In honor of Black History Month, Indiana Sen. Eddie Melton, of Merrillville, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Times columnist Marc Chase share their thoughts today on historic black figures who helped shape their thoughts and diverse life circumstances.

From a 6-year-old Civil Rights Titan to more familiar homegrown "heroes and sheroes," we hope you enjoy these writers' takes on the importance of black history in their lives.

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Marc is a veteran investigative reporter and editor of more than 15 years, including 10 years at The Times, where he is the investigative editor. He is also the founder of the Calumet Region Civil War Preservation Project.