“Across the USA February Black History is celebrated annually; commemorating well-known figures such as Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks. February 21 this year also marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Malcolm-X, one of the most important leaders during the civil rights campaign. Aside from these figures, there are thousands of Black Americans who acted heroically, fought for their rights and go unrecognized during these celebrations. During the Civil War, over 200,000 African American men served in the Army or Navy, while the women became involved as activists, nurses, spies and even soldiers. During the period of slavery, there were hundreds of Black Americans who fought for the abolition of slavery, and many more who helped runaway slaves escape to freedom. Here are two unsung: Leroy Wilton Homer Jr (1965-2001): a pilot from Long Island, New York and was serving as the first officer on United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked on September 11. Before becoming a commercial airline pilot, Homer had served in the Gulf War and Somalia, and had received numerous medals and awards. During the attacks on September 11, Homer was removed from the cockpit by the hijackers who killed the captain and took control of the plane. It is not known exactly what happened next, but it is thought the hijackers were having trouble with the autopilot, and were heard on the radio saying to bring back the first officer. However, First Officer Homer had learned of the earlier attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Along with a group of passengers and flight crew, he organized an uprising against the hijackers and attempted to storm the cockpit and regain control of the plane. The plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board. However, the actions of Homer and the other passengers ensured that the plane never reached its target in Washington DC, which would have resulted in the loss of many more lives. Caroline Le Count (1846-1923): African American schoolteacher… also part of a women’s resistance campaign during the Civil War. The aim of the group was to cause civil disobedience in order to challenge segregation orders which kept Black and White people separated in public areas. Many of the women in these groups were involved in supplying troops and nursing wounded soldiers, yet were unable to ride the streetcars to transport them to bases many miles outside the city. Le Count and many of the other women had been forcibly removed from the streetcars on numerous occasions trying to reach the troops.
Due to increasing pressure from civil rights activists, the law regarding the streetcars was eventually changed. When Le Count tried to board a streetcar on March 25, 1867 the conductor was unaware of the new law, and shouted “We don’t allow niggers to ride!” Le Count complained to the nearest policeman who arrested the conductor and fined him $100. Following this victory, all of Philadelphia’s streetcar companies were informed that segregation would no longer be tolerated. It was a small victory in terms of the civil rights movement as a whole, but allowed for the free movement of African Americans across the city of Philadelphia.” (reference)
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