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Past DID YOU KNOW... Postings

DID YOU KNOW? - a biweekly feature from PLATO's Diversity Awareness Committee highlighting the many contributions by non-mainstream individuals you might not have learned or read about. A brief fact will be posted in PLATO's Tuesday WEEKLY UPDATE email and more background on the individual and their accomplishments will be provided on the Social Justice webpage.

Past Did You Know? postings will be available on this archive page.

  • February 07, 2023 11:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    DID YOU KNOW? for February 7 – 20, 2023 

    Mary Ann Shadd Cary (October 9, 1823 – June 5, 1893) was an African-American anti-slavery activist, an advocate for women's rights, a teacher, and a lawyer. A pioneering journalist, Cary became the first black, female newspaper editor in North America as a publisher of Canada’s first antislavery newspaper, The Provincial Freeman. As a member of the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), Cary spoke at the NWSA's 1878 convention. She also served as an advocate for the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

    Learn more...

  • January 24, 2023 11:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    DID YOU KNOW? for January 24 – February 6, 2023

    Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. (December 18, 1912 – July 4, 2002) a United States Air Force (USAF) general and commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen, was the first African-American brigadier general in the USAF. During World War II, he was commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron which escorted bombers on air combat missions over Europe. Davis flew sixty missions in P-39Curtiss P-40P-47 and P-51 Mustang fighters. Davis followed in his father's footsteps in breaking racial barriers, as Benjamin O. Davis Sr. was the first black brigadier general in the United States Army.

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  • January 06, 2023 12:36 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for January 3 – 16 2023: 

    DID YOU KNOW…Freedom House Ambulance Service, formed in 1967 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was the first emergency medical service in the United States staffed by paramedics who had received medical training. They served the predominantly black Hill District of Pittsburgh, and the majority of the staff were African-American. Formed with partial funding from President Johnson’s War on Poverty, Freedom House Ambulance Service established new national and international standards in emergency medical care. They operated until 1975 when the city took over providing emergency ambulance service.

    In an agreement with the City of Pittsburgh, staff from Freedom House Ambulance Service were supposed to maintain their jobs and ambulance teams with the new city agency, however that didn’t happen. Within the first year fifty-per-cent of the former Freedom House Ambulance staffers were no longer employed with the city's emergency services.

    Learn more….

  • December 27, 2022 1:22 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for December 20, 2022 – January 2, 2023: 

    DID YOU KNOW…Maria W. Stewart (1803 – December 17, 1879) is known as America’s first black woman political writer.  She was a Connecticut (free-born) African-American teacher, journalist, lecturer, evangelist, abolitionist, and women's rights activist. Stewart was a pioneer by her speaking to mixed audiences of men and women, white and black. She was also a trail-blazer as the first African-American woman to make public lectures, and to lecture about women's rights, and publicly speak against slavery. 

    In an 1831 speech, Stewart exhorted her audience to action in saying,“O, ye daughters of Africa, awake! awake! arise! no longer sleep nor slumber, but distinguish yourselves. Show forth to the world that ye are endowed with noble and exalted faculties. This quote from her has been used as a call-to-action by generations since, and often appears in reproductions of Stewart's writings and speeches.

    Learn more…

  • December 16, 2022 12:21 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for December 6 – December 19, 2022: 

    DID YOU KNOW…Fifty years ago, psychiatrist John E. Fryer, M.D. electrified his colleagues by telling the 1972 convention of the American Psychiatric Association that he was homosexual. Fryer's announcement came at a time when homosexuality was classified as a mental illness.  He wore a head-to-toe disguise, altered his voice, and used the name Dr. Anonymous when making his announcement. It was a dramatic moment in the gay rights movement, and is credited with leading the psychiatric community to no longer classify homosexuality as a mental disorder as of 1973, which led to insurance companies, the US government, and other institutions following suit.

    No gay American psychiatrist had risked speaking publicly before Dr. Fryer's May 1972 appearance. Though he received a standing ovation that day as Dr. Anonymous, the next year Fryer was fired from his job at Friends Hospital for being gay.

    Dr. John Fryer died in February of 2003 at the age of 65. In 2005 the American Psychiatric Association established an annual award in Fryer’s name, honoring individuals who contribute to improving the mental health of sexual minorities.

    Learn more…

  • November 27, 2022 12:54 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for November 22 – December 5, 2022: 

    DID YOU KNOW…Two Kenyan inventors, David Gathu and Moses Kinyua, have created the world’s first bio-robotic arm operated by brain signals. While each dropped out of college due to financial constraints, it did not stop them from learning or inventing. 

    In 2020, during the Covid-19 epidemic, as they were trying to develop tools to safely decontaminate surfaces in public areas, they came up with an electronic prosthetic arm-type device. When Kenyans adopted other ways to handle decontamination, Gathu and Kinyua were able to repurpose their invention as a device to help the disabled with the revolutionary feature of control via the wearer’s brain signals.

    Learn more….

  • November 16, 2022 1:59 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for November 8  21, 2022: 

    DID YOU KNOW…An African American dentist, Dr. George F Grant, was the inventor of the wooden golf tee.  On Dec. 12, 1899, Boston dentist George F. Grant received a U.S. patent No. 638,920, the world’s first patent for ‘a wooden spike with a flexible rubber peg for the ball’ – a golf tee! Before this time, golfers carried small buckets of sand for pinching a mound of damp sand to elevate a golf ball on the tee box.  

    By 1899 Dr. Grant was working at Harvard Dental School and recognized internationally in dentistry circles as an inventor of inserts for patients with cleft palates. While living in the Boston area he became an avid golfer. Though Dr. Grant never pursued large-scale manufacturing or sales of his golf tee invention, he did have them produced in small batches and regularly gave them away to friends and golf partners.

    Learn more.....

  • November 07, 2022 7:27 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for October 25 – November 7, 2022: 

    DID YOU KNOW… Kiel WI was once known as the Wooden Shoes Capital of Wisconsin or that Pleasant Ridge WI was founded by the formerly enslaved Shepard family? While we usually feature an individual here in Did You Know, we’re making a brief detour to highlight Recollection Wisconsin—an online cultural heritage resource providing free access to over half-a-million historical photos, maps, documents, and narratives telling the stories of Wisconsin’s people and places.

    Recollection Wisconsin recently added new sections highlighting Famous Wisconsinites and Early Statehood. The site also includes a Travel Back in Time series, drawing from their popular “Main Street Monday” feature on Facebook. Travel Back in Time highlights historical photos of communities all across the state, from Ashland to Wilmot, and explores the diverse and interesting history of Wisconsin towns, like those mentioned above – Wooden Shoes Capital Kiel and Pleasant Ridge, located near present-day Beetown and founded in 1848 by the formerly enslaved Charles and Caroline Shepard family, later becoming home to many other freed and escaped enslaved people.

    The materials in Recollection Wisconsin are drawn from 250+ Wisconsin organizations—libraries of all kinds, historical societies, museums, and government agencies, and shared with the world through their website as well as the Digital Public Library of America.

    To stay in the loop with Recollection Wisconsin, follow them on Facebook and Twitter or sign up to receive their newsletter Visit Recollection Wisconsin and explore (be sure to bookmark it--materials are added regularly)!

    Learn more…
    Digital Public Library of America:

  • October 24, 2022 9:50 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for October 11 24, 2022: 

    Did You Know… African American scientist and inventor Valerie L. Thomas (b: 1943) loved math and science as a child but because she was a girl, she was discouraged from studying them. Once she got to college Thomas chose to major in physics which led to a career at NASA where she developed and patented the illusion transmitter – a key component of NASA’s digital imaging technologies, as well as worked as leader of a computer team researching Halley's Comet and the ozone layer, and earned multiple NASA awards including the prestigious Goddard Space Flight Center Award of Merit.

    Thomas’ illusion transmitter was used not just by NASA but also adapted for surgical applications and in television and video screens.The illusion transmitter produces optical illusion images through 2 concave mirrors. Unlike flat mirrors which produce images that appear to be inside or behind the mirror, the illusion transmitter’s concave mirrors create images that appear to be real, or actually in front of the mirror.

    Learn more. . .

  • October 10, 2022 7:47 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for  September 27- October 10, 2022: 

    What do the famed ‘round barns of Wisconsin’ owe to the son of a former slave? Many of the round barns, especially in southwest Wisconsin, were designed and built by Alga Shivers whose father operated the largest “negro-owned” farm in the state in 1900.  Shivers became widely known for his skill in the design and construction of round barns, most of which were constructed between 1890 and 1930.

    Round barns were also built in parts of New England and areas of Indiana, however Vernon County, WI once had the highest concentration of them in the country, and most of those constructed in the decades just before and after the turn of the 20th century were designed and built by Shivers and craftsmen working with him.

    Learn more…

    LaCrosse Historical Society’s Past, Present & Future, Vol. 38, No. 2, June 2017

    "The Round Barns of Vernon County"

    Farm & Ranch Living, History in the Round, October 1, 2020

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