6 Black Innovators Who Shaped America

Innovators and pioneers exhibit remarkable intelligence, creativity, and courage, leaving an indelible mark on society. Throughout history, Black Americans have made groundbreaking contributions, each with a compelling story worth celebrating. 

Did you know that Black History Month traces its origins back to 1915? Scholar Carter G. Woodson (Dec. 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950) participated in a national celebration of the 50th Anniversary of emancipation in Chicago that summer. Inspired by this event, he founded an organization dedicated to the scientific study of black life and history. This initiative culminated in the establishment of Negro History Week in February 1926. 

Woodson believed that the community should focus beyond just a few notable men and look to the countless black men and women who have contributed to the advance of human civilization. Let’s take a moment to recognize just a few of these remarkable achievements: 

Charles Drew (June 3, 1904 – April 1, 1950) revolutionized medicine with his research on blood plasma, extending its shelf life and pioneering techniques for transfusion. His innovations helped the British government establish its first national blood bank and saved countless lives during World War II. 

Bessie Coleman (Jan. 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926) shattered barriers as the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license. Denied entry to flight schools in the US, she learned French and traveled to France to pursue her dream. As a performer on the barnstorming circuit, she captivating audiences with her daring aerial performances, proving her bravery had no end.   

Kamala Harris (born Oct. 20, 1964) made history as the highest-ranking female official in US history, serving as our first female Vice President. Prior to this role, Harris distinguished herself as California’s Attorney General and a United States Senator, embodying the spirit of trailblazing instilled by her immigrant parents. 

Daymond John (born February 23, 1969) emerged as a successful entrepreneur and fashion icon, founding the ground-breaking clothing brand FUBU (For Us, By Us) that targeted young men. Starting from humble beginnings, he leveraged innovative marketing strategies to build a fashion empire earning over $6 billion in global sales. He continues to inspire entrepreneurs as a Shark on the 4-time Emmy Award winning Shark Tank. 

Victor Glover (born April 30, 1976) exemplifies excellence as an astronaut, becoming the first Black astronaut to live and work aboard the International Space Station for an extended amount of time, when he spent 168 days in space in 2020-2021. With an impressive background as a Naval aviator and legislative fellow, Glover continues to inspire future generations through his achievements in space exploration. Glover will serve as pilot for the four-person crew tapped to venture to the Moon aboard Artemis II next year on the first mission to the Moon in more than 50 years. 

In 1976, Black History Month expanded from a week-long commemoration to a month-long observance, officially recognizing the enduring legacy of Black Americans throughout history.