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Primary Source

This biography appears in African American Women Chemists (Oxford University Press, 2011), by Dr. Jeannette Brown.

Article

AIDS  

Courtney Q. Shah

Scientists have debated the origins of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) since they first recognized them in 1981 when clusters of homosexual men in California and New York were found to have suppressed immune systems. Since then HIV has become pandemic, affecting all segments of the population in every corner of the globe. Scientists believe that the disease originated in Cameroon, where a related virus called simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) has been found in chimpanzees. The theory is that SIV jumped from chimpanzees to humans sometime in the twentieth century. A retrospective study of preserved blood samples done in 1998 confirmed that the earliest known case of HIV was in a Congolese man who died in 1959.

AIDS was first labeled gay related immune deficiency GRID by the U S government s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC The earliest studies in ...

Article

David Alvin Canton

lawyer and judge, was the third of five children born to Hillard Boone Alexander, a laborer from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Virginia Pace, from Essex County, Virginia. Alexander's parents were born slaves, but were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment following the Civil War. In 1880 they migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they lived in the Seventh Ward, a community that would later be made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal 1899 study The Philadelphia Negro. In 1903Alexander's mother died of pneumonia. Because his father worked long hours, Alexander and his siblings moved to North Philadelphia to live with his maternal aunt, Georgia Chandler Pace From the age of seven Alexander attended school and worked at various jobs including dockworker newspaper boy general helper at the Metropolitan Opera House in North Philadelphia Pullman porter and when he was in his early twenties ...

Article

Peter A. Kuryla

An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, the Swedish social scientist Gunnar Myrdal's study of race relations in the United States, had remarkable influence after it appeared in 1944. The Supreme Court, for example, cited Myrdal's work with approval in the 1954Brown v. Board of Education decision. Within the national government, social engineers crafted ameliorative, race-based policy from Dilemma's prescriptions. For decades American liberals found its optimism congenial to much of their thinking. The word “dilemma” became linguistic coin of the realm, a liberal shorthand for America whenever cast in racial relief. The study helped create what many scholars came to call a “liberal orthodoxy” on race among social scientists, a perspective that dominated American social thought from the end of World War II until the mid-1960s.

The Carnegie Foundation sponsored and funded the study The original proposal for a comprehensive study of the ...

Article

Geraldine Rhoades Beckford

physician, educator, and community worker, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the eldest daughter of the abolitionist movement leaders William Still and Letitia George Still. In 1850William Still became the head of the Philadelphia Underground Railroad and Vigilance Committee. He would later chronicle his experiences in the best-selling 1872 account, The Underground Railroad.

After completing primary and secondary education at Mrs. Henry Gordon's Private School, the Friends Raspberry Alley School, and the Institute for Colored Youth, Anderson entered Oberlin College. Although she was the youngest member of the graduating class of 1868, Anderson presided over the annual Ladies' Literary Society, a singular honor that had never been awarded to a student of African ancestry.

After graduating from Oberlin, Anderson returned home to teach drawing and elocution, and on 28 December 1869 she married Edward A. Wiley a former slave and fellow ...

Primary Source

This biography appears in African American Women Chemists (Oxford University Press, 2011), by Dr. Jeannette Brown.

Article

Sarah Wolozin

artist, was born in Madison, Georgia, the second of ten children of Viola Perryman and George Andrews, sharecroppers. Benny Andrews grew up in a household where creativity was encouraged. With what little money they had, his parents bought pens and paper for their children and encouraged them to draw and tell stories. Although not formally trained as an artist, George Andrews painted throughout his life and received considerable recognition in his later years. As a teenager Benny Andrews attended Burney Street High School only sporadically, when weather conditions excused him from his work picking cotton in the fields. In 1948 he became the first member of his family to graduate from high school.

In 1948Andrews moved to Atlanta and was awarded a 4 H club scholarship to attend one of Georgia s three black colleges He entered Fort Valley State College in Fort Valley Georgia but dropped ...

Article

Shari Rudavsky

nursing educator and administrator, was born in Milledgeville, Georgia, the daughter of a poor family about whom nothing is known. In 1901 Andrews applied to Spelman College's MacVicar Hospital School of Nursing. On her application, she asked for financial assistance, explaining that her family could not help her pay. Her mother had a large family to support and “an old flicted husband,” who was not Andrews's father. Andrews also said that she had been married but did not currently live with her husband and expected no support from him. Letters praising Andrews and talking about her “good moral character” that came from the pillars of Milledgeville society proved instrumental in securing Andrews's admission.

In 1906 Andrews received her diploma from Spelman and set upon her life s work During her training she resolved that I wanted to work for my people how or where this was to be done ...

Article

Robert Fay

Located near the city of Aswan, the Aswan High Dam provoked controversy even before it was constructed. The United States had promised funds to Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser to underwrite the construction of the dam. Egypt claimed nonalignment during the Cold War—that is, it allied with neither the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) nor the United States. However, while seeking funding for the dam, Egypt completed an arms deal with the USSR In retaliation, the United States withdrew the funding offer, whereupon Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal claiming that revenue from the canal would offset the dam s construction costs This provoked an international conflict over control of the canal Nasser meanwhile secured funds from the USSR for one third of the dam s construction costs the total of which exceeded $1 billion The dam was an important part of Nasser s vision for Egypt He sought ...

Article

Caroline M. Fannin

Despite gender and race discrimination, and despite the small numbers of black women active in aviation, black women have contributed notably to the encouragement of black Americans’ participation in aviation and to the furtherance of aerospace research.

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the dream of flying became a reality and the nation's expectations of the new technology were enormous—some thought it would even eliminate warfare. African Americans hoped to enter this new arena, in part to put to rest society's deeply held belief that blacks were an inferior race. In 1992, however, the Organization of Black Airline Pilots stated that only 600 of the nation's 70,000 commercial airline pilots were African American. The number rises when private and military pilots are considered, but numbers remain small.

The earliest African American pilot is thought to have been Charles Wesley Peters in 1911. Eugene J. Bullard (1894–1961) was the only black fighter pilot in World War I, having flown for the French. The first black woman to obtain a license (in 1921) was Bessie Coleman (1892–1926 she too had ...

Article

M. Cookie E. Newsom

dentist, was born a slave in the Panthersville District of Dekalb County, Georgia. His mother (name unknown) was a slave, and his father, J. D. Badger was a white dentist and also his master Roderick had several brothers including Robert and Ralph all of whom had the same white father but different mothers In many ways his life story can be seen as an example of the complex relationships between the races in the antebellum and postbellum South where the black and white societies were supposed to be separate but where mixed race children were common growing ever more numerous in the decade leading up to the Civil War As the son of his owner Badger enjoyed the privileges associated with that status including his eventual freedom and prosperity However his status as a mulatto and as a professional man did not protect him from many of the ...

Primary Source

This biography appears in African American Women Chemists (Oxford University Press, 2011), by Dr. Jeannette Brown.

Article

Brad S. Born

Benjamin Banneker was born 9 November 1731in Baltimore County, Maryland, the first child of free African American parents Mary Banneker and Robert, a former slave whose freedom she had purchased and who took her surname upon marriage. Growing up on their tobacco farm, Benjamin received little formal schooling, learning to read and write from his grandmother and attending for several seasons an interracial school where he first developed his lifelong interest in mathematics. Following his parents’ deaths and three sisters’ departures from home, Banneker remained on the farm, working the crops and cultivating his intellect in relative seclusion.

In 1771, he befriended George Ellicott a Quaker neighbor whose family had developed a large complex of mills on the adjoining property With astronomical texts and instruments borrowed from Ellicott he trained himself to calculate ephemerides tables establishing the positioning of the sun moon and stars for each day ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

neuropsychiatrist specializing in the biological basis of mental disorders, was born in Bridgetown, Barbados, to Prince Barker and Brunetta (Watson) Barker. As a young teen he immigrated to New York City on the ship Guiana, arriving on 11 September 1911. His mother, who immigrated to New York in 1912, was at the time of the 1920 U.S. Census a fifty‐year‐old widow and private duty laundry worker.

Prince Patanilla Barker graduated from the Bronx's DeWitt Clinton High School in 1915 and earned his B.A. from the City College of New York in 1918. After one year at Cornell University Medical College, Barker transferred to Howard University in Washington, D.C., earning his M.D. in 1923. That year he wed Helen L. Furlonge (3 May 1892–19 February 1978 an immigrant from Montserrat Barker interned at Freedmen s Hospital Washington D C and conducted further postgraduate work ...

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Pamela C. Edwards

doctor of ophthalmology, inventor, medical researcher, and advocate for social equity in health care, was born in Harlem, New York, the daughter of Rupert and Gladys Bath. A one-time merchant marine and global traveler, her father emigrated from Trinidad, taking a position as the first black motorman for the New York City subways, and her mother, a descendant of African slaves and Cherokee Indians, Bath tells her biographers, “was a housewife who worked as a domestic after we entered middle school. … She scrubbed floors so I could go to medical school” (Davidson). A brilliant student, Bath attended New York's Charles Evans Hughes High School and in 1959 was selected for a National Science Foundation summer program at Yeshiva University. Working on a cancer research team, Bath demonstrated the future potential of her work in science and medicine and was recognized as one of Mademoiselle magazine s Merit Award ...

Article

Chandra M. Miller

dentist and politician, was born into slavery in North Carolina and was known as Samuel Nixon before his escape from bondage in 1855. Nothing is known about his parents. He was sold several times before being purchased by C. F. Martin, a dentist in Norfolk, Virginia. As Martin's slave, Nixon learned sufficient dentistry to serve as the doctor's assistant and to make dental house calls. He also developed bookkeeping skills and monitored the doctor's accounts.

In Norfolk, Nixon became involved with the Underground Railroad. Befriending the captains of many of the schooners sailing in and out of Norfolk, he often convinced them to hide fugitive slaves aboard ship and carry them north, usually to Philadelphia or to New Bedford, Massachusetts. After conducting many other slaves through the Underground Railroad, Nixon decided to become a passenger himself in March 1855 He and three other slaves disguised themselves and ...

Article

Tiffany K. Wayne

psychologist, social worker, and educator, was born in Washington, D.C., the eighth and youngest child of Reverend and Mrs. William James Howard. Ruth Howard loved reading as a child and originally considered becoming a librarian but, after three years at Howard University, she transferred to Simmons College in Boston and changed her major to social work.

In the early decades of the twentieth century social work was a new professional field for women and especially for black women Most African American women in the early decades of the twentieth century were confined to jobs as domestic workers or if they entered the professional class as teachers But at Simmons Howard was introduced to new role models and new career possibilities Through a summer internship with the National Urban League she became inspired by the need for community programs for disadvantaged youth including education recreation and job ...

Article

Terri DiFazio

Despite how common it was for many of them to have more children than they desired, women of color were suspicious of the early birth control movement. This may be attributed, in part, to its association with the eugenics movement. Francis Galton, a British scientist and distant relative of Charles Darwin, coined the word “eugenics” and founded the Eugenics Society in 1907. Galton’s ideas fueled fear of “race suicide” in the white community and followers advocated birth control as a way to prevent American-born whites from being outnumbered by immigrants and blacks.

Margaret Sanger a public health nurse known for her tireless advocacy of the modern contraceptives movement was not in agreement with Galton s approach to eugenics although she used its terms to win support for the birth control movement Her complex role in this controversial matter raises questions about whether she was a racist ...

Article

Elizabeth Mitchell

slave and guide, achieved fame in the decades preceding the Civil War. Nothing is known of his parents or early life, but it is known that Bishop was a slave belonging to Kentucky lawyer Franklin Gorin, who in the 1830s purchased Mammoth Cave for $5,000. Previous cave guides had been local white men, but Gorin either saw something promising in the teenaged Bishop or reasoned that he could save money by training a slave to do the same work. Either way, beginning in the spring of 1838 Bishop received training from the previous guide and quickly took to the job, learning the several miles of trail and numerous pits, rock formations, and other attractions of his underground place of employment.

Bishop was allowed to spend many hours exploring the cave on his own. In the fall of 1838 he penetrated a confusing maze of trails known as the ...