Black History Month is an occasion for looking back at the past achievements of African-Americans – including the discoveries made by George Washington Carver and Benjamin Banneker. But it's also an occasion for looking ahead to future achievements – and that's what TheGrio is doing this month with its list of “100 History Makers in the Making.” The list includes 10 scientists, engineers and environmentalists who are making an impact even now. The newsiest name has to be NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, the first African-American to be named head of the space agency. Bolden is presiding over what is arguably NASA's most dramatic transition in a quarter-century. TheGrio cites the racial challenges that faced Bolden in his youth, when he was denied an appointment to the Naval Academy by lawmakers from his home state of South Carolina. He didn't just shrug his shoulders at the rejection, but instead appealed to President Lyndon Johnson. Bolden eventually won the appointment instead from a black congressman from Chicago.
Bolden went on to a 34-year military career in the Marines – including a 14-year stint as an astronaut. He flew on four shuttle missions, including the deployment flight for the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 and the first joint U.S.-Russian shuttle mission in 1994. Bolden returned to NASA after retiring from the Marines as a major general. No matter what you think of NASA or its future, there's no question that Bolden has brought a different tone to America's space effort. His predecessor, rocket scientist Mike Griffin, once acknowledged that “I don't do feelings.” Bolden, in contrast, sometimes wears his emotions on his sleeve. That's been particularly true in the past few days, when he's had to speak out about the space program's past tragedies and the difficult times ahead. “I am a big person for passion,” the 63-year-old told reporters in Washington this week. “I am here because I am passionate about space and exploration. Otherwise I'd be sitting in Houston, Texas, or I'd be in San Diego with my three granddaughters. I am here because I am passionate about this. I cry about it some times – so what?”
If you think that's an inspirational story for Black History Month, check out these nine others from TheGrio: