Black History Month: Lonnie Johnson & Malcolm X

Since 1976, February is Black History Month in the United States, which is a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in the U.S. history as a nation. Black History Month began in 1915, after the thirteenth amendment abolished slavery in the United States. President, Gerald Ford was the president who officially recognized Black History Month to honor the accomplishments made in history. Below we explore the stories of two individuals who strove to create a better future for themselves and the next generations.

LONNIE JOHNSON

Lonnie Johnson and the Super Soaker

Inventor of the Super Soaker

Born in Mobile, Alabama, as a child he wanted to be a maker and a creator. In 1968, at Williamson High School, Lonnie designed a four-foot-tall remote-controlled robot. He called it “Linex” and won first place at the school science fair.

After graduating William High School, Johnson attended Tuskegee University earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s in nuclear engineering. After college, Johnson joined the U.S. Air Force, where he worked on the stealth bomber program. Later, he worked on the stealth bomber program. Later, he worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab with the nuclear power source from the Galileo mission to Jupiter.

In his spare time, he worked on his own side projects. This was how the idea for the Super Soaker came about. It was launched in 1991 and earned more than $200 million in sales. Johnson discovered he was underpaid royalties and in 2013 he was awarded $73 million in royalties from Hasbro Inc. The Super Soaker went on to rank annually among the world’s Top 20 best selling toys.

Lonnie G. Johnson and his wife, Linda Moore have four children. They live at Ansley Park in Atlanta, Georgia.

MALCOLM X

Malcolm X

” A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything”

Malcolm X was a minister, human rights activist and prominent black nationalist leader who served as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam during the 1950s and 1960s. Malcolm changed his surname to “X” as a symbol of true African family that he could never know. In 1958 Malcolm married Betty X and they had six daughters together.

Malcolm was one of the most sought out speakers on college campuses. Malcolm also spoke before political groups. Tensions started to increase between Malcolm and the Nation of Islam. In 1965 Malcolm’s public criticism prompted anonymous threats against his life. Malcolm was criticized in the Nation of Islam publications. On March 1964, Malcolm publicly announced his break from the Nation of Islam. This led him to create a new organization called “Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU)” that didn’t have strict and harsh rules that the Nation of Islam had. Malcolm received a lot of support instantly.

In June 1964, the Nation of Islam sued to reclaim Malcolm X’s home in Queens, New York. Malcolm was ordered to vacate and the night before a scheduled hearing to postpone the eviction date, the house was burned to the ground. No injuries were reported but no one was charged with any crime.

He continued to embrace black self-defense, and black self-determination, but disavowed racism. Malcolm X was at a meeting of the organization of Afro- American Unity as a speaker when two men went to the stage with fired handguns, hitting Malcolm 16 times. Malcolm X was pronounced dead shortly after he was transported to the Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Malcolm X was assassinated at the age of 39 by three members of the Nation of Islam. The funeral of Malcolm X was estimated to be between 14,000 and 30,000.

Malcolm X published his autobiography, he will be remembered for his contribution and standing up for what his beliefs are. Malcolm demonstrated the great lengths one can go to which humans can secure their freedom.

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