Recognizing Hidden Figures for Black History Month 2023

Last Updated February 14, 2023

February is Black History Month, a time to recognize Black and African Americans’ central role and significant contributions to not just our country, but the rest of the world in the fields of science, politics, law, sports, the arts, entertainment, and many other arenas.

When it comes to pioneers in Black and African American history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman, are often mentioned – and rightfully so. However, there are many important figures in history that are often not taught about in school curricula or known by the public.

This year for Black History Month, we are shining a light on the hidden figures in Black History.

Dorothy Heights is hailed the “godmother of the women’s movement”. She has a background in education and social work to advance women’s rights. She was the leader of the Harlem Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and President of the National council of Negro Women (NCNW). Prominent figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson often sought her council on political issues
Dr. Kizzmekia S. Corbett is a research fellow and the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center (VRC). She has over 15 years of experience studying the dengue virus, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus, and coronaviruses. She used her viral immunology expertise to propel novel vaccine development for pandemic preparedness, including mRNA-1273 (Moderna), a leading vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Dr. Corbett was named one of USA Today’s Women of the Year 2022.
Mary W. Jackson was an American mathematician and aerospace engineer who became NASA’s 1st African American Female Engineer in 1958. Mary co-authored numerous research reports but mostly focused on the behavior of the boundary layer of air around airplanes. In 2020, the Washington, DC NASA Headquarters Building was named & dedicated after Mary W. Jackson.
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams was the first African American cardiologist on record to perform the first successful open heart surgery, however others had performed the procedure before him. Dr. Williams practiced during an era when racism and discrimination prohibited African Americans from being admitted to hospitals and denied black doctors’ employment on hospital staff. To counteract this practice, Dr. Williams founded the Provident Hospital and Training School for Nurses, now called Provident Hospital of Cook County in Chicago. This hospital had the distinction of being the first medical facility to have an interracial staff.

More Information:

Governor Newsom Proclaims Black History Month 2023

10 African American Medical Pioneers You Should Know

28 Black Activists You Should Know

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