February 25, 2019.
February is most profoundly known for Valentine’s Day… the day partners shower their significant others with meaningful gifts and special treatment. Recently, it has also become known for another tragic day in American history: the Marjory Stoneman Douglas/Parkland Shooting which also happens to land on Valentine’s Day. With the observance of the unrelated histories of these two events this month, it is possible that many people will forget that February is also the month to celebrate Black History, but the heroes that have contributed to this glorious month are not all forgotten.
There are many African Americans that we know played a big role to Black History such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman. They’re the African Americans all social studies teachers across America recognized every time Black history month came around during grade and middle school. But what about the other black people like Bessie Coleman, Fritz Pollard and Joseph Rainey. These are people who broke barriers and paved the way for people like MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks, yet they aren’t acknowledged enough and people… even black people… know little to nothing about them. In honor Black History Month, these are some people who paved the way for black people today and become the first Black African Americans to achieve accomplishments in aviation, politics, academics and sports.
- Bessie Coleman –First Black CivilianTo Become A Licensed Pilot
Bessie Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas in 1892 to a family with 13 children. She’s dreamt of soaring through the sky since she was a young child, so she went to France in 1919 in search of a flight school that was willing to teach her everything she needed to know about flying. She then returned to the U.S as the first black civilian to be a licensed pilot in the world in 1921. Coleman used her platform to perform different air show events, give speeches and lectures, and most importantly open an African American flying school. Her fame and glory were brought short from a test flight that went wrong in 1926, which led to her death.
- Fritz Pollard –First Black NFL Coach
Fritz Pollard had an historic football career at Brown University despite being small. He’s played football before, but he wasn’t put on the map until he started playing at the Ivy League school. He was the first black player to be selected for the Walter Camp All- American team and play in the Rose Bowl. He later joined the American Professional Football league, now known as the NFL, in 1920 as a member of the Akron Pros. He faced adversity and racism but instead of giving up and throwing in the towel, he persevered and became the first black coach in the NFL. He then took rein of the Akron Pros, his former team, a year after the team won their first title.
- Joseph Rainey –First Black PersonTo Win Seat In U.S. House of Representatives
Joseph Rainey is a South Carolina native, who was called to serve in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He fled to the United States with his wife and went to Bermuda, where the couple gained a notable amount of wealth in 1862. Rainey utilized his status to become an active participant in the Republican Party when he returned to the U.S. a couple of years later. In 1870, he won a seat in the North Carolina state senate and became the first Black person to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Alexander Twilight –First Black PersonTo Graduate From a U.S. College
Alexander Twilight grew in Corinth, Vermont during the turn of the 18th century. He worked on a neighbor’s farm while learning how to read and write. He was finally able to put himself through school at Randolph’s Orange County Grammar School when he was 20. He transferred to Vermont’s Middleburg College when he was a junior six years later. He graduated in 1823, becoming the first black person to earn a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. College. Twilight went to become a teacher, molding the minds of students for generations to come.
The common misconception as to why Black history month shouldn’t be celebrated is “Black history month wasn’t made for me because I’m not black.” Although Black history month was dedicated to black people who fought for the future generations of black people, everyone should celebrate because in some way, shape or form, black history helped form other cultures into what they’ve become.