descendants include a number of prominent politicians such as David Dinkins, the first black mayor of NYC, as well as countless less famous men and women carrying on his legacy. Archer paved the way for African Americans in the military as well as for every black executive who has risen through the corporate ranks. He also worked with late financier Reginald F. Lewis to create TLC Beatrice International, the first black-owned billion-dollar corporation. Thank God both men lived to see Barack Obama become president. He, too, is a beneficiary of their lives’ work.
Their stories are extraordinary, not merely for what they achieved but for who they were–loving fathers and husbands, consummate gentlemen, mentors, philanthropists, loyalists to the bone. One has to remember that nothing came easily to them. They had to fight for every opportunity, they had to push for every inch of progress. They battled in defense of this country’s ideals abroad, only to return to a lifetime of battling for racial and economic justice and their fair share on the home front. But they never gave in to despair or bitterness. They never quit. And that determination, in the end, is what makes them giants whose legacies will far outlast their years on this earth.
To truly honor the Suttons and Archers among us, we can’t be content to let their “greatest generation” title stand. They wouldn’t want that. That’s why I’m calling on the next generation of black leaders and courageous visionaries, dedicated soldiers in the ongoing battle for equal justice and opportunity, to be the giants our world needs now. It’s time for the renewal that a new season brings.
This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.