It has often been understood that Black History Month is a time to spend an entire month honoring and remembering Africans
and African Americans who have made history through high accomplishments by overcoming extreme obstacles. So, why is it important
for our country to remember this?
I took the time to read to my children about famous historical figures like a woman named Susan Mckinney Steward. Ms. Mckinney
was the first African American female doctor (1870) in the state of New York at a time when even women doctors were rare.
She had a special interest in homeopathy. Ms. Mckinney opened her own office in Brooklyn and another one in Manhattan. She
also provided medical services to the Buffalo Soldiers. A lecturer and an activist for women's rights, she treated both black
and white patients. Had racism not existed in America, she probably would have been allowed to conduct medical research and
contributed to curing one or two "incurable" diseases.
Ernest Everett Just was an incredible marine biologist who graduated from Dartmouth College with honors in 1907. Because
jobs weren't being offered to African American scientists at that time, his endeavors as a research biologist were put on
hold and he took a teaching job at Howard University. A Phd. in Zoology, some of his research was printed in science textbooks
and magazines but racism had obviously prevented him from getting important jobs in America. Had there been no predjudice,
this great scientist may have helped to prevent the extinction of many sea creatures and wildlife.
Do we ever question why the brilliant George Washington Carver turned down job offers from men such as Thomas Edison and
Henry Ford to teach future African American scientists at Tuskgee Institute for 47 years? Do we as a nation truly understand
why Phillis Wheatley had to recite poetry to prove that she was human? Do we ever wonder about the many Wheatleys and Carvers
that were lost during the Middle Passage? Do we as a nation truly understand the lost this country could have benefitted from
due to slavery and predjudice?
This country could be stronger economically if we prevent the lost of yet another generation of Stewards, Justs and Carvers.
For this country to grow, our doors must remain open to everyone capable and gifted regardless of hue or heritage. Even today,
we have brillance in the African American Communities that is being overlooked due to the situation of education, the media
and economics. There are so many young and gifted minds that are hungry for knowledge and will fall through the cracks. Racism
has only retarded this country's progress and has damaged a nation. Thomas Jefferson's insight knew that equality was the
key to the growth and stability of a great nation.
African Americans have contributed to The Arts and sports, but for the hundreds of Tuskeegee Airmen who were also artists
and athletic, we cannot overlook their excellence in math and physics. As challenges to the freedom and rights of African
Americans still exist, we must always remember the few exceptions who managed to slip through the cracks and make history
and the many more who didn't.
As we read books and watch films with our children honoring and acknowledging our history (American History) during the
month of February, let us emphasize that through acknowledging Black History, America is priviledged to remember just a small
contribution of Black excellence. What we are remembering is only scratching the surface. If it had not been for racism in
this country and had more doors been open, African Americans could have given so much more.