Happy February! Black History Month is a time to remember, celebrate and commemorate the achievements and contributions by African-American men and women throughout U.S. history.
During the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, African Americans began to reclaim pride in their history and cultural identity. As part of the United States’ bicentennial celebration, the month of February was officially declared as Black History Month in 1976. Other countries soon followed suit, such as the United Kingdom in 1987 and Canada in 1995. We honor African-Americans, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and Langston Hughes for their contributions to society.
African-American women have played a significant role in contributing to this country’s history. This year I would like to highlight two exceptional women. The first is Rosa Parks. Many of you may know of her. Rosa Louise McCauley Parks is best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The United States Congress has called her “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”. That’s awesome!
She refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus in 1955. Can you believe she was actually taken to jail for not giving up her seat? She was just tired after working all day like many of us. She helped initiate the civil rights movement in the United States. The leaders of the local black community organized a bus boycott that began the day Parks was convicted of violating the segregation laws.
The boycott was led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and lasted more than a year—during which Parks not coincidentally lost her job—and ended only when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
This was not the first time Ms. Parks had ran into trouble with this particular bus driver. On a cold and chilly day, she resisted the rule in place for blacks to disembark and re-enter through the back door. Instead she chose to get off the bus.
Over the next half-century, Parks became a nationally recognized symbol of dignity and strength in the struggle to end entrenched racial segregation. I honor her bravery and commitment to stand firm in her conventions.
The next exceptional woman I’d love to honor is my aunt, Dr. Gladys Mae (Brown) West. She is an American mathematician known for her contributions to the mathematical modeling of the shape of the Earth, and was one of the team of mathematicians who worked on the development of the satellite geodesy models that were eventually incorporated into the Global Positioning System(GPS). GPS is something that we use every day to get directions from here to wherever we are going.
(Photo credit: Fredricksburg.com)
She grew up in Dinwiddie County south of Richmond in the late 1930’s early 1940’. She knew that she didn’t want to work in the fields, picking tobacco, corn and cotton, or in a nearby factory, beating tobacco leaves into pieces small enough for cigarettes and pipes, as her parents did. She realized I had to get an education to get out. She attended Virginia State College in Petersburg, Va.
She began to work at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, where she was the second black woman ever to be employed. She was inducted into the United States Air Force Hall of Fame in 2018. She was recently honored also recently honored by Strong Men & Women in Virginia History. If you’d like to know check her out on Google.
(Photo credit: Youtube.com)
“When you’re working every day, you’re not thinking, ‘What impact is this going to have on the world?’ You’re thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this right,’”
—Dr. Gladys West.