Healers in Different Forms: Bessie Blount Griffin and Richard Wright

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Bessie Blount Griffin and Richard Wright deeply understood different spheres of healing. Griffin, an inventor and physical therapist, made tremendous strides in the sciences to help people overcome physical difficulties. Wright, a brilliant author, wrote about the lives of Black Americans to illuminate the disparities between Black and White experiences. He is credited with being one of the key figures to pave the way to the Civil Rights movement. We know that Black history is American history.

The Black Organizers, Leaders, and Doers (BOLD) Employee Resource Group at the WellPower has put together a year-long initiative highlighting Black leaders, entrepreneurs, inventors, historical figures, and inspirational individuals. We invite you to join us in learning about critical people in American history, and we thank BOLD for their work in gathering this information.

Bessie Blount Griffin: November 24, 1914 – December 30, 2009

Bessie Blount Griffin was an inventor, physical therapist, and forensic scientist. Born in Virginia, she attended school until sixth grade, when the resources for her education were no longer made available to her. Later, she went on to earn her GED, later attending Community Kennedy Memorial Hospital’s nursing program in Newark, New Jersey. After earning her nursing degree, she attended Panzer College of Physical Education and Hygiene, where she became a physical therapist.

Bessie Blount Griffin is best known for:

  • Finding new and innovative ways to treat patients who had lost limbs. For example, she helped arm amputees compensate by teaching them to use their feet.
  • Creating a food receptacle apparatus that allowed her patients to eat independently and comfortably in an upright or level position.
  • Becoming both the first woman and first African American featured on WCAU Philadelphia television show “The Big Idea” in 1953.
  • Becoming the Portsmouth Police Department’s chief document examiner in the 1970s.

Learn more about Bessie Blount Griffin’s life and work:

  1. Blackpast.org
  2. Lemelson-MIT
  3. New York Times

Richard Wright: September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960

One of the most prolific American writers of the modern age, Richard Wright wrote novels, poems, short stories and non-fiction that helped usher in major change in race-relations in the United States.

Recently, Reginald Dwayne Betts published an article in the New York Times explaining how one of Wright’s lesser-known works, The Man Who Lived Underground, “…feels wearily descriptive of far too many moments in contemporary America….More than any other Black writer, Richard Wright recognized that understanding Black folks’ relationship to the police is central to understanding racism.”

Richard Wright is best known for:

  • Writing books that changed the face of race-relations in America, such as Native Son (published 1940), Black Boy (published 1945), The Outsider (published 1953), and Black Power (published 1954).
  • Being the first African American author to protest how white people treated Black people.
  • Being the first Black author to be chosen for the Book of the Month club.

Learn more about Richard Wright’s life and work:

  1. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education
  2. BlackPast.org
  3. AALBC.org
  4. New York Times

Urban Intellectuals Black History Flashcards

Inspiration for these posts comes from the Urban Intellectuals Black History flashcards. If you’re interested, we encourage you to check out these cards for yourself!

Black History is American History Series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3