Black History Month acknowledges our past as a foundation for us to build upon so we may become better citizens and, together, form a better nation. Let’s turn our attention to accomplishments by famous Black American that you should know.
- The first African American woman to fly in space is now inspiring the next generation to reach for the stars. Dr. Mae Jemison is a trained engineer, medical doctor and an astronaut who started a program called “The Earth We Share” shortly after retiring. The program exposes children to science, technology, engineering and math.
- The NASCAR Hall of Fame inducts an African-American driver for the first time last month. Wendell Scott drove during the Jim Crow era, and he was the first African-American to win a race at NASCAR’s elite major league level. He died in 1990.
- 75 years ago, Hattie McDaniel accepted the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her role as Mammy in the civil war epic Gone with the Wind, becoming the first African American to win the prestigious prize. It was fitting that the award was handed out on a leap day, Feb. 29, 1940—the win was a momentous leap forward for African Americans in film. Since McDaniel won the award, 15 African-American actors have also won the golden statuette.
- A Princeton dean and professor of literature and African American studies will lead Swarthmore College when the new academic year begins. Valerie Smith, 59, will become the 15th president of the 150-year-old institution beginning July 1. She becomes Swarthmore’s first African American president.
- For her work in Selma, Ava Marie DuVernay is the first black female director to be nominated for a Golden Globe Award. With Selma, she is also the first black female director to have a film nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, though she did not receive a nomination for best director.
I hope you will take a moment to honor the full range of achievements African-Americans have contributed to our nation. Let’s continue to celebrate Black History month all during the year until we achieve our goal of year-round integration of Black history in our schools, families and conversations.