Though they could not vote in Jim Crow South Carolina, Will and Annie wanted their children to live in an America of liberty and opportunity for all that President Roosevelt’s action seemed to represent.
My grandfather was a minister, and he and his wife, Louisa, named their fourth son Theodore Roosevelt Johnson, Jr, again in hopes that their children would have the opportunity America promised, but that the racially charged 1950s did not allow.
Just over a year ago, I, Theodore Roosevelt Johnson III, walked out of the Blue Room of the White House and met the president and first lady. One of my family’s many generational hopes and dreams was finally realized once I shook hands with President Obama and spoke their names in the halls of the White House; the same space where President Roosevelt inspired two proud black people to take a leap of faith for the American promise.
This is my black history, and my American story. It indelibly binds me to a history that continues to live through me, and is not contained in an annual month-long study of facts and speeches.
Stories such as these are at the core of Black History Month. We need not look far. When Americans really reflect on their families and communities, they will recognize the contributions of all African-Americans, not just those who are seen as famous or heroic. The fact that their own stories aren’t as well known or recognized makes their inspiration, purpose, and achievement more tangible.
Every single African-American has a number of personal testimonies to contribute to this national month of remembrance. The many challenges and triumphs of our family members weave an intricate fabric chronicling the richness of the African-American experience.