I will be a historian until the day I die. I can imagine reaching with my wavering hand stretched out for my computer so I can go look up something at the Library of Congress website. That’s why when Black Heritage Month comes in February, I perk up.
The celebration of African American accomplishments was launched by Carter G. Woodson, the granddaddy of African American history. He first named the annual celebration Negro History Week, which was later expanded to Black History Month. Many now call the month of February Black Heritage Month.
I could go on and on about environmental (that would include technology, science and medicine in my mind) contributions by African Americans. I am inspired to share a few things in the month of February 2010.
The Buffalo soldiers first come to mind. I learned about them many years ago. I knew they were a branch of the U.S. military launched after the Civil War. I also knew of two stories of why Native Americans gave these African Americans the name buffalo: Native Americans believed African Americans were fierce fighters and had curly hair much like the buffalo.
As for the environment, African American men in the military serving in the American West, crossed and worked on numerous landscapes from deserts to prairies after the Civil War. News of the publication of Gloryland: A Novel by Shelton Johnson led me to look for more online in connection to the novel, which was revelatory. What I did not know was that Buffalo solders served as some of the first national park rangers in California!
Learn more about the Buffalo soldiers and Shelton Johnson:
- Look at Shadow Soldier, his website
- Listen to an NPR interview with Johnson
- Watch a video to learn more about the Buffalo Soldiers in California