Thursday, February 5, 2009

Proud of My People

For weeks leading up to Black History Month, I waited with delighted anticipation. Not only was I feeling happy with the new things I've learned about the contributions of blacks in America, but of course I was inspired by my new president. I couldn't wait. As I do with most projects, I had enormous plans. I was going to throw out facts that much of the world's population had never once heard of. I was going to highlight phenomenal African-Americans that most history books wont take time to recognize. I was going to have a month full of history-induced euphoria.

But here it is, the 5th of February, and my blog is still Black History-free. In an attempt to just get something here about the history of those of African ancestry, I'm going against the ways of many black pioneers...I'm cheating! I Googled "Black History Month" and found some really interesting facts (a hundred and one, to be exact) on the site. Here are just a few:

  • George Monroe and William Robinson are thought to be the first black Pony Express riders. At one point Monroe was also a stagecoach driver for President Ulysses S. Grant and would navigate through the curving Wanona Trail in the Yosemite Valley. Monroe Meadows in Yosemite National Park is named for George Monroe.
  • Otis Boykin (1920 -1982) invented electronic control devices for guided missiles, IBM computers, and the control unit for a pacemaker.
  • Harriet Ann Jacobs (1813 – 1897) was a slave who published “Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl” in 1861 under the pseudonym Linda Brent. The book chronicles the hardships and sexual abuse she experienced as a female growing up in slavery. Jacobs fled slavery in 1835 by hiding in a crawlspace in her grandmother’s attic for nearly seven years before traveling to Philadelphia by boat, and eventually to New York. Jacobs was active in feminist anti-slavery movements.
  • The “306 Group” was a guild–like club that provided support and apprenticeship for African–American artists during the 1940s. It was founded by the artist Charles Alston at 306 West 141st street in Harlem and served as a studio and meeting place for some of the 20th century’s most prominent African–American artists such as the poet Langston Hughes, the sculptor Augusta Savage, the painter Jacob Lawrence, and the collage artist Romare Bearden.
  • Nat Love “Deadwood Dick” (1854 – 1921 ) a renowned and skilled cowboy, was the only African–American cowboy known to have written his autobiography, “The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as Deadwood Dick”, published in 1907.
  • Thomas L. Jennings (1791 - 1859) was the first African-American to receive a patent in 1821. It was for a dry-cleaning process in 1821. He used the money earned from the patent to purchase relatives out of slavery and support abolitionist causes.

These are just a few. More important is the understanding that not all blacks who have contributed great things to the world will ever be known by anyone but God. Perhaps some of the greatest are yet to be recognized. Who knows the talent that lies orphaned and crying in Darfur? Who sees the gifted minds that sit in our schools are influenced to quit in order to earn a living and help meet their family's needs? Honestly, only God knows the greatness that he has given? Who knows but him how much of his gifts have been traded or lost? It's a sad fact. But for those whom we are aware of, we should feel obligated to recognize and honor.

Hopefully, I've talked myself into doing better for tomorrow.

No comments: