Celebrating Black History Month & the Legacy of Mentorship


Please join Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound in celebrating Black History Month throughout the month of February.

Happy Black History Month! Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound is proud to honor and recognize Black History Month each year. The celebration of Black History Month has its roots in 1915. It began officially as “Negro History Week” in 1926. It was created by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African American historian, scholar, educator and publisher. By the late 1960s, college campuses across the nation had expanded the week into a full month recognizing Black history. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976.

Since its inception, this celebration has had the goal of creating more awareness around how Black Americans have contributed to the history of our nation.

Black Americans have made and continue to make major contributions to all areas of American society. Some of these contributions have been highly visible and nationally recognized, while many others have happened between individuals, behind the scenes, and in the course of everyday life.

Celebrations of Black History Month often focus on the most nationally recognized figures. There is less attention paid to how the power of community and mentorship have positively impacted these history-makers. Mentors to the greats have been greats themselves, influenced critical decisions, helped, and guided fellow leaders along their way.

With that in mind, this month we will be sharing the stories of these greats and their mentors. The mentors who influenced some of the most well-known Black Americans in history.

Maya Angelou was mentored by James Baldwin.

Maya Angelou was a highly acclaimed poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She is best known for her autobiographical works, including “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Angelou’s writings explore themes of identity, race, and resilience.

Widely known and considered to be one of the greats himself, James Baldwin was a prominent African-American author and activist. He wrote such well-known works as, “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “Notes of a Native Son”. He was a mentor and friend to Maya Angelou for many years. Angelou often acknowledged Baldwin’s influence on her writing and activism. (https://www.biography.com/writer/maya-angelou) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Baldwin

W.E.B. Du Bois was mentored by Alexander Crummel

W.E.B. Du Bois was a sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was a leading intellectual figure in the early 20th century, advocating for civil rights and equality.
Alexander Crummell was an African-American minister and intellectual, who served as a mentor to W.E.B. Du Bois. Crummel was the first recorded Black student and Black graduate at Cambridge University in England. A coalition of abolitionists supported his education at Cambridge. He also founded the first independent Black Episcopal church in Washington DC. Du Bois credited Crummell with influencing his views on education and racial uplift. (https://www.biography.com/scholar/w-e-b-du-bois) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Crummell

Congresswoman Barbara Lee was mentored by Shirley Chisholm

Barbara Lee has been a member of Congress since 1998. She’s a tireless advocate for the rights of all people and for peace. A member of the Democratic Party, Lee represents California’s 12th congressional district. This district is based in Oakland and covers most of the northern part of Alameda County.

Lee began her political career working for Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign. Chisholm was a trailblazer who became the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968. In Congress, she led the expansion of food and nutrition programs for the poor and rose to party leadership. She later became the first Black Democratic woman to run for the U.S. presidency.

https://x.com/BarbaraLeeForCA/status/1750685849061097792?s=20 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Chisholm

Zora Neale Hurston was mentored by Franz Boas

Zora Neale Hurston was a prominent Black author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. She is best known for her novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” which is considered a classic of African-American literature. Hurston played a key role in the Harlem Renaissance, contributing to the cultural and artistic movement of the 1920s and 1930s.

Franz Boas was a renowned anthropologist who served as a mentor to Zora Neale Hurston during her academic pursuits. Boas was known for his influence in cultural anthropology. He encouraged Hurston to conduct ethnographic research. He was also fiercely and publicly opposed to what is known as “scientific racism”. Boas is considered the father of American Anthropology. Under Boas’s guidance, Hurston conducted fieldwork in the American South and the Caribbean, contributing significantly to her work as an anthropologist and writer.
(https://www.biography.com/writer/zora-neale-hurston)” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Boas

Langston Hughes was mentored by Jessie Fauset

Langston Hughes was a renowned poet, novelist, and playwright associated with the Harlem Renaissance. His works, such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “Montage of a Dream Deferred,” explored the Black experience and culture.

Jessie Fauset was an accomplished writer and educator. She was the literary editor of the NAACP’s magazine The Crisis during the 1920s. She discovered and promoted writers including Hughes and encouraged them to represent the Black community realistically and positively.




This month, and every month, we are proud to honor and celebrate the significant contributions of Black people to our organization and our community – as mentors, as family members, as community leaders, and in everything from art to activism, music, sports, and politics.