Celebrating Black Figures

Celebrating Black Figures


Brown Skin Women has decided to highlight important Black figures in history this Black History Month. We want to celebrate the Black folks who have made history, changed the world, and fought for our community. Each person we’ve decided to talk about has impacted their field and deserves recognition. There were so many people to choose from, it was hard to come up with a shortlist. These are just a few people that have inspired us. It’s always time to learn Black History, but this month is a great reminder to remember your ancestors, members of the community that fought for us, and those who are currently fighting for us. When we say fighting, we don’t just mean those marching and protesting for our civil rights.

We also mean those who fight to live the lives they deserve. The people who love their family and want to break generational curses. The ones who are taking care of themselves and finding their way through life. Being Black in the 21st century is exhausting. There’s so much stress and pressure placed on us from the time we can barely walk. We want to also celebrate those who are striving for happiness, holding themselves accountable, seeking betterment, and treating themselves with kindness. If you’re Black, celebrate yourself this month. Think of what you’ve overcome, what you want in your life, and how your healing journey is going—or if it’s time to start it. Happy Black History Month and Happy Natural!

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver, born before slavery ended, was the first Black American to earn a bachelor of science degree. At a young age, he was referred to as the “Plant Doctor” by local neighbors. His knowledge of plants and remedies stood out even to the adults in his life. George was also taught how to sew, cook, and embroider alongside other household tasks. These abilities allowed him to make a living while he pursued his education. After graduation from Iowa State, he was asked to stay at the school for his master’s studies. He accepted the position to establish an agricultural school at Tuskeegee Insitute (Tuskeegee University today.)

George struggled with the position at first. He often clashed with the man who hired him, Booker T. Washington. One reason this happened often was George not wanting to teach. He was loved by his students, but he was more interested in working with plants. Washington needed him to run and maintain the agricultural school while focusing on students. George was given the chance to explore his true interests once Washington died and someone new took over. He only needed to teach during the summer and could spend the rest of his time inventing.

He became known as “The Peanut Man” after he gave an inspiring speech about the many different ways peanuts could be used.

George Washington Carver is one of the more recognized Black figures. That’s because of his massive impact and famous speech. He created over 300 commercial, food, and industrial products from peanuts (Worcestershire sauce, cooking oils, cosmetics, wood stains, etc.,.) After receiving a standing ovation and convincing the Ways and Means of the U.S. House of Representatives to approve a highly protected tariff for legumes. He also taught poor farmers how to fertilize their crops without paying for expensive items. He also developed a crop rotation technique that revolutionized agriculture.

George Washington Carver spent the last decades of his life speaking and advocating for peace. He even traveled to India and met Mahomet Gandhi. He continued to release bulletins until his death. George often wrote helpful information for farmers, science, and cooking recipes. He passed away in 1943 and was buried next to Booker T. Washington on the grounds of Tuskeegee Institute.

Many of us only knew a little about The Peanut Man, but his story is so incredible that we urge you to do more research for yourself! George was able to accomplish so much in his lifetime and created positive change in many people’s lives. Many farmers in the United States today use his rotation method and most of us have the products he developed in our house. If you want a full list of his inventions, click here!

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Have you ever heard of her? She was the first Black woman to become a doctor in the United States. Rebecca was raised in Pennsylvania by her aunt, a woman who always blended a helping hand. Rebecca learned as she watched her aunt tend to sick neighbors that she wanted to ease people’s suffering. She attended a highly regarded private school and was a promising student throughout her youth. Rebecca then moved to Massachusetts in the early 1850s to become a nurse. She made the brave decision to apply to New England Female Medical College in Boston. Black people were rarely accepted into medical schools but Rebecca was chosen.

Women were rarely doctors at this point in time. There were misogynistic beliefs that women were too faint of heart to handle being a doctor. This led to most women interested in healthcare becoming nurses or midwives. The school was originally for midwifery but Rebecca’s curriculum included healthcare outside of childbirth. It was the only school in the country that taught women how to be an M.D.

She graduated in 1864 and became the first Black female doctor.

Her title was the “Doctress of Medicine.” Rebecca began practicing in Boston but ended up in Virginia after the Civil War. She felt a calling to help the former slaves and those who couldn’t afford healthcare. She worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau. This was a federal agency that had the responsibility to help 4 million slaves transition to freedom.

The need for more Black doctors quickly raised. Newly freed slaves and other Black people faced discrimination and racism when seeking medical assistance. This movement inspired more Black people to begin applying to medical schools. In the late 1860s, Dr. Crumpler began practicing in Boston again. She and her second husband moved into a predominately Black neighborhood where they lived out the rest of their days. She published A Book of Medical Discourse in 1883. It gave advice about things such as childbirth. Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler is one of the many outstanding Black figures within our history. She found her passion young and continued to seek it out throughout her life. She broke down fences for Black women in the medical industry because she would not allow herself to get deterred.

Mamie Phipps Clark

Mamie Phipps Clark did not always plan on going into psychology. She was born in Arkansaw in 1917. After she graduated high school her original plan was to be a math teacher. Howard University awarded her a scholarship so she went there. She began to study math and physics but it didn’t work out. She didn’t feel supported by the faculty and ultimately decided to change course.

Her husband, boyfriend at the time, Kenneth Clark encouraged her to try psychology. He was a psychology student as well and a few years ahead of Mamie. Mamie enjoyed the subject and joined her husband at Columbia University after graduation. There, they both completed their masters. They’re the first Black man and woman to earn a doctoral psychology degree in the United States.

These Black figures paved the way for future Black psychologists.

The Clarks’ dissertation, “The Development of Consciousness of Self and the Emergence of Racial Identification in Negro Preschool Children,” embodied much of their lives working. They examined how Black children regarded themselves and others. They figured this out by conducting experiments like “The Doll Test.” This is a famous test that was used in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka. It was an important piece of the case that led to the supreme court desegregating schools.

The experiment took Black children who attended segregated schools and gave them identical-looking dolls that had certain features changed, such as hair, skin, and eyes. The experiment showed the Black children had learned passively that they were inherently inferior to their white peers. Mixed children were more likely to be aware of prejudice but did not think their treatment was fair.

This reinforced the call to integrate schools because children in America are created equal.

Mamie still struggled to find work after completing her degree. Racism and sexism played a huge part in the way she was treated within the field. She had a hard time finding jobs that treated her well and fulfilled her. She eventually found herself working as a testing psychologist in a children’s home for homeless Black girls. Mamie was deeply impacted by her work there. She realized that the Black children she was helping had been failed or abandoned by society. They were products of the racism that they were subjected to and weren’t being assisted properly.

She and her husband opened up the Northside Center of Child Development. They were able to support minority children with their psychological needs and uplift the community. They also conducted social and race experiments like the one mentioned above.

Dr. Kizzmekia S Corbett

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Kizzmekia S Corbett, then you definitely need to read this. She solidified her status among other Black figures in STEM. by following her passion for science and education. The pandemic was a scary, chaotic time for many of us. We weren’t sure what was going on or how we could protect ourselves or our loved ones. Things changed when the Covid vaccines were available to the public. People went out in droves to get vaccinated so they could get back to some sort of normal. The vaccine was created by scientists who worked tirelessly to create a solution to the pandemic. One of those scientists was Dr. Kizzmekia S Corbett.

She was a strong student throughout her youth. A true academic, she spent her high school summer breaks working in research labs and participated in the American Chemical Society’s sponsored program Project Seed. In 2005 she interned at Stony Brook University studying pathogens. The next year she was a lab tech at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Kizzmekia was already making great strides in her education by the age of 20. Once she completed her bachelor’s degree Kizzmekia became a biological trainer at the National Institutes of Health.

She continued to work with pathogens and was a part of a vaccine platform advancement.

Kizzmekia traveled to Sri Lanka to study the dengue virus and the antibodies that fight it. She researched how genetics played a role in the virus’ potential severity of the infected person. She also worked as a visiting scholar while writing her dissertation in Sri Lanka. In 2014, Kizzmekia returned to the National Institutes of Health as a research fellow. Her role is a viral immunologist. Her early research included Severe Acute Raspatory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) vaccine antigens.

Once the pandemic hit, she and her team began working on a vaccine. Eventually, they were able to create one that could significantly help people. Her team partnered with Moderna in order to manufacture the vaccine and begin animal studies. Dr. Fauci has expressed that Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is at the forefront of the Covid vaccine’s development.

She also works to encourage the hesitant Black community about getting the vaccine.

She understands that historically and presently Black people have been treated cruelly by the medical industry. There have been countless torturous studies done on the Black community in the name of “science.” However, as a developer of the vaccine who cried when she realized it really helped people, she urges the Black population to get the shot. She has given presentations about the importance of Black health, this includes preventative care such as vaccines.

In conclusion…

We hope you learned something from our spotlight feature! We wanted to talk about Black figures who have made positive impacts in our community by following their passions. There are thousands of Black people who have lived by example and fought to create space in segregated environments. Each of the Black figures above created new opportunities for countless others, simply by existing and going against the grain of society. Everyone is capable of making changes in their lives that create a ripple effect. We have the ability to break generational curses and habits through healing. When we take a step onto a path, we become inspirational to ourselves and to others. Let’s continue to learn about the people who have contributed positive change to our community, no matter the month. Their stories and journeys may resonate with you and inspire you. Make the changes and decisions necessary to live the life you want. Your life is your legacy, and you may be a Black figure that will inspire someone.

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