by Patricia L. Dickson 2/14/15
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.
Patricia Dickson blogs at Patricia’s Corner.
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