Celebrating Heritage Months: Notable People

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By: Sonaiya Brown

Fritz Pollard– In 1921, Pollard became the first African American head coach in NFL history. Pollard’s efforts on behalf of African American athletes were Herculean.

Who: All-America halfback from Brown University was a pro football pioneer.

What: As a member of the new league, Pollard immediately earned a place in pro football history as one of just two African Americans in the new league. In 1921 he earned another distinction becoming the first African American head coach in NFL history when the Pros named him co-coach of the team.

Fritz Pollard – In 1921, Pollard became the first African American head coach in NFL history. Pollard’s efforts on behalf of African American athletes were Herculean. In addition, he was elected as the first African American elected to the National College Football Hall of Fame in 1954, National Black Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
  • During his pro football career the two-time All-America played and sometimes coached for four different NFL teams, the Pros/Indians (1920-21/1925-26), the Milwaukee Badgers (1922), the Hammond Pros (1923, 1925), and the Providence Steam Roller (1925). Fritz also spent time in 1923 and 1924 playing for the Gilberton Cadamounts, a strong independent pro team in the Pennsylvania “Coal League.”
  • In 1928, Pollard organized and coached the Chicago Black Hawks, an all-African American professional team based in the Windy City.  Pollard’s Black Hawks played against white teams around Chicago, but enjoyed their greatest success by scheduling exhibition games against West Coast teams during the winter months.  From 1929 until 1932 when the Depression caused the team to fold, the Black Hawks had become one of the more popular teams on the West Coast.
  •  First African American elected to National College Football Hall of Fame (1954)
  • Elected to R.I. Heritage Hall of Fame (1967)
  • Elected to Brown Athletic Hall of Fame (1971, the inaugural year)
  • Elected to National Black Hall of Fame (1973)
  • Whitney M. Young, Jr., Memorial Award (1978)
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters (LL.D.) conferred by Brown University (1981)
  • Selected for Brown’s 125th Anniversary All-Time Team (2003)
  • Elected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame (2005)

Where: Chicago, Illinois (Rogers Park)

Why:  A Black man playing football in a predominantly white environment was a novelty in the 1920s. Fritz Pollard was the first African American to play on a championship team (1920), as well as the first Black quarterback (1923) and coach (1919).

When: (Born Jan. 27 1894) – Football career: 1915 – 19865 (Died on May 11, 1986)

How: Pollard attended Albert G. Lane Manual Training High School in Chicago, also known as “Lane Tech,” where he played football, baseball, and ran track. He then went to Brown University on a Rockefeller scholarship, majoring in chemistry. Pollard played halfback on the Brown football team, which went to the 1916 Rose Bowl.

https://www.profootballhof.com/players/fritz-pollard
https://library.brown.edu/cds/pollard/aboutpollard.html

Sonia Sotomayor – In 2009, Sonia Sotomayor broke boundaries by becoming the first Latina (Puerto Rican), and the third woman, to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.\

Sonia Sotomayor – In 2009, Sonia Sotomayor broke boundaries by becoming the first Latina, and the third woman, to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. As a Supreme Court Justice, she has ruled to uphold the Affordable Care Act and legalized same-sex marriage.

Who: The first Latina, and third woman, to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States (Highest court in the country).

What: As a Supreme Court Justice she has ruled to uphold the Affordable Care Act and legalize same-sex marriage.

  •  In 1979, she earned a J.D. from Yale Law School where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.
  • She earned a B.A. in 1976 from Princeton University, graduating summa cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa and receiving the Pyne Prize, the highest academic honor Princeton awards to an undergraduate.
  •  President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on May 26, 2009, and she assumed this role August 8, 2009.
  • Sotomayor is known on the court for her trust in the judicial process, and her cutthroat attitude toward ill-prepared attorneys. She is also known for her kindness toward jurors and the attorneys who work hard to advocate for their clients.

Where: Born in New York City and grew up in the Bronxdale Houses (Bronx)

When: (Born June 25, 1954 to PRESENT)

https://latino.si.edu/exhibitions/presente/shaping-nation/sonia-sotomayor

Steve Chen – A Taiwanese-American Internet entrepreneur, he was the former chief technology officer and one of the co-founders of YouTube. The extensive and technologically creative platform we know as “YouTube” has grown exponentially over the years to capture the attention of billions every day.

Gwendolyn Brooks – Considered as one of the most respected poets within the 20th century, she is known as the first African-American author to win the Pulitzer Prize for her poem Annie Allen. Moreover, she represents as a poetry consultant to the Library of Congress as the first African American woman to hold this title.

Dalip Saund – He became the first Asian-American, specifically Indian-American, and Sikh U.S. Representative to be sworn into Congress. His efforts were heavily focused on expanding citizenship to people of Indian descent in the 1940s, and built up enough support for Congress to pass a bill that permitted Indian immigrants to pursue naturalization.

Nicole Aunapu Mann – As a U.S. Marine colonel and test pilot and joined NASA in 2013, she became the first Native American woman to go to space as the commander of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission and went into orbit in October 2022. Her crew assisted in collecting essential data and conducting experiments to further human space exploration beyond Earth.

Mary G. Ross – As a known advocate for her Native American people and women to be included within the technological space, she became the first Native-American female engineer. During World War II, when women had to take on male-dominating careers as men were off fighting the war, she was among them. She was a founding engineer of Lockheed’s secret Advanced Development Program and active in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

Gladys West – The mathematician who created a detailed model of the Earth, she utilized her detailed model as the foundation of making GPS that continues to be used today. Fortunately, she recovered from a stroke, retired in 1998, and earned her PhD at 70 years old; however, after the release of the movie Hidden Figures, she received recognition for her role in revolutionizing navigation.

Cesar Chavez – Along with Dolores Huerta, Chavez is a Latino civil rights activist and farm labor leader who relentlessly advocated for fair treatment of farmworkers through the United Farm Workers union. After leading one of the first successful farm workers unions within American history, his efforts went on to extensive labor rights reform and broadly influenced the civil rights movement.
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