Celebrating Black History Month with Unsung Pioneers

BlackHistoryMonth3by Patricia L. Dickson2/14/15
Black History month is set aside for celebrating the contributions and accomplishments of black Americans. However, the month of February has instead been hijacked by race-baiters masquerading as Civil Rights leaders, angry black celebrities, and Democrats as a time to air grievances. During Black History month, they trot out the same blacks that they deem worthy to be celebrated year after year while ignoring those who have made important contributions in spite of facing real racism and discrimination while paving the way for other black Americans. Many of these pioneers were able to accomplish great things just a few years after the abolition of slavery, prior to the Civil Rights Act and without the help of Affirmative Action.  For this reason, I have decided to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of these courageous brilliant black pioneers:

    • Charles Henry Turner Educator, Zoologist, Scientist (1867–1923) He was the first person to discover that insects can hear and alter behavior based on previous experience and the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in zoology from the University of Chicago. He pioneered research techniques in the study of animal behavior and made several important discoveries that advanced our understanding of the natural world. His father worked as a custodian and his mother was a practical nurse, both actively encouraged him to read and learn. Turner excelled at his studies, graduating from Gaines High School in 1886 as class valedictorian.
    • Kelly Miller Mathematician (1863–1939) He became the first black man to be admitted to study at Johns Hopkins University, where he did postgraduate work in mathematics, physics, and astronomy until 1889. He earned his undergraduate degree from Howard University having excelled in Latin and Greek as well as math and sociology. His father, Kelly Miller Sr., was a Confederate soldier, and his mother, Elizabeth Roberts, was a former slave.
    • Allen Allensworth Military Leader, Chaplain, Nurse (1842-1914) He was the first African American to reach the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1908, he founded Allensworth, California, the only town in the state to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. Allen Allensworth was born into slavery in Kentucky. After he was sold to another man, he escaped in 1862 with the help of union soldiers, became a member of 44th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and served as a civilian nursing aide. He later joined the Navy and served two years. After being honorably discharged from the Navy, he was ordained as a minister, and served as Kentucky’s only black delegate to the Republican National conventions of 1880 and 1884. After a two-year campaign in which he solicited the support of Congressmen John R. Lynch of Mississippi and Senator Joseph E. Brown of Georgia, President Grover Cleveland signed his appointment as Chaplain of the 24th Infantry Regiment. He served in the US Army for 20 years, retiring in 1906.
    • Mary Jane Patterson  Educator (c. 1840–1894) became the first African-American woman to receive a college degree when she graduated from Oberlin College in 1862. The daughter of fugitive slaves, she went on to have an illustrious career as an educator. After graduation, Mary Jane Patterson taught at the Institute for Colored Youths in Philadelphia, and then accepted a teaching position in Washington D.C at the Preparatory High School for Colored Youths. In 1871, she became the first black principal of the newly founded Preparatory High School for Negroes.
    • Phillis Wheatley Poet (c. 1753–1784) at the age of eight, she was kidnapped and brought to Boston on a slave ship. Upon her arrival, John Wheatley purchased the young girl as a servant for his wife, Susanna. The Wheatleys educated Phillis and she soon mastered Latin and Greek, and began writing poetry.  She published her first poem at age 12, and her first volume of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, in 1773.
    • Marian Anderson  Diplomat, Singer (1897–1993) the first African American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera; the first African American ever to receive the honor of being invited to perform at the White House for the President and First lady. Much of Anderson’s life would ultimately see her breaking down barriers for African-American performers. Anderson’s was denied the opportunity to perform  at Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall because of a policy put in place by the D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution)  that committed the hall to being a place strictly for white performers. When word leaked out to the public about what had happened, an uproar ensued, led in part by Eleanor Roosevelt, who invited Anderson to perform instead at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday. In front of a crowd of more than 75,000, Anderson offered up a riveting performance that was broadcast live for millions of radio listeners.
    • Benjamin Banneker  Astronomer, Scientist (1731–1806) became a self-educated astronomer by watching the stars and in mathematics by reading borrowed textbooks. Banneker’s acclaim came from his almanac, which he published for six consecutive years between 1792 and 1797. These almanacs included his own astronomical calculations as well as opinion pieces, literature, and medical and tidal information, among other things. He was appointed by President George Washington to the District of Columbia Commission. He was the son of an ex-slave named Robert, whose wife, Mary Banneky, was the daughter of an Englishwoman and an African ex-slave.
    • Carter G. Woodson Historian (1875–1950) African-American writer and historian known as the “Father of Black History Month.”  Woodson lobbied schools and organizations to participate in a special program to encourage the study of African-American history, which began in February 1926 with Negro History Week. The program was later expanded and renamed Black History Month. Woodson chose the month February to honor the birth months of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln. He was one of the first African Americans to receive a doctorate from Harvard; Woodson dedicated his career to the field of African-American history and lobbied extensively to establish Black History Month as a nationwide institution.

Reading about the lives of these black Americans has been a welcomed breath of fresh air in contrast to the negative grievances playing out daily in the mainstream media. Every black child should be required to read about the accomplishments of these black pioneers rather than spending Black History month celebrating rappers, professional athletes and race-baiters.


PatriciaDicksonPatricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner.
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9 Responses to Celebrating Black History Month with Unsung Pioneers

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    One I would add is George Washington Carver, the agronomist who devised several hundred uses for peanuts after farmers who followed his advice to plant them began to wonder what they were going to do with so many peanuts. I first read seriously about him in a Reader’s Digest condensation of a biography of him, and later read another biography. Of course, it also helps that Elizabeth thinks she’s related to the family that originally owned him (and, knowing what we do about slavery, that could make her an actual relative). There’s some sort of memorial at the Carver farm in southwestern Missouri, and if we ever happen to visit near that area, I’d like to visit it.

  2. Anniel says:

    Another celebration of America. Truly great people of all ethnic backgrounds and gender need to be held in esteem. We need more of these role models out in view for everyone to see. This is a very important essay. Thanks, Patricia and God bless you.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Considering her views, it’s clear that Patricia is living in a parallel universe.

    Fortunately I inhabit that universe as well. It’s a shame and a true tragedy that more do not.

  4. Rosalys says:

    Thank you, Patricia, for this list of black Americans, who are for no good reason, lesser known. There are so many fine role models for black youth (for all youth, really!) from history as well as present day. It’s more than a shame, it is shameful, that success in black culture is considered “too white.” By that reasoning is the “black” thing to do to fail? It’s lunacy!

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I found that book by Phillis Wheatley on Amazon.com: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. It’s free for the Kindle. I’ve updated Patricia’s article to show the link as well. I’m by no means a big fan of standard poetry, but I’ll give it a perusal.

    I find all these fellows and fellowettes to be fascinating. And we shouldn’t lose sight over the fact that they are being honored for accomplishing something with their lives. There are no gold stars being handed out by Patricia just for purposes of “self-esteem.” It’s easy to forget that America is a meritocracy and was never meant to be a victimocracy. We may not reach the status of these examples, but they can be an inspiration to us. We all have God-given talents that we can use, humble and non-flashy though those talents might be.

    I love that Benjamin Banneker was accomplished in astronomy and got there by being self-educated from borrowed text books. Think about that for a moment. Think about the young men and young women who go to college today, drink themselves into near unconsciousness, have wanton sex, and specialize in junk subjects such as “gender studies” (or even now “black studies”). Here’s a man that shows there is no excuse whatsoever for not doing what it is you want to do. It may take time. It may take hard work. But there’s nothing stopping you but yourself. Mr. Banneker, despite the ravages of slavery, was far more American in attitude than any of the moochers on welfare (of whatever color) or those young kooks on college campuses (or elsewhere) who find America an almost unbearable place to live because birth control isn’t free and other trivialities.

    I’m not really a fan of “Black History Month.” Accomplishment should know no color. But there are special reasons to note the accomplishments of blacks, particularly those close on the heels of the Civil War, long before all the “civil rights” laws were passed, long before President Johnson fought his “war on poverty” and forever stained the hopes of many black families by miring them in welfare and grievance — to the point where people have to even write articles like this one.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I had heard of Banneker. I wonder if the black woman protagonist of Stephen Carter’s novel about Lincoln being impeached was based on (or inspired by) Patterson.

      My sister mentioned during the late 1960s that radical blacks had no use for George Washington Carver, though apparently it was because they thought he was too much an Uncle Tom rather than because he was a scientists and educator. Today, though . . . perhaps even worst for the radicals would be his not needing special privileges to succeed. Perhaps that’s what t hey really mean by “acting white”.

  6. SkepticalCynic SkepticalCynic says:

    I have a good bit of respect for you Patricia. However, I am only a bit reluctant to say that the fact that we have a “Black History Month” and no White History Month is a fine example of racism in America.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Cynic, I share some of you reticence.

      In a perfect world, there would be no “History Month” based upon the color of one’s skin. But let’s give Patricia her due. She is advocating that these specific people she listed are the type who should be recognized because of achievement — achievement against often difficult odds — and not because they are professional victims or have become little more than a symbol for victimhood. She is doing the opposite of what “Black History Month” has become, in practice, which is that of a rallying point for black grievance and separatism.

      Granted, I think any discussion of “Black History Month” that doesn’t take into account the problem people would have with “White History Month” is ignoring some very big and caustic assumptions that have leaked into society via Cultural Marxism. One of those core ideas is that white people are inherently guilty and worthy of denigration and that all “people of color” are victims and worthy of veneration.

      I don’t play that game. And I think keeping alive the era of slavery is of limited value. At some point it will be like Obama reaching back a thousand years to excuse Islam by saying, “But what about those awful Crusaders?”

      And it’s inherent that “Black History Month” feeds into identity politics. It’s probably past time to do away with race-based “celebration” of anything unless it is done (as Patricia has done) in a positive and enlightened way. I have no problem honoring these men and women who achieved great things under the most difficult of circumstances. They can remain an inspiration to all of us…and should be regardless of the color of one’s skin.

      In a perfect world, that is. Many of the notions above would be extremely offensive to those indoctrinated into the grievance paradigm. Unless you “honor” that grievance, you’re assumed to be some kind regressive or even a racist.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Frederick Douglass wanted nothing from the government, arguing that they had already done quite enough by allowing whites to enslave blacks. Perhaps we could advertise such views during Black History Month. It would fit the purpose and actually accomplish some good.

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