Congressman Emanuel Cleaver spoke about the lesser-known achievements of black Americans during the 25th annual Black History Breakfast at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center this morning.
In his speech, the representative from the fifth district of Missouri said that black history has been "reduced." He mentioned prominent historical figures like civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and the Tuskegee Airmen -- the first black American aviators to fly in the U.S. military -- but also urged listeners not to forget about the slaves that helped construct the White House, the inventions of Elijah McCoy and Garrett Morgan, and Ralph Bunche, the first black American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
"If we had not come to America, this country would not look like what it looks like today," he said.
Three local leaders were also honored during the breakfast with Legacy Awards. Margaret Jenkins, Rev. Rudolph Allen and the late Lt. Col Tyrone Fletcher were each recognized.
"This is truly a surprise," said Jenkins, a leader in the Columbus branch of the NAACP. "I am truly surprised that anyone would give this to me."
"I'm the one who cannot be surprised," Allen joked before saying he was very thankful for the award.
Col. Jeffrey Fletcher accepted the Legacy Award for his late father. Fletcher said he thought his father would say there was work to be done for equality between all people.
"Until that need goes away, there is still work to be done," he said.
For more on this story, see tomorrow's Ledger-Enquirer.