ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Many valuable lessons are learned through remembering the past, ensuring horrific lessons are not repeated.Not all lessons learned were painful. The lessons showing courage, commitment, fortitude and strength should be passed on.Lessons of endurance to make our world a better place for all should be taught for generations to come. This is the message of this year's Black History Month theme, "Honoring the Past, Securing the Future!"In remembering the past, many tend to focus on the horrors of slavery and the injustices African Americans endured, such as lynching, rape, castration, separation from families and political and social inequality.Much of African American history chronicles these events. Yet, through all the suffrage, there were African American men and women who possessed a deeper vision beyond their immediate state. There is a history of unsung heroes which is rarely told.On July 2, 1964, a landmark law prohibiting discrimination based on race in public accommodations such as restaurants, theaters, in publicly owned or operated facilities, in employment and union membership and registration to vote was signed by President Lyndon Johnson. It is known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.Long before that date, African American men and women were making history through their talent and courage. Their truths and convictions superseded their everyday walk of life. Here are some of their stories.• Kingsley Plantation on Fort George Island, Fla., was sold to Zephaniah Kingsley and his African wife, Anna Madgigine Jai in 1815. It was the largest plantation house in Florida.Kingsley wrote a major treatise in which he fought against laws that prohibited the activities of slaves and free blacks. He owned slaves, but strongly believed in treating people based on their ability and not their color.• In 1828, at the age of 18, Charles Lenox Remond traveled from Massachusetts to London for the World Anti-Slavery Convention. He lectured on abolition abroad for many years in universities across the United Kingdom.He recruited blacks into the military and helped staff the first two all-black units from Massachusetts during the Civil War.• The 369th Infantry, known as the Harlem Hellfighters, was one of the first regiments to arrive in France during World War I.• An all-black regiment under the command of mostly white officers, including its commander, Col. William Hayward, spent 191 days in combat, longer than any other American unit in WWI.In describing his unit Hayward said, "My men never retire, they go forward or they die."• Col. Charles Young, the highest ranking black officer in the military at the time of WWI, was forced to resign from the Army, but inspired others to join.• Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr., regimental commander of the 369th, was the first black general in U.S. military.• The first book of poetry written by an African American was by Phillis Wheatley. She was seized from Senegal in 1760 when she was seven years old and sold to John and Susanna Wheatley.They taught her to read and write. Phillis had written a collection of 28 poems by the age of 18.The Wheatleys sent her poems to a London publisher and Phillis became their testimony that blacks could be both artistic and intellectual. It was published in 1773.• In February 1944, the first African American officers were commissioned in the Navy. Known as the "Golden Thirteen," 12 officers and a warrant officer received rank at the same time.• The 1936 Berlin Games was to be a showcase for Adolf Hitler. However, a black man left the biggest imprint with one of the greatest performances in Olympic history.Jesse Owens, earned gold in the 100 and 200 meter races, the long jump and the 4×100 meter relay.• In June 1967, Air Force Maj. Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as an astronaut in the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program, thus becoming the first African American astronaut.He successfully completed the Air Force Flight Test Pilot Training School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He never went into space because he died in a crash while working as an instructor pilot at Edwards Air Force Base on Dec. 8, 1967.• Shirley Chisholm became the first black congresswoman representing New York State in 1968. She served as a congresswoman for seven terms.In 1972, she ran for the Democratic nomination for President. She was the first major-party African American candidate and the first female as well.Many Presidents have echoed the importance of observing black history in their annual decrees for Black History Month. The reflections of the past assist in securing our future.Sources: • 369th.weebly.com/leaders.html • www.deomi.com • www.olympic.org/jesse-owens 15 • www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/261951 • www.blackpast.org/1841-charles-lenox-remond-slavery-it-concerns-british 4 • history.house.gov/People/Listing/C/CHISHOLM,-Shirley-Anita-C000371/ 17