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U.S. DOT Headquarters Hosts African-American Heritage Event

Posted by USDOT Public Affairs

This morning, the Department of Transportation (US DOT) hosted an event in Washington, DC, to commemorate African American Heritage Month. The program highlighted the many contributions of African Americans to the nation and to transportation in particular.  The Washington Mathematics Science Technology Charter School made a Color Guard presentation and the Department’s own Paulette Grady led the National Anthem. 


Maureen Bunyan, a 44-year television news veteran,  addresses participants at US DOT’s 2017 African American Heritage Celebration on Feb. 22. Seated (from left to right) are US DOT employees Janelle Johnson, Diversity Program Manager; Keith Washington, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration; Willis Morris, Special Advisor to the Secretary of Transportation; and Leslie Proll, Director of the Office of Civil Rights.


Special Adviser Willis Morris spoke about the numerous and significant of contributions by African Americans to transportation innovation and operation.  These included Andrew Beard, who invented the Jenny Coupler to link trains; Bessie Coleman, one of the first women aviators; and Janet Harmon Bragg, the first African American woman to obtain her commercial pilot’s license. 

Washington, DC, news television anchor Maureen Bunyan gave the keynote address. Incorporating this year’s theme of education, Bunyan delivered an inspiring and personal speech about her family’s connection to education and the need to gain both formal and informal education throughout our lives.

“You cannot accomplish anything if you do not have the will,” she said. “You cannot learn anything if you do not have the will.”   

Janelle Johnson, Diversity Program Manager, outlined the many US DOT programs that support science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), including training and career opportunities, mentorships and internships, and outreach.

Leslie Proll, Director of the Office of Civil Rights, closed the program by citing civil rights heroes connected to transportation such as Rosa Parks, John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr, as well as acknowledging the many unsung heroes throughout African-American history.