Celebrate Black History Month and the accomplishments of African American heroes throughout history. Brandon Chavez/courtesy
February is Black History Month, and this annual celebration recognizes African Americans’ achievements that span throughout the United States’ history and highlights their important roles throughout the years. Carter G. Woodson’s original “Negro History Week” began on Feb. 7, 1926, and notes that African Americans had been honored ever since in the U.S. and worldwide.
The Nobel Peace Prize was created in 1901, with nearly a thousand individuals having been awarded the prize since. Only 16 African Americans have been recognized for their accomplishments and central roles in chemistry, literature, physics, physiology, medicine, economics and peace.
Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. spark debate over the issues of racism and police brutality. Clay Banks/Unsplash
Petter Eide, a Norwegian politician, selects the Black Lives Matter movement as a nominee for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.
“The BLM movement has had a tremendous achievement in raising global awareness and consciousness about racial injustice,” Eide said in an interview with NBC News. “Awarding the peace prize to Black Lives Matter, as the strongest global force against racial injustice will send a powerful message that peace is founded on equality, solidarity and human rights and that all countries must respect those basic principles.”
BLM was founded in 2013, and recently in 2020, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are a huge factor for the beginning of the global protests, which brings the movement’s cause for anti-racism and police reform to the attention of mainstream media. Racial disparity against minorities has remained virtually unchanged from 2013 to 2020.
Timothy Braatz, a Saddleback College professor, teaches U.S. History with an emphasis on Peaceful Studies for over 20 years. He is also a playwright and novelist who has authored numerous scholarly articles on nonviolence.
“The nonviolent Black Lives Matter Movement already has been very successful in putting racism at the forefront of national discussions,” Braatz said in an email. “The Movement has done this despite backlash from white supremacists, police organizations and others who would rather not end police brutality against blacks. The Movement is anti-racist. People who oppose it are perpetuating racism.”
The BLM movement began to achieve its original goal of saving African American lives from police brutality, according to Travis Campbell of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In his research, Campbell finds that a 15% to 20% decrease in police-involved homicides of African American lives has taken place in those cities where protests took place from 2014 to 2019 — approximately 300 lives.
Ralph Johnson Bunche is the first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. He has a master’s degree in political science and served on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet to assess issues facing minorities. His role in passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, support of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Negro Urban League served to bring him attention.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his dedication to the Civil Rights non-violent action against racial injustice. The following tweet shows the original nomination card from 1963.
The first Nobel Prize nomination for Martin Luther King Jr. arrived to the Norwegian Nobel Committee #OTD in 1963. The nomination came from a previous Peace Laureate, American Friends Service Committee. King was awarded the Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racism. pic.twitter.com/0zzCisW3fn
Braatz clarifies that the Nobel Peace Prize was originally worded for someone who prevents war. King won the award for the nonviolent bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, which led to buses’ desegregation. King was actively anti-war later in his career.
“The award gave him international stature and media attention which gave the Civil Rights Movement more political leverage in the USA, and more ability to raise money for their nonviolent campaigns,” Braatz said. “The Peace Prize is awarded as a political statement and in King’s case, it was a very positive choice.”
President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to diplomatic relations between nations. Library of Congress
In 2009, President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his international progress on relations to improve diplomacy. His goal of creating a world without nuclear weapons was of special importance in the award.
On January 21, Amanda Gorman was the poet laureate for President Biden’s inauguration ceremony. Her presence at the event drew worldwide admiration for her recitation of “The Hill We Climb,” an original poem she authored specifically for the occasion.
Patricia Staes is a published writer of the book “The Bruges Tapestry” and was extremely impressed with Gorman’s poise and grace as she delivered her presentation.
“I found her poem and her reading of it to be other-worldly as if an angel were delivering news to mankind,” Staes said. “I was transfixed by her hand and finger movements. The yellow and red she wore made the message even sweeter, small and colorful. She felt like a bird resting on a branch, bringing a message of hope.”
Braatz mentions several African American women throughout history for their acts of bravery. He feels that some of these women are more courageous and compassionate than the many U.S. presidents who have schools and towns and counties named after them.
“I’m particularly keen on Harriet Tubman — a woman who suffered from a serious brain injury, yet still rescued people from slavery, saved others from going back to slavery, led US soldiers to free more slaves, worked for women’s rights, and cared for the elderly,” Braatz said. “Also, the women in the Civil Rights Movement, like Fannie Lou Hamer and Diane Nash. These are some of the more remarkable figures in US history.”
Professor Larry Radden is the speech instructor for the Fine Arts and Media department at Saddleback College. He did his undergraduate work at San Francisco University and graduate work at California State Los Angeles. Radden has been a teacher at Saddleback for 26 years.
“I find it amazing that Black History month was finally acknowledged in 1970,” he said in an email. “When we think about black history, lots of people are not aware of the contributions that a multitude of black people have made.”
Radden points out that an African American man named George Crum invented potato chips and that it’s “funny that his last name is Crum.” He also mentions that Garrett Morgan invented the yellow caution light, which has saved many lives.
As a performer, Radden is happy to see that the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes represent minorities and black people.
“With these glimpses of hope, it appears that we are taking steps forward,” Radden said. “If the motives are altruistic, we must understand that bounds us are both celebrations of our human commonalities and jubilation in our individual uniquenesses.”
If you are a fan of African American heroes, USA Today suggests 20 movies to watch to celebrate Black History Month.