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Black History Month: Celebrating the Contributions

By Dr. Kevin Harris
Faculty Member, Cybersecurity, Information Systems Security and Information Technology

Each year since 1976, February has been recognized as Black History Month to commemorate the contributions of African Americans to our nation. During this month, it is critical that we give recognition to a part of society that has grown the country from its inception.

Black History Month uses a theme each year. The Association for the Study of African American Life lists this year’s theme as “Black Resistance” to bring attention to various historical figures of Black ancestry.

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Black History Goes Back to the Colonial Era

Records show that has far back as the early 1600s, Blacks were part of the original 13 British colonies according to African American Registry. The Washington Post also noted that Mathias DeSousa, a free Black man, was elected to the Maryland General Assembly in 1641.

As our country fought for its early freedom, the efforts of Black men should not be overlooked. The History Channel notes that Crispus Attucks, a sailor and stevedore, was one of the first people to lose their lives at the Boston Massacre. There were also 5,000 Black men who served in the Army and Navy during the American Revolution, the History Channel notes.

Granville T. Woods is another important historical figure to commemorate during Black History Month. According to Biography, Woods was known as “the Black Edison.” He filed many patents concerning electrical devices and communication, one of which was purchased by Alexander Graham Bell and led to the development of the telephone.

As our country continued to grow, Hiram Rhodes was elected the first Black U.S. Senator in 1870 in Mississippi, according to Black Past. While contributions by both Black men and women have been made throughout U.S. history, their stories have often been left untold in mainstream media and has led to a call to provide a space to discuss Black contributions.

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We Need to Combat Online Misinformation, and the Work of People from Black History Makes That Goal Possible

The need to provide an accurate description of the contributions of African Americans in the country remains as important today as it did when Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1926, as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People notes. Access to information and education are the bedrocks of any resistance. As more and more individuals use the internet and social media to receive information, it is critical to combat online misinformation.

VOIP technology Dr. Marion Croak
Black telecommunications pioneer Dr. Marion Croak invented Voice over Internet Protocols technology, which we often use on a daily basis.

One way to ensure that online information is correct is to highlight those pioneers who have contributed to the establishment of the internet and other technologies used around the world today. One of them is Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, the first African American woman to earn a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The Council on Science and Technology at Princeton University notes that Dr. Jackson’s work served as the foundation for many inventions, most notably fiber-optic cables that are the backbone of high-speed communications networks.

MIT also highlighted the work of telecommunications pioneer Dr. Marian Croak. Dr. Croak is credited with the invention of Voice over Internet Protocols (VoIP) technology, which drastically changed communication by enabling us to use a computer to make phone calls. In addition to her hundreds of patents, Dr. Croak remains committed to human rights and is the current VP of Engineering at Google.

Black History Month Is an Important Time to Commemorate Black People Who Have Contributed to US and World Society

The work of these communication pioneers enables us to continue to resisting inaccuracies in history as well as fight current online misinformation. During Black History Month, please take some time to consider the contributions that Blacks have made to history, politics and communication.

About the Author

Dr. Kevin Harris is a faculty member in the School of Security and Global Studies, teaching classes in cybersecurity, information systems security and information technology. With over 25 years of industry experience, Dr. Harris has protected a variety of organizational infrastructure and data in positions ranging from systems analyst to chief information officer.

His career encompasses diverse experiences both in information technology and academia. His research and passion are in the areas of cybersecurity, bridging the digital divide, and increasing diversity in the tech community. As an academic leader, Dr. Harris instructed students at various types of institutions, including community colleges, HBCUs, public, private, graduate, undergraduate and online. He has trained faculty from multiple institutions in the area of cybersecurity as part of an NSF multistate CSEC grant.

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