"Black Man" - Who is Stevie Singing About?

I was listening to Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life on our new record player recently and the track "Black Man" came on.  I have to admit that I didn't really know this one but it's great, just like the entire album is great.  

The album was released in 1976 - the bicentennial of the U.S.  The song, co-written with Gary Byrd, is a reminder that "we all played a part in America"... men and women of "all colors, all races".  The song lists (or at least references) about twenty individuals with a brief note about how they contributed.    

I've included the chorus sections and then follow with links to magazine and encyclopedia articles, books, DVDs, etc. to learn more about all these great people.  

"Black Man"

Chorus verses:  

We pledge allegiance, all our lives
To the magic colors, Red, blue and white
But we all must be given the liberty that we defend
For with justice not for all men history will repeat again
It's time we learned
This World Was Made For All Men

Now I know the birthday of a nation
Is a time when a country celebrates
But as your hand touches your heart
Remember we all played a part in America
To help that banner wave

This world was made for all men
God saved His world for all men
All people, All babies, All children, All colors, All races
This world's for you and me
This world, My world, Your world, Everybody's world
This world, Their world ,Our world
This world was made for all men

Crispus Attucks - the first man to die for the flag we now hold high

Pedro Alonzo Niño - the guide of a ship on the first Columbus trip

Dr Daniel Hale Williams - the first man to successfully perform heart surgery

Squanto - helped the Pilgrims to survive

César Chávez - lifted farm workers' rights to new heights

Thomas Edison - invented incandescent light

Benjamin Banneker - helped design the nation's capitol, made the first clock to give time in America and wrote the first almanac

Sacagawea - scout who used no chart to help Lewis and Clark

Abraham Lincoln - leader with a pen who signed his name to free all men

Matthew Henson - first man to set foot on the North Pole 

Sing Kee - soldier of Company G who won high honors for his courage and heroism in World War I

Dr. Charles Drew - founder of blood plasma and the director of the Red Cross blood bank 

Hayakawa - famous educator and semanticist who made outstanding contributions to education in America

Garrett Morgan - invented the world's first stop light and the gas mask

Harvey Williams Cushing - American surgeon who was one of the founders of neurosurgery

Hiawatha - legendary hero who helped establish the League of Iroquois

Michio Kushi - leader of the first macrobiotic center in America

Jean Baptiste - founder of the city of Chicago in 1772

Dennis Banks - one of the organizers of the American Indian Movement

Luis de Santangel - Jewish financier who raised founds to sponsor Christopher Columbus' voyage to America

Harriet Tubman - woman who led countless slaves to freedom on the underground railroad

The people mentioned in Stevie Wonder's song can be explored in the online databases provided to customers of the Denver Public Library. Most of the databases are available remotely to customers with a Denver Public Library card.

Don't have a library card? Check out how to get one now!

Have questions? Just ASK US! by phone, chat or email!

Written by Frank on July 9, 2014


Bobby on July 9, 2014


Oddly enough this song came on my iPod in shuffle mode on July 3rd and I was struck by how appropriate it was in light of Independence Day celebration. I hadn't heard it in years! Thanks for the back story and breaking it all down.


It's an awesome song... I can't stop playing the album. I'm one of those who goes to an album and then listens to it over and over for days on end! Enjoy it!

Anonymous on July 10, 2014


Wow, cool

Diane on July 11, 2014


Do you really have a record player?

Brittany Robinson on August 9, 2014


Amazing blog!! Great information :)

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