Black history month is celebrated each year during the month of February. During this time, many U.S. citizens and especially the military community, join to celebrate the achievements of African American pioneers, who have contributed in some way or other to our country’s growth.
I’ll be honest and admit that not everyone participates in these observances. Whether it’s because of lack of information or just plain disinterest, many community members, regardless of their race, creed or culture, find it hard to participate in observances that laud a group of people unlike themselves.
The choice of whether or not to participate is just that — a choice. But often, it’s because of lack of information as to what members of the celebrated culture have contributed to America. So I’ve decided to add some clarity and take this deficiency out of the equation.
Besides the better known African Americans who contributed significantly to life in America (and in most cases the world), there have been many lesser known African Americans who have made significant marks in U.S. history.
As for inventors, there is Benjamin Banneker, who developed the first clock built in the United States. In addition to being an accomplished astronomer, Banneker also helped create the layout of the buildings and streets in Washington, D.C.
For anyone who has purchased the Air Jordan or various brand name sneakers, thank Henry Faulkner for creating a ventilated shoe to minimize excessive perspiration and thus, preventing blisters and sores from forming on your feet.
Meredith Gourdine, who won an Olympic silver medal in the long jump in 1952, invented the household air filtration system. It is because of him that we have air filters at home and at work.
Another athlete, Jack Johnson, a boxer who was often the subject of worldwide discrimination, invented the wrench for automotive maintenance.
Inventor Fred Jones was responsible for several inventions that make life simpler for us today, including the portable x-ray machine, the automatic movie ticket dispenser and the refrigerated trucking system.
Garrett Morgan had several inventions also, most notably the gas mask and the automatic traffic signals that keep us safe on our way to work.
Granville Woods, who was often referred to as the “Black Thomas Edison,” was better known for his work with telephony, railway electrical systems and railway safety. Woods actually sued Edison and later accepted a position with the Edison Company.
Patricia Bath created the laser-based device that allows ophthalmologist to perform Lasik surgery to remove cataracts.
In more recent years, young inventor Mark Dean has been applauded for his efforts in creating numerous devices for personal computers. Dean helped revolutionize the computer industry.
Thomas Elkins created the refrigerator and invented the modern commode.
For the kids, it should be noted that Lonnie Johnson, a rocket scientist created the “Super Soaker,” water toy, which has become very popular.
Richard Spikes invented the turn signal and automatic transmission for cars and lastly, Thomas Mensah was well-known for his work with fiber optics.
These are just a few of the black inventors whose works have simplified our lives.
However, there are others who have done just as much in other areas. Perhaps we all know the story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how he spearheaded the fight for racial equality, not only for black Americans, but for all mankind.
And let’s not forget the sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., which continues to make its mark in spreading sisterhood and humanitarian and community service worldwide. In fact, the Deltas sponsored a float that was featured in this year’s Tournament of Roses parade. A fitting tribute as the world’s largest African American sorority celebrates its centennial anniversary this year.
As I said, there are many others who have made valuable contributions to the nation and it gives me great honor to commemorate them through my commentary.
If given a chance to meet any of these pioneers, I imagine I would be speechless, before finally finding the strength to muster these two words: Thank you!