Saturday, March 24, 2007

Part V: ThoseThat Inspire

[Last one; sorry this is taking so long, it's just that I've been connection and work issues...Monday]

The last step in getting rid of racism is to show that every group has heroes that have contributed something to society, as well as have been around for a while. The link to history is important; the longer the roots go, the more solid the group. (Because of that, and to encourage you to look them yourself, I'm purposely not putting any dates in.) So...are there ten black heroes that have nothing to do with the various performing arts or athletics? Let's see...

Harriet Tubman: A conductor of the Underground Railroad, she ferried over 1000 slaves to freedom over 160 trips. Even though she was epileptic, illiterate, and having a reward for her head. Her career as a conductor lasted until the Civil War, when she was forced to retire. In her “retirement” she became a major voice for both the black and woman's equality movements.

Frederick Douglass: MLK, Jr., was not the first major speaker for black equality. That particular honor could be arguably given to Mr. Douglas. He struck up coalitions with other civil rights organizations, including the nascent women's rights movements; this allowed the small organizations to pool resources, and it made sense as members of one group sometimes belonged to others.

Mary McLeod Bethune: President of the National Association of Colored Women and the founder of the National Council for Negro Women, she is the subject of the first black OR woman to be placed in any park in the nation's capital. She also held one of the Top Twenty position in the New Deal administration. She was responsible for increasing the education opportunities for African Americans. If you ever complain about blacks not having opportunities, her ghost may just say hi in a very rude way.

George Washington Carver: The only person to have invented more than Thomas Edison; his inventions generally involved the peanut. His inventions include peanut butter (the formula is virtually unchanged since it was first invented) and peanut oil; he was single-handedly responsible for helping Georgia.

Jessie Redmon Fauset: The mid-wife of African American literature, she was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance. She was also the editor of “Crisis”, a magazine published by the NAACP. She taught English, French (presumably practiced when she went to school at the Sorbonne), and literature, and wrote a number of books for adults and children, which were revived in the 1960s.

Crispus Attucks: Death makes all men equal. Born of Native American and black blood, Attucks was an escaped slave that became the leader of fifty men that advanced on a British unit, yelling, “Do not be afraid!”. The soldiers fired on the men, and he and four other men were killed. Over a thousand people attended the funeral.

Fannie Lou Hamer: From humble beginnings grow mighty things. Starting off as a sharecropper, she eventually became best known for the line, “I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Although beaten for doing so, she encouraged voter reform, eventually causing the Voter Reform Act signed into law by President Johnson. Her charisma and singing talent lent her voice strength, and she was a well-known speaker and it took diabetes, cancer, and heart problems to stop her. The Mississippi House of Representative passed a resolution honoring her activism at the state and national levels; the vote was 116 to 0.

Benjamin Bradley: Necessity can be the spirit of invention. Working at the Annapolis Academy, where he helped set up experiments, Bradley invented a steam engine for the warship. Unable to patent the invention (he was a slave at the time) he nonetheless was able to sell the plans and purchased his freedom.

Augusta Savage: I figure I need to keep slamming the education issue; Augusta is my last hope. She had but one talent: Sculpture. She went to Cooper Union in New York to study, and the school eventually sponsored her when she was no longer able to take care of bills. She was able to go to Italy to study (which she did for three years based on a single statue paying the tuition and a scholarship to get her there and back home). Although she did some political options (a rejection from Paris based on her race encouraged her to get into politics), it was her work for the Works Progress Administration and the 1939 New York World's Fair (the latter pieces were destroyed after the fair, but pictures remain).

James Van Der Zee: Photographers often see more than the light that comes through their lens; sometimes, they can see the soul of their of the subject and record that. Born to the maid and butler to Ulysses S Grant, Van Der Zee opened his first studio in Harlem, and photographed Harlem over the next sixty years. His photographs were eventually included in the “Harlem on my Mind” (1969) exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I figure these people should inspire anyone. I only hope that they did...