Five Black Mississippi Trailblazers and Innovators

By Andrea Byrd (Mississippi Valley State University)

Student Career Journal is a series of articles written by HBCU college students about life on campus, career topics and the career and professional experiences of black historical figures.

Fannie Lou Hamer

Fannie Lou Hamer was a black powerhouse from the Mississippi Delta with humble beginnings as a child of sharecropper parents. A voice for those unheard, her career involved starting organizations like Freedom Summer and helped start The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Her strive for civil rights carried throughout her life, unifying black women, especially in suffrage. Her efforts still hail back to the Mississippi Delta today as the Mississippi Valley State University, my HBCU, plans to issue a marker to commemorate her as a part of the 2020 Women’s History Month Celebration.

Benjamin Green and Isaiah T. Montgomery

Benjamin Green and Isaiah T. Montgomery were the founders of an all-black town named Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Both men hailing from the delta, had a deep affinity for black liberation with a streak of individualism. So, they bought over 200 acres of land and developed a community of black people who sought control over their own land and futures.

Henry E. Baker

Born in 1857 in Columbia, Mississippi, Henry E. Baker was an activist and researcher who spent years doing research aimed at highlighting the achievements of unknown black inventors. After leaving a career in the Navy, Baker began to work for the U.S. Patent Office in order to get black creators more resources to protect their inventions. By 1913, his book The Colored Inventor: A Record of Fifty Years had compiled hundreds of documents detailing the exploits of previously uncredited black inventors.

Benjamin Montgomery 

Born into slavery, Benjamin Montgomery was an inventor and the father of Isaiah T. Montgomery (A co-founder of Mound Bayou, Mississippi). He invented what at the time was called “a steamboat propeller for shallow waters”. It sounds simple, but this was actually a vital technology at the time given the cargo that steamboats were carrying. People often carried food between towns via shallow waters. If a boat got stuck during a delivery the goods could spoil before reaching their destination.

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