DID YOU KNOW? Current feature
DID YOU KNOW? Archive
Is our biweekly feature 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 here.
DID YOU KNOW? for January 4 - 17, 2022:
Did You Know…The inventor of the first home security system was Marie Van Brittan Brown, a black woman from New York. She is also credited with the invention of the first closed circuit television. The patent for the invention was filed in 1966 and it later influenced modern home security systems that are still used today.
Marie Van Brittan Brown's invention was inspired by the security risk that her home faced in the neighborhood where she lived. Marie Brown worked as a nurse and her husband, Albert Brown, worked as an electronics technician. Her original invention was comprised of peepholes, a camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone. The final element was an alarm button that could be pressed to contact the police immediately. (Black Past, April 11, 2016)
Click here for a review of recent DID YOU KNOW? articles.
Check back every 2 weeks for our next DID YOU KNOW? feature!
THE LONELIEST AMERICANS
(Crown Publishing; Oct. 2021)
by Jay Caspian Kang
"A riveting blend of family history and original reportage by a conversation-starting writer for The New York Times Magazine that explores-and reimagines-Asian American identity in a Black and white world. In 1965, a new immigration law lifted a century of restrictions against Asian immigrants to the United States.
Nobody, including the lawmakers who passed the bill, expected it to transform the country's demographics. But over the next four decades, millions arrived, including Jay Caspian Kang's parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They came with almost no understanding of their new home, much less the history of "Asian America" that was supposed to define them.
The Loneliest Americans is the unforgettable story of Kang and his family as they move from a housing project in Cambridge to an idyllic college town in the South and eventually to the West Coast. Their story unfolds against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding Asian America, as millions more immigrants, many of them working-class or undocumented, stream into the country. [From book jacket]
by Linda Hervieux
The injustices of 1940's Jim Crow America are brought to life in this extraordinary blend of military and social history--a story that pays tribute to the valor of an all-black battalion whose crucial contributors at D-Day have gone unrecognized to this day.
In the early hours of June 6, 1944, the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, a unit of African-American soldiers, landed on the beaches of France. Their orders were to man a curtain of armed balloons meant to deter enemy aircraft. One member of the 320th would be nominated for the Medal of Honor, an award he would never receive. The nation’s highest decoration was not given to black soldiers in World War II.
Drawing on newly uncovered military records and dozens of original interviews with surviving members of the 320th and their families, Linda Hervieux tells the story of these heroic men charged with an extraordinary mission, whose contributions to one of the most celebrated events in modern history have been overlooked. Members of the 320th—Wilson Monk, a jack-of-all-trades from Atlantic City; Henry Parham, the son of sharecroppers from rural Virginia; William Dabney, an eager 17-year-old from Roanoke, Virginia; Samuel Mattison, a charming romantic from Columbus, Ohio—and thousands of other African Americans were sent abroad to fight for liberties denied them at home. In England and Europe, these soldiers discovered freedom they had not known in a homeland that treated them as second-class citizens—experiences they carried back to America, fueling the budding civil rights movement.
In telling the story of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, Hervieux offers a vivid account of the tension between racial politics and national service in wartime America, and a moving narrative of human bravery and perseverance in the face of injustice.
Harper Collins, 2015 (Available through Madison Public Library)
An urgent primer on race and racism, from the host of the viral hit YouTube series, "Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man". Emmanual Acho as both video host and author takes on all the questions, large and small, insensitive and taboo, that many white Americans are afraid to ask - yet questions which all Americans need the answers to, now more than ever.
Former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho started his online video series to give white people a non-judgmental space to ask questions about race and racism. "You cannot fix a problem you don't know you have" says Acho. “There is a fix,” he feels, “But in order to access it, we’re going to have to have some uncomfortable conversations.”
A 2021 New York Times Bestseller and Amazon Editors' Pick: Best History
One of today's most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn --racism has a cost for everyone-- not just for people of color.
In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value "diversity" in their mission statements, I'M STILL HERE is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice, in stories that bear witness to the complexity of America's social fabric--from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.
I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness is a 2018 memoir by Austin Channing Brown. The book became a bestseller during the mid-2020 resurgence of national interest in racial injustice following the George Floyd protests.
by Ibram X. Kendi, Published by One World, 2019
Kendi is a on a mission to push those of us who believe we are not racists, who support ideas and policies affirming that the “the racial groups are equal in all their apparent differences—that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group”. This is a 21st century manual of racial ethics.Kendi is also the author of Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, 2017.
New York Times Bestseller
DID YOU KNOW? - our biweekly feature 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 here.
DID YOU KNOW? for December 13 - 27, 2021:
Did You Know…Patsy Matsu Takemoto Mink of Hawaii, was the first woman of color and the first Asian-American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. She was also the first Asian-American to run for President.
Mink is known for writing bills like Title IX (later named the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act), the Early Childhood Education Act, and Women’s Educational Equity Act. Prior to her legislative experience, she faced discrimination in college, while applying to medical school and attempting to find employment after graduation from law school. Starting her own firm, Mink became the first Japanese-American woman to practice law in Hawaii. She successfully served on many committees while in Congress, including the Committee on Education and Labor, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, and the Budget Committee.
For further reading about Patsy Mink:
https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/patsy-mink and https://www.biography.com/political-figure/patsy-mink
DID YOU KNOW? for November 30 - December 13, 2021:
DID YOU KNOW... An enslaved African man, Onesimus taught Cotton Mather how to inoculate against smallpox. The concept of immunization came to the American colonies via Africa. In the early 1700s, Puritan minister Cotton Mather learned from Onesimus, a man he enslaved, about a method long used in West Africa, where a weakened form of the disease would be intentionally applied to a cut.
DID YOU KNOW? for November 16-29, 2021:
DID YOU KNOW... We’wha (a Zuni Two Spirit), a pottery and textile artist, was a Zuni cultural ambassador who took on both male and female tasks. We'wha was also a spiritual leader who endeavored to preserve the history, traditions, and knowledge of the Zuni people.
Though born a male-bodied person, community members recognized that We’wha demonstrated traits associated with the Ihamana as early as age three or four. In Zuni culture, Ihamana (now more often described with the pan-Indian term “Two Spirit”) were male-bodied individuals who took on social and ceremonial roles generally performed by women. They usually, though not exclusively, wore women’s clothing and mostly took up labors associated with women. Ihamana constituted a socially-recognized third gender role within the tribe and often held positions of honor in the community. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/wewha
DID YOU KNOW? for November 2-15, 2021:
DID YOU KNOW... U.S. Patent # 473,653, issued on April 26,1892 to Sarah Boone, for the design of a tapered ironing board on a stand is still used today!
Sarah Boone was born into slavery and married a freedman at age 15. When her family relocated to New Haven, Connecticut, she took up dressmaking as a profession. In the course of her work, she noticed the difficulty of flattening out creases in the sleeves and bodies of women’s dresses. Ironing at the time was done on a wooden plank propped between chairs or on the kitchen table.
Sarah developed a design of a tapered board on a stand. By rotating the fabric around the board, one could completely smooth any portion of a dress. Read more about Sarah: https://www.biography.com/inventor/sarah-boone and her design: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/boone-sarah-1832-1904/
DID YOU KNOW? for October 19 - November 1, 2021:
Did You Know...The winner of the 1980 Law and Economics Center Prize was a black man, Thomas Sowell, an economist and social theorist. His book, Knowledge and Decisions, was heralded as a "landmark work," selected for this prize "because of its cogent contribution to our understanding of the differences between the market process and the process of government."
In announcing the award, the Center acclaimed Sowell, whose "contribution to our understanding of the process of regulation alone would make the book important, but in reemphasizing the diversity and efficiency that the market makes possible, [his] work goes deeper and becomes even more significant." Friedrich Hayek wrote: "In a wholly original manner [Sowell] succeeds in translating abstract and theoretical argument into highly concrete and realistic discussion of the central problems of contemporary economic policy." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Sowell)
DID YOU KNOW? for October 5 - 19, 2021:
Did You Know...Maria Tallchief was the first Native American woman to break into ballet. Elizabeth Marie Tallchief was born in 1925 in Oklahoma; her father was a member of the Osage Nation. At 17, she moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming a dancer.
Maria Tallchief went from dance company to dance company looking for work. Many discriminated against her because of her Native American ancestry. She was eventually selected as an understudy in the Ballet Russe, the premier Russian ballet company in the USA. In 1942, when one of the lead ballerinas abruptly stepped down, Tallchief was called to stand in. Her performance received positive reviews from top critics. As her career began to take off, many tried to persuade her to change her last name so that dance companies would not discriminate against her. She refused and continued to perform as Maria Tallchief. In 1947, after marrying choreographer George Balanchine, she became the first prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet - a title that she would hold for the next 13 years. She became the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet and perform at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.
Prior to her death in 2013 Maria Tallchief received a Kennedy Center Honors, was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame and was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
For further reading: https://www.biography.com/performer/maria-tallchief
DID YOU KNOW? for September 21 - October 4, 2021:
Did You Know... Special Olympics athlete Chris Nikic crossed the finish line to become the first person with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon. Guinness World Records recognized Nikic's achievement after he finished a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-marathon run at the Ironman Florida competition in Panama City Beach in November 2020.
DID YOU KNOW? for September 7 - 20, 2021:
Did You Know...Yang See, who worked as the main liaison between the CIA and the Lao Royal Army during the secret Hmong Guerrilla war against North Vietnam, was the person most responsible for the US Government finally accepting the Hmong resettlement in the US.
Initially, the US took the position that the Hmong were “too uneducated/primitive” to be successfully assimilated into US culture, even though this belief was without merit. This made it very difficult for the Hmong to “escape” the refugee camps they had fled to in Thailand. Yang Lee, who was fluent in many languages, was successful in getting the State Department to change its misguided policy.
DID YOU KNOW? for August 24 - September 6, 2021:
Did You Know - Hamdi Ulukaya, born in Ilic, Turkey, is a businessman, activist and philanthropist who founded and owns the company Chobani, the #1 selling strained yogurt in the US. He was born to a dairy farming Kurdish family and immigrated to the US in 1994 to study English and take business courses.
Mr. Ulukaya is very serious about Kurdish rights and left Turkey due to the oppression of the Turkish state’s oppression of its Kurdish minority.
In addition to founding Chobani, heis also the chairman and CEO. His net worth was almost $2.0 billion (2019). On 26 April 2016, Ulukaya announced to his employees that he would be giving them 10% of the shares in Chobani
Visit Hamdi Ulukaya - Wikipedia for further reading.
DID YOU KNOW? for August 10 - 23, 2021:
Did You Know ANNETTE FRANQUI, the new Board Chair of the AARP Board of Directors, is the first Hispanic to fill that role.
Annette Franqui joined the AARP Board in 2014. As Board Chair she also Chairs the AARP Board Governance Committee and Compensation Committee
Annette Franqui is a founding partner of Forrestal Capital, a company that provides wealth management and direct equity investment advice to a select number of families in Latin America. A native of Puerto Rico, she is a senior financial services executive with prior CFO experience as well as 15 years on Wall Street with JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. She has a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.
For more about Annette Franqui, see: https://www.aarp.org/about-aarp/board-of-directors/info-2016/annette-franqui.html
DID YOU KNOW? for July 27 - August 9, 2021:
Mario Jose Molina-Pasquel Henriquez (known as Mario Molina), Mexican chemist, was the first Mexican-born scientist to receive a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995 for his role in discovering the threat to the Earth’s ozone layer from chlorofluorocarbon gases.
Dr. Molina held research and teaching positions at various renowned universities in the US and at the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. President Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom on August 8, 2013. https://en.wikipedia.org (search for Mario Molina)
DID YOU KNOW? for July 13 - 26, 2021:
Effie Waller Smith, a black woman with Wisconsin ties, was an early twentieth-century poet known for her books of poetry, Songs of the Months (1904), Rhymes from the Cumberland (1909), and Rosemary and Pansies (1909).
Effie has only recently been recognized as a poet who, not only revered her Appalachian home and its landscapes, but “pushed readers to reconsider and perhaps reject hierarchies of race, class, gender and place.” She expressed both feminist and environmental awareness and addresses both racism and classism as well.
DID YOU KNOW? for June 29 - July 12, 2021:
Marcellus Gilmore Edson, who patented peanut butter, (US Patent #306727) was an African-American chemist from Canada. Edson developed the idea of peanut paste as a delicious and nutritious food for people who had difficulty chewing solid food, a common issue in those days.
Edson was awarded his patent in 1884. His cooled product had "a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment" according to his patent application. He included the mixing of sugar into the paste to harden its consistency. The patent described a process of milling roasted peanuts until the peanuts reached "a fluid or semi-fluid state."
Interested in more?
Marcus Gilmore Edson (Wikipedia bio): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcellus_Gilmore_Edson and
Who invented peanut butter: https://www.nationalpeanutboard.org/peanut-info/who-invented-peanut-butter.htm
DID YOU KNOW? for June 15 - 28, 2021:
The inventor of laser cataract surgery was Dr. Patricia Era Bath, a black American ophthalmologist and inventor. She holds patents in Japan, Canada and Europe.
Dr. Bath's invention was called the Laserphaco Probe (1986). “Harnessing laser technology, the device created a less painful and more precise treatment of cataracts.” Bath received a patent for the device in 1988, becoming the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. In 1976, Bath co-founded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, which established that "eyesight is a basic human right." She was also the first African-American woman to serve on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center.
Interested in more? https://www.biography.com/scientist/patricia-bath