First Lt. Vernon J. Baker
Extraordinary Heroism (Medal of Honor)
He received a Medal of Honor for his extraordinary heroism in action near Viareggio, Italy, during World War II. Then holding the rank of second lieutenant, Baker demonstrated outstanding courage and leadership in destroying enemy installations, personnel and equipment during his company’s attack against a strongly entrenched enemy in mountainous terrain. The federal government later acknowledged that racism was the reason he didn’t receive the medal until 50 years later.
Inventor of Potato Chips
Every time a person crunches into a potato chip, he or she is enjoying the delicious taste of one of the world’s most famous snacks – a treat that might not exist without the contribution of black inventor George Crum.
The son of an African-American father and a Native American mother, Crum was working as the chef in the summer of 1853 when he incidentally invented the chip. It all began when a patron who ordered a plate of French-fried potatoes sent them back to Crum’s kitchen because he felt they were too thick and soft.
To teach the picky patron a lesson, Crum sliced a new batch of potatoes as thin as he possibly could, and then fried them until they were hard and crunchy. Finally, to top them off, he added a generous heaping of salt. To Crum’s surprise, the dish ended up being a hit with the patron and a new snack was born!
Thanks to Tanisha and Bryan Jones and their daughter Sinai for compiling these profiles from the following sources:
1) The Encyclopedia of African-American Heritage, by Susan Altman
2) The Roots website, theroots.com
3) Famous Black Inventors website, black-inventor.com