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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.

  • September 26, 2022 8:11 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for  September 13 - 26, 2022:  

    Did You Know…14-year old Harini Logan is the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion after a first-ever spell-off at the 94-year old event. The Texas 8th grader received a trophy and check for $50,000 after going head-to-head with Vikram Raju, of Colorado. The spell-off, a format that tested the contestants on how many words they could correctly spell within 90 seconds was necessary because the 2 finalists remained tied after 18 rounds—the maximum number of rounds the Bee allows. In the spell-off Harini spelled 21 of 26 words correctly, while Vikram got 15 of 19 words right. The 2 finalists had already eliminated 232 others during the June championships.

    I honestly think it's so surreal, it is my fourth time at the Bee '', Harini said on stage holding the trophy.  “This is such a dream, this is my fourth bee and I’m just so overwhelmed.”  On the first-ever-spell-off, Harini said, “At first I was a little uneasy and I decided to take it in stride… I just had to take a deep breath and tell myself to go out there and do my best and whatever happens, happens.”

    The 2022 Championship Round included words like: 

    For the full 2022 Championship Round word list see:

    Learn more… 

  • September 12, 2022 7:39 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for August 30 - September 12, 2022:  

    Did You Know... Andrea Mia Ghez (b: 1965) is an American astrophysicist and professor in the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).  Her research focuses on the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.  In 2020 she became just the 4th woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, sharing the prize with Reinhard Genzel.  Her Nobel was awarded for the discovery of a supermassive compact object, now generally recognized to be a black hole, in the Milky Way’s galactic center.

    Ghez has said: “To me, it’s always been very important to encourage young women into the sciences...the Nobel Prize means an opportunity and a responsibility to encourage the next generation of scientists who are passionate about this kind of work...It’s important to have role models. I think seeing people who look like you…succeeding shows you that there’s an opportunity there, that you can do it, that this is a field that is open to you.”

    Learn more…

  • September 05, 2022 8:44 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for August 16 - 29, 2022:  

    Diana Trujillo Pomerantz is a Colombian-born (January 1980) aerospace engineer at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She leads the engineering team at JPL Rover. On February 18, 2021 Trujillo hosted the first ever Spanish-language NASA transmission of a planetary landing for the Perseverance rover landing on Mars.

    Trujillo moved to the US when she was just 17 years old, with only $300 in her pocket. In order to improve her language skills she started English lessons at the Miami-Dade College while working as a maid, among other jobs. She eventually enrolled at the University of Florida to pursue studies in Aerospace Engineering. While at the University, Trujillo decided to apply for the NASA Academy, being the first Hispanic immigrant woman admitted to the program.

    Learn more…

  • September 05, 2022 8:42 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for August 2 - 15, 2022:  

    Marshall “Major” Taylor (1878-1932) was an African-American bicycling legend at the turn of the 20th century. He established numerous world records from a quarter mile to 1 and 2-mile races in 1898-99. He excelled on velodrome tracks—the once-popular arenas built for bicycle racing. Hailed as the “Black Cyclone” Taylor traveled the world in the early 1900’s defeating champions from Canada, Germany, England, France, Australia, and New Zealand.

    Even though Taylor’s accomplishments grew and his name became widely known, he was still subjected to racial segregation. Some promoters in the US, Canada, and abroad would not permit Taylor to compete against white cyclists.  He reported in his autobiography that some racers even cooperated with each other to intimidate and physically harm him, citing as an example the 1899 1-mile world championship in Montreal where he was “bumped, jostled, and elbowed until I was sorely tried” and that his manager was so angered, he publicly criticized other riders for their “rough treatment” of Taylor.

    Today there are bicycle racing courses, events, and clubs named in Taylor’s honor.

    Learn more...

  • September 05, 2022 8:40 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for July 19 - August 1, 2022:  

    Did You Know…Matthew Henson was an African American explorer best known as the co-discoverer of the North Pole in 1909 with Robert Edwin Peary. While Peary received much recognition for the accomplishment, Henson, as a black man, was largely ignored in press reports at the time. It took almost 30 years for him to receive the proper recognition.

    Born to Maryland sharecroppers in1866, Matthew Henson was orphaned early and had to make his own way. He became a cabin boy on a ship where the captain mentored him in seamanship. Henson was working on land in a hat shop in Washington D.C. in 1887 when he met naval engineer and global explorer Robert Peary. Peary was impressed by Henson’s seafaring credentials and hired him as his valet for upcoming expeditions to Nicaragua, Greenland, and eventually the North Pole.

    Over several years, Peary and Henson would make multiple attempts to reach the North Pole. Peary knew that the mission's success depended on his companion, stating "Henson must go all the way. I can't make it there without him."

    On April 6, 1909, Peary, Matthew Henson and four Eskimo crew members finally reached the geographic North Pole — or at least they claimed to have (some controversy remains).

    Learn More…

  • September 05, 2022 8:39 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for July 5 - 18, 2022:  

    Did You Know…Ann Cole Lowe was the first African American to become a well-known fashion designer. Her designs were favored by high-society women, including members of the DuPont, Post, and Rockefeller families, well-known department stores like Henri Bendel, Nieman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, and ‘fashionistas’ of the time from debutants to Oscar winners.

    Ann was born in Alabama in 1898 and grew up sewing like her grandmother and mother who were dressmakers. Ann’s fashion designs became recognized nationally in the 1920’s and stayed popular for over 4 decades.  Some of her most famous work was for the bride and bridesmaids in the 1953 wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier to then Senator John F. Kennedy. In 1968 Ann opened her Ann Lowe Originals boutique on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, becoming the first African American owned business in the center of American fashion.

    Ann earned many prestigious design commissions and international fashion honors in her lifetime, and told a 1966 interviewer, “All the pleasure I have had, I owe to my sewing.”

    Learn more…..

  • September 05, 2022 8:37 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for June 21 - July 4, 2022:  

    Did You Know…The 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Abdulrazak Gurnah who was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania and now teaches and writes in Canterbury, England.  The Swedish Academy cited Gurnah for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents”.

    Gurnah is the first Black writer to receive the Literature Nobel since Toni Morrison in 1993. Gurnah has written 10 novels, including 1994’s Paradise, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and 2001’s By the Sea, longlisted for the Booker.

    Gurnah’s writing is noted for pushing back against previous Western takes on the African continent.  He has said that
    "the exclusion of non-European people from certain kinds of recognitions, or the exclusion of women from certain kinds of recognitions, is only just now beginning to become an issue or a thing people are concerned to put right", and added that the world was changing.

    Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Novels

    ·       Memory of Departure (1987)

    ·       Pilgrims Way (1988)

    ·       Dottie (1990)

    ·       Paradise (1994) (shortlisted for the Booker Prizeand the Whitbread Prize)

    ·       Admiring Silence (1996)

    ·       By the Sea (2001) (longlisted for the Booker Prize and
                               shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize)

    ·       Desertion (2005)

    ·       The Last Gift (2011)

    ·       Gravel Heart (2017)

    ·       Afterlives (2020)

    Learn more…

  • September 05, 2022 8:35 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for June 7 - 20, 2022:  

    Did You Know…Professor George W. McLaurin (1887- 1968) was the first African-American to attend the University of Oklahoma, and the plaintiff in the precedent-setting McLaurin vs. Oklahoma State Regents 1950 Supreme Court decision. In the McLaurin case the Court ruled unanimously (9-0) that racial segregation within colleges and universities is inconsistent with the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, therefore African American students must receive the same treatment as all other students in higher education.

    George McLaurin held a Master’s Degree from the University of Kansas and was a retired professor living in Oklahoma City.  He applied to the University of Oklahoma doctoral program in education but was denied admission solely based on his race. At that time, Oklahoma state law made it a misdemeanor to teach at or attend an educational institution that admitted both white and black students. In their decision the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged that because American society was changing, discrimination based on race had no place in education.

    Learn more….

  • September 05, 2022 8:33 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for May 24 - June 6, 2022:  

    Did You Know…Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was an African-American composer and pianist. He was considered the “King of Ragtime”, though he also composed music for ballet, opera, and broadway. Ragtime is a syncopated (i.e. off-beat) music style with roots in the African-American community. It was especially popular in America from about 1895 to 1919, and is considered one forerunner of jazz.  Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” (1899) was a major hit and is often referred to as the model for all ragtime works.

    Joplin's father had been a slave, later working for the railroad after emancipation.  Scott briefly worked for the railroad, then taught piano, and played piano at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.  Scott hoped for a career as a classical pianist and composer, and had difficulty escaping his ragtime associations.

    Learn more……

    Listen to Scott Joplin play “Maple Leaf Rag” (recording from 1916)…..

  • September 05, 2022 8:32 PM | Deleted user

    DID YOU KNOW? for May 10 - 23, 2022:  

    Did You Know…Victor Jerome Glover (b: April 30, 1976) is a NASA astronaut from the class of 2013 and Pilot on the first operational flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS). Glover is a commander in the U.S. Navy where he pilots an F/A-18, and is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School. 

    He was a crew member of Expedition64 (ISS November 16, 2020 - May 2, 2021), serving as a station systems flight engineer and completing 3 space walks.

    Glover has been selected to be part of NASA's Artemis program to fly to the lunar south pole, which is set to begin flights with un-crewed launches in 2022.

    Learn more….

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