Black History Month - 2021

I’m adopted and was raised by a white family in rural Arkansas. As much as my parents tried to teach me about  Black History, they were limited in their knowledge and the public school system fell short. I’ve done A Poster A Day series every February. My goal in this is to both learn more about Black historical figures and events but also share that knowledge with others in engaging and exciting ways. Each poster is accompanied with a writeup or video explaining the significance of the subject. 

This has been one of my favorite recurring projects as it gives me a challenge to communicate effectively while also giving me creative freedom to see the task through.  

Here are some of my favorites from 2021.

Zephyr Wright

It’s amazing what can be changed with an open mind and a place at the dinner table. Today, we’re talking about Zephyr Wright was born in 1915 and was raised in Marshall, Texas. She studied home economics at a historically Black college. Soon after, she was hired by Lady Bird Johnson as a chef around the age of 27. She’d go on to be employed by them for 27 YEARS through the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.⁣⁣
Not only did she cook for the Johnsons, but over the course of her time there, she became an integral part of the family. She helped around the house, watched the kids, and even bounced her ideas and opinions off of Lyndon Johnson himself. She told him her own stories on how she has faced discrimination for things as simple as bathrooms, restaurants, and hotels. ⁣⁣
One such story involves a trip to Austin, Texas when Lyndon Johnson was serving as senator. Zephyr (and her husband Sammy, who was hired as a chauffeur), typically went ahead of the family to prepare the place they were staying. When Johnson mentioned this, Zephyr said that she wasn’t going to do it. ⁣⁣
She went on to say, “When Sammy and I drive to Texas and I have to go to the bathroom, like Lady Bird or the girls, I am not allowed to go to the bathroom. I have to find a bush and squat. When it comes time to eat, we can’t go into restaurants. We have to eat out of a brown bag. And at night, Sammy sleeps in the front of the car with the steering wheel around his neck, while I sleep in the back. We are not going to do it again.”⁣⁣
These stories stuck with Johnson and a lot of people think that they influenced his desire for civil rights reform. When Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, he actually gave her the exact pen he used to sign the bill. He specifically said, “You deserve this more than anybody else”.⁣⁣
When Johnson left office in 1969, Zephyr also left employment with the family, but her legacy lives on with what brought everyone together in the first place – her cooking. You can still find several of her recipes throughout the internet, including Shrimp Curry and Chili con Queso – go check them out!⁣

Emlen Tunnell

158 consecutive games. 14 seasons. 9 Pro Bowls. 6 All Pros. 4 NFL records. 2 NFL Championships. The first Black man in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s Emlen “The Gremlin” Tunnell. ⁣

He was born in 1924 and grew up in a very diverse neighborhood. In high school, he played halfback and went to the University of Toledo to play ball. That season, he broke his neck and was sidelined for the remainder of the year. (In the spring, he had healed enough to help lead Toledo’s basketball team to the finals of the National Invitation Tournament). After that season, he served in the Coast Guard (and also played football for them!) and then went to play at Iowa for two seasons. ⁣

In the summer of 1948, he was signed by the New York Giants, beginning his NFL career. He was the first Black man to sign and play for the Giants – pretty big deal. There he played safety on defense and as a returner on special teams, recording over 1,240 interception return yards, 4 pick sixes, 3,421 return yards, and five special teams touchdowns. Insane.⁣

In fact, he managed to get 79 interceptions across his career- that’s still 2nd place today!⁣

Vintage NFL highlights are one of my favorite things to watch because even slightly ‘old’ games feel like such a different sport. But highlights of Emlen Tunnell could be fit in with some of the top players today. The dude was electric. But more importantly, recognizing people for the work they’ve put in inspires those around them – that’s why Tunnell is such a big deal. ⁣🏈

The Million Woman March

A celebration of family unity took place in Philadelphia in October of 1997. Known as the Million Woman March (an homage to the Million Men March that took place two years prior), hundreds of thousands of women gathered to honor and recognize the experience of being an African-American woman. ⁣

The event was organized over the course of a year by several grassroots activists, hoping to bring social and economic development to the Black community and inspire women to join hands as sisters, regardless of nationality, religion, or economic status. ⁣

Word was spread through the early internet, word of mouth, sororities and several other women’s organizations. It didn’t feature very many big names (like the Million Man March did), but it brought facts and statistics to the minds of everyone who attended. In the 90s, 9 out of every 100 Black teenage girls were victims of violent crime. Black women were 18 times more likely to get AIDS than White women. Black women were paid 40 dollars less than white women per week. These inequalities were shot to the forefront and have inspired individuals that continue to be committed to advocacy today. ⁣

After heading home for the event, many of the women who attended said that they left with pride, confidence, and hope. Mission accomplished. ⁣


From 1947 to 1965, 50 dynamite explosions rocked the city of Birmingham, Alabama, giving it the nickname “Bombingham”. After a segregated zoning law was dismissed, Black families desired to move into the nicer White neighborhoods. These were areas of the city that had been completely segregated for decades – and the local KKK wasn’t happy with change. And these weren’t small pot shots or bricks through windows. Actual live dynamite was thrown into living rooms, doors were lit on fire, entire houses were demolished, all for the sake of preserving the status quo. The hatred eventually spread to community buildings, restaurants, and churches, and anyone who was even REMOTELY supporting Blacks were in danger. ⁣
One of the most well known of these bombings was the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. In 1963, four members of the KKK planted 19 sticks of dynamite beneath the steps of a local church. On a Sunday morning at 10:22 am, the bombs exploded, injuring over 20 members of the congregation and killing four young ladies – Addie Mae, 14, Carol Denise, 11, Carole Rosanond, 14, and Cynthia Dionne, 14. The girls were changing into their choir robes in the basement bathroom, right next to where the bombs were planted. Unrest would breakout through the city and would elevate the need for civil rights reform in the public eye. (Today, the church has around 2,000 people attend weekly.)⁣
This event has had lasting effects – many Black families were forced to flee the city and several won’t go back. The men who were convicted for the church bombing wouldn’t even be fully prosecuted until the 2000s. Racism isn’t dead – these events happened within a couple generations. Our present IS affected by our country’s past, and it’s important to remember that.

Alice Coachman

Alice Coachman was born the fifth of ten children, but she would grow to be the first in the world (It’s day 21 of catchy intros, give a guy some grace). When she was 24, she’d become the first Black woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics. ⁣

She was born in 1923 in Georgia, a state burdened heavily by Jim Crow laws. As a result, she wasn’t able to work out or train in any proper athletic facilities when she was young. On top of that, around that time, women doing anything but raising a family was pretty looked down upon, so she had difficulty progressing. She found a way to push through – by training barefoot on the dirt roads by her house and by crafting homemade equipment to practice.⁣

She would earn a scholarship to the Tuskegee Institute at the age of 16. The summer before that, she’d break the college and national high jump records – barefoot. At the Institute she’d also win championships in the 50 meter dash, 100 meter dash, and 400 meter relay. She’d ALSO win three conference championships as a guard on the women’s basketball team. Some people say that she would have been regarded as the greatest female athlete of all time but unfortunately…⁣

World War II meant a cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 Olympics. Right in the middle of her prime. She graduated in 1946, but qualified for the 1948 Olympics with a jump of 5’ 4”. In the event itself, she’d actually post a 5’ 6 ⅛” jump, good enough for gold. She’d be the only American woman to take home a gold medal.⁣

After that, she was done. She didn’t jump competitively anymore, but she was essentially a celebrity. She was on billboards with Jesse Owens and had a street and school named after her. She broke boundaries – ever since she competed, Black women have made up the majority of America’s women’s track and field teams. Once again, her story shows the importance of seeing Black people in prominent positions – by jumping high, she not only lifted herself – but others as well – to greatness.⁣