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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

Spencie Love

blood plasma scientist, surgeon, and teacher, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Richard Thomas Drew, a carpet-layer, and Nora Rosella Burrell. Drew adored his hard-working parents and was determined from an early age to emulate them. Drew's parents surrounded their children with the many opportunities available in Washington's growing middle-class black community: excellent segregated schools, solid church and social affiliations, and their own strong example. Drew's father was the sole black member of his union and served as its financial secretary.

Drew graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 1922 and received a medal for best all around athletic performance he also won a scholarship to Amherst College At Amherst he was a star in football and track earning honorable mention as an All American halfback in the eastern division receiving the Howard Hill Mossman Trophy for bringing the greatest athletic ...

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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

Charles W. Jr. Carey

chemist, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, the son of James Sumner Julian, a railway mail clerk, and Elizabeth Lena Adams, a teacher. He received his AB from DePauw University in 1920, and for the next two years he taught chemistry at Fisk University. In 1922 he was awarded Harvard University's Austin Fellowship in chemistry; he received his MA from that school in 1923. He remained at Harvard for three more years as a research assistant in biophysics and organic chemistry. In 1926 he joined the faculty at West Virginia State College, and in 1928 he became associate professor and head of the chemistry department at Howard University. The following year he was awarded a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation's General Education Board to pursue his doctorate at the University of Vienna in Austria, where he earned that degree in organic chemistry in 1931 After ...

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

Valika Smeulders

was born enslaved at Twijfelachtig, a coffee plantation alongside the Cottica River in Suriname, most probably in September 1851, although some sources state 1852 or 1854 as his year of birth. His father, Ernst Carel Martzilger, was an engineer with German roots who worked for the Dutch colonial government in Suriname, and his mother, Aletta, was an enslaved housekeeper of African descent, who died in December 1854. The owner of the Twijfelachtig plantation was married to Henrietta Jacoba Martzilger, who was Ernst Carel Martzilger’s sister. Jan Ernst had several names: first Ernst Martzil, then Jan Ernst Martzilger, and later, in the United States, John Ernst Matzeliger. His last names suggest an affectionate connection to the Martzilger family. After his manumission in 1862 he moved to Suriname s capital Paramaribo to live with his paternal aunt Henriette who lived on the Domineestraat He started work at the machine ...

Article

Portia P. James

inventor, was born in Colchester, Canada West (now Ontario), the son of George McCoy and Mildred Goins, former slaves who had escaped from Kentucky. In 1849 his parents moved the family to Ypsilanti, Michigan, where Elijah began attending school. In 1859 he went to Edinburgh, Scotland, to undertake an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer; he stayed there five years.

Unable to obtain a position as an engineer after he returned to the United States, McCoy began working as a railroad fireman for the Michigan Central Railroad. This position exposed him to the problems of steam engine lubrication and overheating. Locomotive engines had to be periodically oiled by hand, a time-consuming task that caused significant delays in railroad transport of commercial goods and passengers. Poorly lubricated locomotives also used more fuel than those that were efficiently lubricated.

McCoy began his career as an inventor by first examining and improving ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

inventor and entrepreneur, was born in 1875 or 1877 in Paris, Kentucky, the seventh of eleven children to former slaves Elizabeth “Eliza” Reed, a woman of African and American Indian ancestry, and Sydney Morgan, a railroad worker of mixed race. Garrett left home for Cincinnati, Ohio, at age fourteen with only six years of education. After six years working as a handyman for a wealthy landowner, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he remained until his death. Enchanted by all things mechanical, Garrett worked as a mechanic for several sewing machine shops and in 1901 sold his first invention, a sewing machine belt fastener.

Morgan opened his own sewing machine sales and repair shop in 1907. He soon earned enough money to buy a house and help support his mother, and in 1908 he married a seamstress, Mary Anne Hassek The union lasted fifty five ...

Article

Kenneth R. Manning

physician, microbiologist, and public health specialist, was born on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Fred Poindexter and Luvenia Gilberta Clarke, tenant farmers. After attending the normal (teacher training) department of Swift Memorial College, a Presbyterian school for blacks in Rogersville, Tennessee (1916–1920), he entered Lincoln University in Pennsylvania and graduated with an AB cum laude in 1924. Also in 1924 he married Ruth Viola Grier, with whom he would have one child, a daughter. He attended Dartmouth Medical School for two years before earning an MD at Harvard University in 1929, an AM in Bacteriology at Columbia University in 1930, a PhD in Bacteriology and Parasitology at Columbia in 1932, and an MPH from Columbia in 1937.

Poindexter had hoped to proceed directly into public health fieldwork in 1929 following his graduation from Harvard ...