Kijana Heroes

Kijana Heroes is a series of posters of inspiring historical and contemporary figures, starting with Black individuals.

Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative teamed up with Palm Beach County resident and graphic artist, Claire Salmon, to develop the series which, as of January 2023, comprises 50 inspiring historical and contemporary figures who have shared their wisdom and example by their change-making actions.

Heroes

Made possible by

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(1977- )

Born in Nigeria. She studied medicine for a year at the University of Nsukka for one year. Chimamanda left Nigeria for the United States at age 19 to continue her education, but not in medicine. She graduated summa cum laude from Eastern Connecticut State University with a degree in Communication and Political Science. Other advanced degrees followed. In 2015, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world. In 2017, Fortune Magazine named her one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Adichie uses her works to inspire women around the world in breaking gender constructions, stereotypes, and sexualities that have been made to subjugate women in society.

Alara of Nubia
(900 B.C.-765 B.C.)

Alara was a King of Kush. He is generally regarded as the founder of the Napatan royal dynasty by his 25th Dynasty Kushite successors and was the first recorded prince of Kush. He unified all of Upper Nubia from Meroe to the Third Cataract and is possibly attested at the Temple of Amun at Kawa. He is a deeply revered figure in Nubian culture and the first Kushite king whose name came down to scholars.

Muhammad Ali
(1942-2016)

Known as “The Greatest,” Ali was one of the first professional athletes to put politics before sports. He was the first boxer to win the world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions. Ali was known for his social message of black pride and black resistance to white domination and for refusing induction into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He was an American professional boxer, activist, entertainer, poet, and philanthropist. Ali fought not only within the boxing ring but also as a vocal advocate for civil rights and other causes.

Queen Amanirenas
(60s-50s B.C.-10 B.C.)

Amanirenas was a queen of the Kingdom of Kush from c. 40 B.C to c. 10 B.C. She is one of the most famous kandakes, because of her role in leading Kushite armies against the Romans in a war that lasted five years. Amanirenas led an army of about 30,000 Nubian soldiers, armed with swords, bows and arrows, to fight the Romans in Egypt.

Maya Angelou
(1928-2014)

Maya Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. She received dozens of awards and more than fifty honorary degrees. Angelou was Hollywood’s first female director and the first female inaugural poet in U.S. presidential history. In 1993 Angelou recited her poem, “On the Pule of Morning,” for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. She was never hesitant to speak her mind, passionately defending the rights of women, young people and the ignored. Angelou effortlessly traversed the worlds of literature and activism, becoming a confidante to the original civil rights leaders and successors.

Saint Augustine
(354-430)

Augustine of Hippo, also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian and philosopher of Berber origin and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. Augustine was canonized by popular recognition and recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1303 by Pope Boniface VII. He is considered the patron saint of brewers, printers, theologians, sore eyes, and a number of cities and dioceses.

James Baldwin
(1924-1987)

James Arthur Baldwin was an American writer and activist. As a writer, he garnered acclaim across various mediums, including essays, novels, plays, and poems. James Baldwin wrote eloquently, thoughtfully, and passionately about race in America in his novels, essays, and plays. He is perhaps best known for his books of essays, in particular Notes of a Native Son (1955), Nobody Knows My Name (1961), and The Fire Next Time (1963).

Ibn Battuta
(1304-1368/1369)

Ibn Battuta was a medieval Muslim scholar and explorer. He wrote one of the world’s most famous travel logs, the Rihlah. The great work describes the people, places, and cultures he encountered in his journeys along some 75,000 miles (120,000 km) across and beyond the Islamic world. Battuta contributed to the movement of Dar al Islam and preserved the influences that Islam had on the globe. His writings can be used as a window through his eyes as it was during his time.

Mary McLeod Bethune
(1875-1955)

Mary Jane McLeod Bethune was an American educator, philanthropist, humanitarian, womanist, and civil rights activist. She was a passionate educator and presidential adviser. In her long career of public service, she became one of the earliest black female activists that helped lay the foundation to the modern civil rights movement. Bethune was born to former slaves a decade after the Civil War. She devoted her life to ensure the right to education and freedom from discrimination for African Americans. She opened one of the first schools for African American girls.

Ruby Bridges
(1954-)

Ruby Neil Bridges Hall is an American civil rights activist. She was the first African American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis on November 14, 1960. At six years old, Bridges’ bravery helped pave the way for Civil Rights action in the American South. Ruby’s school district created entrance exams for African American students.

Shirley Chisholm
(1924-2005)

Shirley Chisholm was an American politician, and author. In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York’s 12th congressional district. She was also the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties (1972). Her motto and title of her autobiography – Unbought and Unbossed – illustrates her outspoken advocacy for women and minorities during her seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bessie Coleman
(1892-1926)

Bessie Coleman was the first African American, and the first Native American, woman pilot. Bessie refused to speak anywhere that was segregated or discriminated against African Americans. Her goal was to encourage women and African Americans to reach their dreams. She became a symbol for millions of women of color at a time when African Americans were still battling segregation and fighting for equal rights across the country.

The Dahomey Warriors

Dahomey Amazon warriors were an all-female frontline army of the Kingdom of Dahomey, a West African empire that existed from 1625 to 1894. Its remnants lie in modern-day Benin, which occupies a sliver of the coast between Nigeria and Togo. Whether conquering tribes or resisting European forces, the Amazons were known for their fearlessness.

Frederick Douglass
(1818-1895)

Frederick Douglass was an African American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, becoming famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. His speeches and publications are part of America’s cultural history and of African American contemporary literature and politics. Douglass’ three autobiographies are one of the strongest influences in the slave narrative literary genre.

Medgar Evers
(1925-1963)

Medgar Wiley Evers was an American civil rights activist in Mississippi, the state’s field secretary for the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and World War II veteran who served in the United States Army. Throughout his short life, Evers heroically spoke out against racism in the deeply divided South. He fought against cruel Jim Crow laws, protested segregation in education, and launched an investigation into the Emmett Till lynching. White supremacists made several attempts on Evers’s life before succeeding on June 12, 1963. After pulling into his driveway and getting out of his car carrying NAACP T-shirts reading “Jim Crow Must Go,” Evers was shot in the back and died at the local hospital less than an hour later.

Marcus Garvey
(1887-1940)

Marcus Mosiah Garvey Sr. ONH was a Jamaican political activist, publisher, journalist, entrepreneur, and orator. He was the founder and first President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and African Communities Council (ACL), through which he declared himself Provisional President of Africa. Garvey and the UNIA aimed to achieve Black nationalism through the celebration of African history and culture. He also stressed that black people needed to secure financial independence from white-dominant society. Garvey launched various businesses in the U.S., including the Negro Factories Corporation and Negro World newspaper. He is renowned worldwide as an ardent proponent of black pride, self-reliance, upliftment, empowerment, and equality for all people of color.

Leymah Gbowee
(1972- )

Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist responsible for leading a women’s nonviolent peace movement, Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace that helped bring an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. In 2012, building upon her influence in bringing about an end of the Second Civil War, she built the Gbowee Peace Foundation. In terms of her contributions to the conceptions of violence, Gbowee used her faith to push emphasis on why non-violence approaches are important to enact change.

Hatshepsut
(1478 B.C.-1458 B.C.)

Shirley Chisholm was an American politician, and author. In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York’s 12th congressional district. She was also the first woman and African American to seek the nomination for president of the United States from one of the two major political parties (1972). Her motto and title of her autobiography – Unbought and Unbossed – illustrates her outspoken advocacy for women and minorities during her seven terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Matthew Henson
(1866-1955)

Henson was a brave African American explorer best known as the co-discoverer of the North Pole with Robert Edwin Peary in 1909. It took the two nearly 20 years to reach the North Pole after many expeditions. While Perry was lauded for his efforts upon return to the United States, Henson was largely forgotten and ignored, despite his efforts that made the trip a success. Henson took part in some of the most harrowing and celebrated expeditions in modern history is by itself noteworthy, but the fact that he was so important to the success of the campaigns as a Black man in the pre-Civil Rights era is especially significant.

Zora Neale Hurston
(1891-1960)

Zora Neale Hurston was an American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. She portrayed racial struggles in the early-1900s American South and published research on hoodoo. The most popular of her four novels is Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937. As a leader of the Harlem Renaissance Hurston was a revolutionary in helping to protect the rights of African Americans. She was known during the Harlem Renaissance for her wit, irreverence, and folk writing style. Zora Neale Hurston made contributions to the acceptance of African Americans in society through her noteworthy folklore writing.

Imhotep
(reigned 2630-2611)

Imhotep was an Egyptian chancellor to the Pharaoh Djoser, probable architect of Djoser’s step pyramid, and high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis. Very little is known of Imhotep as a historical figure, but in the 300 years following his death, he was gradually glorified and deified. He is credited with inventing the method of stone-dressed building and using columns in architecture and is considered to be the first architect in history known by name. It is believed that, as the high priest, he also served as the nation’s chief physician in his time.

John Lewis
(1940-2020)

John Lewis was an American politician and civil rights activist and icon who served in the United States House of Representatives from 1987 until his death in 2020. He was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) from 1963 to 1966. He was one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington. In 1965, Lewis led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Known as, Bloody Sunday, state troopers and police Lewis and the marchers. Lewis had an incredible life of “good trouble” in his life’s work to bring about racial and social justice.

Patrice Lumumba
(1925-1961)

Patrice Lumumba was a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first prime minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo. From June until September 1960. He played a significant role in the transformation of the Congo from a colony of Belgium into an independent Republic. Forced out of office during a political crisis, he was assassinated a short time later.

Wangari Maathai
(1940-2011)

Maathai was a Kenyan social, environmental, and political activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize (2004). She was also the first female scholar from East and Central Africa to take a doctorate (in biology), and the first female professor ever in her home country of Kenya. Wangari Maathai was a humanitarian. She fought the vicious cycle of environmental degradation and poverty. She also helped empower Kenyan women to plant trees and halt further environmental destruction to her home.

Miriam Makeba
(1942-2008)

Zenzile Miriam Makeba, nicknamed ‘Mama Africa’ and the ‘Empress of African Song,’ was a South African singer, songwriter, actress, and civil rights activist. She was associated with musical genres including Afropop, jazz, and world music. She was an advocate against apartheid and white-minority government in South Africa. Makeba was the first vocalist to put African music onto the international map in the 1960s.

Nelson Mandela
(1918-2013)

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist who served as the first president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country’s first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election, post-apartheid. Mandela showed heroism through his selfless and dedicated acts, by fighting to bring liberty and justice for his people and risking his life for equality of all.

Nanny of the Maroons
(1686-1733)

Nanny was the leader of the Jamaican Maroons. She led a community of formerly enslaved Africans called the Winward Maroons in a guerilla war over many years against British authorities. Nanny is recognized as an outstanding military leader who became in her lifetime and after, a symbol of unity and strength for her people during times of crisis.

Toni Morrison
(1931-2019)

Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison, known as Toni Morrison, was an American novelist. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. She used African Americans as the speakers, and characters, and her writings also focused on rural communities. Morrison’s literature greatly impacted people and society. It was important for young black people to see what she was doing, and it encouraged them to do the same.

Harry Moore
(1905-1951)
Harriet Moore
(1902-1951)

Harry Tyson Moore was an African American educator, a pioneer leader of the civil rights movement, founder of the first branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Brevard County Florida, and the president of the state chapter of the NAACP. Harriet Vyda Simms Moore was an American educator and civil rights worker. She was the wife of Harry Moore.

The Florida couple who were active in the civil rights movement, paid the ultimate price for the freedoms won for their community when they were killed by Ku Klux Klan members in their own home in 1951. By the time of their death, Florida had the highest number of registered Black voters, far more than any other Southern state.

Mansa Musa
(c. 1280-c. 1337)

Musa Kieta, or Mansa Musa, was the ninth Mansa of the Mali Empire, one of the most powerful West African states. He has sometimes been called the wealthiest person in history, though his wealth is impossible to accurately quantify, and it is difficult to meaningfully compare the wealth of historical figures. Musa developed cities like Timbuktu and Gao into important cultural centers. He also brought architects from the Middle East and across Africa to design new buildings for his cities. Mansa Musa turned the kingdom of Mali into a sophisticated center of learning in the Islamic world.

Queen Nandi
(1760-1827)

Nandi was a daughter of Bhebhe, a past chief of the Langeni tribe and the mother of the famous Shaka, king of the Zulus. Nandi was a feisty and strong-willed young girl; she had her own way. Because King Shaka never married, Nandi, as his mother and Zulu queen mother was Shaka’s most important and powerful influence. Nandi was a trusted adviser.

Queen Nefertiti
(1370 B.C.-1330 B.C.)

Queen Nefertiti was a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the Great Royal Wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. She played a prominent role in changing Egypt’s traditional polytheistic religion to one that was monotheistic, worshipping the sun god known as Aton. Nefertiti is the symbol of beauty and feminine power. Her name means ‘a beautiful woman has come.’

Queen Nzinga
(1583-1663)

Queen Nzinga’s known as one of the great women rulers of Africa. Queen Anna Nzinga of Angola fought against the slave trade and European influence in the seventeenth century. Known for being an astute diplomat and visionary military leader, she resisted Portuguese invasion and slave raids for 30 years.

Nina Simone
(1933-2003)

Eunice Kathleen Waymon, known professionally as Nina Simone, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, arranger, and civil rights activist. Her music spanned styles including classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop. During the civil rights movements, she released songs like “Four Women” that addressed racism and injustices. Nina became a leading voice of the civil rights movements describing the experiences of the African American community in the 1960s.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
(1938- )

Internationally known as Africa’s “Iron Lady,” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a leading promoter of peace, justice, and democratic rule. She served as the 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018. Sirleaf was the first elected female head of state in Africa. As president, Sirleaf secured millions of dollars of foreign investment and established a Truth and Reconciliation Committee to probe corruption and heal ethnic tensions in Liberia following strife.

Sojourner Truth
(1797-1883)

Sojourner Truth was an American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son in 1828, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Truth became an outspoken advocate for abolition, temperance, and civil rights in the nineteenth century. Her Civil War work earned her an invitation to meet President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. She drew strength from God, whom she believed made it her purpose in life to help abolish slavery.

Harriet Tubman
(1820-1913)

Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently about thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved people, including family and friends, using a network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

Madam C.J. Walker
(1867-1919)

Madam C.J. Walker was an African American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and political scientist. She is recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America in the Guinness Book of World Records. Walker rose from poverty in the South to become one of the wealthiest African American women of her time. She used her position to advocate for the advancement of black Americans and for an end to lynching.

Ida B. Wells
(1862-1931)

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was an American investigative journalist, educator, and leader in the civil rights movement. She was one of the founders of the national Association for the Advancement of Colored people (NAACP). Wells led an anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s. She went on to found and become integral in groups striving for African American justice.

Oprah Winfrey
(1954- )

Oprah Winfrey is the first African American woman to own her own production company, Harpo Productions. From an early age, she had the irrepressible will to become rich and famous, and she was convinced she would achieve her goals. Oprah is a positive impact maker who inspires others through her experience and her being. She empowers and supports others through her giving and passionately shares who she is and what she does with the world. Oprah believes in the power of authenticity of the human-being and in the unity of the people for a greater good.