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Black History Month

African american woman

Black History Month

Hey Great Basin Family, Black History Month is upon us (February), yay! I draw a lot of strength and inspiration from this upcoming month, so many ordinary people who helped change the world. I thought that I would share a few remarkable people’s stories and hopefully they’ll inspire some of you.

Mary Winston Jackson was a smarty lady from the beginning. She graduated from George P. Phenix Training School with the highest of honors, earned her bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physical science. In 1951 Jackson was recruited by the NACA, now known as NASA, as a mathematician or computer. In 1953 she stated to work for an engineer in the Supersonic Pressure Tunnels, where they worked on essentially making sure that nothing would happen to the shuttles upon taking off and reentry, trying to keep our astronauts safe. Jackson was encouraged to apply for a training program so she could be promoted to engineer. However the classes that she needed in order to enter the program were only taught at a “Whites Only” school. Jackson did not accept defeat and petitioned the City of Hampton to allow her to attend the classes. She won and became the first black female engineer!

Claudette Colvin. Most people think that Rosa Parks was the first person to refuse to give up her seat in Montgomery, Alabama, but there were several women who did it before she had. Claudette Colvin was one of them. March 2nd, 1955, 9 months before Parks refused to give up her seat, 15 year old Claudette was riding the bus. When she refused to give up her seat as instructed by the bus driver, she said “it felt like Sojourner Truth was on one side pushing me down and Harriet Tubman was on the other side of me pushing me down. I couldn’t get up.” She was thrown in jail. Colvin didn’t stop there; she and three other women challenged the segregation laws in court, Browder v Gayle, which helped end the practice of segregation on Montgomery public buses.

Maggie Lena Walker. The first female bank president to charter a bank in the United States. Her mother was a former slave and her father passed away at a young age, so Walker had to learn how to juggle school, and work to help support her family. She later became a grade school teacher while taking accounting and business classes. Walker then became in important community organizer for Independent Order of St. Luke, a fraternal burial society that provided humanitarian services to the elderly. With the success of that she started a newspaper for St. Luke called the St. Luke Herald. Launching off of that success Walker started the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank where she became not only the first female bank president but was a woman of color. She continued her role as president even with her confinement to a wheelchair due to her paralysis until the day she died.

These women are just a few examples of how ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary of things, regardless of background, age, race, gender, etc. We all hold an incredible power within ourselves. Have a wonderful February!

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