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Every February, we celebrate the incredible achievements and contributions African Americans have made to this country. Black History Month reminds us Missouri is home to some incredible people who have changed lives and left indelible marks on their communities and our country. A Supreme Court decision involving a slave from Missouri who helped change our country's course, a well-known scientist, and the first black priest in the country are just a few examples of Missourians that have had major impacts on our nation's history.

One of the biggest turning points in our nation's history was rooted in Missouri. The famous Dred Scott v. Sanford Supreme Court decision was about a slave from Missouri, Dred Scott, who dared to challenge the status quo and took his case for freedom all the way to the highest court in the country. While the court ultimately ruled against him, Scott's case highlighted the need for the country to rethink our laws and gave great momentum to the anti-slavery movement. Dred Scott rarely gets the credit he deserves for his bravery and perseverance.

In the early 1860s, George Washington Carver was born in Diamond, a small town in southwest Missouri. Despite being prohibited from attending school in his hometown, he would grow up to become one of history's most prominent agricultural scientists and inventors. Carver created approximately 300 different products from peanuts like flour, wood stains and soap. He was also one of the first proponents of crop rotation based on his studies in soil depletion as the head of the Agriculture Department at the Tuskegee Institute. His findings and innovation led to many of the processes Missouri farmers still use today.

While most states have a rich history of African American leaders, Missouri could soon stand alone as the birthplace of our first African American saint. Father John Augustus Tolton was born into slavery in Brush Creek, Missouri. He was able to escape as a young boy, and a priest at his new parish gave him a rare opportunity — at the time — to attend a Catholic school. He decided to devote his life to God and traveled all the way to Rome to attend seminary. At age 31, Augustus was ordained and returned to the United States to spread the word of God. He became well known in his community, and his message was so strong it broke through social norms and brought people of all races to his congregation. Father Tolton's legacy of love for all God's children and profound faith continues through the teachings at his namesake school in Columbia. On June 12, 2019, Pope Francis confirmed Father Tolton's "heroic virtue" which puts him on the path to sainthood.

It is important to not only remember our past leaders, but to learn from their lives and achievements to improve the lives of future generations. Just as George Washington Carver's ingenuity continues to play a role in our everyday lives, I'm focused on policies that will allow our next generation of leaders to make an impact on our nation. Through education policies that focus on the needs of today's economy, our students will be better prepared to enter the workforce with the tools they need to succeed and make a difference. And by focusing on the preservation of individual freedoms, especially economic and religious, I believe great inventors and the next Father Tolton could be among us. I just hope we all get the chance to hear their powerful messages.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., shares his perspective each week on national issues, including ones that affect Missouri. He represents the state's 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 635-7232.

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