10 Natural (and Historic) Places to Celebrate Black History Month
What better place to celebrate history than at a place where it is honored and preserved? These wild places host incredible evidence of the achievements, struggles and lives of African Americans during the history of the continent. Some also are celebrating with special events this month, so be sure and check them out.
1. Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, California
Colonel Charles Young served as the first African-American Superintendent at Sequoia National Park in 1903. He led about 500 “buffalo soldiers” to have a lasting impact on some of the most cherished lands in America. They completed the first usable road and the first trail to the top of Mt. Whitney in Sequoia, and built an arboretum in Yosemite. In addition to fighting forest fires, they also acted as police, monitoring wildlife poaching, illegal grazing, theft of natural resources and firearm regulations.
2. Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, Ohio
In addition to leading buffalo soldiers to protect and enhance Sequoia and Yosemite, Young was the third African American to graduate from West Point Military Academy and the highest ranking African American officer at the onset of World War I, making him a notable pioneer. Previous to that, Youngsholm served as his home while he taught at a nearby university. It was once used as a stop on the Underground Railroad and hosted Paul Laurence Dunbar, W.E.B Du Bois and other African-American leaders. The family home of Charles Young is one of a handful of monuments designated last year, so it isn’t open to visitors yet.
3. African Burial Ground National Monument, New York
In 1991, what began as construction in lower Manhattan became one of the most important recent archaeological finds: a graveyard containing the remains of about 15,000 free and enslaved Africans buried in the late 17th century. Today a wall of remembrance honors those who once used this place to maintain and celebrate their ancestral heritage.
4. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, Maryland
Another monument designated last year, this place celebrates the woman known as “Moses of her People.” As the most well-known conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman lead almost 70 enslaved people to their freedom. Tubman’s spirit resonates here in the land, water and sky—talismans that she once used for navigation and sanctuary.
5. Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland
Neighboring Tubman’s monument is a bird sanctuary where Tubman once worked as a farm slave and timber laborer. It was here that she learned vital outdoor skills while navigating Blackwater’s Stewart's Canal, which was dug for commercial transportation between 1810 and 1832 by enslaved and free people.
6. Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky
The first guides at Mammoth Cave were African American slaves—remarkable men who were vital to the development of tours there. Although legends like Stephen Bishop, Mat Bransford, Nick Bransford, Ed Bishop, Ed Hawkins, Will Garvin and Matt Bransford made noteworthy contributions to this unique place, they were not considered important during their difficult lifetimes.
7. Biscayne National Park, Florida
Preservation of this gorgeous marine park is due to the African American Jones family of Porgy Key who once farmed its land. The remarkable story of this family concludes with Sir Lancelot, who after refusing to have his family’s land developed, sold this paradise to the National Park Service.
8. Booker T. Washington National Monument, Virginia
This place marks Booker T. Washington’s birth as a slave, although the exact location of his birth remains unknown. Washington was the first principal of the historically black college known as Tuskegee Institute, and later became known as an important author and orator. His political leadership is evident as he was the first African American ever invited to the White House, as the guest of America’s “conservation president” Theodore Roosevelt.
9. George Washington Carver National Monument, Missouri
George Washington Carver's love for nature drove him to become a famous agricultural scientist and inventor, educator and civic leader. His incredible influence is revealed by the fact that this monument was not only the first to be dedicated to an African-American, it was also the first to be dedicated to an American who'd never been president. This monument highlights the home of his youth, a time marked by numerous tragedies which formed him into a man of great legacy.
10. Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin islands
Europeans transported people from Africa to the Virgin Islands starting in the 1600s to work as slaves on sugar cane and cotton plantations and in processing mills and factories. Remnants of these buildings remain today, as well as over 2,000 houses once occupied by enslaved workers and their graveyards.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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