In honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting four African Americans whose contributions enriched our world.
The month of February marks the annual celebration of Black history and is an opportunity for us to learn, reflect, and pay tribute to the important accomplishments and contributions of African Americans.
While Black history deserves much more than a month-long celebration, Black History Month is a time for learning, exploring, and seeking out stories of people who have helped shape our country. Join us this month as we highlight the achievements of four African Americans whose contributions made a lasting impact on our world.
Norma Merrick Sklarek (Architect)
As the first African American woman to pass her Architecture Licensure Exam, Norma became world-renowned for engineering sophisticated, disaster-proof structures to withstand tropical storms and earthquakes.
She became the first Black woman to establish a woman-owned and operated architectural firm in 1985. Her design portfolio includes Tokyo’s United States Embassy
, Terminal One at LAX, and design contribution to the Mall of American in Minnesota
Octavia Butler (Writer)
With pen to paper, Octavia Butler often wrote about real-life issues in her science fiction novels. Several of her novels have won prestigious awards, and she was acclaimed for her strong protagonists and social observations. In 1984, Octavia received the Hugo award
for her work in Speech Sounds (1983). Her novel Bloodchild (1995) received a Nebula and Hugo award. In 1995, she became the first science-fiction writer to be awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant
. You can find out more about her and her work on her website
Katherine Johnson (Mathematician)
By all accounts Katherine always had an intense curiosity and an advanced aptitude for numbers, even from a very young age. She graduated college with highest honors and went on to become a teacher. In 1952 she heard about a job at the all-black West Area Computing section at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and she moved with her husband and children to pursue the role. Just two weeks into her new job she was assigned to a project in the Flight Research Division. As a mathematician (for NACA, which later became NASA), Katherine Johnson garnered a reputation for being a master of complex manual calculations and a pioneer in computer programming. A few of her most notable contributions include work on Project Apollo’s Lunar Module
and the Space Shuttle Program
. Katherine was also a contributor to placing astronaut John Glenn into orbit in 1962.
Ralph Ellison (Writer)
Ralph Ellison was an African American novelist and educator best known for his novel Invisible Man
, which won the National Book Award
of 1953. Early in his career he worked doing research and writing for the New York Federal Writers Program, but with the outbreak of World War II he joined the U.S. Merchant Marines as a cook. While serving he began to think of writing a novel, and started what was to become Invisible Man once the war ended. Invisible Man was a popular and critical success from its first publication and spent 16 weeks on the best-seller list. Even 70 years later it continues to shape American literature.
This month, we challenge our SimplyFun community to explore and celebrate Black history. Here are just a couple of resources you can check out, to learn more about Black History Month and find out about events that are taking place this month: