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Black History Month!
by: Dr. Boogie

Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine about Black History Month. She asked why black people get an entire month for history when she and her fellow Mexicans only get a single day. I reminded her that November was Hispanic Heritage Month, and gently tried to skirt the fact that the remaining months of the year are white history months (except for the three months of summer, which are the Forget Everything You Learned in School Months). The exchange ended with a resounding "bah!" Still, it got me thinking: we at I-Mockery have never really taken the time to give proper thanks for the historical contributions made by some of the overlooked members of the black community. We hear all the time about the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Earth, Wind, and Fire. I think it's about time we heard a little more about the forgotten visionaries that helped shape our way of life, but who, for some reason, were passed over in the history books.

Tom Carver

Brother of George Washington Carver, Thomas "Jefferson" Carver worked closely with his brother in the ever-widening field of peanut research. The brothers worked together without incident for some time, but all that would change when Tom accidentally created one of the most essential foods of our time: peanut butter. Tom sang the praises of his invention to his brother, saying that he had finally combined the delicious taste of a peanut with the convenience of a jam. Furthermore, he found that he could entertain himself for hours by smearing some on the gums of his horse, Meriwether. George remained skeptical of his brother's achievement, moreso after realizing that it was not actually Meriwether that was doing the talking. Nevertheless, he tried a spoonful of his brother's concoction to see for himself. It was indeed delicious, and George was about to congratulate his brother when there was a knock at the door. George answered the door and found it to be the man from the patent office, whom he had called to come by so that he could lay claim to his many peanutty innovations. Unfortunately, George realized that the mouthful of peanut butter had left him unable to speak, and the patent official stormed off, thinking that George was making light of his speech impediment. George was furious. He found his brother, stopped him from smearing peanut butter on the cow's gums, and uttered that now-famous phrase of his: "grhmhmph hrrmmpt!!!" Tom took this to mean that he was being kicked out, and so he left. He would continue his work with peanut butter, and was even responsible for the paradigm shift in peanut butter: The peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was pure genius, but sadly, the idea of a black invention coming into contact with white bread proved too controversial at the time, and Tom was never given credit for either of his world-changing innovations.

T'challa Komba

Why is February Black History Month, when MLK's birthday is in January, and he's pretty much the only famous black man to be covered in a history class? Is it because February was named by someone black? Is it because February is the shortest of the months? Both are good guesses, but the truth lies somewhere in the middle. For more information, we must travel far back in time. The time is near the end of the 16th century. The place: the Vatican. The Gregorian calendar had only been in effect for a few years, and for a time, things were going along smoothly. However, a few minor problems began to spring up as time went on, chief among them being the steady advance of winter. Every year, winter seemed to arrive earlier and earlier, and so stores at the Vatican had to begin their Christmas sales earlier than the year before (today, retail outlets maintain this tradition by beginning their Christmas sales in late August). Vatican officials were at a loss; no one could deny that there was something wrong with the calendar, but they couldn't simply abandon it and risk upsetting the ghost of Pope Gregory XIII, for the ghosts of former popes are quite prone to haunting. Enter T'challa Komba, a servant of one of the cardinals whom the assembled council had affectionately dubbed "Slavius". Komba had deduced that the reason the calendar was not pulling its weight was due to a critical design flaw: it had only 11 months. By his calculations, adding a twelfth month would even out the calendar enough to halt winter's advance and leave Christmas sales just far enough from Christmas to remind everyone that the holiday was supposed to be about Jesus. In honor of his brilliant idea, the council decided to name this new month after Komba. Sort of. The new month was named "Febriarius," from the Latin words "Febri" and "arius", which together mean "month of the chocolate helper." Komba politely requested that his actual name be used for the new month, and the cardinals promptly turned on him. They pursued him back to his room, intent on beating him to death with their scepters and incense burners. However, with the help of a miter and a bed sheet, Komba was able to disguise himself as the ghost of Innocent III (who had been haunting the Vatican ever since an intern wrote a fourth "I" next to his name the Book of Popes) and escaped the bloodthirsty men of god. The council was frustrated that they could not discipline/kill their impudent servant, but they still needed to keep his month, lest he return and embarrass them at the next Vatican bake sale. The solution: keep the month, but lose a couple days near the end for the sake of spite.

Phineas Williamson

While we're on the topic of credit not being given where credit ought to be given to (verily), I am obliged to tell you the tale of one Phineas Williamson. Old Phineas was an accomplished engineer back in his day, and even had the privilege of working with the famed entrepreneur Henry Ford. By now, you must be thinking that I'm going to say something like he actually designed the Model T, and is thus is solely responsible for one of the greatest innovations in the field of transportation, but that his ideas were co-opted by another greedy honky. Not so. Indeed, Ford did have something to do with that particular vehicle, but this isn't his goddamned biography. Now then, Phineas worked with Ford a short while after the Model T had become truly popular. Demand for the auto had exploded, much like how the Model T itself exploded during the many traffic accidents that were taking place. This was due, in part, to there being no rules of traffic, such as divider lines, speed limits, or stop signs. It was also due to the poor driving skills of the nation as a whole, but the majority of the populace found it much easier to simply blame the entire mess on the state of the roadways. Ford realized that if people began to think that his autos were little more than fiery deathtraps waiting to engulf the casual motorist traveling down the road at a scant 90 miles per hour (or for our international readers, 2 kilometers per houre), he would be doomed to a life on the farm that he hated so much. He assembled a think tank composed of his top engineers and an assortment of other head nerds to whip up a remedy to this problem and quick. Phineas just happened to be a member of this tank, and it was at the group's first brainstorming meeting that his destiny would be set in motion.

Things got off to a slow start when a fellow engineer by the name of Reginald P. Ferguson suggested that to reduce the number of fatalities, perhaps the government should enact a plan to make the road out of a softer material than the current medium of choice: brick and/or mud. The other engineers stared in silence, but Phineas suggested that there might be some merit to Ferguson's suggestion, and that if they could convince Congress to pass a bill that called for America's roadways to be made of rubber, the driving public would be safer and would no longer have to shell out money for new tires. The sarcasm was completely lost on Ferguson, and the weasely man scuttled off, presumably to bow his head in shame in the corner. Phineas then spoke to the remaining officials about a plan of his own making, wherein roads would be paved with a harder, more uniform substance that could be easily gripped by the tires of the day. The idea made sense to attendees, and so they began to draft a formal plan to present to Congress. Unbeknownst to them, however, was that Ferguson had already given Congress what he declared to be the group's official plan: rubberize the roadways. The idea was a flop, literally, as the mile-long rubber test road that Ferguson had created for demonstration purposes shrank during an unusually cold morning, and when one of his assistants went to check on the iron tent pegs holding the rubber road in place, the north end of the road snapped, sending the entire roadway hurtling end over end for hundreds of miles until it finally crash-landed a few miles shy of Richmond, Virginia. Needless to say, the officials in Washington were furious, and when asked who was responsible for this, Ferguson placed the blame on the man who had originally given him the idea: Phineas Williamson. Ferguson's case was a weak one at best, but the other members of Ford's think tank, also unable to grasp Phineas' sarcasm, supported Ferguson's claim that the idea did indeed come from Phineas. Phineas was subsequently exiled to Canada, Ferguson was credited with his plan for paved roads, and the experimental rubber road was shredded and used to line the ground at a number of local playgrounds.

Well, my friends, I'm afraid this concludes my coverage of three important-but-oft- overlooked figures in black history. There's still a few weeks left in the month of February, so why not use that time to learn a little more about the famous African Americans that you never hear about in school. For our black readers, this is a great opportunity to learn about your unique heritage, and what effects your predecessors have had on the face of America. For our white readers, this is a great opportunity for you to learn just enough about black history so that you won't wind up feeling guilty when the topic of Black History Month comes up when you're talking with your black friends. Just remember not to publicly refer to them as your "black friends", you racist squib.

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