Hidden Figures: Past and Present History

Updated: Feb. 28, 2020 at 5:14 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Every February, people like Martin Luther King Jr., Madam C.J. Walker, Rosa Parks and other prominent figures are honored for Black History Month, but 28 or 29 days is not enough time to contain the influence and greatness that African Americans have had on society.

Take someone like Lewis Latimer, who worked at the U.S. Patent Office and helped Thomas Edison develop the filament.

Lewis Latimer worked at the U.S. Patent Office and helped Thomas Edison develop the filament.
Lewis Latimer worked at the U.S. Patent Office and helped Thomas Edison develop the filament.(KPLC)

The filament is the mechanism that makes a light bulb last longer than a few hours.

Garret Morgan later used that filament to add the yellow light to traffic signs, giving motorists the hint to start slowing down.

Katherine Johnson, who played a pivotal role in getting the first American into space, died just this week.

Hidden figures like these make students at Washington-Marion High School want to dig deeper into African-American history, specifically women who made a difference.

Sha’Maya Lorden said getting to know these figures was an eye-opening experience.

“A lot of these women I knew about, but didn’t know their story and how hard they worked to pave the way,” Lorden said.

Throughout the month, students have worked to help others learn about people like Ella Baker and Ida B. Wells, both civil rights activists who helped the black community and paved the way for reporters like me to tell the story.

Phillis Wheatley, a girl who was captured from Africa and forced into slavery, later became the first black woman to publish a book of poetry, paving the way for a woman we all know and love - the late Maya Angelou.

“You don’t always hear about them and to know that there are so many people out there that did things for us, it means a lot,” student Iyana Spencer said.

It’s not just people from decades ago making history. There is a slew of African Americans making modern history, such as Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who continue to break down barriers in the music industry, creating a streaming service, clothing lines and challenging mediums with visual albums.


Lebron James and Serena Williams dominate on the basketball and tennis courts while Kobe Bryant remains a legend we lost just over a month ago.

African-Americans like former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle show people across the globe what it means to be a strong, beautiful and powerful couple.

People like these are positive influences on the younger generation, especially for Spencer.

These African-Americans encourage young people to push themselves to achieve greatness because they demonstrate how to rise up in the face of adversity.

Black History Month may be over, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop celebrating how much of an impact our people have had on this world. So, as we continue on through 2020, I encourage you to take time to learn about your history and culture and then share that knowledge with others.

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