Black History Month is here again. February is set aside to honor people whose courage, knowledge, innovation and ability to move people toward freedom without violence made America a better place for people of all races, creeds and colors.
Some people have helped make this country a better place in multiple ways. In a time when color mattered, people such as Harriet Tubman made a way to free slaves even when it could cost her life.
Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist and author, Crispus Attucks, the first black casualty of the Revolutionary War, and Sojourner Truth, who asked the world, “Ain’t I a Woman?” all made significant contributions to the freedom movement and the improvements that slowly changed the way people saw each other.
Dr. Booker T. Washington was crucial to the opening of now-Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala.
He also fought to obtain rights for people of color to own and operate stores, bars and other establishments when “black codes” restricted what freed blacks were allowed to do.
Dr. George Washington Carver, one of the first black college graduates, became world famous for his work as chair of Tuskegee’s agriculture department, according to the website biography.com.
Carver was able to further the cause of farmers through research in peanuts, cotton and the development of crop rotation methods to help replenish soil nutrients.
Billie Holliday’s and Ella Fitzgerald’s vocals changed the way people listened to music.
“Dizzy” Gillespie’s singing, trumpeting and composing helped open up the world of jazz music.
Gillespie acknowledged that the sacrifices made in order for him to share his sound were apparent when he said, “Men have died for this music. You can’t get more serious than that.”
Most people want to be respected and treated with dignity.
Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, one of the greatest baseball players ever, said, “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”
Respect is something people are capable of earning by demonstrating good character. It’s not something that can be given or taken away based on skin color.
In 1955, Rosa Parks had the courage to remain seated when a white man demanded her seat at a time when doing so could have gotten her killed. Her determination to stand up for the rights of all people, regardless of color, to keep their bus seat after a hard day’s work made history.
That one act opened the door for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to begin speaking in earnest to a nation that finally was ready to listen.
On Feb. 4, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in Parks’ honor on what would have been her 100th birthday.
She died in 2005 at age 92.
“Racism is still with us,” Parks said. “But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.”