February is Black History Month! As we celebrate the contributions that African Americans have made at all levels for our country, let’s take some time to celebrate important African-American brain injury heroes.
Harriet Tubman was one of the conductors of the Underground Railroad. A former slave herself, she helped slaves escape from the South to freedom. During the Civil War, she joined the Union army, even leading a US army expedition. Tubman was later a vocal proponent of the women’s right to vote.
Many people do not realize that as a youth, she suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. She was hit in the head with a weight that an overseer threw at another slave, hitting Tubman. She was unconscious for several days. Following this injury, she had severe headaches, narcolepsy, and seizures. Despite her brain injury symptoms, she became a hero for American freedom.
Louis Tompkins Wright was both a medical and civil rights pioneer. Born in 1891, in segregationist Georgia, he fought significant prejudice to gain admission to Harvard Medical School. He was the first African-American doctor at Harlem Hospital, later becoming President of the Hospital. Wright was also the first African-American NYPD surgeon. He was a civil rights leader, serving as Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors. He was an innovator both in diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of medical ailments, including inventing a brace for transporting patients with cervical vertebrae injuries. He was well-recognized as an expert on brain injuries and wrote influential research on the topic. Despite great obstacles, Wright was an important figure in both medical and civil rights worlds, including contributing greatly to the knowledge of brain injuries.
Harry Carson was one of the greatest football players in the history of the National Football League. He captained the New York Giants to Super Bowl victory and is a member of the Hall of Fame. Carson was also one of the first athletes to openly talk about brain injuries in football, bravely sharing his story with Sports Illustrated in 1998, long before there was any serious recognition of the potential brain injury dangers of playing football. He has advocated with Congress and through the Brain Injury Association of America to raise brain injury awareness. Carson has used his leadership, experience, and knowledge to help others receive necessary help.
These are just a few of the many African-American brain injury heroes!