DR. MAE JEMISON:
As a little girl, Dr. Mae Jemison grew up watching the Apollo television airings. But she was frustrated that she didn't see herself represented. There were no female astronauts.
Mae knew that she wanted to study science at a very young age. In 1973, she graduated from Morgan Park High School in Chicago when she was 16 years old, moving to California to attend Stanford University. In her educational journey, Mae frequently experienced racial discrimination. She was often one of the only Black students in her class. Despite that, she excelled, serving as president of the Black Student Union, producing and directing a musical production called Out of the Shadows. It was a play about the African American experience and featured Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder's music.
Jemison first applied to NASA in 1985. However, NASA paused the program the next year following the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. When they reactivated the program in 1987, Dr. Jemison reapplied. Of more than 2.000 applicants, she was one of only 15 people chosen for NASA Astronaut Group 12.
Since leaving NASA, Dr. Mae Jemison has gone on to found two separate companies with big goals. The Jemison Group is a consulting company that encourages science, technology, and social change, while The Jemison Institute for Advancing Technology in Developing Countries.
In 2016 Huntsville city school system named a new state-of-the-art high-tech high school in her honor. Jemison High School is focused on providing students an opportunity to concentrate their studies on such topics as cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing techniques, and green power. Additionally, they can complete up to 60 hours of college credit while still in high school.
Honorary Doctorate of Sciences — Lincoln College, Pennsylvania 1991
International Space Hall of Fame Inductee — 2004
Dr. Mae Jemison's vocal style is soft and lively, full of curiosity. It is playful, optimistic, and she presents this humility, even now, after everything she has achieved. When she speaks, it sounds like she is completely full of wonder and always having fun. We love that!
DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR:
AN "ACCIDENTAL" LEADER
MICHELE J MARTIN
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech is considered one of the 20th century's most unforgettable moments, but his path to becoming the face and leader of the civil rights movement in the United States wasn't always clear. In fact, it was accidental and more a matter of right place, right time.
Born Michael King Jr., his father, a Baptist pastor, changed their names after a trip to Germany, where he'd become greatly inspired by the Protestant Reformation leader Martin Luther. Martin Jr. was destined to follow his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather in the family profession, despite his own misgivings about a career in the ministry.
He was an incredibly gifted student, accepted into college at 15. Studying sociology, he had considered law or medicine before Morehouse president and theologian Benjamin E. Mays convinced Martin Luther King Jr to follow the family path and become a minister. Before graduation, he was ordained, continuing to Pennsylvania's Crozer Theological Seminary and then onto Boston University for his Ph.D. His doctorate was in systematic theology. His dissertation, "A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman," was published in 1955.
Martin Luther King Jr. wasn't planning to become involved in the civil rights movement, not to the degree he did. It was happenstance. At the time of Rosa Parks' arrest in Montgomery, King was a minister at a nearby Baptist Church. The busing boycott following her arrest was not his idea. Still, he decided to allow the organizers to use his church's basement for meetings.
The group called themselves the Montgomery Improvement Association and, to his surprise, elected him their spokesperson and president and gave him only 20 minutes to write a speech for a mass meeting held that evening at a neighboring congregation, the Holt Street Baptist Church. Five thousand Black citizens of Montgomery showed up at the meeting. Fighting his way through the crowd, into the church, he would deliver possibly one of his greatest speeches, securing his place in the front of the movement.
He became known for his advocation of non-violent direction action and gained friends and allies who would help him do the work he had come to do. The singer and fellow activist Harry Belafonte become a great family friend who would act as a benefactor, supporting King's family so that he could continue to do the important work of the civil rights movement, despite a preacher salary that was only $8k a year.
Despite Belafonte being blacklisted for his support of King, he continued to help. During the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, Belafonte raised $50k to bail King and other civil rights protestors out of Birmingham City Jail. He also helped organize the 1963 March on Washington to advocate for Black Americans' civil and economic rights. It was here that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic speech — "I Have a Dream," with the Lincoln Memorial behind him.
King also became dear friends with Maya Angelou. After attending a speech of his in Harlem, she'd become deeply involved with the Civil Rights Movement in 1960. So inspired, she organized the Cabaret for Freedom. She would become both a fundraiser and the Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a Black Civil Rights organization led by Dr. King.
She'd married a freedom fighter and moved to Africa for several years. After her divorce, she moved back to the United States to help their friend Malcom X, who unfortunately was assassinated shortly after. Sometime later, Dr. King asked her to get involved and help organize a march for him in April 1968; however, she needed to postpone. They wouldn't speak again, as, on the day of her 40th birthday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be assassinated.
Following the news of his assassination, There are riots and disturbances in 130 American cities resulting in over twenty thousand arrests. King's funeral on April 9 was an international event. Within a week of the assassination, the Fair Housing Act was passed by Congress.
After his death, he would continue to inspire others to commit themselves to change—people such as renowned physicist Shirley Ann Jackson. After the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., she would help organize a group of African-American students that would become MIT's Black Student Union, helping to change the face of MIT, and to advocate for minority faculty and students for years to come.
On October 16th, 2011, President Barack Obama dedicated the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in D.C., "For this day, we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s return to the National Mall. In this place, he will stand for all time, among monuments to those who fathered this nation and those who defended it; a black preacher with no official rank or title who somehow gave voice to our deepest dreams and our most lasting ideals, a man who stirred our conscience and thereby helped make our union more perfect. And Dr. King would be the first to remind us that this memorial is not for him alone."
Doctor of Humane Letters — Morehouse College
Doctor of Laws — Howard University
Doctor of Divinity — Chicago Theological Seminary
Doctor of Laws — Morgan State College
Doctor of Humanities — Central State College
Doctor of Divinity — Boston University
Doctor of Laws — Lincoln University
Doctor of Laws — University of Bridgeport
Doctor of Civil Laws — Bard College
Doctor of Letters — Keuka College
Doctor of Divinity — Wesleyan College
Doctor of Laws — Jewish Theological Seminary
Doctor of Laws — Yale University
Doctor of Divinity — Springfield College
Doctor of Laws — Hofstra University
Doctor of Human Letters — Oberlin College
Doctor of Social Science — Amsterdam Free University
Doctor of Divinity — St. Peter's College
Doctor of Civil Law — University of New Castle Upon Tyne
Doctor of Laws — Grinnell College
AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS
Who's Who in America — 1957
Most Outstanding Personalities of The Year — Time 1957
Spingarn Medal — NAACP 1957
Russwurm Award — National Newspaper Publishers 1957
Second Annual Achievement Award — Guardian Association of the Police Department of New York 1958
Man of the Year — Time 1963
American of the Decade — Laundry, Dry Cleaning, and Die Workers International Union 1963
John Dewey Award — United Federation of Teachers 1964
John F. Kennedy Award — Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago 1964
Nobel Peace Prize — 1964 (youngest man to receive the award)
Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights — Jamaican Government 1968
Rosa L. Parks Award — Southern Christian Leadership Conference 1968
Presidential Medal of Freedom — 1977 (posthumous)
Dr. Martin Luther King Day Declared Federal Holiday — 1983 (posthumous)
Dr. Martin Luther King's had full command of his voice and knew how to use it. His vocal style had a quiet, almost gentleness, but it commanded your attention with this focused intensity. When amplified, it became impossible to focus on anything else but his words and passion. His voice was an inspiration, a motivation, and a passionate plea to action. There is no wonder how he became the leader of the civil rights movement, the spokesperson.
We believe that everyone has a voice, and all voices should have representation in the world. Whether it be human voice or digital, the voices that we interact with should sound like the voices surrounding us. Today, organizations are thinking more about the power of voice in their communications and content. We help those organizations imagine the possibilities of a world in which digital voice matched the world of human voice.
Digital voice can be as dynamic, expressive, and representative of the world we hear around us — learn more about AI-Voice.
This is the twenty fifth in our Iconic Black Voices series. Make sure to come back to our blog every day this month as we highlight more iconic Black voices in celebration of Black History Month.
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THE BLACK GAZELLE
MICHELE J MARTIN
By the age of five, Wilma Rudolph battled pneumonia, scarlet fever, and infantile paralysis from the poliovirus. While she recovered from all, she suffered a loss of strength in her left leg and foot and wore a leg brace until she was twelve years old.
For two years, she received weekly physical therapy, while her mother provided daily massage. With this help, she was able to overcome her disabilities and learn to walk again without aid. During this time, she dreamed of becoming the most famous runner in the world.
After regaining her mobility, she chose to start playing basketball like her older sister Yvonne. By the time she was attending Burt High School, she had excelled in both basketball and track. While she was a junior, she qualified to compete in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. Her relay team took home the Bronze medal. When she arrived home, she showed her classmates the medal and decided that she would try for the Gold at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Italy.
In 1958, just weeks before she began attending classes at Tennessee State University in Nashville, she gave birth to her first child. The next year she participated in the Pan American Games in Chicago, winning the Silver in the 100-meter individual and the Gold in the 4x100-meter relay. That same year she won the AAU 200-meter title, a win she defended for the next four years. She then competed at the Olympic trials, setting a world record in the 200-meter dash and qualifying for the Olympic team. She was off to Rome.
Rudolph set many records in Rome. Wilma not only became the first woman to win three Gold medals at the Olympics, but she became the first American woman to win a gold medal in the 100-meter race since 1936. During her opening heat of the 200-meter dash, she set an Olympic record of 23.2 seconds. In 110 °F, her relay team won the 4x100-meter with a world record of 44.4 seconds in the semifinals.
At 20-years old, Wilma Rudolph quickly emerged as one of the most popular athletes of the 1960 Olympics. After Rudolph's wins, she became known throughout the world as "the fastest woman in history" and the "fastest woman on earth." The French nicknamed her "La Perle Noire," and the Italians called her "La Gazzella Nera."
Once Wilma realized her dream to become the most famous runner in the world, she was having difficulty finding her motivation to continue her athletic career. During a race at Stanford University, Russia vs. the United States, Ms. Rudolph made a decision.
Ms. Rudolph's team was running behind Russia in the relay race. Her team grew further behind. As the race continued, she told herself that if she could catch the Russian runner, who was much further ahead, Wilma knew that she would again make history. If she could do that, catch the Russian, she'd retire from running. However, if she didn't catch her, she would continue to run for the next four years until the Tokyo Olympics.
Wilma Rudolph ran the fastest single race of her career, passed the Russian runner, and won the race. As she received a standing ovation in her own country, she thought that it was the grandest moment of her career. So she retired that day and said that she never regretted that decision.
Bronze medal 4 X 100-meter relay — Olympic Games, Melbourne, Australia 1956
World record 200-meter race —Olympic Trials, Texas Christian University
Gold medal 100-meter dash — Olympic Games, Rome, Italy 1960
Gold medal 200-meter dash — Olympic Games, Rome, Italy 1960
Gold medal 4x100-meter relay — Olympic Games, Rome, Italy 1960
AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS
Sullivan Award — 1961
Female Athlete of the Year Award — Associated Press 1961
Babe Didrikson Zaharias Award — 1962
Black Athletes Hall of Fame Inductee — 1973
National Track and Field Hall of Fame Inductee — 1974
Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame Inductee — 1980
U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame Inductee — 1983
Silver Anniversary Award — National Collegiate Athletic Association 1987
National Sports Awards "Great Ones" — 1993
Wilma Rudolph's vocal style was as confident and focused as she was. Despite difficulties, it remained soft, hopeful, and full of optimism. It always sounded like it was filled with appreciation for all she felt blessed to have. We love the joy that emanates when she spoke.
We believe that voices with such characteristics should have more representation in the world, whether it be human voice or digital. Today, organizations are thinking more about the power of voice in their communications and content. We help those organizations imagine the possibilities of a world in which digital voice matched the world of human voice.
Digital voice can be as dynamic, expressive, and representative of the world we hear around us — learn more about AI-Voice.
This is the twenty fourth in our Iconic Black Voices series. Make sure to come back to our blog every day this month as we highlight more iconic Black voices in celebration of Black History Month.
Spread the word
SHERIAN GRACE CADORIA:
A WOMAN WHO REFUSED TO ACCEPT 'NO'
MICHELE J MARTIN
Sherian Grace Cadoria spent nearly three decades in the Army, a career she almost walked away from to join a convent after Vietnam. Knowing she had a gift, her mother convinced her to stay on the path and not give up her career. By the time Cadoria retired, she was the highest-ranking Black woman in the United States military — Brigadier General.
Born to tenant farm laborers in Marksville, Louisiana, Ms. Cadoria was raised by her mother and older siblings after a farm accident injured her father. Kicked in the head by a horse, he refused treatment. The brain trauma severely impacted his behavior, requiring him to be institutionalized until he died.
Sherian's mother moved her and her older siblings shortly after her father's hospitalization because the farm owner wanted a "man to do the work." They found a two-room house with no running water or electricity. Her mother papered the walls with Sears Roebuck catalog pages to reduce the drafts. They slept together in one room and ate and cooked in the other.
As soon as she could walk, Sherian was picking cotton with them in the fields. It would take her an entire day to fill a pillowcase in her first weeks. By the time she was 10, she was picking 250 pounds of cotton a day. Education was her way to a different life.
In Cadoria's junior year, she was selected as the sole recruit to represent Southern University at the Women's Army Corps College Junior training program. In the summer of 1960, she would travel to Alabama and spend four weeks at Fort McClellan, experiencing life as an enlisted soldier. Upon graduating from Southern University, Sherian Cadoria enlisted and received her commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Women's Army Corps.
When she began her career in the Army in 1961, there were jobs and duties she was not allowed to do because she was Black due to Jim Crow laws. When Vietnam began, Lieutenant Cadoria volunteered. Upon arriving in Vietnam, she was assigned to the military police. This assignment was unheard of at this time, as these were traditionally all-male units. This would be yet another first for her in her storied career.
Because of the suffering she saw in Vietnam, she was considering retiring from military service and becoming a Dominican Nun upon her return. Her mother told her, "God wanted you to be a soldier. You now have a responsibility." Cadoria agreed and was determined to be the best soldier she could be. Shortly after this conversation with her mother, she was notified of her selection to attend the Command and General Staff College— the first Black woman to do so.
General Cadoria would continue her career in the Army. As previously stated, at the time of her retirement in 1990, she was the highest-ranking Black female in the United States Military. She paved the way for those that came after her, and today, Nadja West holds the honor of being the highest-ranking Black female in the U.S. military.
Cadoria was a trailblazer. In her twenty-nine year career she achieved the following firsts—
First women to serve as a military police officer
First woman to command an all-male battalion
First woman to lead a criminal investigation brigade
First woman admitted to the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College
First black female Brigadier General
First black female director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Highest ranking Black female in the US military upon her retirement in 1990
First woman and the First African-American inducted into the Louisiana Military Veterans Hall of Honor (2002)
Horatio Alger Award — 2003
Spirit of Giving YWCA — 1999
National Athena Leadership Award — 1998
Woman of the Year - Business and Professional Women's Association —1998
Three Bronze Stars for her 3-year tour of Vietnam
Air Medal for Meritorious Service at Cam Ranh Bay
Legion of Merit Medal
Defense Superior Service Medal
Four Army Commendation Medals
Louisiana Military Veterans Hall of Honor
Brigadier General Cadoria's vocal style is disarmingly soft, sweet, and warm. There is a gentle youthfulness to her voice, which makes her earlier quote about flipping someone on their back and disabling them genuinely fascinating. We love that she sounds like she'd bake you cupcakes. And while she likely would, knowing that Cadoria could also probably use those cupcakes as a weapon to protect us... wow, right? How amazing and inspiring is she?!
Voice matters to us. As speech scientists and technologists who work in voice technology, we spend a lot of time listening to voices and thinking about what they say, beyond just the words. We believe that all voices should be represented— in both the real and virtual worlds, not only in our communities but in our technology: our smart speakers, voice assistants, any applications using digital voices.
Imagine the possibilities if the world of digital voice matched the world of human voice. If it was as dynamic and expressive? If it was representative of the world we hear every day. If digital voice could sound authentic and nuanced and express everything that voices like Sherian Grace Cadoria's voice can? Guess what, it can — learn more about AI-Voice.
This is the twenty first in our Iconic Black Voices series. Make sure to come back to our blog every day this month as we highlight more iconic Black voices in celebration of Black History Month.
Spread the word
HERE FOR A REASON
MICHELE J MARTIN
For the younger generation, Whoopi Goldberg might be ... the co-host of The View. For my generation, she has been the comedic genius to blame for a lifetime of stomach stitches from laughing too much and too hard. But Whoopi hasn't been just trying to make us laugh, she also has been trying to use humor as a way to change the world.
As an award-winning comic and actress, Whoopi Goldberg has made her mark on history, but being famous was never what it was about for Ms. Goldberg. It's always been about much more than just fame.
Since 1986, when she began by hosting the Comic Relief television specials she has sought out and supported charitable organizations whose ethos she believed deeply in. Along the way, she has received awards for her work as an advocate, philanthropist, and spokesperson.
Whoopi received the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Vanguard Award for her dedication and support of the gay and lesbian community in 1999. In 2003, she was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and in 2013 she joined the board of Garden of Dreams, an organization that helps bring life-changing opportunities to young people in need.
Below are just some of the charities that Whoopi Goldberg is involved with and offers her support to:
21st Century Leaders
American Foundation for AIDS Research
American Humane Association
American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign
Bob Woodruff Foundation
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS
Cancer Research Institute
Communities in Schools
Elevate Hope Foundation
Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
Elton John AIDS Foundation
Exploring The Arts
Garden of Dreams
Human Rights Campaign
Legacy of Hope Foundation
Nelson Mandela Children's Fund
New York Cares
Peace Over Violence
Save the Children
Society for Animal Protective Legislation
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
True Colors Fund
Volunteers of America
Whatever It Takes