It’s Black History Month; the month of honoring the many black visionaries that paved a path for all races alike. When you hear the phrase “Black History Month,” Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks may come to mind. Slavery and the Civil Rights Movement may too. But what about Ida B. Wells? What about the mass lynchings of thousands of black men? The stories of the adversities, triumphs, and excellence have largely been left out of history books. Here’s what you didn’t learn in school about black history.
Photo: Oladimeji Odunsion on Unsplash
What happened during the time between slavery and the Civil Rights Movement?
The 13th amendment was signed in 1865, ending the institution of slavery. Although slavery was outlawed, this was still a trying time for the black community. In school, we learn about the hundreds of years of slavery that black people were subjected to, and we are taught the stories of the injustices of the Jim Crow era, but rarely do we learn about the immediate consequences of the institution of slavery. The Reconstruction period - a familiar term from our history books - began in 1865, immediately following the end of slavery. This time in American history is taught as the period of revitalization of the South; a time to rebuild its economy and infrastructure. What we don’t discuss, however, are the failures of the South to incorporate freed blacks into the evolving society, and the failure of the North to properly reintegrate the South back into the Union. Reconstruction ended in 1877, and what followed was a period of continued seperation and unequal opportunities that would last for decades.
Inventors you didn’t learn about
We all know that George Washington Carver invented a variety of peanut products, and that Garrett Morgan invented the first traffic light, but there are many black inventors we never discuss whose products we couldn’t imagine life without.
Mary and Mildred Davidson
Before there were pads, there were sanitary belts, invented by the Davidson sisters. Sanitary belts provided women with better protection and improved the menstruation experience.
Charles Richard Drew
If you have ever given blood, you have Charles Richard Drew to thank for that. Drew was a doctor who created the concept of “bloodmobiles,” which later resulted in the establishment of blood banks all over the United States.
Imagine opening an elevator door manually; hard, right? Alexander Miles is the brains behind automatic elevator doors. This invention improved the overall safety of elevator usage.
Black activists you don’t know
Malcolm X. Harriet Tubman. These are household names commonly used to understand how African Americans paved the way for rights for future generations. There were black activists, however, fighting for equal rights in unconventional ways.
Ida B. Wells
An educator and a journalist, Ida B. Wells actively fought to end lynching, which was a practice that plagued the South in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her efforts led to the creation of many notable organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Both her writings and her influence in the press paved the way for many black journalists to come.
Bayard Rustin was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement. He was a supporter of socialism and nonviolence, and he fought for rights for the LGBT community.
Mildred Loving entered the spotlight while fighting for her marriage. In the 1960s, the Virginia native challenged the courts to allow her to legally marry her white husband, Richard Loving. The Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case made interracial marriage legal across the country.
Our history textbooks pack thousands of years into its covers, so it’s understandable that some stories are left untold. However, there is so much more to learn about black history, you just have to close the book.
Nadia Pressley is a 20-year-old student at Mercer University. She is majoring in Journalism and Global Development Studies. Nadia enjoys photography, traveling, and live music. She hopes to work in digital media after graduation.