicago History Museum/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Natural scientist and inventor George Washington Carver working with chemistry equipment in his laboratory at Tuskegee University. Corbis Historical/Getty Images
Ralph Bunche, seen here in his office in 1944, was the first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a United Nations mediator in the Palestine conflict. Marie Hansen/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
African American explorer Matthew A. Henson (1866-1955) reached the Arctic on seven expeditions with Robert Peary from the 1890s until their final expedition in 1908-1909, when they reached the North Pole. Henson was the first African American to explore the Arctic regions. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
NAACP Chief Counsel Thurgood Marshall in front of the Supreme Court, where he made a last-ditch appeal that would permit African American children to reenter Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
Author and a leader in the Harlem Renaissance Zora Neale Hurston, circa 1940s. Fotosearch/Archive Photos/Getty Images
African American novelist, playwright, essayist and activist James Baldwin. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
American poet, writer and socialist Langston Hughes (1902-1967). Hulton Archive/Archive Photos/Getty Images
US Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, the first African American elected to the Senate. Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Imgages
Grammy Award-winning jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. Gilles Petard/Redferns/Getty Images
Jazz composer and saxophonist John Coltrane performs on stage at the Half Note club, New York, 1965. Adam Ritchie/Redferns/Getty Images
Dubbed "The First Lady of Song", Ella Fitzgerald was the Grammy Award-winning, most popular jazz singer for over half a century. Seen here in 1955. Gilles Petard/Redferns/Getty Images
American author Ralph Ellison in New York, 1961. His novel, 'Invisible Man,' received the National Book Award in 1953. PhotoQuest/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer, Toni Morrison in Milan, Italy. November 1994. Leonardo Cendamo/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Maya Angelou was the acclaimed award-winning writer of several memoirs, a poet and a civil rights activist. Her most famous book is the 1969 memoir "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Bettmann/Getty Images
American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin served as a spokesman for the Citywide Committee for Integration. Patrick A. Burns/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Katherine Johnson was a NASA space scientist and mathematician whose calculations were instrumental for NASA to achieve putting an astronaut into orbit around Earth. Virginia, 1962. NASA/Getty Images