Black History Month: Exploring America’s Shared History

Black History Month: Exploring America’s Shared History

Written by Rhonda Washington, Easterseals Regional Director of Human Resources and member of our RISE (Respect, Inclusion, Self-aware, Access) team.  

Black History Month is a time to reflect on the progress Black people have made throughout our history and provides an opportunity to narrate our story as part of the American experience. It is a time to reexamine our trials and tribulations and celebrate our successes. Taking a pause to learn more about Black history is learning about how we got to this moment, the sacrifices that were made, and the achievements that created the America we live in today. 

All the issues we are facing today didn’t just land here, they came from our shared history. If we don’t understand our history, we are left with making assumptions, and that’s a dangerous path. As Maya Angelou said, “You have to know where you have been, to know where you are going.” 

As a child, my experiences of being exposed to Black history were very limited, as it was not the focus in my history classes. When we did talk about Black history, I was only exposed to three people: Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. While these individuals accomplished amazing things, this did not even scratch the surface.  

As I continued my education, there was even less of a focus on Black history by the time I started college. My knowledge of Black history came from doing my own research. That’s when I discovered that African Americans had a huge footprint weaved into America.  

The impact it had on me is two-fold: First, I wanted my daughter to have more knowledge about her history and a sense of belong than I did. As a result, she opted to attend a Historically Black College (Tuskegee University) for her undergraduate studies to fulfill that void. Secondly, I became extremely curious and sought out how influential African Americans have been and the contributions they made in many fields throughout our country’s history. No matter what circumstances and struggles we encountered, we still have overcome.  As General Colin Powell one said, “No one can change your yesterdays, but all of us can change our tomorrows.” 

Now, are you ready for some Black history that maybe you didn’t know about? Here are some prominent African Americans and what they achieved. 

A black and white image of Katherine Johnson a mathematician for NASA

Katherine Johnson
Known as the mathematician who was instrumental in the return of the Apollo astronauts from the Moon to Earth, Johnson was one of a group of black women who were celebrated in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures.”  

Learn more about Katherine Johnson.





Ursula Burns First African American woman to act as CEO for a Fortune 500 company

Ursula Burns
Burns was first African American woman to serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 company, leading Xerox from 2009 to 2017. She’s also been on the board of directors for Uber, American Express, and ExxonMobil. 

Learn more about Ursula Burns.




Alonzo Pettie co-founder of the first Black Rodeo

Alonzo Pettie
Creator of a Black Rodeo in Colorado since he was barred from the white rodeos, Pettie was the longest living cowboy and died at 93. 

Learn more about Alonzo Pettie.




Marie Von Brittan Brown designed the first modern security system.

Marie Van Brittan Brown  

Brown designed the first home security system and modern surveillance system. Her invention is the foundation for current systems using video monitoring, remote-controlled door locks, push-button alarm triggers, instant messaging to security providers and police, as well as two-way voice communication. 

Learn more about Marie Van Brittan Brown.




Patricia Bath first African American doctor to hold a patent for a medical device in Ophthalmology

Patricia Bath  

A pioneer in Ophthalmology, Bath became the first African American female doctor to hold a patent for a medical device in Ophthalmology. She invented the Laserphaco Probe for cataract treatment in 1986. 

Learn more about Patricia Bath.

By |2023-02-07T16:01:43-08:00February 6th, 2023|Categories: Advocacy|Tags: |0 Comments

About the Author:

Rhonda Washington is the Regional Director of Human Resources at Easterseals Southern California and an active member of Easterseals’ RISE (Respect, Inclusion, Self-aware, Access) team.

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