The Ledger Celebrates Black History Month

February 28, 2022

Every year, we celebrate Black History Month throughout the month of February. At Lakeland Regional High School, the students and staff celebrate through individual lessons in classes and with the help of the ERASE Club, who highlight prominent African Americans throughout the month during the school’s daily announcements and through posters and decorations on the bridge. 

Throughout February, The Lancer Ledger honored the celebration by spending time researching facts, historical figures and events, discussing our findings, and creating an article to share on our publication. 

As Black History Month comes to a close, help us celebrate by taking a moment to read our article and honor those who who have contributed so much to American history:

 

Did You Know…

1.  Did you know that every year there is a theme to Black History Month? This year, the ASALH announced the theme is “Black Health and Wellness” and honors “the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.”

2.  Did you know that Black History Month is an annual celebration that officially began in 1976, but has roots dating back to the 1920s? According to History.com, February was chosen as the month of celebration to align with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays.

3.  Did you know that Black History Month is also celebrated outside of the United States? In 1995, a Black member of Parliament, Dr. Jean Augustine, founded Black History Month in Canada. There are also celebrations in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Ireland.

Katherine Johnson

Katherine Johnson Goble, born August 26, 1918, was one of the first African American women who worked for NASA. At age 13, she was already in high school at West Virginia State College, and at age 18, she applied for college there. 

She later went to work at NASA at the NACAs West Area Computing Unit. This unit was composed of African American women who calculated complex mathematical equations for engineers by hand. When John Glenn was preparing to be sent into space in a race against the Soviets, a calculating machine was newly built. Since the machine was so new and not always accurate, John Glenn trusted Johnson’s calculations more than the new revolutionary calculating machine. She confirmed that the calculating machine planned his flight correctly. 

Johnson calculated the flight paths of this mission and many more by hand. She eventually retired from NASA in 1986. She, and the group of amazing black women she worked with, opened doors and earned respect for both African Americans and women throughout NASA and science fields. Watch her story in the Academy Award nominated film Hidden Figures.

Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin

Rosa Parks was born in Montgomery, Alabama on February 4, 1913. Parks is an important figure in American history because she was a civil rights activist. She strove for equal rights for the black community, as racial segregation was a prominent issue during her time.

Parks is known for refusing to give up her seat on the bus. This amazing feat took place over 60 years ago on December 1, 1955. Although Parks was later arrested, her protest shocked the world and . As a result, people began boycotting buses down South. Parks died on October 24, 2005.

That being said, Rosa Parks isn’t the only person who refused to give up her seat. Born on September 5, 1939, Claudette Colvin was also a civil rights activist. She also refused to give up her seat nine months before Rosa Parks did – at the age of 15. Although Colvin’s story didn’t garnish as much popularity as Park’s, her protest at such a young age reinforces the need for young people to stand up for what is right. Colvin is currently 82 years old. 

Through the movement both women helped spark, in 1956, Montgomery’s segregation bus system was claimed to be unconstitutional. 

Muhammad Ali

Born as Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., Muhammad Ali was not only a record-breaking athlete, who continues to be regarded as the greatest boxer of all time, but a profound activist as well. Ali was the first boxer to win the world heavyweight championship three different times. But Ali was more than just his sports achievements; he used his popularity as a way to fight against injustice present in society.

Ali permanently changed his name in 1964 out of devotion to the Nation of Islam. When Ali was selected to be inducted into the army during the Vietnam War, he refused due to his religious beliefs and resistance to white superiority, causing him to be arrested, stripped of his championship title, and unable to fight for three and a half years. He was freed on bail and his conviction was overturned four years later. During this time, Ali traveled to different universities to give speeches, quickly becoming a prominent anti-war and civil rights activist. Ali’s defiance to sacrifice his personal beliefs demonstrated his determination to bring about change.

Fighting against race, religion, humanitarianism, and political issues, Ali was a leader in making a difference in the world. He developed Parkinson’s as he grew older, but Ali did not let this prohibit him from bringing about justice. He traveled the world for charitable purposes, such as his 1990 meeting with the Iraqi leader to discuss the release of American hostages. In 2002, he traveled as an United Nations Messenger of Peace to Afghanistan, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. The Muhammad Ali Center, a nonprofit museum and cultural center focused on educating about peace and social responsibility, opened in 2005 as well.  Ali passed away in June of 2016. His legacy, in both activism and athletics, will forever live on and continue to influence the world in the present day.

Watch Ali’s story in the Academy Award nominated film Ali.

Hattie McDaniel

Hattie McDaniel was an actress who became the first African American to win an Oscar. McDaniel, who was born in 1893 and was the youngest of 13 kids, got her talents from her mother.

In 1939, McDaniel became the first African America actress to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. Even though she won one of the biggest awards of the night, she was not able to sit with her costars, instead being forced to sit in the back of the room after the hotel made a ‘special accommodation’ to let her attend.

Not only did she take home a prize for being a talented actress, McDaniel also took home a prize in becoming an influential person for all black women in the entertainment industry, stating that she was working for future generations of African Americans. Since her historic win, 8 African American actresses have received Oscars, including Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, and Regina King. Her influence, along with many others, also sparked a movement to make award shows more inclusive of the talent and work of not only African Americans, but all races and ethnicities.

 

Martin Luther King Jr.

Born January 15, 1929 in Atlanta Georgia, Martin Luther King Jr. experienced discrimination against the black community first hand. As time passed, this hatred led him to the point where he took action and became one of many fighting in the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, King was one of the most influential and impactful public speakers of the movement. He preached that the color of your skin does not define who you are as a person and should not have a say in how you are treated. On top of this, King believed in peaceful protests, despite aggression being used against him and those fighting with him. King’s message was widespread and changed standards for black people as a whole. 

King’s well known speech, “I Have A Dream,” was a key factor in changing society. This speech was heard all over the world and influenced many people. His speech, along with many other protest, speeches, and gatherings, help enact the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

Before his death on April 4, 1968, King had a wife Coretta Scott King and four children: Martin Luther King III, Bernice King, Yolanda King, and Dexter King. His sermons on equality and efforts in creating a world where all are equal will not go forgotten. King changed the world for the better, and left behind a legacy for many to discover and be educated on. Watch King’s story in the Academy Award winning film Selma.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” 

Angela Davis

Born on January 26, 1944, Angela Davis grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, in an area known as “Dynamite Hill” because the area she lived was terrorized by the Ku Klux Klan. To put her life in Birmingham in perspective, she knew majority of the young girls who perished in the Birmingham church bombing in 1963. At a young age, Davis saw a need for social reform, and started running interracial study groups as a teenager, even though they would be broken up by police. 

Later in her life, Angela went to study at Brandeis University in Massachusetts for philosophy, and later went to graduate school in and became a professor at the University of California. While there, she joined the civil rights party the Black Panthers and the Che-Lumumba Club, which was an all black Communist organization. 

Her ties to communism and high profile case of the Soledad brothers*, in which Davis was accused, then acquitted, of playing a part in an escape attempt turned murder, has caused her some controversy and hardships. However, Davis continued to fight for her belief and civil rights. 

Davis’ career embodies that of a modern activist for civil rights, and she has written several books including: Women, Race, and Class (1980), Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday (1999), Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003)Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (2005), The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues (2012) and Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2016).

 

*The Soledad Brothers were three black inmates accused of killing a guard. Some believed the men were used as scapegoats.

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris became the first woman,  first African American and first Asian American to become vice president of the United States. Harris alone has created a larger demographic for major government offices.

Kamala Davis Harris was born on October 20, 1964 in Oakland, California. Before her vice presidency, Harris served in the U.S. Senate for four years and as a general attorney of California for six years. In 1990 through 1998, she worked as a deputy district attorney and had a reputation for being tough, especially when prosecuting for gang violence, drug trafficking, and sexual abuse.

On top of all this, Harris advocates for social justice reforms. Among these, in 2012, she refused to defend a bill that would ban same sex marriages in California. Then, in  2020, she fought for charges to be brought against the officers involved in George Floyd’s death. 

Harris opened the doors in government for many underrepresented groups, and continues to be a strong African American woman leader and voice in our country.

LeBron James

LeBron James is an inspiration to many in and out of the sports world. Aside from his accomplishments on the basketball court, winning 4 NBA Championships and 4 MVP awards, James off the court has been an integral figure in improving the lives of those less privileged.

His I Promise schools located in Akron OH, aim to help support elementary students who are at risk. In 2022, the school will open to support students grades 1 through 8. His media company, Uninterrupted, brings on athletes to speak up about their stories of how they got to where they are, as will as discuss systemic issues in American society.

Born December 30, 1984, James’ mom struggled to provide for him, and at the age of nine, allowed him to move into the household of a local youth football coach who could provide stability for him. The coach, Frank Walker, introduced James to basketball in the fifth grade.

James’ story and success in that it shows his fans and public the importance in giving back to the community you came from and support our country’s youth. James’ is and will continue to be a influential figure in both American and African American history.

Special contribution from Lakeland history teacher, Mr. Chris Chouljian. Edited by The Lancer Ledger Staff. 

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