Black History Month — It is the month in which we bear witness to the progress, richness and diversity of African American achievement.
In 1976 the month-long celebration in February was implemented and is a time for Americans to reflect on both the history and teachings of notable African Americans whose contributions are still too little known. Today, this is a national and international observance. Its strength and importance lie in the new meaning that it is necessary to use the occasion to examine the Collective ingenuity, creativity, cultural and political experience of the masses of Africans and peoples of African descent.
February is the month Black History Month is celebrated. However, during the 1920’s an African American named Carter G. Woodson created and promoted Negro History Week. This period in February was chosen because it included the birthdays of Frederick Douglas (American abolitionist, orator and writer) and Abraham Lincoln. The month-long celebration was implemented in 1976. In North America, a variety of programs— including lectures, exhibitions, banquets and a host of cultural activities are presented throughout February to commemorate the occasion.
Notable African Americans include Carter G. Woodson, son of a former slave, noted Black scholar and historian, who is commonly referred to as “The father of Black History.” He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and was always a proponent of the recognition of Black achievement. Carter Woodson’s fierce racial pride that has been instilled in his students and others through his teachings and writings lives on as Black people in Canada and United States celebrate this the 82 anniversary year.
We must also recognize Frederick Douglass who was a slave. His early education was self-taught. As an abolitionist, orator and author, he fought to achieve full equality for African Americans. His ability was so well recognized and respected, he advised Abraham Lincoln.
We recognize other African American contributors:
• Benjamin Banneker, a self-taught mathematical wizard, invented the almanac and the first clock in the United States.
• Dr. Charles Drew, prominent surgeon, invented blood plasma preservation.
• Dr. Daniel Williams was the first successful heart surgeon.
• Eli McCoy, known as the “real McCoy” for his mechanical skill inventions was awarded 57 patents.
• Thurgood Marshall known as “Mr. Civil Rights” was the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court.
• Philip Downing the letter drop box
• Garret A Morgan the traffic light
• John Standards the refrigerator
• Alive Parker, a Black female, the heating furnace
• Frederick Jones invented the air conditioner
• Elbert T. Robinson invented the electric trolley
• Alexander Miles invented the elevator
• General Colin Powell —4-star General, first African American to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. (under President George W. Bush)
• Israel Brooks— a prominent Newberry County African American native contributor— He was the first Black Highway Patrolman in South Carolina (1967.) Numerous promotions steered his promotion to captain, heading the Internal Affairs Division. Brooks served as United States Marshall prior to his retirement.”
• Cato Coleman—a native of Newberry County graduated from Drayton High School as salutatorian of his class. He went to New Jersey where an Italian shoemaker taught him the trade of shoe repair. Cato made his way back home to Newberry. In 1951, he opened Quality Shoe Repair on McKibben Street, downtown Newberry, where he worked as boss of the business until his death March 1, 2012. He was an active member of the local Bethlehem Baptist Church, member of the choir, and Sunday School teacher.
• Hazel Dell Clark—is a shining example of personal courage and commitment in Newberry County. Her belief in the importance of education prompted earning from Clemson and University of South Carolina two Masters in Social Work and Psychology during her 40- year counseling career. She is a member of Bush River Baptist Church. She served as a trustee since 1994, charter member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, participant executive staff for the New Enoree Baptist Association, director, Rape Crisis Network, Newberry County, and past president of Newberry County NAACP.
• Daisy Gibbs —Known forever as “Mrs. Daisy” was an active member of Miller Chapel AME Church. She was an educator with 37 years of total experience, with 30 years of those years being in the Newberry County school District, serving elementary, middle and high school. Gibbs served as educator, school board and role model.
• Barbara Chapman—She is a 25-year state retiree from S.C. Department of Corrections, Columbia, S.C. She is presently executive director for the Community of Schools, Newberry County, a Board Member for Newberry County GLEAMNS, a field missionary for New Enoree Baptist Church Association. Chapman has received numerous awards to include Employee of the Quarter, Employee of the Year and Christian Service Award.
• John Caldwell achieved success in his insurance business before retirement. John is a servant to the citizens of Newberry County being involved in numerous organizations to improve the progress of achievement in the community. Caldwell’s dedicated service as member of Newberry County Council goes back many years. He is now a private entrepreneur.
Margaret Brackett is from Newberry. Her columns appear weekly in The Newberry Observer.