Throughout history – and still today – certain groups of people have experienced the perils of oppression. We believe that the power of knowledge, openness, and compassion for others can remedy such negativity.
In February we celebrate Black History Month with so many others. It’s a month to set aside specifically to observe the several achievements, contributions and rich history of Black people in the United States. It’s also a time to honor individuals who’ve left everlasting legacies despite the wrath of hate.
About Black History Month
Since the 1890’s, Black communities in the United States have celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’s birthdays in honor of their impact on Black history. It wasn’t until Dr. Carter G. Woodson traveled to Washington D.C. for the 50th anniversary of nationwide emancipation that he had the idea of creating the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Woodson’s inspiration gave rise to his lifelong commitment to encouraging the study of black life and history. Ultimately, he advocated for its institutionalizing as being part of formal education.
Continuing to pay homage to Lincoln and Douglass, Woodson first coined “Negro History Week” as a week-long event in February 1926. The week sought to educate individuals by commemorating Black achievements, contributions, and history within the United States. Furthermore, The U.S. National Park Service also indicates that both Woodson and supporters utilized, “Educational materials each year, such as lesson plans, pictures, scripts for historical performances, and posters,” to help spread knowledge.
Fifty years later, former President Ford further recognized Woodson’s social initiative by extending the celebration to a full month, officially making February Black History Month. In his own words, the month was to “honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
Honoring Black Achievements
History often accounts for the ups and downs experienced by human society, including the complicated mark of oppression. Despite negative repercussions like systemic racism, stereotypes, and segregation, Black Americans have found ways to contribute to the greater good. In celebration, here are ten little-known yet notable Black American figures that have made significant strides within Black history and society as a whole.
Selected to join the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) astronaut training program, Jemison became the first African-American female astronaut to travel to space in 1992 aboard the Endeavor space shuttle.
Known as a poet, activist, musician, social critic and spoken-word performer in New York City, Scott-Heron was an influential catalyst to the groundwork of rap music in the 1970s.
Despite being rejected by U.S. flight schools for her race and gender, Coleman earned her pilot’s license from the Caudron Brothers’ School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France on June 15, 1921.
Mark E. Dean is revered as one of the International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation’s brightest engineering minds. He holds 20 patents and was behind the team that developed a system that allows computers to communicate with printers and other devices.
Winning 11 Grand Slam titles and being golf’s first Black player on the LPGA tour, Gibson is remembered as one of the world’s elite athletes in history.
Starting his broadcasting and journalism career in 1978, Robinson broke barriers by becoming America’s first Black anchor in a major city on a network newscast.
Acclaimed as the “Father of the Blood Bank”, Drew was paramount “in conceiving, organizing, and directing America’s first large-scale blood banking program during the early years of World War II.” He also helped train a new generation of surgeons at Howard University.
“Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Ella Baker was an organizer within the NAACP, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She encouraged people to become activists within their communities and not solely rely on captivating leaders.
A gifted inventor, Garrett Morgan patented numerous inventions including “an improved sewing machine and traffic signal, a hair-straightening product, and a respiratory device that would later provide the blueprint for WWI gas masks.”
Jane Bolin was the first Black woman to graduate from Yale Law School, join the New York City Bar Association, and ultimately become the nation’s first Black female judge. She would go on to serve for a total of 40 years.
Our world benefits when we each put in the effort to learn about one another, despite our differences. We encourage everyone to get involved and join the celebration. We can do this by supporting Black-owned businesses, donating to charities, or even researching more about the significance of Black history within America.
And we don’t have to limit it to February only. Be involved all year long. You’ll make a lasting and impactful contribution within your own communities – the best place to start.