By Madison Martinez
February is Black History Month and a great opportunity to appreciate all the contributions African-Americans have made in society and culture. Major parts of American culture can be traced back to African-Americans such as, soul music, jazz, and hip-hop. All are unique to culture and part of black identity.
However, I feel that many known accomplishments are mainly in the realm of entertainment. When we think of famous African-Americans, or anyone famous really, we first think of singers, actors, and sports stars.
While extraordinary, I feel like we should rewind the clock and look at the other types of accomplishments African-Americans have made and their impact on us today. This is the month to celebrate all that African-Americans have done after all.
For example, Dr. Charles Drew, a medical director for the American Red Cross, saved thousands of WWII soldiers with his research on plasma. For blood transfusions, blood needs to be stored in banks, and Drew discovered that plasma, the liquid portion of blood that contains no blood cells, can be stored longer than whole blood. Drew managed the two largest blood banks during the war and his protocols for blood banks are still used today, saving millions of people.
Another example, of African-Americans influence during WWII, the first black general for the US Army was Benjamin O. Davis Sr. Starting as a volunteer during the Spanish-American War, Davis was inspired to start his military career by the military’s order and discipline. During WWII, he headed a special unit that safeguarded the status and morale of the African-American troops in the Army.
Alongside his responsibilities from his rising ranks, he served in Europe as a special advisor for race relations, trying to desegregate the Army. After Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted him to general, Davis continued to fight for the full integration of the US armed forces and set the groundwork necessary for President Truman to end discriminatory practices in the US armed forces in 1948.
In the intellectual front, W.E.B. Du Bois created the theory on African-American double consciousness. His work was intended to cross the “color line,” to raise awareness of the psychological consequences’ segregation had on blacks in both the working class and in politics.
“It is a peculiar sensation,” Du Bois said. “This double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”
His work is still read today as influential pieces for the intellectual library, both to what it boldly said back then and what wisdom it still holds for today.
In every field, one can see the influence of African-Americans. Their influence still resonates today and their legacies, old and new, will continue throughout time. So, take the time to notice that behind the color of skin, behind what you see on the screens and what you hear in your headphones, there are many people with ideas that have changed our lives.