Ivan Abramovich Gannibal was born in Karjaküla, Reval Governorate, Russian Empire, which is now present day Estonia. He was the eldest of ten children to parents Abram Gannibal and Christina Regina Siöberg. Abram Gannibal was a well-known Russian nobleman, engineer and military leader. Becoming a part of the Russian military was Ivan’s calling, by the age of nine he had already enrolled into the Naval Artillery School. Upon his graduation he would enter into the Imperial Russian Navy as an Officer, but also as the son of an Admiral. Russia became involved in the Russo-Turkish War in 1768, by 1770 Ivan was a Brigadier within the Russian Navy. He led several naval fleets as they laid siege to and captured the Turkish fortress of Navarin. Gannibal was in charge of 300 men whose forward advance was the main catalyst in the capturing of Navarin. For his bravery and leadership Ivan was awarded the Order of Saint George, third degree. The order of Saint George is only awarded to the highest and senior military officers.
Later in 1770, Ivan fought in the Battle of Chesma where his ship exploded during battle, but he was rescued from the sea by his men. Between the years of 1772 and 1777 he was promoted to major-general, Commander of the naval artillery, and finally he became the Admiral of the Russian Navy; his admiralty was bestowed upon him by Empress Catherine II. Ivan was placed in charge of building the Kherson Fortress in 1778, which was a task he completed. The impressive part was how little time it took him to build the fortress. To show her appreciation and admiration Catherine II bestowed upon Ivan the Order of St. Vladimir, first class, the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, a snuff box depicting Catherine II encrusted in jewels, and an estate worth $20,000 located in the town of Bilozerka. In 1784 Ivan and Prince Grigory Potyomkin were not on good terms causing Ivan to retire from the military. Upon his retirement he had reached the rank of Général en Chef; this was the same rank that his father Abram Gannibal earned. In 1801 Ivan died while living in his father’s estate in a village named Suyda. He died being recognized as one of the greatest military legends in Russian history. He was also the great-uncle of the Great Russian writer and father of Russian literature, Alexander Pushkin. Ivan Gannibal is another example of African people changing the world and building legends so great they are believed to be mythology. Général en Chef Ivan Abramovich Gannibal, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
Arminta Harriet Ross was born around 1820 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Her parents, Harriet Green and Ben Ross, were enslaved by Mary Pattison Brodess and Anthony Thompson, who treated their slaves as less than human. Early on in Harriet’s life, she endured countless acts of violence upon her and her family by the Thompson’s. She witnessed her mother stand up against the separation of her family as a child which left a lasting mark on her. One day while shopping for her family at a local store, Tubman encountered a man escaping enslavement. Pursuing the man were his owners, and when they caught up with him they demanded that Tubman help to restrain him. When she resisted she was hit in the head with a two pound weight by one of the men. The incident caused a head injury resulting in Harriet having seizures, severe headaches, and narcolepsy. She also experienced dream like states which she viewed as signs delivered to her from God. These dream like states helped Tubman delve deeper into religion.
In 1844 Tubman married a free black man named John Tubman and changed her name to Harriet Tubman. It is said that the name change was to honor her mother. In 1849 Harriet, along with her brothers Ben and Harry, escaped from slavery fearing that her family would be sold away. They were missing for two weeks before a runaway notice was posted about their escape. Tubman’s brothers suddenly had second thoughts and returned to their plantation forcing Tubman to return with them. Tubman was determined to be free so she escaped again, this time she was alone. She fled to Philadelphia using the Underground Railroad and help from the Quakers as she made the 90 mile trip.
After finding freedom herself, Tubman was compelled to return to her family and later helped grant them freedom. After freeing her immediate family she returned to Maryland to help free other family members and enslaved blacks. As she continued to make trips to free more people, she gained more confidence in her abilities to help free her people. Her legend was growing more and more with each successful trip she made, and she even gained the name “Moses” for her awesome efforts. Tubman lead around 60 people to freedom, but her husband refused to leave with her. He decided to stay in Maryland because he remarried. The Fugitive Slave Law was passed in 1850 which allowed slavers to capture people escaping slavery in the North and return them to slavery making the northern states of America no longer safe for those escaping slavery. Tubman and her band were able to find freedom in Canada. Tubman and ten other men consulted with Frederick Douglas on several occasions, trading ideas to further help free blacks from slavery.
In 1858, Tubman met John Brown, an abolitionist who viewed violence as a way to end slavery. Brown viewed Tubman as a “general” in the fight against slavery. Tubman was also active in the Civil War as a nurse and a cook. She helped to lead the Combahee River Raid, which freed over 700 enslaved people in South Carolina. Tubman eventually bought land in Auburn, New York for her family to settle on until her death. She passed in 1913, but left a legacy that will live forever. Mrs. Tubman risked her life and freedom to save her people from the inhumane intuition of slavery. She is an American hero in the truest sense. She embodies humanity, leadership and courage. Mrs. Harriet Tubman, we stand on your shoulders.
Born a slave in Natchez, Mississippi between 1817 and 1824, the life of an unlikely star was born. In 1820 Elizabeth moved to Philadelphia with the widow of her slave master, Mrs. Holiday Greenfield. Elizabeth gained her freedom when Holiday Greenfield became a Quaker and freed her slaves. She chose to stay with Mrs. Holiday in America while her parents moved to Liberia. She eventually took Mrs. Holiday’s last name after living with her into adulthood. Elizabeth found her calling as she fell in love with singing and music. She taught herself how to play the harp and the piano. Because of her race she faced constant rejection from vocal trainers. But Elizabeth pressed on and developed a voice that would change music. Her voice was labeled as multi-octave, meaning she could sing soprano, tenor and bass. By 1850 Elizabeth began her singing career and never looked back.
In 1851 she made her concert debut at the Buffalo Musical Association. Her next step was a tour from 1851 to 1853 which gained her much acclaim. She became the first nationally recognized African-American concert singer in both America and Europe. Because of her brilliant performances she was named “Black Swan” by the media. But Elizabeth’s great performances didn’t protect her from racism. She often faced harsh criticism from the press and threats to sabotage her performances. In 1853 her performance at New York’s Metropolitan Hall was threatened by an arsonist. The show went on as scheduled. Following the show she gave a benefit concert to The Home of Aged Colored Persons and the Colored Orphan Asylum. Even in the face of adversity, she showed her will and her love for her community.
Elizabeth arrived in England in 1853 to tour the country. She faced issues with her manager that caused her to sever their relationship. Because of the breakup she had to reach out to Harriet Beecher Stowe for financial help. Stowe helped Elizabeth gain financial backing from the duchesses of Sutherland, Norfolk and Argyle. Because of her new acquaintances, Elizabeth was able to receive professional training from the royal musical adviser George Smart. Her skills became so polished that she was invited to perform for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace in 1854. Elizabeth Greenfield was known as the first black performer to perform for the English elite. Her success and new found fame allowed her to become a highly desired performer. She returned to the United States in the summer of 1954 and continued her career into the 1860’s. She would often have benefit concerts for charities supporting black people. She later became a teacher and helped shape the careers of Thomas J. Bowers and Carrie Thomas. Elizabeth Greenfield died in Philadelphia in 1876 as a legend in the music industry. But because of her race her legacy was kept quiet. To honor the greatness of Elizabeth Greenfield Nathaniel Dett, Fletcher Henderson, Ethel Waters and Trixie Smith, created their record label Black Swan Records. Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, we stand on your shoulders.
Roberto Clemente Walker was born August 18th, 1934 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. He was the youngest of seven children to parents Melchor and Luisa Clemente. His father worked as a foreman on a sugarcane plantation and his mother ran a grocery store for plantation workers. Roberto worked as a young boy delivering milk and taking odd jobs to help the family with money. He always made time for his true love which was baseball. He would play on the sand lots with his peers until the age of 18. In 1952 Roberto was spotted playing baseball by a scout for a professional baseball team, the Saunturce Crabbers in Saunturce, Puerto Rico. They offered him a contract to play baseball for them. He signed with the team for $40 a month and received a $500 bonus.
Not long after joining the team Clemente caught the eye of another scout, this scout came from the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball in America. His next stop was the Brooklyn Dodgers minor league team in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Three years later he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and started immediately as there right fielder. Clemente took some time to adjust to the style of play in the major leagues, but by 1960 he was dominating the league. Clemente played so well that year, he earned his first of twelve all-star appearances. Also he helped his team defeat the New York Yankees, to win the World Series.
While playing at an all-star level as a ball player, he experience racism as a black Latino baseball player in a racially divided America. Off the field he was building a legacy that would surpass his legendary baseball career. He was an active force in helping as many poor people as he could, taking philosophies from Dr. Martin Luther King. On the field Clemente was known for his rocket arm and pinpoint accuracy, also his unusual but effective hitting style. In 1961 Clemente was injured in a car accident but his determination to play kept him from missing a game. He played well that year; he won the batting title for the best hitter in the league. In 1961, Clemente lead his team back to the World Series and they won again defeating the Baltimore Orioles. He won the World Series MVP and his popularity grew off the field because of his near perfect talents, as described by one sports writer.
Clemente married the love of his life, Vera Christina Zabala in 1964, they had three sons and he made sure they all were born on the Island of Puerto Rico. Clemente played a total of 18 years in the major leagues. 1972 would be his last baseball season little did he know. During that winter Clemente and his family were in Puerto Rico working on his dream, opening a sports clinic for the youth in San Juan. December 23rd, 1972 an earth quake struck Managua, Nicaragua killing thousands of people. Clemente quickly organized an aid effort to help the people affected. After getting word that the Nicaraguan government was not getting supplies to the people, he rented a small plane to take the supplies. On December 31st 1972, the plane that was carrying Clemente and three other people crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and his body was never found. He died at the age of thirty-eight.
Because of his contribution on and off the field, The Baseball writers Association bypassed the usual five year waiting period and immediately inducted Roberto Clemente into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Roberto was the first Latino baseball player ever elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1973 the Pittsburgh Pirates retired his number 21 jersey and inducted him into their Hall of Fame. Roberto Clement was a true hero, an example of goodness and manhood. Roberto Clemente was an inspiration for black and Latino players home and abroad. Roberto was greatness personified, he quoted; “Anytime you have an opportunity to make things better and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth.” Mr. Roberto Clemente, we stand on your shoulders.
Born in 240 CE in in the Roman province of Palmyra, Syria was a girl named Julia Aurelia Zenobia who would soon challenge the Roman Empire for control of the province. It is said that she is considered a Roman citizen because her father’s family was granted Roman citizenship during the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Zenobia was a very smart young girl; she was educated in Greek and Latin studies, and also found time to become fluent in the Egyptian and Aramaic languages. She was often quoted claiming to have ancestry connected to Cleopatra VII of Egypt. She was placed in charge of watching her family’s sheep as a girl, often going on long expeditions and also hunting. These skills would prove to be an asset to Zenobia later in life. Along with being a skilled hunter, she could outlast any man on an expedition by foot, and out drink any man. Zenobia was regarded as the most beautiful woman of her time. She is described as a woman of a dark hue with teeth like pearls and eyes that could entice any man.
Zenobia married Lucius Septimus Odaenthus, a Roman governor of Syria in 258 CE. Although she was a married woman she was very strict about maintaining her sexual reputation. She was only known to lie with her husband only to produce a child; records show that the couple produced one son from their union. Being that Zenobia was Odaenthus’ second wife, her son was not the immediate heir to rue the city of Palmyra. Odaenthus was the ruler of the Palmyra which was a very affluent region because of its position on the Silk Road which was an important trading center. A group of people called the Sassanid (a pre-Islamic Persian empire, established in 224 CE by Ardeshir I, son of Papak, descendant of Sasan) choose to block the trade route in the year 227 CE. This blocking of the trade route caused the Roman Emperor Valerian to take up arms against the Sassanid’s in 260 CE, but was defeated. Odaenthus waged war against the Sassanid’s and drove them back to their lands. Because of his victory Odaenthus was made the Governor of the Eastern Roman Empire, he next defeated Gallienius in battle and became the all-powerful ruler of Syria. Around 267 CE Odaenthus and his son were killed by one of his nephews leaving a hunting trip.
The death of Odaenthus meant that Zenobia’s son Vaballathus was the rightful ruler of Palmyra but was too young to rule; Zenobia made herself regent and ruled in place of her son. She would find the brightest minds in the land to become a part of her court; her intent was to make sure she provided the best influences for her region. Initially she worked to maintain the policies of her husband, but as she noticed Rome was weakening its hold on Egypt she conquered the city. The Roman army briefly drove Zenobia’s forces out of Egypt and pursued them into the borders of Northern Syria. That would prove to be a bad move by the Romans, they were attacked by Zenobia’s army and defeated. Zenobia now ruled Egypt and gained the regions of Levant and Asia Minor. As Zenobia built her empire she was unnoticed by the Roman Emperor, she used brilliant tactics to move below the radar for a while. One move she made was to mint coins with her son’s face on one side on Aurelian the Roman Emperor on the other. As she praised the Roman Emperor is public she plotted to gain control of the Empire behind closed doors. During her conquest, Zenobia was able to build an empire whose borders reached from Iraq to Egypt.
As Aurelian became more comfortable with his position as Emperor he made it a priority to overthrow Zenobia and her Eastern empire. 267 CE Aurelian and his army attacked Zenobia’s empire. As his army swept through the land cities that once aligned themselves with Zenobia surrendered to Aurelian and his army. Aurelian and Zenobia’s armies met at the city of Daphne, unfortunately Zenobia’s army was dominated by the Roman forces. Zenobia would flee to the city of Emesa where the two armies would meet again, once more Rome was victorious. Zenobia was able to escape again and returned to the city of Palmyra but was held under siege by Aurelian. Zenobia and her son were able to slip out of Palmyra without notice; once Aurelian entered the city of Palmyra he found Zenobia was gone. He sent troops to pursue her; she was spotted by his troops crossing the Euphrates River, captured and brought to Rome. The information about what happened to her after she was captured is unclear, but we do know that a beautiful Queen of the East gained control of a large portion of the Roman Empire. Zenobia, warrior queen of the East, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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