Black people make up the backbone of American history. Yet, all we have learned in history class is regarding Christopher Columbus’ white savior complex and the struggles the White colonizers endured.
Textbooks teach us that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, but do not mention that he was a slaveowner himself. We are constantly taught about white people being at the forefront to progression in the United States, but what about black people? We also learn in our science classes that Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, when in fact, Lewis Latimer was the one who revolutionized the innovation. The situation at hand is that there is little mention of important influencers of color in modern American history class, specifically Black figures and innovators. It misinforms children and leads them to grow up falsely believing that Black people are not as brilliant.
White-washing is interpreted to be the prevention of people from uncovering the truth of an occurrence. In American textbooks, it is done so by replacing the plethora of Black achievements with primarily those White figures have accomplished. This concept is an act of racism because it erases Black voices, thus oppressing the group as an entirety and contributing to systematic oppression. Black people have the right to be heard.
Photo Courtesy of The Dinner Table Doc [Taken at National Museum of African American History and Culture]
In order to understand the significance of African-American history, we must educate ourselves and become conscious of Black influencers throughout history.
Black people have developed a great amount of inventions to American for the purpose of improving the lives of Americans. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, an African-American general surgeon, pioneered open heart surgery when he successfully removed a knife from a man’s chest in 1893. A&E Television Networks states, “Without the benefits of a blood transfusion or modern surgical procedures, Williams successfully sutured Cornish’s pericardium, the membranous sac enclosing the heart.” Despite the lack of technology, Dr. Williams was able to perform medical phenomenons. The extreme prejudice in the 1800s also encouraged Dr. Williams to open the first inter-racial hospital. Many Black doctors in this time period were refused positions at hospitals, but Dr. Williams created a space where they could freely work. He conveyed profound intellect as well as innovation.
Unfortunately, countless Black leaders go unrecognized. Diane Nash was a member of the Freedom Riders, a group of activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated south in 1961. She also helped found the Selma Voting Rights Committee campaign, which helped black Americans in the South vote and gain political power. She is 78 years old and still contributes to society today. Diane Nash is a key example of Black girl magic.
We cannot be silenced. We must learn about our brothers and sisters who have faced the same struggles we endure today, but pushed past despite the abhorrent racial discrimination. Because of their strength of character they were still able to be at the frontline of American innovations. Because of their contributions we now have a multitude of inventions that help people everyday. Black people are woven into the foundation of this country and deserve to be remembered.