We celebrate Black History month every February. We have been celebrating Black History month every February since 1976 when President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History month.
President Ford’s charge at that time was for the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
That’s what I want to do here. I want to point to some of the lesser known African Americans who effected change that we experience even today.
The first person I want to discuss is an amazing woman who is more well known than the rest of the list but I believe is still under appreciated for what she did. She was an evangelist, abolitionist, and feminist, born into slavery, and sold with a flock of sheep for $100. In the 1800s she filed a lawsuit to free her son from slavery. She fought for slaves to be able to fight for their freedom, met with President Lincoln, and fought just as hard for women’s rights as she did slaves’. Her name is Sojourner Truth. Here is a brief video about her life.
What a remarkable woman that saw an injustice and dedicated her life to fighting it. Not just for slaves but for women as well. She didn’t let how society saw her keep her from doing what she knew was right and God honoring.
There is a pretty good chance many of you have heard of Ms. Truth, but there are many more who did incredible things to move forward Black History yet remain unknown.
Like Claudette Colvin.
Nine months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, a then 15-year-old Claudette Colvin did the same. On March 2, 1955, Colvin was taking the bus home from high school when the driver ordered her to give up her seat, according to NPR. Colvin refused, saying she paid her fare and it was her constitutional right, but was then arrested by two police officers. Colvin later became the main witness in the federal lawsuit Browder v. Gayle, which ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama. (https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/news/g4431/black-history-month-unsung-heroes/?slide=2)
Then there is Daisy Bates.
Bates was a civil rights activist best known for her work on behalf of the Little Rock Nine. Bates and her husband founded the Arkansas State Press, a weekly African-American newspaper that advocated for civil rights (biography.com). In 1952, Bates became the president of the NAACP’s Arkansas branch and in 1957, Bates fought for the Little Rock Nine, the nine black students who were attending an all-white school as part of the school’s desegregation (PBS reports). Bates escorted the students to the school amid intense opposition and heavy threats and continued to advocate for the students once they were enrolled. She is honored by the State of Arkansas with a state holiday on the third Monday of February.
There are many more “unsung heroes” in Black History; these are just a few. There is a saying that goes, “Those who cannot learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” This is one of the reasons I think learning about Black History is so important. There are many schools that are just as segregated as they were during Daisy Bates’ time. Sometimes I wonder if we have neglected learning about some of these pioneers in equality and we are starting to repeat our history. There are black parts of towns and Asian parts of towns and Mexican parts of towns in every state, and those communities have schools that are filled with students that all look the same. That’s not how God intended for community to look. He made us all different not because one is better (Jesus wasn’t white.) than the other but because we are all made beautifully different. We look different and have different skills that are made to be used for the work of the Gospel.
Acts 17:26 says
“26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place”
Here Paul is talking to the citizens in Athens and Biblical Scholar F. F. Bruce said, “the Athenians . . . pride themselves on being . . . sprung from the soil of their native Attica. . . . They were the only Greeks on the European mainland who had no tradition of their ancestors coming into Greece; they belonged to the earliest wave of Greek immigration.” This is something they took great pride in and Paul points out to them that Jews, Romans, barbarians all came from the same man by God’s hand at God’s will.
We all come from Adam. Black, white, Asian, Latino, everyone. No one is any better than the other. Early in our country’s history, that truth was not practiced. And sometimes in 2019, it seems like it’s not a truth we are all holding.
So I’m thankful for months like Black History month to remind us of some of the folks who went through great adversity to remind people that we were all made from one man by the hand of God at His will for a purpose to further the Gospel. Some of our older generations are messing that up right now but if the younger generations can remember, maybe we won’t repeat some of the sins of the past.
Lewis Latimer is considered one of the ten most important Black inventors of all time. I’m sure that everyone has heard of a guy name Thomas Edison. He’s that one guy that invited the light bulb!
Well, Lewis Latimer took the light bulb to the next level. Edison’s bulb could only last a few days, so Mr. Latimer invented a way to make the bulb last much longer also making it less expensive and more efficient.
Lewis Latimer is the reason that we have light bulbs on the streets and in our homes.
That’s not all he did; he improved bathrooms on trains, created better ways to display books, created racks to hang your clothes, he developed a method to make rooms more hygienic and climate controlled, and many other things. He was a brilliant mind born of two slaves.
My prayer is that we all take time this month to read a book by an African American author or talk to someone who does not look like us and ask them about adversities they have faced in their life. Look into some African Americans in the past who have done great things that you have never heard of before, then tell someone about it. Honestly my prayer is that instead of just knowing it is Black History month and appreciating the African American history, do something to move forward the African American culture in some way.