Spitting Some Truth: The Unknowns


Truth Arnold, Opinions

It’s that time of the year again where we as a country acknowledge the achievements of African Americans throughout the history of our country. And as much as I would like to sit here and write about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and whoever else you talk about every single year in your history classes, I want to change it up a little. There are so many people and organizations that are contributing factors to lots of success in today’s culture that goes unacknowledged by the history books and the public that should be talked about more every year. And yes, all of those people previously mentioned are important, but being able to learn more about the people who constantly bring success to this country should be celebrated and learned about not only within the month of February, but throughout the whole year. 

Since most of the people reading this are probably in school, I want to connect from an educational standpoint, where there are schools during the civil rights era that garnered to the African American community as higher institutions of learning called HBCUs (which stands for, Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Now I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t heard about them, because normally these schools aren’t advertised as much nor are they really acknowledged at all by the public because of how niche they are in terms of schools (even though there are about 100+ of them). I mean, I didn’t even know about them until my family talked about how they got degrees at a couple of them or even until Beyonce brought them into the spotlight during her Homecoming film (which you NEED to see if you haven’t already). As these schools were created for the African American community during the civil rights movements there is a culture there that is different from other schools. The homecoming parades and bands, along with the parties that formed from this is a, dare I say, religious experience. This derives from the celebration of their educational opportunities and their hardworking alumni that lasts about a week long in most schools. And even though these fun celebrations are common and even recognized enough call HBCUs “party schools”, they have some of the most rigorous programs that push out some of the most successful people known today. People that you may recognize that graduated from this school from world renowned T.V personality (among other things) Oprah Winfrey, to high-grossing actor Samuel L. Jackson, and even famous American Literature writer Toni Morrison who was a Pulitzer prize winner for Fiction.

But throughout time, there have been people who graduated from HBCUs, who have done great things, and are never recognized for it. The earliest that I can recall are the Tuskegee Airmen, which were the first black aviators in the Air Force who served in World War II. They were educated at Tuskegee University in Alabama and were discriminated against in their field and at home. Similarly even years later it was the same situation with Katherine Johnson, who went to West Virginia State University, famously known for being in NASA and calculating the flight for the first man being sent into space in 1959 and Apollo 11. And she didn’t even get the recognition for her work in that field until years later with facing racial discrimination as well as sexism. Even though they were practically the best in their field and have achieved great things, you never really see people covering their stories or paying attention to the schools who have cultivated such talent. Continuously since then, the overall achievements of African Americans that come from those schools has been improving since, as mentioned above. For example, more than half of black professionals are from these colleges and most of the students that graduate from these schools go on to get PHDs. The impact of HBCUs alone brings around 10 billion the country’s economy. I could go on, but the point I’m trying to make here is that there are many contributions to the schools and education of African American centric schools alone. 

Even though there isn’t any coverage on this type of history during the month, and understandably so since there are many other big events that are and should be talked about, there should be more acknowledgement for the other accomplishments as well. The small parts of history are still the important parts and they make up a portion of what the community is to this day. Whether it’s the education of African Americans or the overall overlooked portions of history, there should be more effort to try to make these great unknowns, known.