Celebrating Black History

First Posted: 2/19/2009

In my efforts to create a cake a few nights ago, I realized I was missing an essential tool that would have made my job a lot easier an egg beater.
The egg-beater is a device that revolutionized the world of cooking, and it was invented by a black man named Willis Johnson.
And during this cooking process, of course, I made a slight mess beating my batter with a fork, making a puddle on my floor, which required a mop to clean up.
It was Thomas Stewart a black man who received a patent for his invention of the mop.
That night before I laid down to sleep, I set my alarm clock to get up for work. It was Benjamin Banneker, also a black man, who developed the first clock built in the United States.
As I set out to work the next morning, entered the office, sat down and began to write a list of articles, I was doing what Ida B. Wells had done more than a 100 years ago as one of the first black journalists in America. Nearly 71 years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, it was Wells who openly protested against giving her seat to a white man on a train. The conductor was stunned by Wells, and she was dragged off. She sued the railroad and won her case in 1885.
Her open resistance to discrimination and racial prejudice may not always have been well-received, but it was evident in her writings.
She gained a reputation for writing about the race issue in the United States during that time.
She held an editorial position for Evening Star and also wrote weekly articles for the Living Way weekly newspaper. In 1889, she became co-owner and editor of Free Speech, an anti-segregationist newspaper based in Memphis on Beale Street where she continued to write about racial injustice.
She challenged social and racial injustice and paved the way for future black writers, like me, to have a voice in the media.
She, like Banneker, Stewart and Johnson, have played a major role not only in my life as a black woman, but in lives of all Americans. Without their intellectual input and talents, life would be different today.
Black history isnt just valuable to one ethnicity, but to America. Black history is American history. There are so many contributions, inventions and sacrifices that are easily forgotten as we breeze through life.
While Black History Month tends to sparks an annual debate about its continued usefulness and fairness of a designated month to the history of one race, I believe its still valuable.
Its really an opportunity to remember where weve been, how far weve come and where were going.
There are loads of black history month celebrations occurring locally, like the Surry Arts Councils 19th annual Black History Month Celebration today at 7 p.m. in Andy Griffith Playhouse which I encourage everyone, regardless of skin color, to attend.
You never know how else black history may have impacted your life, it can be as simple as baking a cake.
Erin C. Perkins is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. She can be reached at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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