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Unsung Heroes of Black History Month

St. Luke Savings Bank
Maggie Lena Walker (Richmond, VA) became the first African American female bank president in the United States when she founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903. (Image: PBS)

What began as “Negro History Week” in 1926, has grown to an annual tradition. This tradition is aimed at celebrating the achievements of Black men and women through U.S history. In celebration of this tradition, VPM is highlighting the unsung heroes of Black History Month by featuring one individual a day for 28 days. Through this campaign, we will shine a spotlight on those who are historically accomplished, but may not have accolades such as documentaries, statues, and streets named after them. We’ve curated local and national resources to learn more about each individual featured during February. Be sure to check back each day during our 28 Days of Black History to learn about a new unsung hero.


Carter G. Woodson

February 28

Image(s) Courtesy: Encyclopedia Virginia | Library of Congress


Dr. Vivian Pinn

February 27

Image Courtesy: Library of Virginia


William F. Reid

February 26

Image Courtesy: Dr. William Ferguson Reid, Sr.


Roger Arliner Young

February 25

Image Courtesy: Marine Biological Laboratory Archives


John Mercer Langston

February 24

Image Courtesy: Library of Congress


Florence Neal Cooper Smith

February 23

Image(s) Courtesy: Medical College of Virginia Foundation, Inc. (mcvfoundation.org) | Ed Uthman - Flickr Stock

John Jasper

February 22

Image(s) Courtesy: Library of Virginia | Virginia Department of Historic Resources


Sarah Garland Jones

February 21

Image Courtesy: Library of Virginia


Henry Box Brown

February 20

Image Courtesy: Library of Virginia | Library of Congress


Willie Dell

February 19

Image Courtesy:  V.2015.75.03. Willie Jones Dell. Circa 1978. Credit: The Valentine


L. Douglas Wilder

February 18

Image Courtesy: Encyclopedia Virginia | Virginia Dept. of Historical Resources


Mae Jemison

February 17

Image Courtesy: National Archives Catalog

John Mitchell Jr

February 16

Image Courtesy: University of Virginia Special Collections | VCU Library


Dr. Undine Smith Moore

February 15

Image Courtesy: Detroit Public Library | Digital Collections


Randall Robinson

February 14

Image Courtesy: Blackpast.org

Mary Bowser

February 13

Image Courtesy: There are no accurate photographs of Mary Bowser. This illustration of Mary Bowser was published on LegendsofAmerica.com in an article by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Robert R Moton

February 12

Image Courtesy: Scurlock Photographic Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History (Encyclopedia Virginia)

Maggie L Walker

February 11

Image Courtesy: PBS Learning Media

Oliver White Hill Sr

February 10

Image Courtesy: Oliver White Hill Family (Library of Virginia)

Henrietta Lacks

February 9

Image Courtesy: Lacks Family and reprinted from the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (New York: The Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2010)

William Harvey Carney

February 8

Image Courtesy: West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries 


Dorothy Height

February 7 

Image Courtesy: National Park Service


Willie Lanier

February 6 

Image Courtesy: Library of Virginia Education - Virginia.gov


Virginia E Randolph

February 5

Image Courtesy: EncylopediaVirginia.org

Lt. Col. Howard L. Baugh

February 4

Image Courtesy: Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia

​​​​​​Dr. Gladys B. West

February 3

Image Courtesy: Gladys B. West (Library of Virginia)

Henry L Marsh III

February 2 

Image Courtesy: Library of Virginia Education - Virginia.gov

Ethel F

February 1

Image Courtesy: Library of Virginia Education - Virginia.gov


Elvatrice Belsches

Historical Consultant
Elvatrice Belsches is a Richmond area public historian, archival researcher and presenter who specializes in chronicling the Black experience in history. She was featured in VPM’s Racism: Challenging Perceptions Series, as a panelist on the discussion of Systemic Racism. Belsches is also a co-producer and writer for VPM’s 28 Days of Black History Month campaign. In addition, she is the author of Black America Series: Richmond, Virginia (Arcadia).