February might “officially” be Black History Month, but our Black brothers and sisters’ contributions, stories, and histories should not – and cannot – be contained to 28 days out of the year. Black history IS history and so each month we’ll use this platform as an opportunity to educate, inform, and celebrate those who may not have the immediate name recognition as the Rosa Parks or the Harriet Tubmans or the Jackie Robinsons in today’s society. Because their names deserve to be remembered, too.
Here are three of them now.
Granville Woods: Holder of 50 patents and the first African American mechanical and electrical engineer, we have him to thank for the automatic brake, an egg incubator, and improvements to our telegraph, telephone, and photogram technologies. It was on April 7, 1885, that he patented an apparatus for transmission of messages by electricity. (The original text message!) He passed away at the age of 53 in January 1910. Despite his many contributions, he was buried in an unmarked grave until 1975, when historian M.A. Harris spearheaded an effort to raise funds to purchase a headstone. Today, he is celebrated and recognized through a scholarship program at Baltimore City Community College, was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and had a corner on Coney Island named after him.
Louis T. Wright: The first African American appointed to the surgical staff at Harlem Hospital, Wright was a highly skilled medical doctor, war hero, and political activist who used his platform to expose the hospital’s substandard conditions and patient care. He went on to establish the hospital’s medical library, received the Spingarn Medal for his work with the NAACP for arguing against the unfounded bias that African Americans harbor more infectious diseases than the general population, and founded the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Foundation. On April 30, 1952, he was honored by the American Cancer Society for his contributions. Sadly, he passed away just six months later at the age of 61.
Lloyd Hall: Wish happy birthday to Dr. Lloyd A Hall (April 20, 1894.)After being turned down from a job with Western Electric Company because he was Black, Lloyd Hall shifted gears and went to work as a chemist. In that role, he discovered new ways to prevent food from spoiling or going bad, which has been an integral part of the food supply chain. In fact, we are still using the same method to cure meats that he invented back in 1932. Unlike Granville Woods, he received the recognition and accolades he deserved in his lifetime, including consulting for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and honorary degrees from Virginia State University and Tuskegee Institue. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2004.