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Charles E. Wynes

engineer, was born in Ottumwa, Iowa, the son of Price Alexander, a janitor and coachman, and Mary Hamilton. The Alexanders were members of a tiny African American minority both in the town of Archie's birth and in Des Moines, Iowa, where they moved when he was eleven years old. In Ottumwa the Alexanders lived in the section of town inhabited by the poor, both black and white. In Des Moines they lived on a small farm on the outskirts of town. Since Iowa's public schools were not segregated, Alexander attended school with whites, and he graduated from Des Moines's Oak Park High School in 1905 Then uncommon for the son of a janitor whether black or white he went on to further study By working hard at part time jobs and with some help from his parents Alexander attended Highland Park College and the Cummins Art ...

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Kenyatta D. Berry

engineer, machinist, and inventor, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of the free blacks Thomas and Hannah Baltimore. Though his father was a Catholic, Jeremiah followed his mother's influence and adopted the Methodist religion. As a child Jeremiah was fascinated with engineering and science. He was known to have experimented often with such utilitarian things as tin cans, coffeepots, stovepipes, and brass bucket hoops.

Jeremiah was educated at the Sabbath School of the Wesley Zion Church in Washington, D.C., which was located on Fourth Street near Virginia Avenue and was founded in 1839 after black members left the Ebenezer Church. As part of his education Jeremiah also attended the school of Enoch Ambush, which had begun operation in about 1833 in the basement of the Israel Bethel Church and remained open until 1864 Despite his attendance Jeremiah left unable either to read or to ...

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Samuel W. Black

stationary engineer, labor union president, was born John Lincoln Black in Burgin, Kentucky, the second child of Robert Lincoln Black, a laborer, and Bertha Ann Ball Boggs Black. After his birth the Black family moved to Keene, Kentucky, to live with John's paternal grandmother. Within a few years Bertha Black became ill with tuberculosis and sickle cell anemia, so young John was sent to live with his father's relatives while his older sister and younger brother remained with the family. After the death of his mother in 1934 Black continued to live with his great‐aunt Martha while his two siblings, Anna Mae and Wallace, lived with their paternal grandmother. After the death of his great‐aunt, John moved to Cincinnati and joined his father, stepmother, and siblings. John Black attended the Cincinnati public schools—the all‐black Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School founded by Jennie Porter Bloom Junior High and ...

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William A. Morgan

mechanical engineer and rocket scientist, was born John W. Blanton in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of John O. and Carolyn Blanton.

Blanton attended Purdue University in Indiana, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1943. He began his career at Bell Aircraft Corporation in Buffalo, New York, where he worked from 1943 to 1945 and from 1950 through 1956. Initially involved in the research and development of gas and rocket engines, Blanton helped develop the X‐1, which on 14 October 1947 became the first aircraft to break the sound barrier in a human‐operated, level flight.

Two years after marrying Corinne Jones of Mississippi in 1943, Blanton was named the chief engineer of thermo and fluid dynamics at Frederick Flader Incorporated, in Buffalo, New York, where he worked for five years. In 1956 he joined General Electric in Evendale Ohio and continued to make ...

Article

Donald Scott

the first African American U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was born John-Wesley Anthony Brown in Baltimore, Maryland, to William Brown, a truck driver, and Rosetta Shepherd, a seamstress. He was named after-John Wesley, the eighteenth-century founder of-Methodism from which the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) denomination was established. Owing to his parents’ demanding work schedules, Brown was raised in large part by his maternal grandmother, Katie Shepherd, sometimes called “Mother Shepherd,” a fierce disciplinarian with whom Brown and his parents lived. Through her, Brown developed a high regard for education, a respect for honesty, a quiet assertiveness, and a great work ethic. “You were always wrong if there was a complaint about your behavior,” Brown told the biographer Robert J. Schneller Jr. during a 19 December 1995 interview for the book Breaking the Color Barrier (2005), in referring to his grandmother's no-nonsense attitude.

Brown was taught to read by ...

Article

Todd Palmer

architect, planner and developer, was born in Towson, Maryland, and grew up in Baltimore, the third child of Albert Truman and Charlotte Cassell. His father drove a coal truck and played trumpet for the Salvation Army Band; his mother brought in extra income doing washing. As a 14-year-old, Cassell expressed an ambition to build at Douglass High, a segregated public vocational school. While studying carpentry he enrolled in a drafting course with Ralph Victor Cook. Cook became a mentor to Cassell and encouraged him to pursue a college education in architecture at Cornell University, where Cook had been an early African American graduate of engineering.

Cassell entered Cornell in 1915, but two years into the program, World War I interrupted his studies. Cassell enlisted in the U.S. Army. In 1919 he returned to the United States from France with an honorable discharge Because Cornell ...

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Robert C. Hayden

mechanical engineer and inventor, was born in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Dr. David Nelson Crosthwait and Minnie Harris. He attended elementary school and graduated from high school in Kansas City, Missouri.

Crosthwait received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1913. That same year he began lifelong employment with the C. A. Dunham Company (later Dunham-Bush) in Chicago, where he distinguished himself nationally in the field of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) technology. By 1915 he had been appointed to the position of engineering supervisor, and by 1919 he had risen to the position of research engineer. In 1920 Crosthwait received an MS in Engineering from Purdue.

In 1925 Crosthwait became director of research at Dunham, overseeing heat-transfer research, steam-transport research, and temperature-control systems. In 1930 he was designated a senior technical consultant and adviser at Dunham-Bush. Crosthwait married E. Madolyn Towels in 1930 ...

Article

Roland Barksdale-Hall

civil engineer, educator, and inventor, was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fifth of eight children of Edward Dammond, a sailor and porter, and Lucy Dorsey. Edward Dammond served in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. The fastidious Lucy Dammond was a dedicated deaconess at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the first AME church west of the Allegheny Mountains. William Dammond likewise benefited from the AME church connections and an exacting nature.

Dammond was recognized for mathematical skill, enrolled in the Park Institute, a preparatory school, and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Pittsburgh in June 1893 He was the first African American graduate from the University of Pittsburgh and one of few African American civil engineers in America During the late nineteenth century civil engineers were at the forefront of innovative technology and structural advancements such ...

Article

John C. Fredriksen

Henry Ossian Flipper was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the son of Festus Flipper and Isabelle (maiden name unknown), slaves. During the Civil War and Reconstruction he was educated in American Missionary Association schools and in 1873 gained admission to Atlanta University. That year Flipper also obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy through the auspices of Republican Representative James C. Freeman. He was not the first African American to attend West Point, as Michael Howard and James Webster Smithpreceded him in 1870, but neither graduated. Flipper subsequently endured four years of grueling academic instruction and ostracism from white classmates before graduating fiftieth in a class of sixty-four on June 14, 1877. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the all-black Tenth U.S. Cavalry, and the following year recounted his academy experience in an autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878).

Flipper enjoyed ...

Article

John C. Fredriksen

soldier and engineer, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the son of Festus Flipper and Isabelle (maiden name unknown), slaves. During the Civil War and Reconstruction he was educated in American Missionary Association schools and in 1873 gained admission to Atlanta University. That year Flipper also obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy through the auspices of Republican Representative James C. Freeman. He was not the first African American to attend West Point, as Michael Howard and James Webster Smith preceded him in 1870, but neither graduated. Flipper subsequently endured four years of grueling academic instruction and ostracism from white classmates before graduating fiftieth in a class of sixty-four on 14 June 1877. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the all-black Tenth U. S. Cavalry, and the following year recounted his academy experience in an autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878 ...

Article

James N. Leiker

soldier, engineer, and author. Although Flipper is best remembered as the first African American graduate of West Point, he later had an important career as an authority on the border between the United States and Mexico. Born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, Henry was the son of Festus and Isabella Flipper. His father, a slave and local shoemaker, and his mother, the slave of a Methodist minister, believed in the importance of formal education, and this was a value they passed on to their sons during the heady optimism of Reconstruction. While attending Atlanta University, Flipper attracted the attention of a local congressman, who appointed him to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The social atmosphere at West Point proved difficult and demanding for its handful of young black cadets, but Flipper persevered and graduated in 1877 A prolific writer he chronicled this ...

Article

Robert Jr. Johnson

chemical engineer and professor, was one of two children born in Washington, D.C., to William Langston Hawkins and Maude Johnson Hawkins. Walter Hawkins's father was from Wisconsin and came to Washington with a law degree but spent most of his career as a civil servant in the U.S. Census Bureau. His mother taught general science in the city's public school system. Walter's inclination toward the sciences began with the simple experiments his mother conducted to entertain the children. “Linc,” as he preferred to be called, spent a good amount of his playtime building gadgets. From simple radio sets to more complex contraptions, he was fascinated with how things worked.

He attended Dunbar High School where many of the faculty members were highly skilled black PhDs Hawkins credited this intellectually challenging environment with providing the inspiration for his choice of a career in chemistry and engineering One highly influential ...

Article

Bob Greene

inventor, educator, author, race driver, musician, and community leader, was born in Portland, Cumberland County, Maine, the son of Frank M. Johnson and Eva M. Deering. His father died when he was three years old and his mother remarried James Verra, a widower. Johnson, called both Jim and, in his early years, Lloyd, was raised along with Mr. Verra's five children.

After graduating from Portland High School in 1928 Johnson enrolled at the Franklin Institute a technical school in Boston Massachusetts His interest in automobiles had begun early and he became a mechanic and a machinist His teaching ability was first noticed while he was serving in the U S Navy during World War II where Johnson was praised by Naval officials He instructed ordinance trainees and helped research a new technique for indexing all destroyer gun batteries and ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

a self-taught mechanical genius, best known for inventing the refrigeration system used in long-haul trucking and rail shipment (under the Thermo King label), held over forty patents, including the first feasible two-cycle gas engine. He was most likely born in Ohio, in the vicinity of Cincinnati, but may have lived in West Covington, Kentucky, as well. There is little documentation for his life prior to arrival in Hallock, Minnesota, on Christmas Eve 1912. By appearance and social experience he was African American; his death certificate describes him as “Indian and Negro.” For the rest of his life he called Hallock home, and Hallock followed the career of its beloved favorite son with affectionate pride.

Knowledge of his childhood comes from brief remarks Jones made to news writers and recollections shared with friends in Minnesota His mother either died or abandoned him when he was very young He recalled ...

Article

Ian Jones

African‐American scientist and inventor who worked in Britain. Lewis Latimer's parents were Rebecca and George Latimer, fugitive slaves from Virginia who gained their liberty in the free state of Massachusetts, where Lewis was born. Lewis served in the American Civil War (1861–5), after which he worked as an office boy in a patent law firm. His employers soon recognized his talent for drawing and made him head draughtsman. He married Mary Wilson (1848–1937) in 1873 and wrote a poem for his wedding, which he later published in his collection Poems of Love and Life.

When he was 25, Lewis invented an improved toilet for railway carriages, and in 1876Alexander Graham Bell hired him to produce the drawings he needed to patent the telephone. Lewis was later headhunted by the US Electric Lighting Company, and in 1882 was awarded a patent for a ...

Article

Eric Bennett

Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts, Lewis Latimer was the son of an escaped slave from Virginia whom African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass and American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison defended when his former owner tried to have him extradited. As a boy Latimer worked in his father's barbershop and peddled Garrison's newspaper, the Liberator. Latimer later joined the Union Navy during the Civil War, serving on the U.S.S. Massasoit on the James River in Virginia. After an honorable discharge in 1865, he found work with Crosby & Gould, a firm of patent lawyers. Although Latimer was hired as an office boy, he cultivated drafting skills in his spare time until he was qualified for blueprint work. In addition to drawing plans for other people's inventions, Latimer brainstormed his own, patenting in 1874 a “pivot bottom” for water closets on trains. His high-caliber draftsmanship impressed Alexander Graham Bell ...

Article

Caroline M. Brown

aviator and aeronautical engineer, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the third son of Alma (Price) Loving, a homemaker and housekeeper, and Hardin Clay Loving, a railroad conductor and optometrist. Neal Loving had an early love of aviation that remained with him despite family objections. Although he changed elementary schools frequently owing to his family's poverty and related evictions, he read every aviation book and magazine at nearby branches of the Detroit Public Library and raced to watch passing airplanes during school hours. At a schoolteacher's suggestion, he acquired an application for the U.S. Air Corps at the nearest post office, and read it avidly. Deterred by its unequivocal statement that applicants were to be “white, male,” he threw away the application and continued to explore. He saved his lunch and movie admission money to buy model airplane materials, and, when the Detroit City Airport opened in 1929 ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Nigerian political activist and journalist, was born Herbert Samuel Heelas Macaulay on 14 November 1864 in Lagos, Nigeria. He was the seventh child of Thomas Babington Macaulay, founder and principal of the Church Missionary Society Grammar School in Lagos, and Abigail Crowther Macaulay, daughter of the first Anglican bishop in West Africa, Samuel Ajayi Crowther. Macaulay received an outstanding primary and secondary education thanks to his affluent family, and he attended the renowned St. Paul’s school in Breadfruit. In 1881 he joined the Nigerian colonial administration as a clerk. He served in this capacity for the next nine years, and his intelligence and loyalty impressed his British superiors. Governor of Nigeria Alfred Moloney supported Macaulay’s efforts to further his education in England, and Macaulay received a scholarship to study engineering in Plymouth. From 1890 to 1893 the young Nigerian excelled in school and developed a lifelong interest in Western ...

Article

Influential political activist and founder member of the Nigerian National Democratic Party. The son of distinguished African missionaries, Macaulay was educated at the Church Missionary Society grammar school founded by his father. After completing his education in 1881, he entered the civil service. In 1890 he travelled to England, where he became the first Nigerian to qualify as a civil engineer. On his return to Lagos, he was appointed as a surveyor but soon became dissatisfied with the system, which discriminated against African civil servants. In 1898 he left the civil service to go into private practice as a licensed surveyor and architect but his business never proved to be a success In financial difficulties Macaulay misappropriated funds and was sentenced to two years imprisonment effectively barring him from public office Nevertheless he grew to be an influential figure in Nigerian politics through his staunch editorials for the ...

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Ronald E. Mickens

physicist, engineer, and industrial manager, was born Willie Hobbs in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the daughter of William Hobbs, a plumber and small businessman, and Elizabeth Hobbs, a worker in a resort hotel. Because she was a straight-A high school student with a strong background in mathematics and science, a counselor suggested that she continue her education in engineering. Moore later credited her close-knit and supportive family with spurring her success, explaining that she and her sisters, Alice and Thelma, were “raised with the expectation that they would always do their best and they did” (Green, 4).

Hobbs attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, earning a BS in 1958 and an MS in Electrical Engineering in 1961, after which she worked as a junior engineer at the Bendix Aerospace Systems Division in Ann Arbor from 1961 to 1962 This was followed ...