Every month of black history we celebrate the same cast of historical figures. They are the civil rights activists and abolitionists whose faces we see on calendars and postage stamps. They reappear every February as the nation commemorates African Americans who changed America.

They all deserve their awards. But this month we’re instead focusing on 28 groundbreaking black characters – one for each day in February – who don’t make the history books very often.

Everyone has changed America in profound ways. Many do not fit the traditional definition of a hero. Some were in a bad mood, weighed down by personal demons, and misunderstood by their contemporaries.

One was a mystic, another was a spy posing as a slave, and another was a brilliant but concerned poet who has been referred to as the “Godfather of Rap”. Few were household names. All were pioneers.

It’s time for these American heroes to get their guilt.

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