Inspirational Black Pioneers Who Helped Shape Education

Over the last year, #BlackLivesMatter protests have made a very large political and social impact across the world. The group has sparked a commitment for organisations and individuals to educate themselves about black history, heritage and culture.  


The Black History Month is a time to celebrate past contributions, present influences as well as people who are likely going to create future achievements. Lots of institutions and people recognise the work and efforts of significant black people across the world and throughout history. 


To learn more about Black History Month and its purpose, our online tutors at Sherpa are able to guide you with online learning to build your confidence around this subject. Our interactive whiteboard at Sherpa enables tutors to upload powerpoints, draw and highlight key information to support you with your revision and studies. 




Check out these five fantastic figures who have all contributed to the field of Education and deserve some recognition.


Mary Jackson (1921-2005)


Mary Jackson - ArcGIS StoryMaps Mary Jackson at NASA HQ


In the 1970s, Mary Jackson helped youths in the science club at Hampton’s King Street Community centre to build their own wind tunnel and use it to conduct experiments. “We have to do something like this to get them interested in science," she said in an article for the local newspaper. "Sometimes they are not aware of the number of black scientists, and don't even know of the career opportunities until it is too late." With time, Mary eventually completed the necessary courses to become the first black female engineer at NASA in 1958!


Jackson worked as an aerospace engineer for 20 years. Much of her work centred on the airflow around aircraft. Despite early promotions, she was denied management-level positions, and in 1979 she left engineering and took a demotion to become manager of the women’s program at NASA. In that post, she sought to improve the opportunities for all women at the organization. 



Oliver Brown (1918-1961)

Linda Brown and Brown v. the Board of Education: Oliver Brown challenged  school segregation - The Washington Post Oliver Brown with his daughter.


Despite living just a few streets away from Sumner Elementary School, Oliver Brown's daughter was turned away and told to enrol in an African-American school instead. As a nine-year-old, it meant she had to cross train tracks and get the bus alone. Her father became one of 13 plaintiffs to bring a lawsuit against the Topeka Board of Education. In a case by families that argued that the idea of "separate but equal" violated African-American civil rights. The 1954 Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court ruling struck down legal segregation in US schools.


Oliver Brown claimed that schools for black children were not equal and that they continued to violate the 14th amendment which promised equal protection for all people. In 1954, the court unanimously ruled that segregated schools were "inherently unequal" and had a "detrimental effect" on African-American children. It is believed this judgement inspired further activity which led to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.


Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955)

Mary McLeod Bethune - Facts, Education & Accomplishments - Biography


Mary McLeod Bethune was a daughter of former slaves a decade after the American Civil War. Mary is prominent for being one of the most important black educators, civil and women’s rights leaders and government officials of the twentieth century. She founded the Daytona Normal and Industrial Institute for girls and people that faced racial discrimination. 


Additionally, Bethune was an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who gave African Americans an advocate in government. She was an educator, an organizer, and a political activist, and opened the door for those who face racial discrimination. 


Inez Beverely Prosser (1897-1934)

Language, Literacy and Storytelling: Day 10 - Inez Beverly Prosser and  Brown V.S The Board of Education


Inez Beverely Prosser was born into a family of 11 children at the end of the 19th century in south-central Texas. She taught in "coloured schools" for 18 years, earning a PhD in psychology in 1933, the first such degree earned by a woman of her colour.


Unfortunately, Prosser died in 1934 so her time in studies could not be put to good use after her education. Though importantly, Prosser was instrumental in assisting many black students in obtaining funds for college and university. The magnitude of her accomplishment in obtaining her PhD was recognized by her appearance on the cover of the magazine The Crisis in August 1933, the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People.


Bobby William Austin (1944- Present)

Bobby Austin is a leading scholar on African-American men and boys and was the first person, as a Program Officer with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, to fund major philanthropic initiatives for African-American men and boys.


In 1997, Bobby Austin founded the Village Foundation which was an organization dedicated to “repairing the breach” between African American males and the rest of society. The campaign was to help children particularly in education in order to boost literacy for young black children.


For instance, one of the leading initiatives of the Village Foundation is the ‘Give a Boy a Book Day’ campaign. The emphasis of this program is specifically designed to encourage reading and literacy for young African American men. 


There is an uncountable number of people of colour who have done remarkable work across the world to influence and improve education. To find out even more about this subject, book online lessons with a GCSE History or A-level History tutor to build your confidence around this subject. Click here for online tuition with Sherpa now! 

Author's profile picture


21st October

Looking for a tutor?

Sherpa has hundreds of qualified and experienced UK tutors who are ready to help you achieve your goals. Search through our tutors and arrange a free 20 minute introduction through our industry-leading online classroom.

Find a Tutor