By Michelle Porchia
We celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. in January. Now Black History Month, celebrated throughout February, is here. The precursor to Black History Month was created in 1926 in the United States when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be "Negro History Week." In 1976, fifty years after the first celebration, the Association used its influence to institutionalize the shifts from a week to a month and from Negro history to Black history. Since the mid-1970s, every American president, Democrat and Republican, has issued proclamations endorsing the Association’s annual theme.
When people think of Black History Month, people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriett Tubman are usually the names that pop up. I’d like to challenge to explore and understand (not to take anything away from these people) that there are so many more Black people that have made major contributions. Secondly, it’s not only Black history, it is American history.
Katherine Johnson helped synch Project Apollo’s Lunar Lander with the moon-orbiting Command and Service Module. She also worked on the Space Shuttle and the Earth Resources Satellite, and authored or coauthored 26 research reports.
Jane Wright played a major breakthrough in cancer treatment and the development of chemotherapy in the 1940s.
Percy Julian was a pioneering chemist whose research at academic and corporate institutions led to the chemical synthesis of drugs to treat glaucoma and arthritis. He is regarded as one of the most influential chemists in American history.
Frederick M. Jones invented the Air Conditioner (AC).
Alexander Miles invented the Elevator.
Osbourn Dorsey invented the Door Knob/Door Stopper.
Garrett Morgan was the inventor of Traffic Light/Gas Mask.
J. Standard invented the Refrigerator.
T.A Carrington was the inventor of the Stove.
Joseph N. Jackson invented and patented the TV Remote Control.
Thomas Stewart was the inventor of the Mop.
Mary Van Brittan Brown invented the Home Security System Co in 1966.
Frederick McKinley Jones invented the Refrigerated Trucks in 1940.
Shirley Ann Jackson conducted breakthrough research that led others to invent Caller ID and Call Waiting.
Alexander Miles invented the Automatic Elevator Doors in 1887.
Lewis Latimer invented the Carbon Light Bulb Filament in 1881.
Elijah McCoy invented a lubrication device to make railroad operations more efficient.
Daniel Hale Williams was also one of the first physicians to successfully complete pericardial surgery on a patient. Williams later became chief surgeon of the Freedmen’s Hospital.
This list barely touches on the many contributions that Black people have made to American history and everyday life. It is unfortunate that we have some states and people who are trying to change the contributions that Black people have made in history; for example, saying slaves were happy and they “worked” for plantation owners.
My hopes are that we won’t need Black History Month in the future because I would like to believe that students will be taught “history” and the contributions ALL people have made to history, regardless of their color or gender. This would also impact the understanding of diversity. Until then, let us start learning about the various contributions people of color have made. There is more to Black people than slavery and protests.
Book Debra, Michelle, Nancy or Carole for your next speaking engagement or training event.