ABC News Live: Hidden Figures

Take a look into some incredible stories celebrating both the resiliency and triumph of many Black Americans throughout history.
26:13 | 02/27/21

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Transcript for ABC News Live: Hidden Figures
Good evening everyone I'm Lindsey didn't win suite are still commemorating black history monks here on ABC news line and took an hour we take a look at some incredible stories celebrating should pull some resiliency and triumphs of many black Americans so little you may have never even heard of this torch the we are honoring those shouldn't change yours we talked to the families are holding the noble traditions of their enslaved ancestors to change makers who made great sacrifices so that many of us can enjoy certain liberties today which we meet young people -- making a difference right now let's first understand how we got here we take a look at why leave it. A Black History Month to begin west my friend and colleague Byron Pitt's lead to Sox. February means is officially Black History Month. A federally recognized celebration and gives every American the chance to reflect on how African American achievement. Have contributed to US history and how African accomplishments have impacted the world but what's the history of Black History Month. It all started with this man. Doctor Carter G Woodson known as the father of black history. In the early twentieth century while earning a master's degree from the University of Chicago when a Ph.D. from Harvard where she grew increasingly frustrated with races representation and exclusion of African Americans in books and conversations that shaped history so in 1915 he joined forces to establish the association for the study of negro life and history which is now known as the association for the study of African American life and history. Let by Woodson in 1916 the organization launched the journal of negro history in which published African American history in honor the achievements of people of African descent. In 1926 on the second week of February Winston MD eighty SNL H organization launched negro history week is remote the study of black history in universities schools and the black community and so why February. There group originally chose the second week of February to include the birthdays are Frederick Douglass escaped slavery to become an abolitionist since the rice later. And Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation. The growing awareness highlighted achievements in race cry with in the black community he gave all Americans a new understanding the black culture. And during the civil rights movement civil rights workers open freedom schools in the south which should brace the week to celebrate the message among other things this. As black studies program spreads improvement to universities and campuses across the nation. We transformed into the Black History Month. In 1976. President Gerald Ford officially declared February Black History Month. Urging Americans to seize the opportunity to honor the too often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history. And the rest as they say. He is history and. A big thank you to Biron to that important shoestring lesson to our stories now bustling named nearest green who taught a young preacher named Jack Daniels everything he knew about distilling whiskey history that remained untapped. Until now Deborah Roberts has more. Talk to wait on a horse farm in Lynchburg Tennessee lies a vast history that was largely untapped. Until now human millions doing who's doing. Did not it was skis like maker's mark wild Turkey Jack Daniels had barreled their brands into the American tale but turns out. There was an unspoken pioneer who paved the way for the popular beverage. Tennessee whiskey. Im sure uncle nearest whiskey named fourth former slaves Nathan nearest green. Who also happen to be the first known black master distillers in the country there was this man. Who did not fit the mold of what we usually see as a master distillers in America the company's roots following an unlikely come rod green born on a plantation. The whiskey has ties a contrary to a story reported by Daniels for more than a century that a local pastor and moonshine distillery trained him in his craft. It was actually nearest screen here is rather became a mix or teach. Any tell them everything that he knew about distill it. Green is great great granddaughter of Victoria Eddie Butler is currently the master blender for uncle nearest whiskey not only were they making whiskey they were building a friendship. A bond. That was that America. You know in eighteen countries snares green had unknowingly made whiskey history but it wouldn't be until decades later after five generations and master blenders. That Greene's name would finally make its mark. Less than three years the family's legacy holds a firm's stake among American whiskey distillers and pioneers. We have calculated that more than two million. People have to raise a glass of our players worldwide but with the outbreak of cove in nineteen. The company began looking for ways to combat protective gear price gouging and to get in 95 masks and PP each of those on the front lines. We realize OK we're taking care of the people on. The Frontline but what about people that are deemed most vulnerable that aren't on. The front lines they decided to extend their reach even further temporarily closed for tourists the teen turned the distillery in to a ground zero for packing and distributing masks to communities of color across the country. 80% of the deaths from this all African Americans when you see day your people are struggling due to the last. Something we're very pleased that we're able to feel again. Now nearest screens legacy permeating a pen dimming. Around here. And beginning a new chapter in its short history and to have the privilege and honor us carrying around my great great grandfather's legacy. I am honored to continue to do what my great great grand. I'm starting. Our thanks to Deborah Roberts from that remarkable story and in the short break we check back in with the family of the woman who inspired the iconic and controversial. On July and a plus a language born out of resilience black American sign language. When we return. Welcome back everyone and we turn now to an update on a story that we broke the last August this month PepsiCo formalized its name change from popular pinching mixed on July launch decisions and trees out the brand was made last year after many corporations felt pressured to reconcile their historically controversial branding. That the woman who inspired aunt Jemima is worried that the effort to correct roles in the past. Might also be raised her legacy Deborah Roberts is back with the story. A familiar box in kitchens all across the country is about to change for good. After a 131 years PepsiCo is re branding aunt Jemima pancake mix. Get ready for the pearl milling company mix and Wallace celebrate the end of this imagery others not so much. We're sort of cross and ago why would you do it and these decisions are why would you choose that mental. Current milling the company that helped create the original self rising migs -- success only after the two white owners hired a black woman to protect and market the recipe. You're biggest hope was and what they with Nancy Giles and the histories of the actual women who is in place mansion on. That was our hope that they would do the right being anonymous the women who made his grand successful world wire. We first brought you that untold story of one of America's hidden figures months ago revealing her unmarked Chicago grave which recently got a formal headstone. This to happen a hundred years later it's hard to you heard great song for her to new castle's own business and mice. You've probably never heard her name Nancy greed has likely been in your kitchen. There on your pancake box and has accused him I didn't always made. Everybody that was paying gigs and Jemima perfect pancakes. Handshake. The aunt Jemima recipe pioneered by Nancy Green. Giving rise to the American pancake. Long before she pioneer that famous mixed Nancy Greene was born into slavery in Montgomery County Kentucky. After the civil war green moved to a divided Chicago becoming a strong voice at all of a Baptist Church the oldest black congregation. This church was noted for its work to shield Els who heads escapes slavery. Who arrived here in Chicago because there were mini slave catchers and Chicago. Still pursuing people who were of African descent. Sheri Williams lives in Chicago's Brownsville neighborhood and has been shining a light on Nancy Greene story for more than a decade. Her face on the box and it was probably the one waive their households were integrated most people have no idea. Who Nancy Green. Wise why is that do you think I believe because she is looked upon is the character. It is as the polls fool a living breathing individual. Even connecting the dots for one of her descendants she actually opened. Do we you know could literally opened the box Marcus Hayes only recently learned about his family's past. So when I found out. India as I wish I. A vague idea saying terror on history forged through a recipe Nancy Green burst with stuff for the family she cooked in cared more. It was so muted the bowlers will now shale every one eight. I have a I chaired say. Who through us and she makes these amazing risks he. And she calls that Jay good in the milling company heard about it and knew that she was using their meal and they came and are out. Just want then. Aunt Jemima was born the big debut the world's fair at Chicago's Jackson park back in 1893. Green selling 50000. Boxes of the now famous pancake mix. She was the surest and race backed Iranian. You know anybody who would look at a African American woman cooking they knew that they can trust him. And over all those years and sport aunt Jemima. Never mentioning Nancy Green. She was a businesswoman she created our own agency through what she did well as a storyteller. As a cook as a nurse. After green died in 1923. Other women became the living aunt Jemima symbols ambassadors hired by Quaker oats to continue the legacy. Last June in the midst of the country's racial reckoning PepsiCo Quaker oats parent company decided it was time for aunt Jemima to go. In weeks ago the new brand revealed Nancy green's family disappointed says no one reached out to them. What do you want to say to right now Kohler says. All it takes is a conversation when you move in silence. Only wants out of this story being so. They had changed the name to pro milling company and still somehow acknowledged Nancy Green and others on the back of the act might that it had been a solution that. What do Danny Bob Geary options to solution. You know how great and how noble it would be to acknowledge. That you know that there were approached found women who represented. I. In a statement to ABC news on the name change PepsiCo say it. Our hope is that those who trusted and loved aunt Jemima over the years. Will continue to support the brand as pearl milling company and understand our need. To evolve. PepsiCo maintaining it is a common misperception that the brand's original image was premised on a specific person. Is not money. This is American troops. She was here mob wars and our lives we're trial we're trying. Was sorry that it had to happen this way but we're we're trying to. Thanks again to Deborah Roberts about insightful updates and still ahead a sign language that developed during segregation. Plus the history of logo and its connection to our nation's capital. When we come back. Welcome back. And now a history of segregation in this country extended to classrooms of all kinds including just calls for deaf children because Jeff black students were not allowed in the schools many of them were never taught American sign language so what did they do should they created their all. Sharon Phillips has this story. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair from the footsteps of the Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow. I still have a dream. To the fingertips of JC Smith. It's a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. You are witnessing double Latin dance dream and I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and about the true meaning of the stream. In a language. We hope these suits to be self evident that all mineral community pool in a moment I have a dream that one day even in the state of Mississippi in howling coyotes six minutes. The signs Novartis tied it but every mountainside let freedom and it's been a long time coming. How does this beach it's higher U. This speech inspired me. That's a black dust me and I'm living in this world knowing that opportunities. May not be granted to me. End every day. I knew that I had to work three or four times harder and to really get those opportunities that I wanted to and not only would JC Smith get what he wanted. He would become a part of a movement to celebrate and preserve a language yeah born out of oppression and segregation. Why is preserving. Black and American sign language. So important. To you town because. This hour language. It's hard just turns its. It's our buy it's how we communicate how are we able to talk war. Signing black and I'm now America or you are very much like black history new black American sign language. Roots of racism and being in this country wins yeah racial crap and young black signers took to social media. To highlight the history of a language that is been suppressed for decades and the first American school for the deaf and opened in 1817. Of them black children were not allowed. So they had to create their own schools and their own way of communicating. Doctor Caroline and castle is a professor at gala dec. The prestigious university for the deaths in Washington DC. Fan at the age of five her only option for learning how to communicate was it. Learn. American sign language. Freedom for you. I did get that sense of freedom from being able to incorporate who I was. And how I wanted to communicate. But that freedom forged another challenge. Integrations. Black and white deaf students were finally sharing classrooms. But not a common language and black American sign language and was different from American sign language change in order to survive it and Caroline had to learning in the White Plains I remember you telling me. White is right and yet wait is great that's what I saw its. And that that was what was prevailing that was the thinking. Yeah. So I learned man. I learned had a sign that way and I actually put to the side the way I knew to communicate to sign in my. Friends my black friends would say you're signing different Caroline who and I you know you're saying like your YE and I remember not liking. I wanted to keep my way my black way of communicating. With the way I would sign it and she didn't voted most ambitious this. Honor student Concord communications. Group code switching. So when I was with the white people I would sign that way and then when I was with black Kenyan people make good I would communicated differently and that's how that feels. That felt so free to me so good to just. Communicate and you know that was who I was that was my culture in his mind and maybe even. A life and language and labor of love all part of doctor may cast school's new book. And her new role as founding director of gala debts first ever center for plaques deaf studies. Let's have some fine show me. Some signings. In DSL. And BASF. So this would be an Anselm. I was he stopped playing stopped playing. In VA is so. I was at his future today. Like Turkey should I look back. Her protege football star and black student union leader JC Smith buyer's side show me the some of your favorite. Signs. In. The day as south McKay. You can say that's nice. Nice cars. Blue route. Who got things tight. It's more. Flavor. Okay job. I'll still sought only a little salt and it's a culture I was taught to respect decades ago. When my grandfather rejected segregation. In the 1940s. As dean of the Michigan school for the deaf. Also inspiring my mom to prepare teachers of the deaths and become a fierce advocate for equal rights I want it shoes. Make sure that. Back to the death black kids in my class were treated the same as the white kids and given the same. Opportunities. And then later on I became professor at the university. And I was preparing teachers and I wanted. My students to have the same sort of feeling about athlete he and the following the hands. Treating people. Would respect. When we allow freedom Drury he quality JC Smith dreamed up. Every state in the Everett city wheat quality doctor Carolyn and Haskell creating part of it is to preserve the history. And the laying weeds. Culture my people. And the black kids experience. Hands that speak volumes. Free at last. Rea the last thing god will not a three today. Each such a rich history there are things secure us for that. Now turn to the story one Alabama family carry on the traditions of their enslaved ancestors Robin Roberts has this story about the fabric of the Pettway family. Behind these colorful quilts a patchwork of Jeep history culture and tradition. My mother Diana had made clear cut we had to keep more home they would just quits in foreplay chair. It was a necessity he will also viable. This tightly woven ruled community located on the Alabama river is called boy can. Or better known as GE's bid and many of the residents can Trace their lineage back to slavery and the pathway plantation. Pettway a name still shared by many in the area. The majority both kept flames fan and was given for them. It also slightly nicer about it hit a go mabus 99 minutes and. The treasured tradition of quilting passed on generation after generation. Mom mom and I used encrypted to gamma I get money initiated dummy in and we soda and equipment that we seanez. Let's let's just I think that we did you scariest. The women faithfully leaving beautiful intricate designs on the fabric for over 200 years look at that cloud details me what Hanna quit I want to make. And it is want to also stole it you when your door enough quilt. You. Well some time to Wear yellow light speeds sometimes he's he's you Rauf sometime this column plus is not just quilting. It's a connection that too many who feel we. The quilts have become celebrated him recognized as ours. Part of exclusive exhibit set museums across the country this so far so does cub nearing big. Kids some not all bad. Will make with golf. We can thank a look for decades terrorists and quilt enthusiasts have been flocking to this remote peninsula. To purchase a piece of history but with a pandemic settling in Alabama all travel and tourism came to a halt. Closing local shops and stopping sales. The is slow down a lot. Big ugly day clouds allow loan times. Stepping in to help nonprofit organizations. Nest and souls grown deep. Partnering with at C providing a marketplace for the women to sell their quilts online for the very first time. Remain alive to me in this command team has kept me and my family had a great deal. This is among blue oval I know what fault. And amid fears this could happen to me having cook teen parents and probably job. Geez bandit rich culture and history. Spreading across the world one quilt at a time and tonight. Louisiana that's it won't keep won't quit it's can't yeah. They know stock in the woodlands and number one and convenient and only a bag hanging. I think to Robinson that story and it you are reading it does do not go anywhere they history and music right after this break. Welcome back everyone all right let's end this half hour on the eventual with the history of the music had cultural creation made in the chocolate city shades of Uday has a story. Wash DC. The nation's count bill. But there is a rich Pulitzer outside politics that's less talked about beyond the metro area. A free flowing music zone are presumed you can DC in the. For decades go go has been DC's most influential homegrown colorful creations. It is all alive and shipments drums Congo's tamales guitars keyboards horns and everything but. Does he too is Jesus is heavy on percussion it doesn't stop so that's Roscoe pro broken just goes only one. Andre Johnson is the guitarist for the legendary go go band career assets when we started. He wasn't called go go and when we started. Hip pop wasn't even known yet we were just plain DC music at their Clinton. Copy and jump around. The late show brown. Known as the mastermind behind global music. Also credited as the founder of the sound right. Brit is known for his legendary life sentence. His legacy lives on through the younger generation and browns passed paving the future for people like DJ Malcolm eggs easier. He grew up listening to the music and Nelson into go go records on the radio turn tables. This is found in cities around the DA would be. The legendary backyard bay and one of DC's most recognized global Baines to date. The band is most known for adding gogel flavor through the hottest songs on the billboard charts. When the audience here is go go go version of the song that makes him liked the song. The original song even more. The for years just felt the groovy sounds of go go we're being silenced in its own birth place. Due in part to gentrification. The noise complaints igniting a new movement to keep the music going don't need DC. A movement that tried to save the music and said light on the impact of gentrification. They stopped us and play. From auto clubs in the parks everything. It really made it. Got a life need to make sure that people know that this are now. And though the music is still only Malden native lovers of the funky beats that keep going and going full wound. Bull and are searching severely the go go will forever remain unchanged. Say it may still be dancing after that story our thanks to her and there you have a that's all of martian figures in this half hour but she there's so many others out there worth celebrating so we honor all of those featured in these stories and in the countless others that remain until reach and we got that is how power has shed little light arms salute those figures who are hidden no more thanks so much for watching don't go anywhere and has much more on ABC news want to write afternoons.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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