Potts column: This Black History Month, go beyond the big names

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
I am issuing a challenge to those who have children, know children or educate children. This month, please teach them about people other than Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr.
Before you get upset and swear off the Post, let me say this: Those people made wonderful contributions, but there are other notable African-Americans out there. Some of them, many of us know nothing about.
People, we are doing our children a disservice by only teaching them about the select few. We are also doing our children a disservice if we rely on the schools to teach them what we should have already taught them. Could it be because we ourselves only know about Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King and George Washington Carver?
This is an opportunity to expand your horizons and that of the future leaders.
I can recall my mother giving me a book about African-American inventors. I must say, it changed my life, even though I was only 8.
I had no idea that a black man, Garrett Morgan, invented the traffic light and the gas mask.
I didn’t know that an African-American woman, Madame C.J. Walker, created hair-care products and was the first black woman millionaire.
Tell them about Ralph Abernathy. He was a civil rights leader who helped Martin Luther King organize the Montgomery bus boycott. You didn’t think Dr. King did it by himself?
Tell them about Charles Drew, who was a surgeon who developed a way to preserve blood plasma for transfusion.
I’m not knocking Martin Luther King or Harriet Tubman, but don’t we owe it to our future generations to know more about the past? There’s a quote about learning from the past to make a better future. I am not sure who said it, but the words are so true.
There are so many more people we could learn about. There’s no excuse not to. If you don’t have the history books or a computer at home, go to the library รณ it’s free. There are so many Web sites devoted to these very topics.
So I encourage parents to not just have their children look it up. Do your own research and learn about some inventors and educators who did great things and made it possible for many of us, including myself, to be where I am.