Races: Black Vacuum

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All Americans know of George Washington Carver, Ralph Bunche, Jackie Robinson and Senator Edward Brooke. The names of Pedro Nino, Nino Estevanico, Matthew Henson and Dr. Charles Drew are less likely to ring a bell. Yet these men too had an important part in the making of America, and as a congressional hearing in Manhattan pointed up last week, many legitimate Negro heroes have been overlooked by whites and Negroes alike.

The list starts in 1492, when Pedro Nino ventured to the New World with Columbus. Negroes followed with almost all of the Spanish conquistadors, and Estevanico (Little Stephen), a Spanish Negro, led the expedition that discovered what is now Arizona and New Mexico. Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave, was the first American killed in the Revolution; 5,000 Negroes fought under Washington.

In the mythology of the West, there were only red men and white men, but several of the explorers of the Oregon Territory were black, while some 5,000 Negro cowboys roamed the range with Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp. A later explorer, Matthew Henson, was Admiral Robert Peary's only companion when he first reached the North Pole, actually beating Peary to the Pole by 45 minutes, thus becoming the first man to stand on top of the world.

Shoes & Sugar. Long before the "Harlem Renaissance" of the '20s Negroes had poets and writers, while black doctors, scientists and inventors made important contributions to post-Civil War technological advances. Jan Ernst Matzeliger, a native of Dutch Guiana, laid the foundations of the shoe in dustry with his shoe-lasting machine, Norbert Rillieux greatly lowered the price of sugar with a new refining technique, and Garrett Morgan introduced a number of life-saving devices, not least of which was the traffic signal. George Washington Carver, of course, transformed Southern agriculture by discovering scores of new uses—from peanut butter to shaving cream—for the lowly peanut, soybean and sweet potato. In medicine, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performed the first successful heart operation in 1893, while Dr. Charles Drew pioneered in new techniques to store blood plasma. Drew, ironically, bled to death after he was injured in a car crash—and was turned away by an all-white hospital.

More and more textbook writers are honoring Negroes along with whites. Still more needs to be done, said New York's Representative James Scheuer, whose hearings are designed to call attention to his proposal for a federal Commission on Negro History and Culture. As it is, reported Author James Baldwin, the Negro child has a feeling "of no past, not really a present and certainly no future. It is a great national waste."