My Contribution for Black History Month
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by Frank Shortt
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African-Americans have contributed much to our nation, and the world, as a whole. Some fought in the Revolutionary
War. Some fought to help preserve the Union. Most were just hard-working citizens who contributed to their communities in ways that
seemed trivial to most at the time.
The man to whom I have had the greatest admiration is Booker T. Washington.
He began working as a very young child in a West Virginian coal mine, picking up coal that the conveyances dropped on the way out
of the mine. Much has been written about his working his way up in the face of much opposition, but the thing that impresses me most
is that he wanted to do something for his own race. We should all have that attitude! I suppose that the memory of him having to work
in a coal mine at a very early age impressed me greatly because that is exactly what I did at an early age.
When Mr. Washington saw the opportunity to start a school that would benefit all his black brothers by teaching them the basic fundamentals
of workmanship, he took the plunge. The result was Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. This is now known as Tuskegee University as through
the years it has gained this status. Quote from Wikipedia; “It offers 40 Bachelor’s degree programs. 17 Master’s Degree programs,
a five year accredited professional degree program in architecture, 4 doctoral degree programs, and the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
It is home to over 3,100 students from the U.S. alone, and plays host to 30 foreign countries. It ranks in the top 379 Colleges and
Universities by the Princeton review.” End quote.
What began as a teacher’s school, with humble beginnings
in 1881, installing Booker T. Washington as the first principal, they took up residence in a church. He not only taught teachers,
but also taught students to succeed through the practical skills of how to farm, and other trades typical of the South. Most of his
early students had been raised in this atmosphere. He taught his students that labor was very practical and was also dignified. In
fact, most of the new buildings were constructed by the students. Many students worked their way through the school by construction,
agriculture, and domestic work around the campus. They even raised their own livestock and crops.
innovator of the African-American community has gone down in history as laying a foundation for many great men who followed in his
Another man who stands out in my mind is George Washington Carver. He was born into slavery, so
the exact year of his birth is unknown. It is known that he graduated at Minneapolis High School in 1885, attended Simpson College
from 1890-1891, and Iowa State University from 1891-1896. His contributions to Botany, Science, and Invention, are widely known and
some of his inventions are still used to this day. Young Carver had to move many times in order to achieve an education in post-Civil
War America, but this bright, civic-minded individual was the epitome of perseverance.
One never tires of
hearing all the things that Carver did for those of his race, and all other races. He introduced crop-rotation to prevent over use
of the land. He invented the Jessup Wagon to take the laboratory to the field. His products made from the lowly ‘goober pea’ or peanut
are innumerable as are products produced from sweet potatoes. He even produced dyes from the Alabama soil as most of his research
was done at Tuskegee Institute. He took his middle initial ‘W’ from his benefactor, Booker T. Washington. We owe a debt of gratitude
to this great man, inventor, and foundation layer!
The contributions of African-Americans, if listed, would
take a paper stretched from sky to sky. I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to two of my favorite memories from
childhood. Thank you!