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TALLAHASSEE – For the people who operate FamilySearch, a family history and genealogical records website sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, every month is Black History Month – not just when February rolls around on the calendar – and the interest is not limited to the Black community.
“Black History Month is a learning opportunity for all people,” said Kayla Jackson, FamilySearch marketing coordinator. “We want to highlight those stories to help people understand how Black narratives are interwoven and integrated into American history.”
Delois Hollinger and Tichaona Matewa of Tallahassee, two African American members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, believe Black History Month is a time to celebrate and acknowledge contributions from the Black community.
“To celebrate black history means to acknowledge the contributions to the world that black creativity has garnered. When I look at all the many inventions that were made by black people, it still amazes me,” said Hollinger. “Just to think about the ones that they have not gotten credit for is mind boggling. I wonder why some schools don’t want to recognize these accomplishments. It’s a part of American history. Black people made the USA a great nation through their inventions and genius. At times I think of what has been lost to those who don’t know about black history. Black history sets the tone for all history.”
Matewa said Black History Month is a time to remember accomplishments and suffering.
“Black History Month, for most African Americans, is a time to celebrate our often-overlooked contributions to the history of the United States. It’s really an opportunity to recognize those accomplishments, a way to say, ‘Hey, we’ve been a vital part of America’s history; we’ve had a very significant role in building this country.’ Black History Month helps to acknowledge that role,” he said.
“Further, the formation of Black History Month was not only to help people recognize the contributions of black
Americans, but also the pain that was inflicted on and felt by them. At the same time, it promotes the constitutional principle that all people are created equal. It’s important to note that we as a country have had shortcomings, and this is an opportunity to have sometimes difficult conversations about how we can do better. Black History Month serves as a great opportunity to bridge the gap between where we’ve been and where we need to go,” he added.
Some of the Black Americans whose achievements have contributed significantly to our country’s history include:
- Patricia Bath: A pioneer ophthalmologist, inventor, and academic known for inventing the Laserphaco Probe, which uses a laser beam for the removal of cataracts.
- George Edward Alcorn, Jr.: Developed the Imaging X-ray Spectrometer, which earned him the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Inventor of the Year in 1984.
- Otis Boykin: Noteworthy inventions include a wire precision resistor and a control unit for the Artificial Heart Pacemaker. When he died in 1982, he had 26 patents in his name.
- Benjamin Bradley: The first person to develop a working model of a steam engine for a war ship.
- George F. Grant: Dentist, academic, and inventor famed for being the first Black American professor at Harvard and developing the “Perfectum Golf Tee.”
- Betty Harris: An American organic analytical chemist and a leading expert in explosives, environmental remediation, and hazardous waste treatment. She was awarded a patent for her TATB spot test, which identifies explosives in a field environment.
- Frederick Jones: A prolific innovator who invented the mobile refrigeration technology used in trucks and railroad cars.
- Phillis Wheatley Peters (also spelled Phyllis and Wheatly): The first African American author of a published book of poetry.
- Benjamin Banneker: An architect hired by President George Washington to help layout and design the city of Washington, DC.
- Mary Jackson, Christine Darden, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan: Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, as well as mathematician Katherine Johnson and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, were awarded Congressional Gold Medals (highest civilian award in the U.S.) for their roles as “human computers” who did the complex calculations that made space travel possible.
For more information about African American historical records, go to www.familysearch.org.