"Dr Drew was named director of the American Red Cross Project... his extensive research indicated there was no 'white blood' or 'black blood'... Bloodbanks worldwide are memorials to the genius of Dr. Drew."

This compilation of short biographies of just some of the African American noteworthy standouts is a must-read. After reading the biographies, and then delving deeper, readers will be struck by the numerous and variety of contributions that African Americans made from the 1700s-1900s. It leaves one wondering, "How ever did the author choose whom to include in this book of great African Americans, and how many more such strong and important figures must there be?" Reading and then wanting more is a good thing: In the age of the internet the "more" is at your fingertips and Remembering our Black Trailblazers and Their Legacies, is an intriguing primer for the pursuit of more biographical information. Author Barbara A Pierce intended the book as such, "The purpose of this book of brief biographies is to keep the memory of our black trailblazers alive, and to inspire further research on these extraordinary individuals."

An example of one of Pierce's biographies whetting our appetites for more information, is the story of Sojourner Truth, born Isabella Baumfree. The short piece about her is fascinating, but leaves readers thirsty to know more and most basically how Isabella Baumfree begot her unusual name. It turns out she named herself Sojourner Truth after she became a methodist and went into the countryside preaching the word of God, tolerance, women's suffrage, and abolition of slavery. Further research reveals that she will be featured on the redesigned $10 bill in the near future.

Another brief biography that encourages readers to learn more is the story of Phillis Wheatley, credited with being the first black woman and third woman overall, to become a published poet. Digging deeper, thanks to Pierce's brief introduction, we learn that some of her poetry expressed her gratefulness for being kidnapped in Africa and sold into slavery. "Twas mercy brought me from my pagan land, taught my benighted soul to understand... remember, christians, Negro's, black as Cain, May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train."

More than piquing curiosity, Remembering our Black Trailblazers and Their Legacies reminds us of the historic hardship that all people of color endured at one time or another in this country. Most of the biographical sketches are about notables from the late 18th century through the 20th century, but the trails they blazed span from artists to engineers and everything in between. What they shared, however, were lives of poverty and unimaginable adversity to survive, much less to be heard and respected in their various fields.

Fascinating residual and timeless effects from these trailblazers span from the trivial to most profound. Elijah Mccoy is the one referred to in the now common expression, "the real McCoy." He invented an automated lubricator cup for trains. Other automated lubricating devices were later invented but companies preferred his and would request "the real McCoy." The more profound timeless effects of these African American greats is their contribution to civil rights.

Pierce is a retired teacher and children's book author, so it isn't surprising that she writes clean copy with no superfluous words. Because it is easy to read, and because it seems of dire importance to bring the accomplishments of minorities into the limelight, this book should be middle school required reading. Stylistically, the book is written in a condensed factual style, void of flowery language. Though written to inform rather than to entertain, the book is not dull in any way. On the contrary, each historical figure is intriguing to read about, in part due to the no-nonsense style and brevity.

Whether they be latter-day heroes or modern day activists, drawing positive attention to African Americans and other minorities is arguably best accomplished through the written and cinematographic arts, as illustrated by this book, and recently by the new release film, Hidden Figures, about NASA's brilliant African American women of the 60s (based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, 2016). Given the strife in our country currently, especially with respect to race relations and immigration, the importance of working to bring recognition and respect to every human sector seems critical.


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