February 22, 2007 — Vol. 42, No. 28
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Excerpted from U.S. Magistrate Judge Joyce London Alexander’s speech

I began taking us back into history and I shall end by taking us back in order to maximize the brilliance, the creativity and resourcefulness of our people. Let me take you on a train ride through black history.

Notwithstanding race, [I want] to show you how we have contributed and will continue to contribute to equal justice in this country. If we were traveling through black history by train — obviously looking good, thanks to Madame C.J. Walker — it would speed safely towards its destination, largely because of the revolutionary communication devices invented by brother Granville T. Woods. The cars on the train would be literally held together by an automatic coupling device invented by brother Andrew Beard. A call to confirm my arrival would be made on a phone originally designed by brother Lewis Latimer, who worked with Alexander Graham Bell — the same brother who worked with Thomas Alva Edison and who installed the electric lighting in New York City, Philadelphia and London.

If service is good, I have none other than to thank brother A. Philip Randolph. If I should decide to grab a quick peanut butter sandwich and coffee on the train, brother Dr. George Washington Carver would be responsible for my lunch. The sugar in my coffee would have been refined by a process invented by brother Norbert Rillieux. And if I have potato chips for a side order, I’ll remember that brother Hyram Thomas invented them. Or if I should order a hamburger instead, the meat will have been cured and preserved by a process developed by brother Lloyd Augustus Hall, who revolutionized the meatpacking industry. The bread or bun will have been made from wheat harvested by a reaper invented by slave brother named Jo Anderson and patented by his so-called “master” Cyrus McCormick. Or suppose I have breakfast on the train and order scrambled eggs and sausage. The eggs will come from one of God’s chickens, but the sausage will no doubt have been processed and packaged by brother Henry E. Parks.

Now, while relaxing I would be reading a magazine, obviously published by John H. Johnson. If an accident should happen and a blood transfusion is required, I shall thank heaven that the procedure was made possible by brother Dr. Charles Drew. And if my injury happened before October 1991 and is so severe that I need to fly back, I shall pray, Mayor [Johnny] Ford, that the flight is piloted by one of our brothers, the Tuskegee Airmen.

So as you can see, although history has afforded us and society little knowledge of the contributions of African Americans, we are a people replete with creativity, resiliency, overwhelming intellectual capacity and leadership. Ladies and gentlemen, we are on a march forward toward equity.

A joyful U.S. Magistrate Judge Joyce London Alexander greets the audience at the annual Cambridge NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, held Feb. 3. The Cambridge native’s speech took listeners on “a train ride through black history,” highlighting the broad scope of African American ingenuity and invention. (Romana Vysatova photo)

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