By Mackenzie Viera |Staff Writer|
Despite the hardships and adversity many African Americans have faced throughout history, many have overcome the racial barriers, creating astonishing inventions and achievements.
During Black History Month, CSUSB students are reminded of those influential people.
Althea Gibson was the first African-American tennis player to play at the U.S International Championship in 1950.
“I didn’t know there were other talented black women in tennis other than Venus and Serena Williams,” said student Michael Sandoval.
Gibson was the first African-American to compete at the Wimbledon tennis championship, breaking the racial barrier.
Not only did Gibson make history by being the first African-American to professionally play tennis, she continued to compete at prestigious international tournaments, conquering the French tennis championship.
Percy Lavon Julian was one of the first well-known chemists to help develop medicinal drugs such as cortisone, steroids, and birth control pills.
Born to former slaves in Montgomery, Alabama, Julian attended school until the eighth grade. Though at the time there weren’t any high schools open to African-Americans, he applied for high school level classes at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana to continue his education.
Despite challenges from classmates and faculty, Julian graduated first in his class and continued on to earn his Ph.D at the University of Vienna in Austria in 1931.
Madame CJ Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, was the first black woman millionaire. Walker suffered from a scalp aliment, causing her to lose her hair.
Walker was inspired by a dream that indicated a product from Africa would aid her secret formula into successfully preventing hair loss.
During the 1890s, she invented a line of hair products along with the “Walker System,” which required the use of a hair-straightening comb targeted towards black women.
Walker became successful by personally selling her hair products door-to-door and lecturing women of color on hair care.
“Madame CJ Walker is definitely an icon to black women,” said student Laura Cade. “Not only was she one of the first millionaire women, she also empowered women by giving them opportunities in the salon business.”
With her daughter managing the company and her second husband promoting her, Walker successfully became a legendary, self-made entrepreneur.
George Crum, son of a Native-American mother and African-American father, was head chef at Cary Moon’s Lake House restaurant in New York where he developed the potato chip.
In 1853, he attempted to make french fries in Saratoga Lake, New York. Crum made an unappetizing, thick piece of potato that left guests unsatisfied.
Frustrated with the outcome, he began experimenting by creating batch after batch of deep-fried, thin potato strips until customers enjoyed them—the potato chip.
Inspired by his culinary creation, Crum decided to open his own restaurant and continued to serve potato chips as appetizers on each table.