Black Professionals in Tech Network celebrates Black History Month

Black History Month Icons: Then & Now

Black History Month Icons: Then & Now

It’s February and that means one thing: Black History Month! Every year in February, we celebrate the vast achievements of Black people who have made a significant impact on our history. From entrepreneurs to activists, there are plenty of different individuals to honour and commemorate this month. As we recognize and salute those that have come before us, there are so many current influential Black icons continuing to break the glass ceilings and rising above hurdles to success.

Celebrate with us this Black History Month as we take a look at then & now with some amazing figures; from Issa Rae to Bessie Coleman —these individuals have helped make change happen in their respective eras!

Arts & Entertainment

Maria P. Williams
Film Producer (1866-1932)

Mary P. Williams was an inspiring force to be reckoned with and an OG icon we gotta show love for.  Born in Versaille, Missouri in 1866, she was a multi-faceted trailblazer.  She proudly wore many hats – as the first Black woman to be a film producer, writer and teacher, activist, and director.  Her writing accomplishments included being editor-in-chief at a weekly newspaper in Kansas City as well as publishing her own paper, ‘The Women’s Voice’.  She even wrote her memoir!  But that wasn’t all: Williams added businesswoman to her list when co-managing a movie theatre with her husband. This Queen’s remarkable journey ended tragically when she was found shot by the side roads – unsolved – still echoing questions today.

Issa Rae
Actress, Writer, Producer (1985-Present)

Now let’s flip the switch and talk about a present-day film icon y’all gotta know. Issa Rae is crushing the game, and there’s no stopping her! The multi-hyphenate extraordinaire actress, writer and producer has been nominated for multiple Golden Globe and Emmy Awards, graced the cover of Vanity Fair, made Time 100’s list of most influential people in 2021. She wrote and starred in the hit HBO series Insecure ran from 2016 to 2021. This power house also collaborated with Delta Air Lines for a runway show of up-and-coming fashion designers at LA Fashion Week.- need we say more? Put simply: Issa Rae is living the dream… while inspiring others along the way.

Healthcare Advancements

Rudolph Fisher
Physician, Gastroenterology Specialist, Novelist, Short Story Writer, Dramatist, Musician, and Orator.  (1987-1934)

Born in Washington, DC in 1897, Rudolph Fisher was a multi-talented Black physician, gastroenterologist and creative genius. A celebrated originator of Black culture, he made strides as a physician, novelist and orator, he’s a true Renaissance man fam. At Brown University, his core talents shined through – captivating audiences for four years with awards such as the Caesar Misch Premium and Dunn Prize. He exemplified Black excellence and took the world by storm with various talents – physician to novelist – cementing him as one of the most influential African-Americans of all time!

Kelvin Brown, MD, MPH
Physician, Entrepreneur, Author, Bariatric Specialist, Surgeon and Public Health Expert

Now back to the present day, we still have Black Kings making big moves in Healthcare. Kelvin Brown, MD, MPH is an inspiring all-rounder: a physician and surgeon, entrepreneur and public health expert. As the Founder & CEO of software startup Syncosystem as well as Precision Health and Weight Loss Centers he works to provide vital resources for those in need via his charitable foundation Vital Outreach. With fourteen years experience under his belt helping improve lives across cultures – it’s safe to say Kelvin has earned ‘Dr.’ status!

Aviation & Engineering

Bessie Coleman
American Aviator (1892-1926)

With determination and grit, Bessie Coleman conquered the skies as the first Black female pilot in America. Known for her daredevil flying tricks and nicknamed “Brave Bessie,” “Queen Bess” or  “The Only Race Aviatrix in The World”, she worked hard to realize her dream – inspiring countless women along with African Americans on their journey towards success. Though tragically cut short by a plane crash, this incredible woman’s legacy lives on today!

Miracle Izuchukwu
Commercial Pilot 

Today, Black Queens are still shaking up the aviation industry with remarkable moves. Meet Miracle Izuchukwa. Miracle Izuchukwu is making history! At just 24, she has become the youngest Black female pilot to soar with a commercial airline. Her inspiring story reminds us that we can all make our dreams take flight — no matter how high they reach for the sky.

Science & Technology

Edward Bouchet
Physicist (1852-1918)

Edward Bouchet, born in 1852 was an educated trailblazer — a talented student who graduated first in his class from Hopkins Grammar School, and then went on to become the first Black student to graduate from Yale College. Defying odds, he earned himself a PhD of physics at Yale — only being the sixth person of any race worldwide with such distinction. Now that’s a BOSS move. His hard work did not go unnoticed as Alfred Cope funded his studies thanks to wanting ICY full science program success. Although losing his job after 26 years due shifting their focus away from academic subjects towards industrial education – Edward’s inspiring journey left its mark; paving way for future generations!

Sekazi Mtingwa
Theoretical high-energy physicist and cofounder of the National Society of Black Physicists

Sekazi  is a game-changer in the world of physics. Born in Atlanta, Georgia and educated at Princeton University with his PhD earned in 1976, he demonstrated remarkable work first as a theoretical high-energy physicist then later on accelerator physics for Fermilab. A cofounder of The National Society of Black Physicists (1977), Mtingwa was recently awarded the 2017 Robert R Wilson Prize for Achievement by American Physical Society – marking him as the FIRST African American to be acknowledged through this honor! Joining North Carolina A&T State’s faculty post 1991, Sekazi continues to make strides even after retiring in 2012. Let us salute an icon doing great things! His innovative approach has opened up a door of possibilities for everyone!


Fast forward to today and the Black community continues their legacy of incredible achievements in science! As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to remember the accomplishments of those who have come before us, while also acknowledging the black individuals who are making a difference in our world today.

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