American History is Black History
By Jamin Pursell
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter. America has a habit of creating myths about itself that hide the actual work of black people in building America. While Carver is widely known for his work with peanuts, he did not invent peanut butter, which traces back to the Aztecs. Carver, however, is recognized for his pioneering work in promoting the cultivation of peanuts as a profitable crop for farmers and his research into the many uses of peanuts and other crops, including over 300 products made from peanuts. While not primarily known as a political figure, Carver used his position and influence to advocate for important issues, such as education and the empowerment of African Americans. He was a member of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. This organization worked to promote better race relations in the United States, and he used his platform to speak out against racism and discrimination.
Additionally, Carver was friends with several prominent political figures of his time, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who consulted with him on agricultural issues. Although Carver was not a political figure in the traditional sense, his contributions to science and advocacy for social justice had a significant impact on American society. Carver is referred to as the "Father of the Peanut Industry" and also for his work in helping improve African American farmers' lives in the South.
Back to the start, American history needs to thank Crispus Attucks as the first patriot to die for American Independence. Crispus Attucks was a freed African American man who was one of the first casualties of the American Revolution. He was born in Massachusetts and worked as a sailor and dockworker. During the Boston Massacre of 1770, Attucks was among a group of colonists who confronted British soldiers and was killed in the ensuing altercation. He was the first person to die in the American Revolution and is remembered as a symbol of resistance to British rule. In addition, Attucks's death helped to galvanize support for the revolutionary cause, and he is recognized as the first hero of American independence.
Brian Hanlon, Elizabeth Freeman, 2022 (Photo from the artist’s Instagram, hanlonstudio1). As noted by @PhyllisASears at Herstorical Monuments, there is also a sculpture of Freeman at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
The abolitionist movement and the catalyst to end slavery in America was started by Elizabeth Freeman, also known as "Mum Bett," a formerly enslaved person who won her freedom in a landmark court case in Massachusetts in 1781. She sued her owner, Colonel John Ashley, claiming that slavery was illegal under the Massachusetts Constitution, which declared that all men were born free and equal. The judge in the case agreed with Freeman, and she became the first enslaved person in Massachusetts to win her freedom through the court system. This ruling helped to establish the principle that slavery was illegal in Massachusetts and laid the foundation for the abolition of slavery in the state. Elizabeth Freeman's case is considered one of the first steps in the more significant movement to abolish slavery in the United States and is an important event in stopping the vile practice in American history.
Shirley Chisholm was a trailblazing African American woman who made history as the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress in 1968, representing the state of New York's 12th congressional district. Chisholm was also the first Black woman to seek the nomination for president of the United States from a major political party in 1972, running for the Democratic Party's nomination. Although she faced significant challenges, including racism and sexism, during her campaign, she refused to be silenced or intimidated and inspired many with her message of inclusivity and equality. Throughout her political career, Chisholm fought for the rights of marginalized communities, advocating for issues such as education, healthcare, and social justice. She is famously quoted as having said, “If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."
These are just a few of the contributions that have helped shape America. Unfortunately, the contributions of African Americans have often been overlooked or mythologized in American history. Ignoring or downplaying their contributions with history books and curricula has historically omitted or minimized the contributions of African Americans to American history, science, culture, and society. Overemphasizing a few select individuals, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, have become widely known. Still, their stories are often oversimplified, and their contributions are sometimes used to represent the entire African American experience, ignoring the diverse contributions of many others. In focusing solely on oppression and struggle, the history of African Americans is often presented only as a story of slavery, oppression, and struggle, overlooking their many achievements, innovations, and contributions to American society. Generalizations create harmful myths and stereotypes of African Americans that perpetuate negative and limiting ideas about their abilities, intelligence, and worth, contributing to further marginalization and discrimination. Recognizing and correcting these omissions, oversimplifications, and stereotypes will enable people to create a more accurate and inclusive understanding of American history and society. We must acknowledge the full breadth and depth of contributions all individuals and groups make. By highlighting and uplifting the legacy of so many, we can inspire the next generations of leaders who seek to create a more just and equitable society.