My Top 4 Black History Aha Moments

With takeaways that take nothing away from greatness


The other day I was texting with a friend about my top Black history aha moments. I decided to share them as a story with my reflections.

Keep in mind, these are aha moments about the history I learned as a child. In most cases, I didn’t hear the whole truth, or more of the truth, until I was a young adult.

Originally posted at:

#1 Rosa Parks Was Not the One (and only)

After Rosa Parks passed away in October 2005, I learned she wasn’t the first to resist bus segregation laws. I read about others like Claudette Colvin.

My takeaway:

I was a bit shocked to find out Rosa Parks wasn’t the first. I felt like someone had told me a lie or a half-truth. It made me wonder how many other things in life are like this? It challenged me to find out for myself. It made me think.

Rosa Parks as the model minority shows a strategy by Baptist ministers who sought to anoint a type of Christ or a spotless Lamb. But these strategies were also influenced by sexism, colorism, class, and adultism. Technically, Rosa Parks embodied and benefited from some of the tools of the oppressor.

Recently, I read that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, DC, didn’t even invite Claudette Colvin to the grand opening of the museum. And, she’s barely mentioned in the museum. What a disgrace. I’m outraged that she is still overlooked! Is it because capitalism, class, colorism, and mythology are still at work in society?


#2 A Gay Man Planned the March on Washington

Bayard Rustin was a mighty background figure who supported a number of social justice movements. One of his big-name credentials was the March on Washington of 1963. As an advisor to Dr. King, Bayard was one of the chief organizers of the march. Dr. King’s non-violent stance was also influenced by Bayard Rustin. Bayard identified as a gay man.

My takeaway:

I learned about Bayard Rustin in 2005. Bayard Rustin’s struggle for equality was encumbered by his sexual orientation. He was shunned, shamed, and shoved into the shadows.

Sometimes he remained in the background willingly. He didn’t want anyone to discredit the message and the movement because of him.

I wish Bayard Rustin had more of a platform and public recognition. But his efforts prove how liberation and justice are connected across social movements. And, he proves how queer people have shaped some of the most important movements in the world.


#3 Dr. King Had Affairs

Yep, Dr. King had affairs with other women. Some of Dr. King’s co-laborers have said that he had a “weakness for women.” (I absolutely detest that phrase.) I wonder if his affairs would’ve affected his legacy if he had lived?

My takeaway:

He’s human. His wife was divine.

Unfortunately, finding fault with people is how people, causes, and movements become discredited, minimized, and erased.

I suggest we look at finding a fault like finding a pulse. A fault means someone is alive.

Now, no child learning about Dr. King needs to know these things. But this is a reminder that stories should be broad and balanced.


#4 The Nation Killed Him

Left: The Nation of Islam leader at the time, Elijah Muhammad, Center: Malcolm X, Right: Louis Farrakhan, the current leader of The Nation of Islam.

Denzel Washington played Malcolm X when I was in junior high school. The movie showed how Malcolm X was killed in Black history on February 21, 1965. Three members of The Nation of Islam were later convicted.

Malcolm X was assassinated only two months after his protégé Louis Farrakhan wrote in a Nation of Islam publication that Malcolm X was deserving of death.

My takeaway:

The words that come to mind are “how could you?”

The Nation of Islam owes regrets and reparations to the family of Malcolm X and the world.

The infighting, corruption, hypocrisy, and the egos that killed him were nuclear warheads.

Malcolm X’s daughter Attallah Shabazz was in the room when her father was murdered. She wants little to do with finger-pointing at the FBI. She says it was the ‘tan and brown faces’ who used to call themselves family who killed her father.

Sometimes the fight is against a foe named Family. I do not want to see these types of attacks among Black leaders and Black intellectuals in any form or forum. (Dr. West and Mr. Coates that whole damn sentence is for you two too.)

Those are my top 4 aha moments about Black history and the civil rights era. These aspects of the civil rights era are well-known. But when I was a young adult, some of these were shocking revelations.

Aha moments aren’t always pleasant. Sometimes they can be challenging or disturbing.

I’m sure others have aha moments about this time period too. What aha moments have you had about the civil rights era and Black history?

Maybe we should expect aha moments in the movements and moments we have today.

It’s fair to say, history is still in session and accepting students. I’m trying to be one of those students.



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