The Importance of African American history: Believe in fairy tales!
Hi and welcome to the Wiki History lecture series called History is Power! Produced by rememberinghistory.com where history is power. Today, we’re going to discuss the importance of knowing African American history. We begin by asking why is history important? Great question. Perhaps the answer can be found in this famous journal entry, which says,
Next time I go to a movie and see a picture of a little ordinary girl become a great star, I’ll believe it.
And whenever I hear someone read fairy tales to my little boy, I’ll listen.
I know that dreams do come true.
I know because I am now playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the big leagues!
I always dreamed about playing for the Dodgers, but honestly, I always had my doubts. I used to tell myself: “Something will happen. It just isn’t in the books for you to play in the majors. You’re a Negro. Negroes haven’t been in the big leagues. Some day they will be. But you won’t be the lucky guy.
Can you guess who wrote this entry? Jackie Robinson. In 1947--following his first major league game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson was the first Black person to play major league baseball. He made history. And he went on to win the league’s MVP award in 1949. During his career, he would play in 6 World Series. He concluded this entry by saying,
Being up here is absolutely wonderful. That’s why I’m a believer in fairy tales now. You see, it actually happened to me!
It was said that Jackie Robinson endured more racial insults and threats of violence than anyone in American history. But we know that Jackie Robinson made history. And history is power.
Yes, we can learn a lot from history—that can inspire AND empower US, too.
With this inspiration and empowerment, WE can make history.
And THAT is our goal at rememberinghistory.com. We are remembering history AND we’re MAKING it.
You’re gonna hear about many African Americans that made great accomplishments, contributions and changes in every field—law, medicine, art, literature, science, engineering, the environment, sports, American society and even the world! We will learn that they faced lots of obstacles, problems, rejections and sometimes even violence. But most importantly we will learn that—despite all of their challenges-- they still made history.
Nothing came easy for Jackie Robinson or any of the other African Americans that you’re gonna hear about. Yet through their resolve, perseverance, focus, determination and hard work, they made a difference for themselves and for others. They MADE history. You see, just like Jackie Robinson said: fairy tales can come true. It happened for him. And it can happen for you, too.
History teaches that it can happen. History also teaches HOW things happened and why. And that nothing ever had to happen in the way that it did.
So we need to know the African Americans who came before us; what happened before us—the successes, the defeats, the victories and the challenges. We need to know the African Americans who helped to build and transform the United States and, indeed, who helped to shape our world. Some names will be unfamiliar from the past: Dr. Carter G. Woodson who wrote the Negro National Anthem later called the African American National Anthem (yes, there is one!) and who founded Black History Month. Ida B. Wells who fought against the horrible (but at-the-time common) practice of lynching. And, of course, the mathematical genius, Benjamin Banneker, who made great discoveries in astronomy and developed theories about relativity. Did I mention that Benjamin Banneker was born in 1731, a descendant of enslaved parents?
And, like Jackie Robinson, the road was not easy yet they endured. Others did too. There was James McCune Smith, who moved to Scotland to earn his medical degree because no American universities would accept a Black man. He graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1837 becoming the first African American to receive a medical degree. Dr. Smith then returned to the U.S. where he had a distinguished medical career in private practice, opened two pharmacies, and trained young Black doctors.
And there is Marcelite Harris who, in 1997, became the first woman to achieve the rank of major general in the US Air Force. Yes, she became the highest ranking woman in the United States Air Force and the country’s highest ranking African American woman in the Department of Defense! However, she had to apply THREE TIMES before her application for training was accepted.
And did you know that Michael Jordan was cut from the basketball team in his sophomore year?! Most of us know what he went on to achieve!
You see; nothing came easy for any of them. But these people were not afraid to be first. Or to stand out. Or even to stand alone. They weren’t afraid to fail. They never gave up. Neither should we.
We can learn a lot from them. We can begin by asking ourselves:
But remember that history is not just the study of the past. It is interesting because nobody ever lived in the past. People have only lived in the present. Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, and Harriet Tubman didn’t think of themselves as living in the past. They were living in the present. The difference is that it was THEIR present. Not ours. They were caught up in the living moment exactly as we are today. They didn’t know how things would turn out. Neither do we today.
Jackie Robinson didn’t know what would happen when he joined the Dodgers and stepped on the field that day in 1947. Dr. Smith did not know what would happen when he moved to Scotland to study medicine or when he returned to America in 1837. And Major General Marcelite Harris never knew if she would ever be accepted into the Air Force or that she would receive so many medals and honors but she kept trying. But we can use their stories and strength (their fairy tales) to be empowered, inspired, and moved to make our own fairy tales.
We know the history. And history is power.
History teaches us that we can believe in fairy tales. And that we can make history.
This website will span 400 years of the African American experience: from slavery to freedom to equality to justice. The stories and lessons will empower and inspire you. We will learn about Black explorers, educators, civil rights, the Black experience in the military, Black holidays and celebrations, the struggle for equality through marches and protests and many more fascinating subjects. Take a look at rememberinghistory.com for the complete schedule. We’ll also discuss CURRENT events and TODAY’S heroes and history makers. That’s gonna keep us busy and intrigued as well but we MUST recognize and honor them too. People like Marva Collins, a great educator who founded an elementary school for Black kids who were labeled as “uneducatable”. But she developed a school and system to help these children to learn and become successful adults. Another current hero is Mae Jamison who is an engineer, physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first African American woman to travel in space. Did I mention that she also speaks four languages?! You’ll have to listen to the podcast show to find out which ones! She has been described as one of the most impressive people that you’ll ever meet. And, we absolutely cannot forget Colin Kaepernick, who was a skilled and talented quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers taking them to the Superbowl and NFC championships. He has not been signed to ANY NFL team since he started the “take a knee” movement, which focuses police violence and racial injustice against African Americans. He is a brave and committed role model and leader that deserves our respect. All of these people are deserve our respect because they fought and defeated the odds and lots of obstacles. They are making a difference and making history.
You see, these are great stories and there are so many of them to listen to, enjoy and learn from.
So, we hope that you will join us at rememberinghistory.com. And that you will read our newsletter called Making History Today where you can learn how to make a difference in your community and even the world! And we do hope that you will make comments, ask questions and join this wonderful community of history lovers and aspiring history makers on the website or on Facebook. Or both! No limits!
Keep believing in fairy tales! They do happen.
We hope to see you soon at rememberinghistory.com where we are remembering history and we’re making it. Every day. Bye for now!