Celebrating Black History Month with Major Larry Black
Celebrating Black History Month with Major Larry Black
U.S. Marine Corps Major Larry S. Black, Jr. and USF ROTC Instructor honors Black History Month by writing daily stories of Black men and women inspirational stories. Each day in February, Major Black highlights a Black individual to tell their story.
2023 Daily Stories
Percy Lavon Julian (April 11, 1899 – April 19, 1975)
Born April 11, 1899 in Montgomery, AL, Percy Lavon Julian was a pioneering African-American chemist whose research led to the chemical synthesis of drugs to treat glaucoma and arthritis. The grandson of former slaves, he attended school through eighth grade but was unable to continue his education in Alabama because there were no high schools open to Black students at that time. He applied to DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, where he had to take high school-level classes in the evening to get him up to the academic level of his peers. In spite of this challenging beginning, he graduated first in his class, with Phi Beta Kappa honors.
After college, Julian accepted a position as a chemistry instructor at Fisk University. He left in 1923 when he received a scholarship to attend Harvard University to finish his master’s degree, though the university would not allow him to pursue his doctorate. He traveled for several years, teaching at Black colleges, before obtaining his Ph.D. at the University of Vienna in Austria in 1931.
With his doctorate in hand, he returned to DePauw to continue his research. In 1935, he earned international acclaim by synthesizing physostigmine from the calabar bean to create a drug treatment for glaucoma, but in spite of his success, the university refused to make him a full professor because of his race.
Desiring to leave academia, Julian applied for jobs at prominent chemical companies but was repeatedly rejected when hiring managers discovered that he was Black. Ultimately, he obtained a position at Glidden Company as the lab director. There he invented Aero-Foam, a product that uses soy protein to put out oil and gas fires and was widely used in World War II, as well as other soybean-based inventions.
Julian continued his biomedical work as well and discovered how to extract sterols from soybean oil and synthesize the hormones progesterone and testosterone. He was also lauded for his synthesis of cortisone, which became used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Julian left Glidden in 1953 and established his own laboratory, Julian Laboratories, in 1954. He sold the company in 1961, becoming one of the first Black millionaires, before founding Julian Research Institute, a nonprofit organization that he ran for the rest of his life.
In 1973, Julian became the first Black chemist elected to the National Academy of the Sciences. Julian passed shortly after from liver cancer on April 19, 1975. Following his death, he was elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990, and in 1999 his synthesis of physostigmine was recognized by the American Chemical Society as “one of the top 25 achievements in the history of American chemistry.”
Source credit: https://www.biography.com/scientists/percy-julian
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Henry Ossian Flipper (March 21, 1856 – April 26, 1940)
Born into slavery, Henry O. Flipper fought his way through prejudice and isolation to become the first African American graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and first commissioned Black officer in the U.S. Army. He fought with distinction in the Indian Wars before a court-martial found him guilty of conduct unbecoming after commissary funds went missing on his watch. Flipper spent the rest of his life in the Southwest, becoming an expert on property law, a mining engineer, Spanish translator, writer, and assistant to the Secretary of the Interior before his death in 1940.
Henry O. Flipper was born to enslaved parents in Thomasville, Georgia in March 1856. His parents were enslaved by different men when his father’s enslaver decided to move to Atlanta. Flipper’s father used all his savings to successfully beg his enslaver to buy his son and wife so they could remain together. Following the Civil War, Flipper’s family remained in Atlanta and Flipper entered the newly-established Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1869.
Flipper, as he later wrote in his memoirs, always aspired to become a Soldier for the United States Army. In 1873 he wrote to Congressman James Freeman asking for his recommendation to be appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Flipper succeeded in securing his appointment and entered West Point later that year. Despite enduring almost total social isolation while at West Point, Flipper persevered. In 1877, he became the first African American to graduate from West Point and the Army’s first African American officer.
Flipper was commissioned as a second lieutenant and left for Oklahoma. He joined the 10th Cavalry, one of only two units composed of African American Soldiers and nicknamed the “Buffalo Soldiers.” The unit had already won renown for its Soldiers’ bravery in the Indian Wars when Flipper joined them at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Flipper proved a capable engineer, building roads and telegraph lines from Gainesville, Texas to Fort Sill. He also engineered a system to drain several ponds blamed for causing malaria. The drainage system, known as “Flipper’s Ditch,” is still in use today and is registered as a National Historic Landmark.
The 10th Cavalry was reassigned to Fort Concho, Texas in June 1880. Two weeks after his arrival, Flipper and the 10th Cavalry were sent out into the field to fight Chief Victorio and his Apache warriors. In recognition of his achievements, Flipper was assigned as assistant quartermaster at Fort Davis, Texas where he was responsible for food inventory, distribution, and keeping track of the commissary’s financials. In the summer of 1881, Flipper discovered a $3,000 discrepancy in the commissary funds. Knowing he would be blamed for the missing money, he attempted to conceal the loss until he could repay it from his own pocket. His commanding officer found out about the missing money, however, and Flipper was court-martialed. The court found him guilty of “conduct unbecoming an officer” and dishonorably dismissed Flipper from the Army in 1882.
With his military career finished, Flipper decided to remain in the Southwest, serving as a Spanish translator and becoming an expert in land rights and property law. He worked with the Department of Justice’s Court of Private Land Claims for eight years, surveying land grants and appearing as a government witness in several court cases. He worked with two Mexican mining companies and moved to El Paso, Texas, in 1912. During Mexico’s civil war, Flipper supplied information on conditions in the country to the U.S. Senate’s subcommittee on Mexican affairs. Due to his expertise, Flipper became special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior from 1921 to 1923, when he left for Venezuela to serve as a mining engineer. He returned to the U.S. in 1930 and retired a year later to Atlanta, Georgia. Flipper lived there until his death from a heart attack in 1940.
During his life, Flipper wrote and translated several works on mining, engineering, history, and property law, including two memoirs, “The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878)” and “Negro Frontiersman: The Western Memoirs of Henry O. Flipper (1963)”. Both of these works are the only depictions of life as an African American on the frontier and are indispensable historical sources.
Flipper attempted to regain his commission in the Army multiple times, including during the War with Spain, but was ultimately unsuccessful. It wasn’t until 1976, nearly 36 years after his death, that a review of his case declared the punishment Flipper received to be “unduly harsh.” The Army corrected Flipper’s records to show an honorable discharge and President Bill Clinton pardoned Flipper in 1999.
Source credit: https://www.thenmusa.org/biographies/henry-flipper/ & https://www.nps.gov/foda/learn/historyculture/secondlieutenanthenryflipper.htm
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Barney Lancelot Ford (January 22, 1822 – December 22, 1902)
Ford was born on January 22, 1822 in Virginia. He grew up as a slave. Ford’s mother, Phoebe, hoped he would one day escape slavery. And he did! At seventeen, he traveled the Underground Railroad to Chicago. Ford taught himself to read and write. He also helped other slaves escape to freedom. In Chicago he married Julia Lyon. She helped Barney pick his last name— as a slave, he wasn’t given a last name. He got the idea from a steam engine called the Lancelot Ford.
In 1851, Ford and his wife decided to move to California to find gold. They traveled by ship. The ship stopped in a town in Nicaragua, located in Central America, for a few days to pick up supplies and passengers. Barney and Julia got off the ship and liked the town so much they decided to stay. The couple opened a successful hotel and restaurant.
Ford dreamed of bigger opportunities. He believed he could achieve his dreams in the American West. So, the couple moved to Colorado to mine for gold. However, African Americans faced discrimination in the West. Ford was not allowed to own a mine claim at that time because he was African American. Ford was determined to succeed in the West anyway and moved to Denver. He opened a barbershop. People were impressed by Ford’s intelligence and determination. Unfortunately, Ford’s barbershop burnt down in a fire.
Not even a fire could stop Barney Ford. He opened three more businesses: the People’s Restaurant, the Inter-Ocean Hotel, and the Ford Hotel. One of his buildings is still used today. It is located at 1514 Blake Street in downtown Denver.
Ford died in 1902 at the age of eighty. Ford’s reputation survived his 1902 death, and his stained glass image resides in Colorado’s House of Representatives in recognition of his efforts to end racial discrimination and gain civil rights for black people. He effectively opposed Colorado statehood on the grounds that black men were denied the ballot. He joined other educated black men in the territory to establish adult education classes for black people in reading, writing, arithmetic, and the workings of democratic government. He traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby the U.S. Senate for the right to vote, and became the first black man in the state to serve on a U.S. grand jury.
Source credit: https://www.coloradovirtuallibrary.org/
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Jesse L Brown (October 13, 1926 – December 4, 1950)
Many people have heard of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American U.S. Army pilots who flew during World War II. Less well known is Jesse Leroy Brown, the first African-American U.S. Navy pilot who flew during the Korean War. Blessed with strong determination, he overcame racial barriers of the times while making many unlikely friends. Shot down in Korea in 1950, his story is an inspiration to all and an example of the commonality of man.
Born a sharecropper’s son in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Jesse dreamed of becoming a pilot after his father had taken him to a local air show when he was just six years of age. First, however, he realized he had to go to college. Ohio State University (OSU) was his choice since one of his heroes was Jesse Owens, the great black Olympic champion. Owens had been a track star at OSU. Jesse Brown was a track star in high school. Ignoring advice that he should attend a black school instead of OSU, Jesse enrolled in the engineering school in 1944 with the intent of becoming an architect. Although there were few black students at OSU and only seven had received diplomas the previous year, he received a friendly reception from his classmates.
Jesse was excited to find that OSU had a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corp (NROTC) program that could lead to pilot training. The Navy recruiter, however, told him bluntly that the Navy had no black pilots and had no plans to have any.
Undeterred, he passed the Navy exams and during his second year of college he entered Navy pilot training. Pilot training is tough and being black didn’t make it any easier. While he experienced racial prejudice, his fellow trainees and instructors for the most part treated him like any other trainee and in some cases even encouraged him. Jesse earned his golden wings on October 21, 1948, the first black person to do so.
The Navy had a strict rule that no marriages were permitted until after graduation from flight school. Jesse was in love and he was certainly not averse to taking risks. He ignored the prohibition and married his high school sweetheart, Daisy, during his training even though he risked being kicked out of the program. He successfully kept it a secret even though it became more difficult after Daisy became pregnant.
Jesse’s life changed abruptly in 1950 when 100,000 Chinese soldiers poured into North Korea over the Yalu River, trapping 8,000 Marines. The Marines had to run a gauntlet to the sea where they could be rescued. Jesse’s squadron, flying off the USS Leyte, was assigned to protect the Marines.
Flying his 20th mission, Jesse’s Corsair was hit by ground fire over hostile territory and lost power. The only place to land was on the side of a mountain covered by snow. LTJG Thomas Hudner, a Naval Academy graduate and Jesse’s wingman watched in horror as Jesse’s plane pancaked hard on the mountainside.
Hudner was briefly buoyed by hope to see Jesse wave from the open canopy. But he wasn’t making any effort to get out of the cockpit. Something was very wrong, and to make matters worse, there was smoke rising from the shattered plane. Hudner made a quick decision to try to rescue Jesse. That meant crash landing his plane next to Jesse on the side of the mountain, which he successfully did. Meanwhile, the rest of the squadron circled overhead to watch for Chinese soldiers and radioed for a rescue helicopter. Hudner found Jesse trapped in the buckled cockpit without his helmet and gloves in below zero temperature and undetermined internal injuries. He covered Jesse’s head with a wool cap and his numb hands with a scarf and used the snow to put out the smoldering fire. But he couldn’t budge Jesse no matter how hard he tried.
Charlie Ward, a pilot friend of Jesse’s, arrived, making a difficult landing with the helicopter. Charlie had an axe, but that didn’t help free Jesse since the axe just bounced off the metal surface of the plane. Jesse kept getting weaker as the two men desperately tried to free him. Their efforts were for naught and Jesse died as they worked in frustration. His last words were, “Tell Daisy that I love her.”
Back on the ship, Jesse’s squadron debated what to do. They didn’t want to leave him for the Chinese so they decided to give Jesse a “warriors funeral.” The next day seven aircraft left the carrier and flew over the crash site. While one plane accelerated in a vertical climb toward heaven, the others dove and released their bombs on the mountainside. The voice of one of the pilots could be heard over the radio reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
On April 13, 1951, President Truman awarded the Medal of Honor to Jesse’s friend and wingman, Thomas Hudner. Jesse was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart. On March 18, 1972 the Navy christened the Destroyer Escort, USS Jesse L. Brown. It was the first Naval Ship named after an African-American.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Mary Church Terrell (September 19, 1863 – July 24, 1954)
Mary Eliza Church Terrell was a well-known African American activist who championed racial equality and women’s suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th century. An Oberlin College graduate, Terrell was part of the rising black middle and upper class who used their position to fight racial discrimination.
The daughter of former slaves, Terrell was born on September 23, 1863 in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father, Robert Reed Church, was a successful businessman who became one of the South’s first African American millionaires. Her mother, Louisa Ayres Church, owned a hair salon. She had one brother. Terrell’s parents divorced during her childhood. Their affluence and belief in the importance of education enabled Terrell to attend the Antioch College laboratory school in Ohio, and later Oberlin College, where she earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Terrell spent two years teaching at Wilberforce College before moving to Washington DC, in 1887 to teach at the M Street Colored High School. There she met, and in 1891, married Heberton Terrell, also a teacher. The Terrells had one daughter and later adopted a second daughter.
Her activism was sparked in 1892, when an old friend, Thomas Moss, was lynched in Memphis by whites because his business competed with theirs. Terrell joined Ida B. Wells-Barnett in anti-lynching campaigns, but Terrell’s life work focused on the notion of racial uplift, the belief that blacks would help end racial discrimination by advancing themselves and other members of the race through education, work, and community activism. It was a strategy based on the power of equal opportunities to advance the race and her belief that as one succeeds, the whole race would be elevated. Her words—“Lifting as we climb”—became the motto of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), the group she helped found in 1896. She was NACW president from 1896 to 1901.
As NACW president, Terrell campaigned tirelessly among black organizations and mainstream white organizations, writing and speaking extensively. She also actively embraced women’s suffrage, which she saw as essential to elevating the status of black women, and consequently, the entire race. She actively campaigned for black women’s suffrage. She even picketed the Wilson White House with members of the National Woman’s Party in her zeal for woman suffrage. Terrell fought for woman suffrage and civil rights because she realized that she belonged “to the only group in this country that has two such huge obstacles to surmount…both sex and race.”
In 1909, Terrell was among the founders and charter members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Then in 1910, she co-founded the College Alumnae Club, later renamed the National Association of University Women.
Following the passage of the 19th amendment, Terrell focused on broader civil rights. In 1940, she published her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, outlining her experiences with discrimination. In 1948, Terrell became the first black member of the American Association of University Women, after winning an anti-discrimination lawsuit. In 1950, at age 86, she challenged segregation in public places by protesting the John R. Thompson Restaurant in Washington, DC. She was victorious when, in 1953, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated eating facilities were unconstitutional, a major breakthrough in the civil rights movement. Terrell died four years later in Highland Beach, Maryland.
Source credit: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/mary-church-terrell
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Charles Jackson French (September 25, 1919 – November 7, 1956)
Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Jackson French was hailed as the “hero of the Solomons” and the “Human Tugboat” after a heroic rescue in the Pacific during World War II. Along with Doris “Dorie” Miller, who received the Navy Cross for valor during the attack on the fleet at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, French was one of the most celebrated Black sailors during the war.
Charles French was born on September 25, 1919, in Foreman, Arkansas. After the death of his parents, he lived with his older sister, Viola, in Omaha, Nebraska. French enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1937 and served four years. He received an honorable discharge on November 11, 1941, but re-enlisted after Pearl Harbor. French was assigned to the mess (kitchen) as an attendant. Along with stevedore and steward, mess attendant was one of the few occupations open to African American men in the Navy.
On the night of September 5, 1942, French was on board the U.S.S. Gregory, a destroyer training ship, when it was sunk by the Japanese navy near the Solomon Islands. In the aftermath, French helped fifteen wounded survivors from the ship into a life raft. Fearing that the raft would drift toward the shore where Japanese troops were located, French towed the raft of wounded survivors toward a different island. He swam between six and eight hours in shark-infested water before being rescued by Marines in a Navy landing craft.
It was Ensign Robert N. Adrian, the only officer from the bridge of the Gregory to survive, who told an Associated Press reporter about the rescue. He also recounted the narrative on the NBC radio program, “It Happened in the Service.” Although Ensign Adrian received the Purple Heart for being wounded in action during the attack, French received a letter of commendation for “meritorious conduct in action” instead of a medal.
French made public appearances after the rescue, including attending a Creighton University football game with his sister in 1942. He was celebrated in the black press and was even the subject of a syndicated comic strip. French was also the only African American to appear on World War II patriotic trading cards issued by GUM, Inc.
After his military service, French suffered from alcoholism and depression. He died on November 7, 1956, in San Diego, California; he was only 37 years old. He was survived by his sister Viola.
Since 2018 there has been renewed interest in recognizing Charles French’s heroism more appropriately. In June 2021, he was honored by USA Swimming at the Olympics Swim Trials in Omaha. Later that year Nebraska’s three U.S. representatives, Don Bacon, Jeff Fortenberry, and Adrian Smith, co-sponsored H.R. 4168 to rename an Omaha post office for French. In addition, Rep. Bacon, a retired Air Force brigadier general, has petitioned the Navy, asking for French to be considered for a posthumous medal of honor.
Source credit: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/people-african-american-history/charles-jackson-french-1919-1956/
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Frances Barrier Williams (February 12, 1855 – March 4, 1944)
Fannie Barrier Williams was an educator, political activist, and women’s rights advocate who worked for advancement opportunities of African Americans. She called especially for social and educational reforms to improve the plight of black women in the Southern States of the U.S.
Barrier was born to Anthony and Harriet Barrier in Brockport, New York on February 12, 1855. The family of five was one of very few black families in the community. Despite their minority status, they were well-respected in Brockport. Aspiring to become a teacher, Barrier was the first African American to graduate from the Brockport State Normal School (now SUNY Brockport) in 1870. She was 15 at the time of her graduation. Barrier and her siblings did not experience much overt discrimination growing up in Brockport. Besides being one of the few black families in the neighborhood the Barriers were the only black family at their church, the First Baptist Church of Brockport.
Upon graduation from Brockport State, Barrier moved to Washington, D.C. to teach recently freed blacks who were migrating to the nation’s capital in the 1870s. Barrier, however, had difficulty adjusting to the greater racism in Washington, D.C. and eventually went to Boston, Massachusetts to study music at the New England Conservatory of Music. Unfortunately, her piano studies concluded when she was asked to leave by the administration after her white counterparts threatened to leave if she was allowed to continue to study there.
After several disappointments Barrier returned to Washington, D.C. to teach, and married Georgia-born Samuel Laing Williams in 1887. At the time Samuel Williams was a law student at Columbian University in Washington, D.C. (now George Washington University Law School) and longtime friend of Booker T. Washington. The new couple moved to Chicago, Illinois where Samuel Williams started a successful law practice. In Chicago they joined the All Souls Unitarian Church, where Williams was the first African American and the first woman to serve on the Board of the Chicago Public Library.
Williams spoke at the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, where she voiced concern of the lack of representation of blacks at the significant social and cultural event. Later that year she helped found the National League of Colored Women. In 1896 Williams was involved in the creation of the National Association of Colored Women. She also helped Daniel Hale Williams (no relation) establish Provident Hospital in Chicago in 1891. Williams’ contribution to the cause of women’s suffrage was recognized when, in 1907, she was the only African American selected to eulogize Susan B. Anthony at the National American Women Suffrage Association convention. Also, despite her husband’s friendship with Booker T. Washington, Williams assisted W.E.B. DuBois in helping to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.
As a social activist and orator, Williams spoke out on the discrimination towards both black men and women. She wrote extensively on the current position and potential progression of African Americans in education, religion, and employment. Many of her writings were published in The New Woman of Color: The Collected Writings of Fannie Barrier Williams, 1893-1918.
Fannie Barrier Williams continued to support women’s rights until her death on March 4, 1944. She died in her hometown of Brockport, New York.
Source credit: https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/williams-fannie-barrier-1855-1944/
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Barbara Charline Jordan (February 21, 1936 - January 17, 1996)
While the world watched during the Impeachment hearings of President Richard Nixon, Barbara Jordan boldly took center stage. As a lawyer, a congresswoman, and a scholar, Jordan used her public speaking skills to fight for civil and human rights. In 1972, Jordan became the first African American woman to be elected to Congress from the South since 1898.
Barbara Charline Jordan was born on February 21, 1936 in Houston, Texas. The daughter of Arlyne and Benjamin Jordan, Barbara was the youngest of three children. Her mother was a public speaker and her father was the pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church. After attending Roberson Elementary School, Jordan attended Phyllis Wheatley High School and graduated in 1952. Upon graduation, she went to Texas Southern University and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1956. She then went to Boston University to get her law degree. Once she passed her law exam called the “bar,” Jordan began practicing law in Houston Texas. For her first job, she worked as an administrative assistant for a county judge. That same year, she began working on the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign.
In 1962, Jordan began her political career and ran for the Texas House of Representatives. Although she lost the race, she ran again in 1964. However, she lost again so in 1966 she decided to run for the Texas Senate instead. This time, Jordan won and became the first African American woman ever elected to that office. Also, she was the first African American state senator in United States since 1883. During her time as senator she worked to establish a minimum wage law, antidiscrimination statements in business contracts, and a Fair Employment Practices Commission. She was elected president of the Texas Senate on March 28, 1972, making her the first black woman in America to oversee a legislative body. During this time, Jordan was also running for Congress. Winning by 81 percent, she became the first African American in the 20th century to be elected to Congress from the South.
While in Washington, D.C. as a congresswoman, Jordan served on various committees. Starting in 1975, she served three terms on the Judiciary Committee. Jordan quickly became a prominent voice on the Judiciary Committee. As the committee began the impeachment process against President Richard M. Nixon, Jordan gave the opening remarks. In her speech, she stated her reasons for supporting President Nixon’s impeachment and her faith in the Constitution. After her powerful speech, many people surrounded her car, and sent her letters and phone calls to congratulate her. President Nixon resigned from office on August 9, 1974. Following this, Jordan continued to advocate for civil rights protections for many Americans. In 1975, she sponsored legislation that expanded the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to include Latinx, Native, and Asian Americans. A year later, she became the first African American and the first woman keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention.
Jordan continued her political career and began heavily campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate James Earl (Jimmy) Carter. In 1977, Carter won the presidential election against President Gerald Ford. During his term, President Carter interviewed Jordan for the Cabinet position of U.S. Attorney General, but he did not offer her the position. The next year, Jordan decided not to run for re-election to Congress. Instead, Jordan became a professor at the University of Texas in Austin as the Lyndon Johnson Chair in National Policy. She taught in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University until the early 1990s. In 1992, she delivered the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention from a wheelchair because she suffered from multiple sclerosis. Two years later, President Bill Clinton selected her to lead the Commission on Immigration Reform. However, Jordan’s health continued to decline. Although she was very quiet about her private life, many historians suggest that her caregiver Nancy Earl, was also her life partner. Earl was an educational psychologist that traveled with Jordan for nearly thirty years. On January 17, 1996, Barbara Jordan died from pneumonia, a complication of leukemia.
Source Credit: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/barbara-jordan
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
George Robert Carruthers (October 1, 1939 - December 26, 2020)
George Carruthers is an African American inventor, physicist, and space scientist. He has gained international recognition for his work which focuses on ultraviolet observations of the earth's upper atmosphere and of astronomical phenomena. George Carruthers first major contribution to science was to lead the team that invented the far ultraviolet camera spectrograph. Dr. Carruthers received a patent for his invention the "Image Converter for Detecting Electromagnetic Radiation specially in Short Wave Lengths" on November 11, 1969. He also developed the first moon-based space observatory, an ultraviolet camera that was carried to the moon by Apollo 16 astronauts in 1972.
George Robert Carruthers was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 1, 1939. His father was a civil engineer, and his mother was a homemaker. The family lived in Milford, Ohio until Carruthers' father died suddenly, and his mother moved the family back to her native Chicago. At an early age, George developed an interest in physics, which his father encouraged. Also, as a child, he enjoyed visiting Chicago museums, libraries, and the planetarium which caused him to be an avid science-fiction reader, and enjoyed constructing model rockets. Later he became a member of the Chicago Rocket Society and various science clubs. George Carruthers built his own telescope at the age of ten and went on to win numerous science fair awards.
After graduating from Englewood High School in Chicago, George Caruthers went on to attend the University of Illinois, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1961. George Carruthers continued his education at the University of Illinois and obtained his master's degree in nuclear engineering in 1962 and a doctorate in aeronautical and Astro-nautical engineering in 1964.
In 1964, George Carruthers began work for the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. where his work focused on far ultraviolet astronomy. In 1969, he received a patent for his invention, the "Image Converter," which detected electromagnetic radiation in short wave lengths, and in 1970, he made the first observation of molecular hydrogen in space.
For George Carruthers, growing up in the earliest stages of the space race, he had always been fascinated with space travel, and would ultimately go on to make some of the greatest contributions to ever benefit the space program. In 1972, George Carruthers invented the first moon-based observatory, the Far Ultraviolet Camera, which was used in the Apollo 16 mission. The camera weighed 50 pounds, was gold-plated and only worked on the moon. The camera used in the Apollo 16 mission produced about 200 photos revealing new features of Earth’s far-outer atmosphere, as well as deep-space objects from the perspective of the lunar surface. "People sort of expected to see what we saw, but even so, just having the first pictures that actually verified that, was very exciting," says Carruthers. It also produced new far ultraviolet images of stars, nebulas, and galaxies, as well as new views of the Earth. As Dr. Carruthers explained, "the far ultraviolet... is of great importance to the astronomer because it allows the detection and measurements of common elements (hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and many others) in their cool, unexcited state... This allows more accurate measurements of the compositions of interstellar gas, planetary atmospheres, etc. The ultraviolet also conveys important information on solid particles in interstellar space... and provides for much more accurate measurements of the energy output of very hot stars..."
Although the camera itself was left behind, a second version was used aboard the final Skylab flight in 1973 to obtain images of Comet Kohoutek. Carruthers has also been involved in numerous sounding rocket and space shuttle flights utilizing his cameras. In 1986, one of Carruthers' cameras captured an ultraviolet image of Halley's Comet, and later in 1991, he invented a camera that was used in the Space Shuttle Mission.
In the 1980s, George Carruthers helped create a program called the Science & Engineers Apprentice Program, which allows high school students to spend a summer working with scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory. He also helped develop a series of videotapes on Earth and Space science for high school students.
George Carruthers continued to blend his love for science and that of teaching and taught a two-semester course in Earth and Space Science at Howard University, sponsored by a NASA Aerospace Workforce Development Grant. Lauded for his efforts and achievements, George Carruthers was named Black Engineer of the Year in 1987, awarded the Arthur Fleming Award in 1971, the Exceptional Achievement Scientific Award from NASA in 1972, the Warner Prize in 1973 and was inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2003. His success is primed to lead to greater achievements by those who follow in his footsteps in the future.
Source Credit: http://www.myblackhistory.net/George_Caruthers.htm
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Alexander Thomas Augusta (March 8, 1925 - December 21, 1980)
Alexander Thomas Augusta was born free in Norfolk, Virginia, on March 8, 1825. Although by Virginia law blacks were forbidden to read, Daniel Payne, later a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, taught Alexander the little reading that he knew early on. The young Augusta served as an apprentice with a local barber, where his reading was developed further, and then he moved to Baltimore where he worked as a journeyman barber. At the same time he studied medicine under private tutors. He relocated to Philadelphia, where he hoped to study medicine formally at the University of Pennsylvania's medical school. His inadequate preparation led the school to refuse Augusta admission. Then William Gibson, a professor in the school, took an interest in him and arranged to have the young man study in his office. Augusta's interest in formal medical study never waned.
Augusta returned to Baltimore and on January 12, 1847, married Mary O. Burgoin, a woman of Huguenot descent, and the couple left for California. He worked in hopes of earning enough money to support his medical training but returned to Philadelphia three years later. A medical degree remained uppermost in his mind. Still later he moved to Canada, and in 1850 he was accepted into the Medical College of the University of Toronto. Six years later (1856), he received a B.M. degree from the university. The city took an immediate interest in him and acknowledged his expertise by placing him in charge of Toronto City Hospital and later in charge of an industrial school. In the meantime, Augusta set up private practice in Toronto. Sometime before 1860 he went to the West Indies and in 1861 returned to Baltimore and made a brief return to Toronto. Meanwhile, Augusta had become interested in the Union forces, the army's volunteer medical service, and in October 1862 he sought a post in that service.
When he was given a medical commission and appointed surgeon of the U.S. Colored Troops, U.S. Army, on April 14, 1863, Augusta had the rank of major. He was the first of eight black physicians commissioned and the highest-ranking black officer in the segregated U.S. Army. Augusta was sent to the 7th U.S. Colored Infantry and joined them in garrison at Camp Stanton, near Bryantown, Maryland. White officers, who were also surgeons, complained because they were subordinate to a black officer, causing him to be transferred to what became known as Freedmen's Hospital, at the site of Camp Barker near Washington, D.C. There he became the first black to head any hospital in the United States.
During the Civil War, thousands of escaped slaves settled in Washington, D.C, and lived in overcrowded, filthy quarters. Disease was rampant. Although the federal government built new hospitals and enlarged others, sick freedmen were treated at Camp Barker in the fall of 1863, where Alexander was in charge. The War Department continued to direct the hospital until 1865, when it came under the auspices of the newly created Freedmen's Bureau. Later on, the Freedmen's Hospital was established on a permanent basis and erected on the campus of Howard University. Alexander remained at Freedmen's from autumn 1863 to spring 1864. In that time he examined black recruits at Benedict and Baltimore, Maryland. Yet racism followed him. For example, the army paymaster initially paid him at the same rate that was provided for enlisted men after their clothing deduction: $7 a month. However, Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts heard Augusta's complaint, wrote to the Secretary of War about the matter, and two days later the paymaster general was ordered to compensate the surgeon according to his rank.
In 1865 and 1866, Augusta was assigned to the Department of the South. For his meritorious service, in March 1865 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Volunteers, becoming the first black to hold that rank. While on a lengthy tour of duty, he headed a hospital in Savannah, Georgia. Many black casualties of the Civil War resulted from the hesitancy of the U.S. Army to arm these soldiers in the first place. The excessive casualty rate of the colored troops was also due to the lack of medical care that they received. White surgeons resisted serving with black troops and were reluctant to treat ailing black soldiers. Of the eight black physicians who were appointed surgeons in the army, seven were attached to hospitals in the Washington, D.C. area. These included Charles B. Purvis and John Rapier. John V. De Grasse had only a brief stint with the 35th U.S. Colored Infantry, as assistant surgeon.
Augusta's prominence in the field of medicine was acknowledged in 1868, when the newly organized Medical Department at Howard University elected him demonstrator of anatomy, making him the first black to be offered a teaching position at any medical school in the United States. In what was called the Panic of 1893, a time of severe financial difficulties at the medical school, the medical faculty faced the dilemma of resigning or having their salaries cut in half. Some resigned, but Augusta, Purvis, and Gideon Stimson Palmer remained. Augusta continued on the faculty until September 14, 1877, holding a succession of professorships in anatomy while serving on the staff of Freedmen's Hospital. The school reorganized and wanted to move Augusta from the head of the Anatomy Department to chair of Materia Medica. Augusta declined the new appointment and was terminated. He reentered private practice in 1877.
On June 9, 1879, Augusta and Purvis were proposed for membership in the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, an affiliate of the American Medical Association. On June 23, Dr. A. W. Tucker's name was added to the list. All of the men were rejected. On February 8, 1870, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate to repeal the charter of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia because it worked against black practitioners and was guilty of discriminatory practices. The bill was unsuccessful, and the fight continued. Blacks, however, on January 15, 1870, formed their own National Medical Society of the District of Columbia and accepted whites into membership. The fight to integrate the local white medical society continued for many years; eventually the local society revised its regulations and allowed consultations with black physicians.
Howard University recognized its star medical school faculty on June 27, 1871, when it awarded honorary M.A. degrees to Augusta, Purvis, and Robert Reyburn. Augusta also received an honorary degree of Medicinal Doctor on June 30, 1896. In honor of the noted surgeon and educator, in 1913 doctors Simeon L. Carson, B. Price Hurst, Peter M. Murray, and E. A. Robinson formed the Alexander T. Augusta Medical Reading Club; it grew to a maximum of twelve but ceased to exist around 1940 due to the deaths of several members.
Augusta, a quiet, slender, and handsome man, died at his home, 1319 L Street, NW, Washington, D.C., on December 21, 1890. After the funeral at St. John's Episcopal Church at Lafayette Square, held on December 24, his body was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Augusta is remembered as a pioneer black surgeon, medical school professor, and practicing physician who persevered against odds early on and obtained a medical school degree and broke racial barriers in the military, in hospital administration, and in medical education.
Source credit: https://www.encyclopedia.com/african-american-focus/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/augusta-alexander-t
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Myra Adele Logan (1908 - January 13, 1977)
Myra Adele Logan was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, the daughter of Warren and Adella Hunt Logan. She was the youngest of eight children. Her mother was college-educated and involved in the suffrage and healthcare movements. Her father was treasurer and trustee of Tuskegee Institute.
She enjoyed a relatively privileged upbringing; Booker T. Washington was a neighbor. Education and optimism were in the air of the Logan household, as was an interest in health care: in addition to her mother, Logan also had an aunt and sister who were or became involved in health matters, and her brother, Arthur, as well as a brother-in-law, was a physician.
Logan's primary school education was conducted at Tuskegee's Laboratory, the Children's house. After graduating with honors from Tuskegee High School, she attended Atlanta University and graduated as valedictorian of her class in 1927. She then moved to New York and attended Columbia University, earning her M.S. degree in psychology. She worked for the YWCA in Connecticut before opting for a career in medicine. Logan was the first to receive a four-year $10,000 Walter Gray Crump Scholarship exclusively for aiding Black medical students to attend New York Medical College. She graduated in 1933.
She interned and did her residency in surgery at the Harlem Hospital in New York. In 1943, she became the first woman to perform open-heart surgery and the ninth operation of its kind. She developed her specialty in children's heart surgery. Logan married painter Charles Alston on April 8, 1944. They met while he was working on a mural project at the Harlem Hospital, where Logan was a medical intern; Logan served as a model for Alston's Modern Medicine, in which she appears as a nurse holding a baby.
She was a member of the New York State Commission on Discrimination during Governor Thomas E. Dewey's administration. In 1944 she resigned from the commission with seven other members after Dewey shelved anti-discrimination legislation they had drafted. Logan became an associate surgeon at Harlem Hospital, where she spent most of her medical career. She was also a visiting surgeon at Sydenham Hospital and maintained a private practice. She also worked to develop antibiotics, including Aureomycin. Logan and a team of physicians treated 25 lymphogranuloma venereum patients with Aureomycin and gained positive results. Aureomycin was shown to reduce the gland size of eight Buboes patients after four days of treatment.
She published her results in the Archives of Surgery and Journal of American Medical Surgery. Logan also published her results on Puromycin, and tri-ethylene melamine in the A.M.A. Archives of Internal Medicine and Acta-Unio Internationalis Contra Cancrum journals, respectively. In 1951, Logan was elected a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and was the first Black woman to become a member of this group. Logan was a founding partner and treasurer of the Upper Manhattan Medical Group of the Health Insurance Plan, one of the first group practices in the United States. She also worked with the NAACP's Health Committee, the New York State Fair Employment Practices Committee, the National Cancer Committee, the national medical association committee, and Planned Parenthood.
During the 1960s, she researched the early detection and treatment of breast cancer. She developed X-ray processes that could more accurately detect differences in tissue density, allowing tumors to be discovered earlier. She was published in several medical journals and was one of the first Black women to be elected to the American College of Surgeons. Logan was also an accomplished classical pianist. She retired in 1970 and later served on the New York State Workmen's Compensation Board. Myra Logan died of lung cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital on January 13, 1977.
Source credit: https://aaregistry.org/story/dr-myra-a-logan-born/
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
320th Very Low Altitude (VLA) Balloon Barrage Battalion (June 1944)
There were many heroes and heroic sagas during World War II, many documented in military history books and retold over the decades. But, many other equally heroic actions received little or no recognition because the American Army was segregated; and the Soldiers and their units were black.
One such all-black unit was the 320th Very Low Altitude (VLA) barrage balloon battalion. The battalion was raised up in 1942 just a year after the Coastal Artillery Corps took over responsibility for barrage balloons from the Army Air Corps.
"The 320th VLA was the only black combat unit to take part in the D-Day landings and was the only barrage balloon battalion to land on the beaches. Units from the 320th landed on both Omaha and Utah beaches and, if you look at pictures of the D-Day beachhead and you see barrage balloons there, they were manned by three to five black troops from the 320th," said Jonathan Bernstein, Army Air Defense Artillery Museum director here. "The first Soldiers from the battalion landed on Omaha Beach at 9 a.m., two hours after the invasion began. The first balloon was floated at 11:15 p.m. that night, and by the next day all of their balloons were knocked out by German artillery fire. But, they were resupplied and were able to quickly float new balloons."
Bernstein said the 320th VLA Battalion had five batteries and a headquarters battery, with around 700 Soldiers. The reason it took them so long to deploy their balloons was because of intense fighting on the beaches. As infantry units solidified their lines, the 320th Soldiers established their positions.
"But if you put up a balloon on the beach, that gave German artillery observers something to sight-in on. So they didn't float balloons until the night of June 6," he said.
Soldiers of the 320th VLA came up with an ingenious solution to one problem they had during the landing. The normal winch for the balloons was an M-1 motorized unit which weighed half a ton; many feared they would sink to the bottom of the channel as they were brought ashore from the landing crafts. So the Soldiers refitted RL-31 Signal Corps field cable winches with barrage balloon reels.
The RL-31 only weighed 35 pounds and was mounted in the back of a jeep to deploy and control balloons on D-Day. They flew at an altitude of around 200 feet to defend Soldiers landing on the beaches against strafing attacks by German aircraft.
"Once deployed the balloons had steel cables hanging down from them, which would neatly slice off an airplane's wing if it hit the cables at 300 or 400 miles per hour. The 320th battalion did actually score a confirmed "kill" by cutting off the wing of a Junkers Ju-88 over Omaha Beach on D-Day," Bernstein said.
The 320th stayed on Omaha and Utah beaches providing low altitude defense. Omaha Beach was one of the major points where supplies continued to come onto the European continent until other ports were secured. By September 1944, Antwerp, Belgium, was secured and Omaha was too far behind the lines.
Barrage balloons became a liability as Allied forces pushed inland and took control of the countryside. VLA units were slow and cumbersome, and to deploy them, units had to have hydrogen generating trucks, tank trucks and all sorts of equipment to maintain the balloons. By the end of October 1944, the 320th VLA Battalion was on its way back to Camp Stewart, Ga., to train for service in the Pacific Theater. They eventually made it as far as Hawaii before the war ended.
There were 39 black anti-aircraft battalions deployed during WWII. Many of them manned mobile and semi-mobile automatic weapons and were detailed to defend various units. But the 320th holds the distinction of being the only all-black balloon battalion.
The newly reopened Army ADA Museum here has a display of some of the 320th VLA barrage balloon battalion's equipment, including an M1 winch, an RL-31 cable winch, a jeep with "1st Army 320th VLA" markings and several mannequins in WWII uniforms.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander (January 2, 1898 – November 1, 1989)
Born two decades before American women won the right to vote, Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander overcame obstacles as a woman and also as an African American in the elite profession of law. In 1927 she became the first black woman to gain admission to the Pennsylvania bar, beginning a long career advocating for civil and human rights.
Sarah Tanner Mossell Alexander was born into a distinguished family on January 2, 1898 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her grandfather was Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner (1835-1923), editor of the Christian Recorder and the AME Church Review. Her uncle was surgeon Dr. Nathan F. Mossell (1856-1946), founder of the Frederick Douglass Hospital (now Mercy-Douglass Hospital), and her aunt, Dr. Hallie Tanner Johnson (1864-1901), founded Tuskegee Institute’s Nurses’ School & Hospital. Other uncles were the painter, Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) and Lewis Baxter Moore (1866-1928), Dean of Howard University.
Alexander’s father was Aaron Mossell (1863-1951), an attorney who deserted his wife, Mary, and two daughters a year after Sadie’s birth. Suffering from depression, Mary Mossell often traveled to Washington, D.C., where relatives cared for the girls. Although she earned a scholarship to Howard University, Sadie Alexander was directed by her mother to attend the University of Pennsylvania instead, entering in the fall of 1915. There she struggled with discrimination from students and professors. In 1918, she graduated with honors with a B.S. in education but at the time was denied election into Phi Beta Kappa.
She continued her studies at the University of Pennsylvania, earning an M.A. and then a Ph.D. in economics, becoming the first black woman in the U.S. to earn the degree. Unable to find work as an African American woman in Pennsylvania, she was hired by the black-owned North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1921 and stayed there until 1923 when she returned to Philadelphia to marry her college sweetheart, Raymond Pace Alexander (1897-1974), an attorney. They had two daughters, Mary and Rae.
Before entering law school, Alexander served as the first national president of the black women’s sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, from 1919 to 1923. In 1924, she became the first black woman enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. She graduated with honors in 1927 and was the first black woman to gain admission into the Pennsylvania bar. Alexander was the first African American to hold both a Ph.D. and a J.D. She joined her husband’s law firm, making them one of the earliest husband and wife legal teams in the country. She began working on cases in the Orphans’ Court and later advocated against racial discrimination, segregation, and employment inequality.
From 1928 to 1930 and again from 1934 to 1938, she was Assistant City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia and formed a legal aid bureau to assist African Americans who could not afford lawyers. She also served as secretary for the National Urban League from 1930 to 1957 and was appointed by U.S. President Harry Truman to serve on his Committee on Human Rights in 1947.
In 1970, Sadie Alexander finally was elected into Phi Beta Kappa. She practiced law until her retirement in 1982. Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease in Philadelphia in 1989 at the age of 91.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Lucy Diggs Slowe (July 4, 1885 – October 21, 1937)
Lucy Diggs Slowe was born on July 4, 1885, in Berryville, Virginia, the youngest of Henry and Fannie Porter Slowe 's seven children. By the time she was six years old, both of her parents had died, and she was raised thereafter by a paternal aunt in Lexington, Virginia. When she was 13, the family moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she attended public schools and graduated at the top of her class in 1904. She then became a scholarship student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she was one of the founders of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the first Greek-letter organization for black women.
After graduating from Howard in 1908, Slowe taught English at her alma mater, Baltimore Colored High School. In 1915, she earned a master's degree in English from Columbia University and began teaching at a Washington, D.C., high school. When the District of Columbia's first junior high school for black children was established in 1919, Slowe was appointed principal. In this position, she instituted an integrated in-service course for junior high school teachers, which was conducted by Columbia University. Three years later, in 1922, Slowe was appointed dean of women at Howard University, the first black woman to achieve that position. She also served as a professor of English and education.
Throughout her professional career, Slowe was active in the struggle to elevate black women to a level of equality with whites and black men, and she sought to make the most of her role as women's dean. Deans of women at black colleges traditionally had functioned more as chaperons or guardians of morality than as educators, but as an administrator and educator, Slowe was far more concerned with developing black woman culturally and preparing them for leadership roles than with enforcing strict rules. She commented in The Education of Negro Women and Girls that "when a college woman cannot be trusted to go shopping without a chaperon, she is not likely to develop powers of leadership."
Slowe was also concerned that black women students were not benefiting from a new national movement in higher education that focused on broadening the "whole" student by integrating career guidance, health services, athletics, and cultural activities into the academic experience. She took steps to expose her students to the fine arts, by instituting a cultural series, and to refinement, by organizing women's social functions.
Slowe's mission to improve conditions for her students was also achieved through her active participation in organizations that promoted the advancement of black women. In 1923, she became the first president of the National Association of College Women (NACW), an organization of black women college graduates of accredited liberal arts colleges and universities. Its mission was three-fold: to raise the standards in the colleges where black women were educated; to improve conditions for black women faculty; and to encourage advanced scholarship among women. Another priority of the NACW was to influence the presidents of black colleges to appoint well-trained deans of women. In 1929, she organized the National Association of Deans of Women and Advisors to Girls in Negro Schools, which became independent of the NACW in 1935 as the number of women advisors and deans of black colleges grew. With Mary McLeod Bethune, Slowe helped found the National Council of Negro Women and served as the organization's first executive secretary. She served on the advisory board of the National Youth Administration, and was an active member of the National Association of Deans of Women, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and the YWCA.
An accomplished tennis player, Slowe won 17 cups in an era when few blacks competed with whites in that sport. She sang contralto in the St. Francis Catholic Church and in the Madison Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore. During the last 15 years of Slowe's life, Mary Burrill, a recognized Washington, D.C., public school teacher and playwright, was her partner and housemate. Still active as dean of women at Howard, Lucy Diggs Slowe died of kidney disease in October 1937. A stained-glass window in Howard University's chapel commemorates her lasting influence, and a dormitory is named her memory.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Emmett W. Chappelle (October 25, 1925 - October 14, 2019)
Emmett Chappelle is a gifted African American scientist and researcher who is the recipient of 14 U.S. patents. Emmett Chappelle is clearly one of the 100 most distinguished African American scientists and engineers of the 20th Century.
Emmett Chappelle was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1925. Chappelle lived on a small farm which did not have electricity until he was twelve. He attended a one-room school for several years, but graduated from a small, segregated high school that was a part of the Phoenix Union High School District. He was the top graduate in his 25-student senior class.
Emmett Chappelle was drafted into the army in 1942 and assigned to a special unit that focused on engineering. He was eventually transferred to Italy, where he served in the all-black 92d Infantry Division. He was wounded in action twice.
After completing his time in the service, Emmett Chappelle came home and in 1946, Chappelle attended Phoenix College and studied electrical engineering. The GI Bill enabled him to continue his education and he received a bachelor's of science degree in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. He earned his master's of science degree, also in biochemistry, from University of Washington in Seattle and performed post-graduate work at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
From 1950 to 1955, Emmett Chappelle served as an instructor of biochemistry at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Leaving Nashville, Emmett Chappelle moved back to California and returned to Stanford as a research associate.
In 1958, Chappelle joined the Research Institute in Baltimore, a division of the Martin Marietta Corporation which was famous for designing airplanes and spacecraft. There, Chappelle discovered that even one-celled plants such as algae, which are lightweight and can be transported easily, can convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. This discovery helped to create a safe food supply for astronauts.
Chappelle went to work at Hazelton Laboratories in 1963 as a biochemist. In 1966, he joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, as a research chemist, and later became a remote sensing scientist, studying natural systems to improve environmental management. Chappelle retired from NASA in 2001.
Some of Chappelle's most interesting work was in the area of luminescence, which is light without heat. While designing instruments for the Mars Viking spacecraft, he became interested in bioluminescence, which is warm light produced by living organisms. Chappelle used two chemicals from fireflies which give off light when mixed with ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an energy storage compound found in all living cells.
Chappelle earned an Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal from NASA for his work. He is a member of the American Chemical Society, the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society of Photobiology, the American Society of Microbiology, and the American Society of Black Chemists. Throughout his career, he has mentored talented minority high school and college students in his laboratories. In 2007, Chappelle was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his work on bioluminescence. He is often included on lists of the most important scientists of the 20th century.
Chappelle died on October 14, 2019 at the age of 93.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Lewis Temple (1800 - May 18, 1854)
The invention of the fluted or barbed harpoon, which revolutionized the whaling industry, was the brainchild of Lewis Temple, an African American blacksmith and abolitionist born in 1800 in Richmond, Virginia. Historians have not determined whether or not he started life as a slave or escaped slavery and found his way north to New Bedford, Massachusetts as a free man, but it is generally agreed when he arrived there he was illiterate. Still, he was bright and resourceful and by 1836 had married Mary Clark, formerly of Maryland, had three children, and owned a whalecraft shop.
The success Temple had in Massachusetts could not have been imagined in his native Virginia, a slave-holding state, but in New Bedford where there was a sizable black population he prospered and found time to lend his energies to the anti-slavery movement, becoming vice president of the New Bedford Union Society. He assisted former slaves, probably including young Frederick Douglass, when he and his wife settled in a two-room home in New Bedford’s black neighborhood in the town’s West End. At age 47 Temple, along with three other black protesters, was arrested for “rioting” at the site of a pro-slavery lecture.
Not long after his arrest, in 1848 Temple employed his blacksmithing skills to manufacture an astonishing contribution to whaling worldwide. For the past millennium seamen had killed whales using sturdy spear-like harpoons, oftentimes with fluted or barbed tips, that were effective but begged improvement. Temple developed Temple’s toggle iron, a two two-piece harpoon that penetrated the whale’s body and, unlike all previous designs, allowed the fluted part to pivot on an axle by ninety degrees (i.e., ‘toggle’), thereby making it all but impossible for the whale to break free from the harpoon. The whale could then be killed with a lance. Temple’s more efficient design may have been influenced by a similar design long used by Eskimos, but his toggle iron was soon universally popular and remained in use until the 1950s. Ironically, Temple never went to sea.
Though he failed to patent his invention, Temple lived comfortably. He had a maintenance contract with the city of New Bedford, got involved in local temperance politics, and built a larger whalecraft shop on the waterfront. Several months after suffering a pedestrian accident that impaired his health, Temple died on May 18, 1854. In his honor, today a life-size statue of Lewis Temple examining his creation is on a pedestal outside the New Bedford Free Public Library.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Emma Azalia Smith Hackley (June 29, 1867 – December 13, 1922)
Emma Azalia Smith Hackley was an African American singer and Denver political activist born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 1867. Her parents, business owners Henry and Corilla Smith, moved to Detroit where she attended Washington Normal School, graduating in 1886. Smith, a child prodigy learned to play the piano at three and later took private voice, violin and French lessons.
Emma Smith worked as an elementary school teacher for eighteen years. During that period she met and married Edwin Henry Hackley, a Denver attorney and editor of the city’s black newspaper, the Denver Statesman. In 1900 Hackley received her music degree from Denver University. In 1905-1906 she studied voice in Paris with former Metropolitan Opera star Jean de Reszke.
Hackley was active in black Denver’s civic and social life. She founded the Colored Women’s League and served as executive director of its local branch. She and her husband also founded the Imperial Order of Libyans which fought racial discrimination and promoted patriotism among African Americans.
In 1905, Hackley moved to Philadelphia where she became director of music at the Episcopal Church of the Crucifixion. While there she helped organize the People’s Chorus which later became the Hackley Choral Society. The group proved popular in the Philadelphia area and gave her the opportunity to study voice in Paris in 1905-1906 with former Metropolitan Opera star Jean de Reszke.
Despite her stellar training, Hackley did not pursue a professional career. Instead she spent much of the rest of her life training a younger generation of singers including Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes and R. Nathaniel Dett. She did give benefit concerts to raise money for additional training for these and other singers.
Following a third European trip in 1909, Hackley began giving classical music lectures throughout the United States. After a brief Canadian tour in 1911 she created the Vocal Normal Institute in Chicago in the hope of providing an institution where artists could develop their professional abilities. Hackley also published her own collection of music under the title Colored Girl Beautiful. When the Vocal Normal Institute failed in 1916, Hackley turned her attention to African American folk music and organized the Folk Songs Festivals movement in black schools and churches across the South.
In 1920, despite failing health, Hackley traveled to Tokyo, Japan where she introduced black folk music to an international audience at the World Sunday School Convention. During a 1921 California tour Hackley collapsed on stage while performing in San Diego and was brought back to Detroit. Emma Azalia Hackley died from a cerebral hemorrhage on December 13, 1922 in Detroit.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Elizabeth Carter Brooks (1867-1951)
Equality was the vision of Elizabeth Carter Brooks in her work as educator, social activist and architect. Born in New Bedford in 1867 to the formerly enslaved Martha Webb, Elizabeth graduated from New Bedford High School and then continued her education in architecture at the Swain Free School of Design. She went on to study at New Bedford’s Harrington Normal School for Teachers, where she became its first African American graduate. Elizabeth began her teaching career at Howard’s Orphan Home, founded and run by African Americans in Brooklyn, New York. In 1901, Elizabeth became the first African American woman hired as a public school teacher in New Bedford. She taught at the Taylor School for over 25 years.
As a social activist who supported African American achievement, Elizabeth organized local, regional and national groups. She was very active in Black women’s club movement. While teaching in Brooklyn, she became the first recording secretary of the National Federation of Afro-American Women. Elizabeth also helped form the Northeastern Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (NFCWC) and, from 1908 until 1912, she served as the fourth president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACW). As a leader in these organizations, she spearheaded many important efforts. She proposed the addition of a unit to the NACW that would lead boycotts to challenge discrimination. She petitioned the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) for NFCWC membership, however NAWSA was not willing to let the Colored Women’s Clubs join. She pushed for the Senate’s adoption of the Dyer anti-lynching bill and helped lead a group of hundreds of women in an anti-lynching movement.
Elizabeth joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) soon after it was formed and later headed the NAACP’s regional and local New Bedford branches. Also in New Bedford, she organized the Elizabeth Carter Brooks Jr. Girls Club to preserve the history of African Americans through Friday afternoon meetings with young women.
Elizabeth’s work as an architect and real estate developer was grounded in her social activism. In 1897, she founded the New Bedford Home for the Aged and designed its permanent home on Chancery Street, where it opened in 1908. This was New Bedford’s first organized home for the elderly. At the request of the War Council of the YWCA’s national board, Elizabeth planned and supervised the building of the Phillis Wheatley YWCA, originally for colored women, in Washington, D.C. As a real estate developer, Elizabeth recognized the importance of preserving her city’s history. In 1939, she loaned money to the Martha Briggs Educational Club to purchase Civil War hero Sergeant William H. Carney’s home on Mill Street in New Bedford, where it remains under the stewardship of the Martha Briggs Educational Club.
In 1930, Elizabeth married Bishop William Sampson Brooks and moved to Texas for a short time, until his death in 1934. She returned to New Bedford after his death and continued her life’s work until her death in 1951. New Bedford Public Schools named the Elizabeth Carter Brooks School in her honor in 1957. Through her teaching, organizing and building, Elizabeth Carter Brooks enriched the lives of New Bedford’s students, elderly, and people of color.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
The Town of Maryville, SC (chartered 1886)
The Town of Maryville, chartered in 1886, included the site of the original English settlement in South Carolina and the plantation owned by the Lords Proprietors (1670-1699). The former plantation was subdivided into lots and sold to African Americans in the 1880s. After her husband, Charles Frazer Just died, Mary Mathews Just, saved her wages earned from the local phosphate mines and purchased land from the Hillsborough Plantation. Located "West of the Ashley River," Just named Maryville after herself, eventually establishing a school while governing the town.
The heart and soul of Maryville was the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, which still stands in West Ashley today (not to be mistaken with the Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston). Every Sunday, Maryville’s population would pray, and then spend the day socializing with everyone else in the community. Much of Maryville’s population were small-scale farmers, growing enough food to provide for themselves, and to sell to other residents of Maryville and other nearby communities. Some, such as Mary Just, were teachers, others were shopkeepers, undertakers, or part of local government.
Despite the crucial role that Maryville held for the self-determination of South Carolina’s African American population, it was explicitly seen as a threat by the surrounding white community. One white legislator of the time wrote “In regards to charter of Maryville, SC, this town as you know is an incorporated town and run by Negroes: being an incorporated town the county police have no right in there, therefore the white residents are at the mercy of these Negroes.”5 Ideas like this that presented Maryville as a sort of haven for criminals as well as an existential threat to the surrounding white population led to the revoking of the charter in 1936, and its later annexation by the city of Charleston.
However, its memory has not been lost to the rapid development of the area. In 1999, a historical marker was placed just outside of Emanuel AME, which commemorates Maryville’s history. Similarly, in June 2021, Charleston educator Diane Hamilton published Maryville, The Audacity of a People, which shares much of her own research and findings about what Maryville once was. There are also several Black families who still live in Maryville that have deep roots in the community.
Maryville serves as an example of an African American Settlement Community that has been encroached upon, or otherwise challenged by, gentrification, targeted legislation, and land development. In 2019, Black people made up 22% of Charleston’s population6, which was almost cut in half from 41% of Charleston’s population in 1990.7 Similarly, in 2000, 38% of the population living in Charleston moved there from out-of-state (like myself), and that number climbed to 44% in 2013.8 As Charleston continues to expand beyond the confines of the peninsula, erasure of many communities like Maryville and the once-rural exterior of Mount Pleasant is only a matter of how, not when.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Constance Baker Motley (September 14, 1921 – September 28, 2005)
With her appointment to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on January 25, 1966, Constance Baker Motley became the first African American woman appointed to the federal judiciary. She was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. When Judge Motley became Chief Judge on June 1, 1982, she was the first woman and the first African American woman to serve as such for the Southern District of New York, the largest federal trial bench in the country. She so served until October 1, 1986, when she assumed senior status.
Constance Baker was born on September 14, 1921, in New Haven, Connecticut. She graduated from New York University in 1943. In 1946, she received her law degree from Columbia University, and married real estate and insurance broker, Joel Wilson Motley. Motley joined the legal staff of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. when she was a senior at Columbia University School of Law. Subsequently, as associate counsel, she became its principal trial attorney.
From 1945 to 1964, Judge Motley worked on all of the major school segregation cases supported by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She wrote the legal brief for the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case and helped strategize on other important legal precedents. Among the cases in which she played a prominent role were desegregation cases involving universities of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia, and Clemson College in South Carolina.
In the area of housing, Judge Motley represented African American plaintiffs in public housing cases in Detroit and Benton Harbor, Mich.; St. Louis. Mo.; Columbus, Ohio; Evansville, Ind.; Schenectady, New York; and Savannah, Georgia.
Judge Motley was also counsel for African American plaintiffs in the Jackson, Mississippi transportation facilities case which resulted in desegregating railroad and bus terminals and local buses in Jackson, Mississippi.
On October 16, 1961, Judge Motley argued Hamilton v. Alabama, involving the right to counsel in a capital case before the United States Supreme Court. Judge Motley also argued Swain v. Alabama before the Supreme Court in which the Court refused to proscribe race-based pre-emptory challenges in cases involving African American defendants. Swain was overruled by Batson v. Kentucky.
On February 27, 1962, Judge Motley argued Turner v. City of Memphis before the United States Supreme Court, a case which resulted in desegregating the Dobbs Houses Restaurant in the Memphis Municipal Airport Terminal. On May 27, 1963, Judge Motley won the Supreme Court case of Watson v. City of Memphis, which required immediate desegregation of all recreational facilities in Memphis, thus defeating Memphis' plan to desegregate these facilities over a 12-year period. In this case, the Court also warned that the period of transition from segregated to desegregated schools as ordered in Brown must be accelerated.
On May 20, 1963, the Supreme Court handed down decisions in several sit-in cases reversing the convictions of many African American students. One of these cases, Gober v. City of Birmingham, involving 10 African American students who had sat in at dime store lunch counters in Birmingham, was argued by Judge Motley. She also argued the case of Shuttlesworth v. City of Birmingham, involving the arrest and conviction of Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Reverend Charles L. Billups for urging the students to engage in civil disobedience. Those convictions were also reversed. On June 22, 1962, Judge Motley also prevailed in another sit-in case, Bouie v. City of Columbia, S.C. Lupper v. Arkansas, which she argued in the Supreme Court following enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was one of the cases which resulted in a Supreme Court ruling abating all pending state court prosecutions for peacefully seeking service in places of public accommodation covered by the new law. In total, Judge Motley won nine out of the ten cases she argued before the Supreme Court.
After nearly 20 years with the NAACP, Judge Motley chose to serve on the New York State Senate. On her election to the New York State Senate in February of 1964, she became the first African-American woman to serve in that branch of the Legislature. She immediately began a campaign for the extension of civil rights legislation and for additional low and middle income housing.
In February of 1965, Judge Motley was elected by the Manhattan members of the New York City Council to fill a one-year vacancy in the office of President of the Borough of Manhattan, and thus became the first woman to serve in that office, and as a member of New York City's Board of Estimate. She was elected to a full four-year term in November 1965, when she became the first candidate for the Manhattan Presidency to win endorsement of the Republican, Democratic, and Liberal Parties. Judge Motley, as borough president, drew up a seven-point program for the revitalization of Harlem and East Harlem, and won a pioneering fight for $700,000 to plan for those and other underprivileged areas of the city.
With her appointment in 1966, Judge Motley became the first African American woman appointed to the federal judiciary. She became the chief judge in 1982, and assumed senior status in 1986.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Frederick McKinley Jones (May 17, 1893 – February 21, 1961)
Frederick McKinley Jones was a prolific early 20th century black inventor who helped to revolutionize both the cinema and refrigeration industries. Between 1919 and 1945 he patented more than sixty inventions in divergent fields with forty of those patents in refrigeration. He is best known for inventing the first automatic refrigeration system for trucks.
Jones was born on May 17, 1893 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His mother died when he was nine, and he was forced to drop out of school. A priest in Covington, Kentucky, raised him until he was sixteen.
Upon leaving the rectory, Jones began working as a mechanic’s helper at the R.C. Crothers Garage in Cincinnati. Jones would spend much of his time observing the mechanics as they worked on cars, taking in as much information as possible. These observations, along with an insatiable appetite for learning through reading helped Jones develop an incredible base of knowledge about automobiles and their inner workings. Within three years his skills and love for cars had netted him a promotion to shop foreman. By nineteen, he had built and driven several cars in racing exhibitions and soon became one of the most well know racers in the Great Lakes region.
During World War I, Jones was a sergeant in the U.S. Army and served in France as an electrician. While serving, he rewired his camp for electricity, telephone, and telegraph service. In 1919, after being discharged by the Army, he moved to Hallock, Minnesota where he began his study of electronics, eventually building a transmitter for a local radio station. To make ends meet, Jones often aided local doctors by driving them around for house calls during the winter season. When navigation through the snow proved difficult, Jones attached skis to the undercarriage of an old airplane body and attached an airplane propeller to a motor. He was soon whisking doctors around town at high speeds in his new “snow machine.”
Over the next few years he would invent more and more innovative machines. When one of the doctors he worked for complained that he had to wait for patients to come into his office for x-ray exams, Jones created a portable x-ray machine that could be taken to the patient. Unfortunately, like many of his early inventions, Jones never thought to apply for a patent. He watched helplessly as other men made fortunes off of their versions of the same device. Impervious, Jones began new projects including a radio transmitter, personal radio sets, and eventually motion picture devices.
In 1927, Joseph Numero, the head of Ultraphone Sound Systems, hired Jones as an electrical engineer. Numero’s company made sound equipment that was used in movie houses throughout the Midwest. Always the innovator, Jones converted silent-movie projectors into talking projectors by using scrap metal for parts. In addition, he devised ways to stabilize and improve the picture quality.
In 1939, Jones invented and received a patent for an automatic ticket-dispensing machine to be used at movie theaters. He later sold the patent rights to RCA.
Eventually, Numero and Jones formed a partnership called the U.S. Thermo Control Company, with Jones as vice president. He was given the task of developing a device that would allow large trucks to transport perishable products without spoiling. Jones set to work and his automatic refrigeration system, the Thermo King, was born. Eventually, he modified the original design so it could be outfitted for trains, boats, and ships.
The Thermo King transformed the shipping and grocery businesses. Grocery chains were now able to import and export products that previously could only have been shipped as canned goods. As a result, the frozen food industry was born and for the first time consumers could enjoy fresh foods from around the globe and U.S. Thermo became a multimillion-dollar company.
During World War II, a need for a unit for storing blood serum for transfusions and medicines led Jones into further refrigeration research. For this, he created an air-conditioning unit for military field hospitals and a refrigerator for military field kitchens. As a result, may lives were saved. A modified form of his device is still in use today.
In 1944, Jones became the first African American to be elected into the American Society of Refrigeration Engineers. During the 1950s, he was a consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Bureau of Standards.
When he died on February 21, 1961, Jones had more than sixty patents. In honor of his tremendous achievements as an inventor, he was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Technology. Jones was the first black inventor to ever receive such an honor.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Granville T. Woods (April 23, 1856 - January 30, 1910)
Granville T. Woods, born to free African Americans, held various engineering and industrial jobs before establishing a company to develop electrical apparatus. Known as "Black Edison," he registered nearly 60 patents in his lifetime, including a telephone transmitter, a trolley wheel and the multiplex telegraph (over which he defeated a lawsuit by Thomas Edison).
Born in Columbus, Ohio, on April 23, 1856, Woods received little schooling as a young man and, in his early teens, took up a variety of jobs, including as a railroad engineer in a railroad machine shop, as an engineer on a British ship, in a steel mill, and as a railroad worker. From 1876 to 1878, Woods lived in New York City, taking courses in engineering and electricity — a subject that he realized, early on, held the key to the future.
Back in Ohio in the summer of 1878, Woods was employed for eight months by the Springfield, Jackson and Pomeroy Railroad Company to work at the pumping stations and the shifting of cars in the city of Washington Court House, Ohio. He was then employed by the Dayton and Southeastern Railway Company as an engineer for 13 months.
During this period, while traveling between Washington Court House and Dayton, Woods began to form ideas for what would later be credited as his most important invention: the "inductor telegraph." He worked in the area until the spring of 1880 and then moved to Cincinnati.
Living in Cincinnati, Woods eventually set up his own company to develop, manufacture and sell electrical apparatus, and in 1889, he filed his first patent for an improved steam boiler furnace. His later patents were mainly for electrical devices, including his second invention, an improved telephone transmitter.
The patent for his device, which combined the telephone and telegraph, was bought by Alexander Graham Bell, and the payment freed Woods to devote himself to his own research. One of his most important inventions was the "troller," a grooved metal wheel that allowed street cars (later known as "trolleys") to collect electric power from overhead wires.
Woods's most important invention was the multiplex telegraph, also known as the "induction telegraph," or block system, in 1887. The device allowed men to communicate by voice over telegraph wires, ultimately helping to speed up important communications and, subsequently, preventing crucial errors such as train accidents. Woods defeated Edison's lawsuit that challenged his patent, and turned down Edison's offer to make him a partner. Thereafter, Woods was often known as "Black Edison."
After receiving the patent for the multiplex telegraph, Woods reorganized his Cincinnati company as the Woods Electric Co. In 1890, he moved his own research operations to New York City, where he was joined by a brother, Lyates Woods, who also had several inventions of his own.
Woods's next most important invention was the power pick-up device in 1901, which is the basis of the so-called "third rail" currently used by electric-powered transit systems. From 1902 to 1905, he received patents for an improved air-brake system.
By the time of his death, on January 30, 1910, in New York City, Woods had invented 15 appliances for electric railways and received nearly 60 patents, many of which were assigned to the major manufacturers of electrical equipment that are a part of today's daily life.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Alexander Miles (May 18, 1938 – May 7, 1918)
Alexander Miles was an African-American inventor who was best known for being awarded a patent for an automatically opening and closing elevator door design in 1887. Contrary to many sources, Miles was not the original inventor of this device. In 1874, 13 years before Miles' patent was awarded, John W. Meaker was awarded U.S. Patent 147,853 for the invention of the first automatic elevator door system.
Alexander Miles was born in 1838 in Duluth, Minnesota. He moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin where he earned a living as a barber in the 1860s. After a move to Winona, Minnesota in 1870, he met his wife, Candace J. Dunlap, a white woman born in New York City in 1834. Together they had a daughter named Grace who was born in April 1879. Shortly after her birth, the family relocated to Duluth, Minnesota.
While in Duluth, Alexander operated a barbershop in the four-story St. Louis Hotel and purchased a real estate office. His wife found work as a dress maker. Miles became the first black member of the Duluth Chamber of Commerce. In 1884, Miles built a three-story brownstone building at 19 West Superior Street in Duluth. This area became known as the Miles Block. It was at this time that Miles was inspired to work on elevator door mechanisms.
While riding in an elevator in with his young daughter, Alexander Miles saw the risk associated with an elevator shaft door carelessly left ajar. This led him to draft his design for automatically opening and closing elevator doors and apply for a patent. When the elevator would arrive or depart from a given floor, the doors would move automatically. Previously, the opening and closing of the doors of both the shaft and the elevator had to be completed manually by either the elevator operator or by passengers, contributing greatly to the hazards of operating an elevator.
Miles attached a flexible belt to the elevator cage, and when the belt came into contact with drums positioned along the elevator shaft just above and below the floors, it allowed the elevator shaft doors to operate at the appropriate times. The elevator doors themselves were automated through a series of levers and rollers.
Before working on elevator engineering, Miles experimented with the creation of hair products. The influence of his elevator patent is still seen in modern designs, since the automatic opening and closing of elevator and elevator shaft doors is a standard feature.
In 1899, Miles and his family relocated to Chicago, Illinois where he founded The United Brotherhood, a life insurance company which sold life insurance primarily to African Americans who usually could not get coverage from white-owned firms. Due to Chicago’s economic challenges at the time, Miles and his family relocated once again to Seattle, Washington. Partly because of the success of his invention, Miles was known to be the wealthiest African American in the Pacific Northwest region by the time of his death on May 7, 1918. In 2007, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Marie Van Brittan Brown (October 30, 1922 – February 2, 1999)
Marie Van Brittan Brown was the inventor of the first home security system. She is also credited with the invention of the first closed circuit television. Brown was born in Queens, New York, on October 22, 1922, and resided there until her death on February 2, 1999, at age seventy-six. Her father was born in Massachusetts and her mother was from Pennsylvania.
The patent for the invention was filed in 1966, and it later influenced modern home security systems that are still used today. Brown’s invention was inspired by the security risk that her home faced in the neighborhood where she lived. Marie Brown worked as a nurse and her husband, Albert Brown, worked as an electronics technician. Their work hours were not the standard nine-to-five, and the crime rate in their Queens, New York City neighborhood was very high. Even when the police were contacted in the event of an emergency, the response time tended to be slow. As a result, Brown looked for ways to increase her level of personal security. She needed to create a system that would allow her to know who was at her home and contact relevant authorities as quickly as possible.
Brown’s security system was the basis for the two-way communication and surveillance features of modern security. Her original invention was comprised of peepholes, a camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone. The final element was an alarm button that could be pressed to contact the police immediately.
Three peepholes were placed on the front door at different height levels. The top one was for tall persons, the bottom one was for children, and the middle one was for anyone of average height. At the opposite side of the door a camera was attached with the ability to slide up and down to allow the person to see through each peephole. The camera picked up images that would reflect on the monitor via a wireless system. The monitor could be placed in any part of the house to allow you to see who was at the door.
There was also a voice component to enable Brown to speak to the person outside. If the person was perceived to be an intruder, the police would be notified with the push of a button. If the person was a welcome or expected visitor, the door could be unlocked via remote control.
Marie and Albert Brown filed for a patent on August 1, 1966, under the title, “Home Security System Utilizing Television Surveillance.” Their application was approved on December 2, 1969. Brown’s invention gained her well-deserved recognition, including an award from the National Scientists Committee (no year for the award can be identified) and an interview with The New York Times on December 6, 1969.
Brown’s invention laid the foundation for later security systems that make use of its features such as video monitoring, remote-controlled door locks, push-button alarm triggers, instant messaging to security providers and police, as well as two-way voice communication. Her invention is still used by small businesses, small offices, single-family homes, and multi-unit dwellings such as apartments and condominiums. The Browns’ patent was later referenced by thirteen other inventors including some as recently as 2013.
Brown was the mother of two children, one of whom, Norma Brown, went on to become a nurse and inventor.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Shirley Ann Jackson (August 5, 1946 – Present)
Renowned physicist and university president Shirley Ann Jackson was born on August 5, 1946, in Washington, D.C., to George Hiter Jackson and Beatrice Cosby Jackson. When Jackson was a child, her mother would read her the biography of Benjamin Banneker, an African American scientist and mathematician who helped build Washington, D.C., and her father encouraged her interest in science by assisting her with projects for school. The Space Race of the late-1950s would also have an impact on Jackson as a child, spurring her interest in scientific investigation.
Jackson attended Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C., where she took accelerated math and science classes. Jackson graduated as valedictorian in 1964 and encouraged by the assistant principal for boys at her high school, she applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Jackson was among the first African American students to attend MIT, and in her undergraduate class she was one of only two women.
In 1973, Jackson graduated from MIT with her Ph.D. degree in theoretical elementary particle physics, the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in physics in MIT’s history. Jackson worked on her thesis, entitled The Study of a Multiperipheral Model with Continued Cross-Channel Unitarity, under the direction of James Young, the first African American tenured full professor in the physics department at MIT. In 1975, the thesis was published in Annals of Physics.
After receiving her degree, Jackson was hired as a research associate in theoretical physics at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab. While at Fermilab, Jackson studied medium to large subatomic particles, specifically hadrons, a subatomic particle with a strong nuclear force. Throughout the 1970s, Jackson would work in this area on Landau theories of charge density waves in one- and two-dimensions, as well as Tang-Mills gauge theories and neutrino reactions.
In 1974, after two years with the Fermilab, Jackson served as visiting science associate at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, and worked on theories of strongly interacting elementary particles. In 1975, Jackson returned to Fermilab, and was simultaneously elected to the MIT Corporation’s Board of Trustees. In 1976, Jackson began working on the technical staff for Bell Telephone laboratories in theoretical physics. Her research focused on the electronic properties of ceramic materials in hopes that they could act as superconductors of electric currents. While at Bell laboratories, Jackson met her future husband, physicist Morris A. Washington. That same year, she was appointed professor of physics at Rutgers University. In 1980, Jackson became the president of the National Society of Black Physicists and in 1985, she began serving as a member of the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology.
In 1991, Jackson served as a professor at Rutgers while working for AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. In 1995, Jackson was appointed by President Clinton to the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In 1997, Jackson led the formation of the International Nuclear Regulators Association. In 1998, Jackson was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame; the following year, she became the eighteenth president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Jackson remains an advocate for women and minorities in the sciences and, since 2001, has brought needed attention to the "Quiet Crisis" of America’s predicted inability to innovate in the face of a looming scientific workforce shortage.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Lonnie G. Johnson (October 6, 1949 – Present)
Lonnie G. Johnson, a Black inventor, businessman, and mathematician, was born on October 6, 1949.
He is from Mobile, AL, where at 18, he was awarded first place in a national competition for his invention of "Linex," a remote-controlled robot made from junkyard scraps.
He studied at Tuskegee University on a mathematics scholarship and was elected to the Pi Tau Sigma National Engineering Honor Society. Johnson graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1972 and completed a Master of Science degree in Nuclear Engineering two years later.
After joining the Air Force as a captain, Johnson was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal once and the Air Force Commendation Medal twice. Through the military, he became an Advanced Space Systems Requirements Officer at the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command. After directing projects and earning a nomination for Astronaut Training, Johnson moved on to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
He helped develop thermodynamically and controls systems for space projects, including award-winning work for the Galileo Jupiter probe and the Mars Observer project. His crowning achievement at JPL was the Johnson Tube, a CFC-free refrigeration system with a hydraulic heat pump, which later earned Johnson his seventh patent up until then.
In 1985, he founded his own company, Johnson Research and Development. He first conceived his most famous invention in 1982, when a homemade nozzle at his bathroom sink shot a spray of water across the room. From this, he resolved to invent the world's first high-performance, pressurized water gun. Johnson, with partner Bruce D'Andrade, finally created a workable prototype of the now-famous SuperSoaker® in 1989. They filed for a joint patent (granted in 1991). Over 40 million SuperSoakers have generated over $200 million in sales; today, dozens of websites are devoted to them.
Overall, Johnson has earned over 40 patents and continues to invest in thermo- and fluid dynamics as well as toys. In addition to ongoing controls work for NASA, Johnson and his company are developing an improved home radon detector, a rechargeable battery, a heat pump that uses water instead of Freon, and other projects. Lonnie Johnson has won numerous honors for his success in inventing and entrepreneurship and his constant encouragement of young people to invent.
Along with his groundbreaking scientific work and inventions, Johnson is board chairman of the Georgia Alliance for Children and a member of the 100 Black Men of Atlanta, an organization that mentors high school and college students. In 2011, he was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.
In 2013, Johnson received a $73 million settlement from Hasbro Inc., which had acquired Larami Corp a decade earlier. The inventor had been seeking additional royalty payments from 2007 through 2012.
Johnson and his wife, Linda Moore, have four children. They live in the Ansley Park neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Patricia E. Bath (November 4, 1942 – May 30, 2019)
Medical scientist Patricia E. Bath was born on November 4, 1942 in Harlem, New York. Bath’s father, Rupert, was a Trinidadian immigrant and the first black motorman in the New York City subway system. Her mother, Gladys, was a descendant of African slaves and Cherokee Native Americans and worked as a housewife and domestic. Bath attended Julia Ward Howe Junior High School and Charles Evans Hughes High School. In 1959, Bath received a grant from the National Science Foundation to attend the Summer Institute in Biomedical Science at Yeshiva University in New York, where she worked on a project studying the relationship between cancer, nutrition, and stress. Bath went on to graduate from Hunter College in New York City with her B.S. degree in chemistry in 1964. She then attended Howard University Medical School. Bath graduated with honors in 1968 with her M.D. degree and also won the Edwin J. Watson Prize for Outstanding Student in Ophthalmology.
From 1970 until 1973, Bath was the first African American resident in ophthalmology at New York University’s School of Medicine. During this time, she married and gave birth to a daughter, Eraka, in 1972. In 1973, Bath worked as an assistant surgeon at Sydenham Hospital, Flower and Fifth Avenue Hospital, and Metropolitan Surgical Hospital, all in New York City. In 1974, she completed a fellowship in corneal and keratoprosthesis surgery. Then, Bath moved to Los Angeles, California where she became the first African American woman surgeon at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center. She was also appointed assistant professor at the Charles R. Drew University. In 1975, Bath became the first woman faculty member of the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute.
In 1981, Bath conceived of her invention, the Laserphaco Probe. She traveled to Berlin University in Germany to learn more about laser technology, and over the course of the next five years, she developed and tested a model for a laser instrument that could be tested to remove cataracts. Bath received a patent for her invention on May 17, 1988, and became the first African American female doctor to receive a patent for a medical invention. She continued to work at UCLA and Drew University during the development of her laser cataract removal instrument, and, in 1983, she developed and chaired an ophthalmology residency training program. From 1983 to 1986, Bath was the first woman chair and first female program director of a postgraduate training program in the United States. In 1993, Bath retired from the UCLA Medical Center. Bath was inducted into the International Women in Medicine Hall of Fame in 2001.
Bath passed away on May 30, 2019, in San Francisco, California.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!
Walter Lincoln Hawkins (March 21, 1911 – August 20, 1992)
Walter Lincoln Hawkins was an African-American scientist and inventor who, while working at Bell Laboratories in the 1940s, made universal service possible. Hawkins developed a plastic to cover telephone wires; a new material that was lightweight, and less expensive than the lead sheathing used at that time. He is a recipient of the National Medal of Technology and an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Hawkins was born on March 21, 1911, in Washington, D.C. His father was a lawyer for the U.S. Census Bureau and his mother was a science teacher in the District of Columbia school system.
When he was young, Hawkins was fascinated with how things worked. For example, it was not unusual for him to take apart one toy and reassemble it to make another one. He also made spring-driven toy boats to sail in the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Hawkins and a fellow eleven-year-old once tried to build a perpetual motion machine, not realizing that it was an impossible task. He built a working radio so he could listen to Washington Senators baseball games.
While at Washington’s Dunbar High School, Hawkins noticed that his physics teacher drove an expensive new car every year. The teacher, who had invented a self-starter mechanism to replace automobile hand cranks, received a new car each year as partial payment from the company which had bought the mechanism. Hawkins was tremendously excited to discover that a person could make a living through mechanical tinkering.
After graduating from high school he went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. In 1932 he graduated with a chemical engineering degree. Unable to find a job during the Great Depression, he enrolled in graduate school at Howard University, where in 1934, he earned a master’s degree in chemistry. Professor Howard Blatt, Hawkins’ friend and mentor at Howard, informed him of a special scholarship at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Hawkins enrolled at McGill, earned his Doctorate in Chemistry in 1939, and left to continue his research at Columbia University when he received a fellowship from the National Research Council.
In 1942, Hawkins became the first African-American to join the technical staff of Bell Laboratories. By controlling much of the Pacific theater in World War II, the Japanese had cut off much of America’s rubber supply from Southeast Asia. Hawkins contributed to the development of a rubber substitute made from petroleum stock.
After the war, Hawkins began work on an important project, a new and improved insulation for telephone cables. Underground and underwater cables, which were laid over incredibly long distances, were covered with fiber wrapped in heavy, expensive lead sheathing. Scientists had known that new, lightweight plastics would be a good alternative, but common plastics did not last long outdoors. Hawkins and Vincent Lanza in 1956 invented a plastic coating that could withstand extreme fluctuations in temperature, last up to seventy years, and was less expensive than lead. Telephone lines were subsequently installed in rural areas, bringing affordable phone service to thousands of people.
Hawkins, who worked at Bell Labs for thirty-four years, became assistant director of their chemical research lab in 1974. His work with polymers, primarily plastics, focused on the development of new products and recycling. The extremely durable nature of plastic becomes a huge problem when it must be discarded. Hawkins became an expert, not only in making plastics last longer, but in recycling these seemingly indestructible products.
Upon his retirement from Bell Labs in 1976, Hawkins began teaching and encouraging college students to study science and engineering. In 1981, he became the first chairman of Project SEED (Support of the Educationally & Economically Disadvantaged), an American Chemical Society program designed to promote science careers for minority students. He also helped to set up a program at Bell Labs and AT&T to recruit African-American scientists and engineers.
On August 20, 1992, Walter Hawkins, widely regarded as a pioneer of polymer chemistry, died in San Marcos, California, due to heart failure. He was 81. Posthumously, Hawkins was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2010. He received honorary doctorates from Montclair State College, Stevens Institute of Technology, Kean State College, and Howard University for his research contributions.
BLACK HISTORY IS AMERICAN HISTORY!