CBC Members Share Their Black History Inspirations

Members reflect on the people who've inspired them most.

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Living the Dream - From everyday Americans to civil rights legends, each of these people have helped spark generations of new leaders. Here some members of the Congressional Black Caucus recall figures from Black history or from their own communities who've inspired them most.—  Joyce Jones (@BETpolitichick) (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (Ohio) - I am deeply inspired by Shirley Chisholm and her legacy of courage and of service. As the first African-American woman elected to serve in Congress, she was committed to breaking through barriers and overcoming obstacles placed in her way by society's standards. Because of the doors she opened in public service, I and women of color are able to achieve our greatest potential and serve as leaders in communities across this nation and in all sectors of society.(Photos: Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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CBC Chairwoman Marcia Fudge (Ohio) - I am deeply inspired by Shirley Chisholm and her legacy of courage and of service. As the first African-American woman elected to serve in Congress, she was committed to breaking through barriers and overcoming obstacles placed in her way by society's standards. Because of the doors she opened in public service, I and women of color are able to achieve our greatest potential and serve as leaders in communities across this nation and in all sectors of society.(Photos: Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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Rep. John Lewis (Georgia) - Martin Luther King Jr. was my friend, my brother, my mentor, and my leader. If it were not for him, I don’t know where I would be today, probably still picking cotton somewhere outside of Troy, Alabama. Before I met Dr. King, there was an unbelievable fear that filled up all the air and every corner of space all throughout the Deep South. He taught us how we could defend our human dignity and confront a violent adversary with the transformative power of peace. He liberated not just a people, but an entire nation from the burden of hate. (Photo: OFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Rep. Frederica Wilson (Florida) - I have always admired the tenacity and fearlessness of Sojourner Truth. She was a passionate leader and a courageous fighter who championed many of the issues we are still fighting for today. Our ongoing fight to close the economic opportunity gap in Congress is reminiscent of her diligent efforts to secure land grants for newly freed slaves. Like Sojourner Truth, I am led by faith and will continue to be a voice for the voiceless and the downtrodden.   (Photos: Alex Wong/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 

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Rep. Frederica Wilson (Florida) - I have always admired the tenacity and fearlessness of Sojourner Truth. She was a passionate leader and a courageous fighter who championed many of the issues we are still fighting for today. Our ongoing fight to close the economic opportunity gap in Congress is reminiscent of her diligent efforts to secure land grants for newly freed slaves. Like Sojourner Truth, I am led by faith and will continue to be a voice for the voiceless and the downtrodden. (Photos: Alex Wong/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) 

Rep. Lacy Clay (Missouri) - My Black History Month hero is definitely my dad, former Rep. Bill Clay, the first African-American to represent Missouri in Congress, an original co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, a proud veteran and a true champion for civil rights, equal opportunity and justice.(Photo: UPI Photo/Bill Greenblatt/Landov)

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Rep. Lacy Clay (Missouri) - My Black History Month hero is definitely my dad, former Rep. Bill Clay, the first African-American to represent Missouri in Congress, an original co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, a proud veteran and a true champion for civil rights, equal opportunity and justice.(Photo: UPI Photo/Bill Greenblatt/Landov)

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Rep. Bobby Rush (Illinois) - One of our community's most influential and talented leaders was Malcolm X. Malcolm demonstrated the ultimate commitment to uplifting and advancing people of color. He transformed his life and in turn transformed the lives of many others.    (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Bobby L. Rush)

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Rep. Bobby Rush (Illinois) - One of our community's most influential and talented leaders was Malcolm X. Malcolm demonstrated the ultimate commitment to uplifting and advancing people of color. He transformed his life and in turn transformed the lives of many others.  (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Bobby L. Rush)

Rep. Gwen Moore (Wisconsin) - Instead of focusing on the pejorative and singular view of us as slaves and captives, my high school Black history teacher, Jake Beason, opened the door to the important contributions Black folks have made to our society. He exposed me to the rich history of Black people from Africa, and he raised my consciousness about African-Americans and the importance of our continuous struggle for recognition in our society. In all, he helped me overcome my shame of being Black and the legacy of slavery, instilling in me strong self-esteem and self-worth.   (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Gwen Moore)

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Rep. Gwen Moore (Wisconsin) - Instead of focusing on the pejorative and singular view of us as slaves and captives, my high school Black history teacher, Jake Beason, opened the door to the important contributions Black folks have made to our society. He exposed me to the rich history of Black people from Africa, and he raised my consciousness about African-Americans and the importance of our continuous struggle for recognition in our society. In all, he helped me overcome my shame of being Black and the legacy of slavery, instilling in me strong self-esteem and self-worth.  (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Gwen Moore)

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) - Congresswoman Barbara Jordan is a figure in Black history who has inspired me the most. She was a lawyer, legislator, scholar, author, and presidential adviser. She was immensely gifted, and used every bit of her talent and skill to address, improve, and dignify the conditions of human life. She was an unshakable voice for her constituency, supporting legislation to benefit underserved communities and minorities.  (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images) 

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Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) - Congresswoman Barbara Jordan is a figure in Black history who has inspired me the most. She was a lawyer, legislator, scholar, author, and presidential adviser. She was immensely gifted, and used every bit of her talent and skill to address, improve, and dignify the conditions of human life. She was an unshakable voice for her constituency, supporting legislation to benefit underserved communities and minorities. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images) 

Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (New Jersey) - I could not have asked for more inspiring role models than the ones I looked up to in my own family ? my late father, Congressman Donald M. Payne Sr., the first African-American in New Jersey to hold national office, where he left an indelible mark as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, and my uncle, former New Jersey Assemblyman William D. Payne. They paved the way for racial equality in New Jersey. Every day I strive to carry on their legacy and expand upon their exceptional work.?   (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.)

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Rep. Donald Payne Jr. (New Jersey) - I could not have asked for more inspiring role models than the ones I looked up to in my own family — my late father, Congressman Donald M. Payne Sr., the first African-American in New Jersey to hold national office, where he left an indelible mark as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, and my uncle, former New Jersey Assemblyman William D. Payne. They paved the way for racial equality in New Jersey. Every day I strive to carry on their legacy and expand upon their exceptional work.”  (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.)

Rep. Joyce Beatty (Ohio) - When I am fighting today?s battles for justice and equality for all, I often look to Rosa Parks for inspiration and I gain my second wind. Because of a single act of bravery that helped fuel a national movement to end racial segregation, her life is a shining example of what one woman can do through courage and perseverance. I know that because of Rosa Parks? civil rights activism, my voice will be one of change that will continue the fight for voting rights and equal rights and to end discrimination wherever it exists.(Photos: CBS/Landov; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Rep. Joyce Beatty (Ohio) - When I am fighting today’s battles for justice and equality for all, I often look to Rosa Parks for inspiration and I gain my second wind. Because of a single act of bravery that helped fuel a national movement to end racial segregation, her life is a shining example of what one woman can do through courage and perseverance. I know that because of Rosa Parks’ civil rights activism, my voice will be one of change that will continue the fight for voting rights and equal rights and to end discrimination wherever it exists.(Photos: CBS/Landov; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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Rep. Hank Johnson (Georgia) - Frederick Douglass is a man who helped profoundly change America from a nation that once enslaved its people to one that continues to advance toward justice, equality, freedom and fairness for all its people. His sage advice to agitate at every turn continues to inspire great men and women into action, and with each passing generation the march toward freedom and equal opportunity is moving closer to full realization.(Photos: Wikimedia Commons; Kris Connor/Getty Images for TV One)

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Rep. Hank Johnson (Georgia) - Frederick Douglass is a man who helped profoundly change America from a nation that once enslaved its people to one that continues to advance toward justice, equality, freedom and fairness for all its people. His sage advice to agitate at every turn continues to inspire great men and women into action, and with each passing generation the march toward freedom and equal opportunity is moving closer to full realization.(Photos: Wikimedia Commons; Kris Connor/Getty Images for TV One)

Rep. Andr? Carson (Indiana) - I was inspired early in life to become civically active and stand up for my beliefs by my grandmother Congresswoman Julia Carson and the great Muhammad Ali. Both came from humble beginnings, using the prejudice and challenges they faced as motivation to succeed. They worked tirelessly to accomplish their goals and became known as champions in their respective fields. They passionately defended their beliefs and neither was afraid to fight for what was right.  (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Andre Carson)

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Rep. André Carson (Indiana) - I was inspired early in life to become civically active and stand up for my beliefs by my grandmother Congresswoman Julia Carson and the great Muhammad Ali. Both came from humble beginnings, using the prejudice and challenges they faced as motivation to succeed. They worked tirelessly to accomplish their goals and became known as champions in their respective fields. They passionately defended their beliefs and neither was afraid to fight for what was right. (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Andre Carson)

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Rep. Karen Bass (California) - Black Angelenos in particular have played a vital role in American History — from Jackie Robinson, the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, to former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, the second African-American mayor of a major American city and the longest-serving mayor in Los Angeles history. Every day African-American leaders inspire me to continue fighting for our community.(Photo: UPI/Kevin Dietsch/LANDOV)

Rep. Steven Horsford (Nevada) - Ruby Duncan is a living legend whose story has inspired countless activists not to give up hope and to continue fighting for justice. For years, she worked in and out of Nevada hotels, eventually organizing workers, leading protests and demanding fair pay and fair hours. Ruby?s determination led her to be elected president of the Clark County Welfare Rights Organization and in 1971 led nationally publicized marches on the Strip protesting the purge of thousands of struggling Nevada families from programs that help the poor keep their heads above water. Ruby fought for what she believed in and is an inspiration to me and our community.  (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Steven Horsford)

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Rep. Steven Horsford (Nevada) - Ruby Duncan is a living legend whose story has inspired countless activists not to give up hope and to continue fighting for justice. For years, she worked in and out of Nevada hotels, eventually organizing workers, leading protests and demanding fair pay and fair hours. Ruby’s determination led her to be elected president of the Clark County Welfare Rights Organization and in 1971 led nationally publicized marches on the Strip protesting the purge of thousands of struggling Nevada families from programs that help the poor keep their heads above water. Ruby fought for what she believed in and is an inspiration to me and our community. (Photo: Courtesy of Rep. Steven Horsford)