Black History Month: 2/1-2/9

February is Black History Month and we at Usher’s New Look will celebrate Black history by focusing on the contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout history.  We celebrate people and events that have influenced the course of our lives.  To start with, let’s look at the history of Black History Month.

CARTER G. WOODSON, the “Father of Black History”.  To learn more, check  – or google him.


JAN ERNST MATZELIGER was an African American who received a US Patent in 1883 for his shoe “lasting machine” – his invention was applauded as “the most important invention for New England.”

Matzeliger was born on a coffee plantation in Dutch Guiana, now Suriname. He moved to Philadelphia where he learned the shoe trade and then to Massachusetts to pursue his interest in the shoe industry.  Learn more about Jan and his invention “the greatest forward step in the shoe industry” at


GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER earned his master’s degree in agriculture from Iowa State College in 1896. He had impressed the faculty as an extremely talented student in horticulture and mycology as well as being a gifted teacher of freshman biology. He went on to head the agricultural department at the Tuskegee University for nearly 20 years. Carver was one of the best-known African-Americans of his era. His rise to fame created myths and obscured much of the true nature of his work.

Carver was engaged in some of his most significant work–seeking solutions to the burden of debt and poverty that enmeshed landless black farmers. While he worked with a wide variety of crops, it was his work with peanuts that drew the attention of a national growers’ association, which invited him to testify at congressional tariff hearings in 1921. That testimony as well as several honors brought him national publicity. Carver’s fame increased and led to numerous speaking engagements, taking him away from campus frequently. Learn more at


DR. SHIRLEY JACKSON is a theoretical physicist who helped develop technologies that led to the portable fax, touch-tone telephone, fiber optic cables, and the technology for caller ID and call waiting.  She is the first African-American woman to have earned a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the second African-American woman in the United States to earn a doctorate in physics. Dr. Shirley Jackson was inducted into National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998 for “her significant contributions as a distinguished scientist and advocate for education, science, and public policy.”


THOMAS L. JENNINGS was the first African-American person to receive a patent in the U.S., paving the way for future inventors of color to gain exclusive rights to their inventions. Born in 1791, Jennings lived and worked in New York City as a tailor and dry cleaner. He invented an early method of dry cleaning called “dry scouring” and patented it in 1821—four years before Paris tailor Jean Baptiste Jolly refined his own chemical technique and established what many people claim was history’s first dry cleaning business.


DR. PATRICIA E. BATH revolutionized the field of ophthalmology when she invented a device that refined laser cataract surgery. Born November 4, 1942, in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Dr. Bath is an American ophthalmologist, inventor, and academic. She has broken ground for women and African-Americans in a number of areas. Prior to Bath, no woman had served on the staff of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, headed a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology, or been elected to the honorary staff of the UCLA Medical Center (an honor bestowed on her after her retirement). Before Bath, no black person had served as a resident in ophthalmology at New York University and no black woman had ever served on staff as a surgeon at the UCLA Medical Center. Bath is the first African-American woman doctor to receive a patent for a medical purpose. The holder of four patents, she also founded the company of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, D.C.  See why we think she’s special at


#BlackHistoryMonth is not just about people who made history long ago – it’s also about people who are making history now – through their accomplishments and by inspiring others.  Today we hear from DAIJIAN SPEARS, a Leadership Academy student @UshersNewLook Milwaukee. He is inspired by @kendricklamar. #Disruptivator

KENDRICK LAMAR is the most influential and innovative rapper in hip hop right now. He’s one of the only modern rappers that listeners who grew up on Pac, Biggs, Snoop, and others listen to. That’s because he is the very best rapper in the industry. He is so in touch with the modern day and the past at the same time that he can’t help but get attention from fans of all age groups. The struggles of being black in America are very relevant and important to Kendrick so much so that it is a popular topic he puts in his music. He has kept my dreams of one day being just as credible and as real a rapper as he is. He’s a needle in a haystack. He doesn’t to try to fit in to stay relevant nor does he have to. His persona reminds me never conform to society’s expectation or to anything for that matter. Being one’s self is the best thing to do. Kendrick’s style and way of life is a current example of an individual who has their own wave and is not riding the wave of pop culture. He has inspired and influenced me so much that I made a PowerPoint presentation about his success as a rapper for an English assignment. He’s definitely a more worthy role model for teens than other music today.


Let the Games Begin – The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics opening ceremony took place at 8pm local time in Korea’s Gangwon Province (6 a.m. EST).  For the next few days, @Usher’sNewLook is celebrating African American athletes that have made significant contributions to our rich history.

Today we start with JOHN BAXTER TAYLOR, the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal. He advanced to the finals in the men’s 400-meter race at the 1908 Summer Olympics, winning his preliminary heat with a time of 50.8 seconds and his semifinal with 49.8 seconds and winning gold as part of the 1600-meter relay team.

John Baxter Taylor, Jr., attended Central High School in Philadelphia where he was captain of the track team. After high school he was a member of a team celebrated for not losing a race. He attended the Wharton School from 1903-1905 and then enrolled in the School of Veterinary Medicine, where he graduated the three-year program in 1908.

Taylor was an important contributor to Penn’s standing where he was a member of the track team 1903-1908 making the team champions on the track.  His stride measured an amazing 8 feet 6 inches, the longest of any runner at that time. He was without a doubt the best quarter-miler in the college world, establishing the world’s interscholastic record of 49.1 seconds for 440 yards in 1903 and setting a new record of 48.6 seconds for this event four years later. In 1907, he was also the indoor champion for 600 yards.

Taylor was also getting international fame–and Olympic gold. He visited England and France in 1904 where he won most of his races. In July 1908, shortly after his graduation from Penn, he participated in two races in the Olympic games in England – the 400-meter and the 1600-meter relay.  He was ill at the time of the 400-meter, but still did well.  Unfortunately, the race was called because of a disputed foul and the Americans boycotted re-running the race because of a controversy between the Americans and the British. Taylor did win a gold medal as a member of the relay team that set a world record in the race. This was the first gold medal awarded to an African American.

Sadly, John Baxter Taylor died of typhoid pneumonia on December 2, 1908. The funeral was attended by thousands of his Penn teammates, alumni and students. Well-known trainer Mike Murphey eulogized Taylor as “the nicest man he had ever had to train; he never gave any bother, worked hard, and was always on time.”

Whether you are an athlete that aspires to gold medals or a musician hoping for platinum, find your spark and follow it. Learn more at