This is Texas Originals. From Humanities Texas, for the advancement of heritage, culture, and education.
When the Texas House of Representatives met in January 1973, three of the new members were the first African Americans elected to the House since Reconstruction. One of these, twenty-eight-year-old Mickey Leland, entered the Capitol wearing an Afro and a vibrant dashiki. The New York Times described him as "a jolt to the conservative Texas body."
Raised in Houston, Leland was committed to providing jobs for minorities and health care for the poor. After earning a degree in pharmacy from Texas Southern University, he pushed city officials to establish public health clinics in low-income communities.
Leland remained in the state legislature until 1978, when he won Barbara Jordan's seat in the U.S. Congress. In Washington, he continued to fight for social justice and minority rights.
Leland is best remembered for his fight to end global starvation. He helped create the House Select Committee on World Hunger and in 1985, urged Congress to send $800 million in famine relief funds to Africa. Tragically, on his sixth trip to Africa, a plane carrying Leland and fifteen others crashed en route to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
Leland often quoted the Talmud, saying, "If you save one life, you save the whole world." Today, the Congressional Hunger Center honors his legacy through the Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows Program, which trains leaders in ending global starvation.
More information about this Texas Original is available at Texasoriginals.org. This program is produced by KUHF Houston Public Radio and Humanities Texas, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.