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Thursday, February 11, 2021
History was born

"History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own."

– Michelle Obama.

The month of February highlights the achievements of black innovators and thought makers throughout history. Eugene BullardToday, people of all races and backgrounds are treated equally thanks to the sacrifices of those that came before them. As we celebrate the accomplishments of pioneers across the globe, we also celebrate our local heroes. Trailblazers like Eugene Bullard and Ma Rainey were both Columbus natives and made great contributions to the fight for equality. Let us remember those close to home that supported our freedom. 

Born on October 9, 1985, Eugene Bullard, pictured to the right, was one of the first African-American military pilots. In his youth, he made several attempts to run away from home in a quest for freedom. At the age of 11, Eugene finally escaped from his southern home. Bullard spent the next couple of years travelling the globe until he eventually made his way to France. Eugene enlisted in the French Foreign Legion and served with the 170th Infantry Regiment and fought in the Battle of Verdun. In 1916, he entered the Aéronautique Militaire and begun flight training.

During his lifetime, the French showered Bullard with honors and he was one of three men chosen to relight the everlasting flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris. It was said that Eugene was more comfortable with the customs of the French democracy because it influenced the minds of both black and white Americans and helped them all act like brothers. 

A Columbus native, Ma Rainey, pictured to the left, was often called the” Mother of Blues”. Born on April 26, 1886, Rainey was recognized as the first great professional blues vocalist. During her youth, she made her first public appearance at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Georgia. Rainey performed and toured with her husband, William Rainey, as a song and dance team.

She successfully bridged the divide between cabaret-style shows that catered largely to white audiences and authentic black folk music. Rainey’s performances offered white people a glimpse into black culture. In 2007, a small museum opened in a house that she had built in Columbus for her mother that the public can openly visit. In addition, Netflix released a movie in late 2020 about her life called “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. 

We hope that during the month of February, you chose to reflect on the meaning of justice and equality and become proud of the progress we’ve made as humankind.

For more information on Black History Month, visit http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov .

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