Simon Burris (Courtesy photo)

Simon Burris is a brilliant historian sharing his vast knowledge of Black History by developing clever brainteasers, more commonly known as crossword puzzles.  

His creative and challenging games, which appear in the L.A. Sentinel Family section, are educating readers from ages eight to 80+ about the innumerable contributions of Black people. 

And Burris has made quite a few contributions as well.   

A native of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, Burris was born in 1933 and excelled in the midst of segregation and discrimination. Citing one of his proudest memories, he said, “In 1969, I led a group of youth in Broken Bow in desegregating the two uptown eateries, without a stir.  A month later, the Broken Bow Businesses Association abolished their Whites/Indians/Negroes racial-based systems.” 

After graduating from Broken Bow’s Dunbar High School – one of the two schools for African American students – he relocated to California, living first in Oakland and soon settling in Los Angeles where he worked for the U.S. Postal Service.   

“I served 31 years as a clerk/expediter and was a three-time recipient of the U.S. Postmaster’s Special Achievement Award in 1979, 1982 and 1989,” said Burris. He retired in 1989 and then launched a real estate career as a foreclosure specialist with Century 21 and Keller Williams franchises in the Long Beach area.  Two years later, Burris published his first book “Money & Money Troubles: 10 Proven Ways to Financial Freedom.” 

His second book, “700 Notable Persons of African Ancestry: 1400 BC To Present Day,” was issued 40 years later. Between publications, Burris traveled the world visiting 17 states in the U.S. along with Washington D.C., Canada, Mexico, Central America, Brazil, Caribbean Islands, Africa and Europe.   

“I spent many years learning, collecting and sharing my trove of the Africana Diaspora (culture) and some years ago, I spoke three languages) at varying proficiency levels,” he recalled.  “English, 100%; Spanish, 70% and Portuguese, passable.”  

Burris always enjoyed designing crossword puzzles, but the lockdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic led him to “refocus on my 60-plus-year puzzle-making career” and “rebrand his work to be primarily Black cultural-themed for many readers who have little or no knowledge of the accomplishments of persons of Black/African descent from the biblical epoch to modern day.” 

As Burris explained, “Our rich and proud history should be celebrated EVERY month, not just February.  For centuries, Europeans and European American writers have whitewashed the Bible and world history.”   

That mis-education is being corrected through the crossword puzzles created by Simon Burris, which not only appear in the Sentinel, but have also been featured in New Your Tribune, Boston Globe, TV Guide, Living Lutheran, and the Publishers Newspaper Syndicate. 

His work has been featured in numerous high-profile newspapers and magazines such as the “New-York Tribune,” “The Boston Globe,” “TV Guide,” “Living Lutheran,” “Los Angeles Sentinel” and “Publishers Newspaper Syndicate.”  In addition, Burris is networking with several of the 230 Black-owned newspaper publishers and historically Black churches, school and college administrators to help preserve African American history and culture.    

At the age of 89, Burris remains busy as ever.  He resides with his wife, Helena, in Lakewood, and regularly attends Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Inglewood where he has been a member since 1981. 

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