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Margaret E. M. Tolbert

organic chemist and educator, was born in the Bronx, New York, the only child of Ada May Fox, a homemaker, and Freddie Brown, a maintenance worker who later became a postal worker. Brown's education was obtained in various schools of New York, and she received her high school diploma from New Dorp High School, Staten Island, NewYork; in 1952. Upon completing high school, she continued her educational pursuits by enrolling at Hunter College of the City University of New York, which was free to eligible high school graduates. In 1956 she graduated with a BA in Chemistry and two years later earned her MS at the University of Minnesota, where she was the first African American woman to receive any degree in chemistry. In her two years at the university, she conducted research titled “A Study of Dye and Ylide Formation in Salts of 9-(p ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Willa Brown was born in Glasgow, Kentucky, to Reverend Eric and Hallie Mae Carpenter Brown. Willa lived briefly in Indianapolis, Indiana, but she spent most of her childhood in Terre Haute, where she graduated from Sarah Scott Junior High School in 1920 and from Wiley High School in 1923.

Brown received her B.S. degree in business from Indiana State Teachers College in 1927. After graduating, she taught public school in Gary, Indiana, and Chicago, Illinois, where she developed an interest in aviation.

In 1935 Brown received a master mechanics certificate from the Aeronautical University in Chicago, and three years later received a private pilot's license by passing her exam with a nearly flawless score of 96 percent. In 1937 she earned an M.B.A. degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and in 1940 she earned a Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) ground school instructor's rating.

After ...

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Elizabeth Hadley Freydberg

Born in Atlanta, Texas Elizabeth Coleman was the twelfth of thirteen children Her mother Susan Coleman was African American Her father George Coleman was three quarters Choctaw Indian and one quarter African While Bessie was still a toddler the Coleman family moved to Waxahachie Texas an agricultural and trade center that produced cotton grain and cattle The town was about thirty miles south of Dallas and was recognized as the cotton capital of the West There the Coleman family made a living from picking cotton George Coleman built a three room house on a quarter acre of land but by the time Bessie was seven years old he had returned to Choctaw country in Oklahoma Susan Coleman continued to raise nine children alone as she also continued to harvest in the fields pick cotton and do domestic work to make ends meet When the children became old enough usually ...

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SaFiya D. Hoskins

U.S. congresswoman, was born Donna F. Edwards in Yanceyville, North Carolina, one of six children of John Edwards, an officer in the Air Force, and Mary Edwards who cared for the children. Edwards grew up in a military family and moved often; traveling throughout the United States and around the world. When she was a child she had aspirations of becoming president of the United States. Edwards was a teenager when her oldest brother, John, enlisted in the Air Force during the height of the war in Vietnam. When she graduated from high school she was presented with the opportunity to enroll in the first class to admit females at the Air Force Academy; however, she chose instead pursue an undergraduate education at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where she was one of six African American women in her freshman class. In 1980 Edwards earned a ...

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Dawne Y. Curry

On 8 September 1993, Bill Clinton, the forty-second president of the United States, selected Joycelyn Elders as the nation’s surgeon general of the Public Health Service. In this capacity, Elders argued for legislation supporting universal health coverage and advocated on behalf of President Clinton’s health care reform effort. While Elders lobbied for comprehensive health education, she also supported sex education in secondary schools. Her rather blunt opinions, especially concerning masturbation and safe sex, earned her the nickname “Condom Queen.” In 1994, after fifteen months of service, she resigned from this appointment. Elders returned to the University of Arkansas Medical Center, where she had previously served as a professor of pediatrics.

Elders was born Minnie Lee Jones in Schaal, Arkansas. Her mother, Haller, and her father, Curtis Jones were sharecroppers subject to the appalling poverty and exploitation of that position in the South Minnie the oldest ...

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Olivia A. Scriven

feminist scholar, historian, physicist, engineer, and advocate for minorities and women in science, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the oldest of two girls of William Emmett Hammonds, a postal worker, and Evelyn Marie Hammonds, a reading specialist and elementary school teacher. At age nine, Hammonds's father gave his daughter a chemistry set. For Hammonds, the chemistry set, along with later gifts of a microscope, and building sets, sparked an interest in science that would be encouraged by both parents. The events also set her on a path that would force her to think more critically about her own identity and the struggles and contributions of blacks and women in science.

Growing up in Atlanta, Hammonds attended all-black public elementary schools. This would change in 1967 when as a fourteen year old ninth grade student she was bused to a predominately white school ...

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Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

chemist, patent attorney, and legislator, was born Esther Arvilla Harrison in Stamford, Connecticut, the only daughter of George Burgess Harrison and Esther Smalls Harrison Her father was a chauffeur and custodian at a church and her mother worked in domestic service Neither of her parents had an advanced education her father had some high school education and her mother attended only primary school She started school at the same time as her older brother having tested into kindergarten at the age of three and a half She and her brother continued to go to school together through elementary school In high school Esther was on the pre college track taking all the science courses available to her She had determined to become a brain surgeon after meeting a female brain surgeon in one of the offices her father cleaned She was impressed by this woman and ...

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Pamela C. Edwards

entrepreneur, inventor, and activist, was born in Monterey, Virginia, to George Emmanuel Stewart, a teacher, and Annie Dougherty Stewart, a housewife. The couple had thirteen children, but only four daughters lived beyond infancy. After relocating their family to Dayton, Ohio, Stewart's parents divorced and, in 1912, she moved to Chicago to live with her mother. In Chicago, Stewart attended Edgewood High School, worked temporary jobs, and, on 4 April 1916, she married Dr. Robert Joyner, a podiatrist from Memphis, Tennessee. The couple had two daughters: Anne Joyner Fook and Barbara Joyner Powell, who both became educators. At some point during her early Chicago years, Stewart made the decision to become a beautician and that decision would shape her future.

Joyner became the first black graduate of the A.B. Molar Beauty School in 1916 and she opened her own beauty shop ...

Article

Olivia A. Scriven

mathematician, educator, and activist, was born Vivienne Lucille Malone in Waco, Texas. Her parents, Pizarro Ray Malone and Vera Estelle (Allen) Malone, both worked as public school teachers and stressed the importance of education as a pathway to advancement and opportunity.

After graduating from the racially segregated A.J. Moore High School in 1948 at the age of sixteen, young Vivienne attended Fisk University, a historically black institution in Nashville, Tennessee. She wanted to become a doctor and might have achieved that goal had she not met and married James Jeffries Mayes, a dental student. Her husband-to-be convinced her that the professional demands of two doctors in the family would be a strain on them personally. So she switched her major from pre-med to mathematics. The decision proved fortuitous. During her junior year in 1950 the university hired two mathematicians who would serve as mentors ...

Article

Olivia A. Scriven

mathematician, chemist, and education advocate, was born Shirley Mathis in the small and racially segregated town of Bainbridge, Georgia, during the Great Depression. Her parents' names and occupations are unknown. By all accounts, McBay was a child prodigy who was often teased because she liked to study, especially mathematics. But McBay's mother supported her daughter's interest in mathematics and encouraged her to continue to work hard if she wanted to be successful. McBay would follow that principle throughout her professional career.

McBay found her mother's own hard work a source of inspiration and looked up to her as a role model. McBay's other role models were her teachers. One teacher in particular, Hattie Mae Mann recognized early that McBay had potential and challenged her to excel Yet despite the support and involvement of her community McBay learned early about the separation between black and white which ...

Article

Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

chemical engineer, activist, and the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Chemical Engineering, was born in Gadsden, Alabama, the fourth of five children of James and Elizabeth Patrick. Her parents had little formal education beyond the sixth grade; her father worked as a janitor and her mother was a maid. They wanted their children to be educated and successful. They talked repeatedly about using the mind as a way out of poverty. As a child, Jennie loved to read and enjoyed encyclopedias because they stretched her imagination and opened her world. During her early childhood years, she attended the segregated elementary and junior high schools in her home town. When she was of high school age in 1964, she was able to attend an integrated high school because the full effect of the Brown v. Board of Education decision had been implemented ...