Feb 08, 2021

Celebrating Black History Month

Graphic with text Celebrating Black History Month

It’s well known that Barack Obama became the country’s first Black president and Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s racial barrier.

But do you know that Jupiter Hammon is the first known Black American published author? His poem “An Evening Thought: Salvation with Penitential Cries” was published in 1760 while he was held in slavery.

Ralph Bunche
Ralph Bunche

Do you know about Ralph Bunche? In 1950, Bunche became the first Black American to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve the Arab–Israeli conflict in Palestine.

Black History Month is a great time to reflect on the accomplishments of Black Americans and their major contributions to society.

As we celebrate Black History Month, here are some other important firsts by Black Americans:

● Rebecca Davis Lee Crumpler of Delaware in 1864 became the first Black woman in the United States to earn a Doctor of Medicine. She primarily treated women, children and freed slaves. In 1883, she published a book titled “A Book of Medical Discourses,” which was dedicated to nurses and mothers and focused on the medical care of women and children. Crumpler is credited with being the only female physician author in the 19th Century.

● Thomas Mundy Peterson in 1870 became the first  Black American to vote in an election under the 15th Amendment, which banned race discrimination in voting. A month after the amendment was ratified, Peterson voted in a local election held at Perth Amboy City Hall in New Jersey regarding the town’s charter. Peterson became Perth Amboy’s first Black American to hold elected office, serving on the Middlesex County Commission.

● In 1940, Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr. became the first Black American general in the United States Army. Davis entered the military in 1898 and climbed up the ranks. Davis retired in 1948 after a 50-year career. His son, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. became the first African-American general in the United States Air Force in 1954 and advanced to four-star general in 1998.

● Patricia Bath of Harlem, New York in 1973 became the first  Black American to complete a residency in ophthalmology – the first of her many firsts. Two years later, she became the first female faculty member in the UCLA Jules Stein Institute’s Department of Ophthalmology and in 1983 became the first U.S. woman to serve as chair of an ophthalmology residency training program. Five years later, she became the first Black American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention – a Laserphaco Probe, which used lasers to remove cataracts. The device helped restore sight for people who had been blinded by cataracts.

“These pioneers overcame tremendous adversities and set the foundation for future generations though their willingness to succeed and desire to inspire others,” said PPL Business Accounts Specialist Devora Minnifield, an African American Business Resource Group member and event liaison for the group. “Despite the obstacles these trailblazers faced, they were determined to evoke change.”

PPL’s AABRG is one of 15 employee-led business resource groups (BRGs) at PPL. The AABRG’s mission is to foster an environment of inclusion within PPL, partner to actively recruit and retain diversity within the company and cultivate positive social change in our community through volunteer outreach.