This month we will be celebrating Black History Month, and it is going to be lit. During Black History Month a lot of people, whether African-American or not, use this opportunity to celebrate their black heritage. Too often, people talk about the men who made this history possible, but never acknowledge the women who have made huge contributions to black history. These women, whether they marched with MLK and other great male activists, spoke up, or led protests, were not always given the opportunity to be appreciated for their efforts. Therefore, this month I would like to acknowledge and appreciate the women who have contributed to black history.
For the women who were on the frontline or stayed back to make sure those outside had a good and warm home to come back to, we have to remember to appreciate their effort as much as we appreciate their male counterparts. Many of us know about Rosa Parks, who became a prominent civil rights symbol for refusing to leave her seat for a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This action of resistance led to a citywide boycott of buses, which later paved the way for the desegregation of buses in America. Thanks to Ruane Parker, we all can eat toasted bread whenever we want because she invented the toaster. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became famous when she became the president of Liberia. She was the first black woman to ever become a president and the first female president in the continent of Africa. Many people may have come across the name Harriet Tubman (born Araminta Ross), who was prominent in the freeing of slaves. After she escaped slavery, she went back and continued to rescue other slaves, and by the end of her life, she had rescued about 300 slaves. In a time when it was not easy to be black, let alone a black woman in America, Harriet Tubman worked against all odds to make sure people got their freedom.
Henrietta Lacks (born Loretta Pleasant) was an African American woman whose cancer cells are the source of the HeLa line. HeLa line is a cell type in an immortal cell line and it is used extensively in scientific research. Her cells were taken and used without her consent, but this invention is still used today within the medical community to conduct various types of research. A lot of organizations profited from HeLa, but she and her family never benefited from it. Many of us watched the movie “Hidden Figures,” which told the story of three great African-American women: Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. These women all immensely contributed to NASA by being the brains behind the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. However, a lot of us never knew of their contributions until the movie was made, which was based off of a book that told their story.
Growing up in Nigeria, I had the opportunity to learn about several women who had been powerful rulers and political figures, and one of them was Queen Amina of Zazzau (now known as Zaria). She was said to be a great ruler who conquered various kingdoms and established a great network of commerce in Northern Nigeria. She is also famous for her military exploits. These great women who have gone down in history books hardly get talked about due to lack of education in society, or because history books leave them out because they are black and women. They deserve to be remembered at all times and appreciated. It should not take a miraculous discovery for people to know about them. The education system should be designed in such a way that children growing up, especially female children of color, know that there are people who have gone before them and made it.