Every February, the United States celebrates Black History Month to remember those who fought tooth and nail for the rights of everyone living today.
Black history is a significant part of America’s narrative. While some may like to hearken back to times when America was supposedly great, others carry with them a living memory of oppression, bondage and a constant battle for the equality of all Americans.
Today, elementary schools pay homage to black history by educating children on prominent historical events and figures, such as Rosa Parks boldly telling the white bus driver “No,” and the Greensboro sit-in of 1960 where brave African-American students protested after being denied service at a segregated lunch counter.
However, there are plenty of important names in black history that public education barely skims.
Inventor and scientist George Washington Carver was born into slavery under his owner Moses Carver. Both Moses and his wife taught him to read and write because no schools would allow black students to enroll.
Despite being denied by grade schools and colleges because of his race, he managed to graduate from Iowa State and was hired to watch over Tuskegee Institute’s agricultural department.
Carver showed that even though the color of his skin hindered his access to education, it did not define him.
Muslim minister Malcolm X was sentenced to prison in 1946 for breaking and entering and theft. During his sentence, Malcolm X joined and became a well-known leader of the Nation of Islam.
Despite the accusations of encouraging racism and violence, Malcolm X was an advocate for black empowerment and human rights.
Social reformer Frederick Douglass catered to the abolitionist movement by escaping from slavery.
His eloquence helped to persuade a nation that slaves were capable of being intelligent American citizens.
Douglass will remain a prominent figure based on his autobiographies, his support of the abolitionist movement and his distinguished oral ability.
Entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker earned the title of the wealthiest African American woman after establishing her own laboratories to distribute her African American hair products.
However, before being an aspiring saleswoman and the first African American female millionaire, she started life on a cotton plantation as Sarah Breedlove. Out of her five siblings, she was the first freeborn in her family.
After developing a scalp disorder, Walker started mixing home and store-bought hair products to relieve her hair condition.
Madam Walker created her empire by working hard, promoting herself and following through; all attributes that showed powerful leadership skills to follow.
No doubt many of our readership will have learned new names at the end of this editorial.
But the education cannot end here.
It is essential for us to know these names and remember these names, not only because of black history, but because of their long-lasting contributions to humanity at large. Black history is not merely black history; it is history that underlines a shared human experience recognizing all.
The Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) is hosting a Black History Showcase on Feb. 29 at 3 p.m. in Memorial Auditorium. It can be a great opportunity to learn more about powerful black figures.