Black contributions

THIS is Black History Month, an appropriate time to reflect on the many contributions black Americans have made to their nation. By extension it also is appropriate to contemplate the enrichment and progress that the many other ethnic groups also have provided.

From the earliest days there was diversity, with English voyagers settling in the northeast, Spanish in the southeast. From those early 17th-century days the diversity has expanded and grown: Germans, Russians, Irish, among others - immigrants, full of hope, came from every corner of the globe. The diversity continues to grow. Today Hispanics and Asians come.

Most visible among these always have been blacks, the first of whom came nearly 350 years ago to what was to become the United States. Over the years the contributions of a few have been well known: Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marian Anderson, Martin Luther King Jr.

Until recently the contributions of most blacks had gone unrecognized. Factory workers toiled in anonymity; educators labored to bring enlightenment to fellow blacks. And in the 18th and early 19th centuries, as the most striking example, black workers made plantation farms the backbone of the Southern economy, yet in return were held in bondage.

Fortunately America has changed dramatically, with no alteration more striking and overdue than recognition of the role blacks should have in the nation. It is the same role as that of any other citizen - in education, government, employment, housing, society, and leadership. Though much remains undone to bring equality to all citizens, blacks increasingly are being treated like all other Americans - as individuals whose achievements deserve recognition , recompense - and their nation's thanks.

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