During the month of February, we celebrate every Black and African American who has significantly changed history. This month, and every month of the year, it is important to recognize excellence and celebrate the accomplishments of Black and African Americans. Whether these actions be big or small, some way or another, they helped pave the way for freedom and success. There are so many famous Black and African Americans who influenced history, yet it is important to remember and recognize those who made waves in the background and received little to no recognition. While we all know and appreciate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X, how many of us have heard of Octavius Catto or until the movie Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson? To understand and appreciate our Black and African American friends and family members, we need to come to an understanding of all influential individuals who have made history. With this blog, there is a hope to educate and to also emphasize just how important each figure throughout history has been in changing the future. These individuals are strong, capable, hardworking, dedicated, and resilient, and every person involved in changing history is worth a recognition for their services of making this world a better place.
Octavius was one of the most influential leaders in Philadelphia, PA. Octavius was an adamant activist for the abolition of slavery and helped establish equal rights for all men, regardless of race. He successfully fought for the desegregation of Philadelphia’s public trolleys and ratification of the 15th amendment to the Constitution (bars voting discrimination on basis of race). Octavius was shot and killed outside of his home at the age of 32. It was believed that his activism and efforts to lead African Americans to voting was the reason for his murder.
One hundred and forty (140) years after his murder, a monument was unveiled in Philadelphia’s City Hall. This monument was placed because of the Octavius V. Catto Memorial Fund. This fund was established with the purpose of expanding public awareness of African American contributions throughout American history locally, regionally, and nationally. This memorial and fund became a spark for ongoing educational programing.
Fun fact: Not only was he a Civil Rights activist, but he was also a scholar, an educator, a writer, and an accomplished baseball player!
Katherine was a NASA mathematician. She was famous for calculating the trajectory needed to get the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and back. Katherine played a key role in many NASA missions, especially during the Space Race. Katherine was able to overcome social boundaries and racial discrimination as a black woman working for NASA in the 50s and 60s. Katherine also spent years speaking with students, encouraging them to pursue STEM education as there will always be science in this world to learn from. Katherine made such an impact in the science world that in 2016, the NASA Langley facility was renamed in her honor: the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Facility.
This blog was written by guest author, Alexandria Zammer. Alexandria is a Field Staff Specialist and Research and Data Assistant for the Delaware County Member and Family Satisfaction Team (M/FST), which is a program at Voice and Vision, Inc. Prior to being hired, Alexandria worked as an Intern for Voice and Vision, Inc. She currently is enrolled in the Master’s of Social Work program at Widener University.
Cover photo credit: https://blackhistorymonth.ucsd.edu/2021/index.html
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