George Washington Carver. Even before Black History Month came about, Americans black and white knew that he invented peanut butter. Over the years we've learned about other African American inventors and scientists: Daniel Hale Williams (open heart surgery), Charles Drew (blood banks), Lewis Latimer (light bulb filament), Elijah McCoy (lubricating device known as "The Real McCoy"), Garrett Morgan (gas mask and traffic light), even John Lee Love (pencil sharpener).
We've learned about the first African Americans to do everything from being elected President of the United States to recording a surfin' guitar album (Freddie King).
So, at what point does an excellent idea to expand concepts of history shrink into an interesting trivia contest? What needs to be included in Black History, whether the length of study is a month or a lifetime? Here are some of the criteria I've found myself developing recently in choosing people to profile.
- Men and women whose actions directly benefitted all African Americans -- the civil rights leaders, abolitionists, and legislators who made a difference.
- Those who expanded knowledge of Black culture through the arts and social sciences.
- Outstanding leaders and pioneers in other fields who serve as role models for African American youth.