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Article

Pamela Blackmon

physicist, inventor, and educator, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the eldest of two sons of Arletta (Dixon) Alcorn and George Alcorn, an auto mechanic. Little is known of his early life. George Alcorn Jr. earned a BA in Physics in 1962 from Occidental College in Pasadena, California, where he excelled both academically and athletically, earning eight letters in football and baseball. His educational pursuits took him next to Howard University, where he received a master's degree in Nuclear Physics after only nine months of study. During the summers of 1962 and 1963 Alcorn worked as a research engineer at the space division of North American Rockwell, where he computed trajectories and orbital mechanics for missiles, including the Titan I and II, the Saturn IV, and the Nova.

From 1965 to 1967 Alcorn researched negative ion formation with funded support from the National Aeronautics and Space ...

Article

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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Peter Wallenstein

educator and civil rights litigant, was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of William Henry “Sonnie” Alston, a drayman, and Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Smith, a laundress. The Alstons owned their home, and Melvin grew up in a middle-class environment. After attending Norfolk's segregated black public schools and graduating from Booker T. Washington High School, he graduated in 1935 from Virginia State College, where he was honored for his debating and for excellence in scholarship. Following graduation he began teaching math at Booker T. Washington High School. Beginning in 1937 he served as president of the Norfolk Teachers Association, and he also held local leadership positions in the Young Men's Christian Association and the First Calvary Baptist Church.

Alston played a key role in an effort by black teachers in the Norfolk city public schools to challenge racial discrimination in their salaries. In 1937 the Virginia Teachers Association VTA and ...

Article

Thomas O. Fox and Jocelyn Spragg

scientist and educator, was born in Pennsauken, New Jersey, the second of nine children, to Howard R. Amos Sr., a Philadelphia postman, and Iola Johnson, who had been adopted by and worked for a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family who schooled her with their own children at home. This family remained lifelong friends of Iola and kept the young Amos family well supplied with books, including a biography of Louis Pasteur, which piqued Harold's interest in science in the fourth grade. Both Howard and Iola expected their children to be serious about their education and to excel academically. Harold, along with his siblings, took piano lessons and remained a competent amateur pianist. He also gained a reputation as an excellent tennis player.

Harold received his early education in a segregated school in Pennsauken then graduated first in his class from Camden High School in New Jersey He ...

Article

David De Clue

astronaut, was born Michael Phillip Anderson in Plattsburgh, New York, to Barbara and Andy “Bobby” Anderson. Because his father was a member of the United States Air Force, young Anderson moved regularly until the family settled in Spokane, Washington, in the 1960s. It was there that he attended public schools and became fascinated with America's space race. Michael would wear goggles when cutting lawns because he knew that he needed to protect his eyes in order to be an astronaut.

After high school Anderson went to the University of Washington, where in 1981 he received a bachelor of science degree in Physics and Astronomy, and then went to Creighton University, where he received a master of science degree in Physics in 1990 As an undergraduate he received pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma and as a postgraduate he piloted KC 130 and T 38 transport ...

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 ...

Article

Ronald E. Mickens

mathematician, was born in Hampton, Virginia, the son of William Thaddeus Reid, who taught electricity at Hampton Institute's trade school, and Elaine Brown. Albert had a brother, William M., and a sister, Cora Mae. His strong interest in biology and mathematics led him to enroll at Iowa State University, where such joint disciplinary programs were encouraged. After obtaining his bachelor of science degree in 1949, Reid continued at Iowa State in the graduate program for mathematics and biology, but he left for the University of Chicago in 1950. There he studied mathematical biology, mathematics, probability and statistics, and physics, and he served as a research assistant in the mathematical biology program. In 1953 Reid accepted a position as a research associate in mathematical statistics at Columbia University He did not complete the PhD program at Chicago or Columbia because he did not believe that ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Richard M. Mizelle and Keith Wailoo

mathematician and professor, was born David Harold Blackwell in Centralia, Illinois, the oldest of four children, to Grover Blackwell, a locomotive mechanic for the Illinois Central Railroad, and Mabel Johnson. Although much of Blackwell's hometown was segregated, he attended an integrated elementary school. He first became interested in mathematics in high school where, although not particularly interested in algebra or trigonometry, he immediately took an interest in geometry—the scientific study of the properties and relations of lines, surfaces, and solids in space. Later in his life Blackwell credited his high school geometry instructor for showing him the beauty and the usefulness of mathematics. He joined his high school's mathematics club where his instructor pushed students to submit solutions to the School Science and Mathematics Journal which published one of Blackwell s solutions It was with geometry that Blackwell first began to apply mathematical methods and formulas to ...

Article

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

John Bryan Gartrell

engineer, astronaut, and the first African American in space, was born Guion Stewart Bluford Jr. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of Lolita Bluford, a public school special educator, and Guion Bluford Sr., a mechanical engineer. Guion Jr. was raised in a middle class, racially mixed neighborhood in West Philadelphia. Both parents instilled strong values and a powerful work ethic in him and his two younger brothers, Eugene and Kenneth. The boys were encouraged to never allow skin color to deter them from obtaining a successful career.

Throughout his youth the introverted Bluford though well spoken was quiet and often struggled with schoolwork Many teachers did not see much potential in him and indeed one school counselor went so far as to notify his parents that their son was not college potential and advised him to choose a different avenue after his graduation from Overbrook High School Yet ...

Article

Anne K. Driscoll

pilot, Tuskegee Airman, civil servant, teacher, and juvenile probation officer, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the youngest child of Georgia Crane and Earl Bohannon, occupations unknown. Bohannon was the youngest of ten children, although only his oldest sister and a brother were alive when Bohannon was born. One of his greatest influences growing up was his mother, who taught him the importance of principles, hard work, and honesty.

Bohannon began working at eight years of age in a hardware store His next job was working on a laundry truck It was the laundry job that ultimately led Bohannon to his dream of becoming an aviator Bohannon stopped twice a week at Atlanta s Candler Field later William B Hartsfield Airport While picking up the aviators laundry he listened to the pilots discussing their flights the difficulties of flying in adverse weather conditions and other matters that inspired him to ...

Article

Josepha Sherman

astronaut, test pilot, military and NASA Administrator, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to Charles Frank Bolden Sr. and Ethel M. Bolden, both teachers. A child during the early years of the civil rights movement, Bolden was encouraged by his parents and teachers to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot, despite the fact that there were few opportunities at the time for African Americans to fly.

After graduating with honors from C. A. Johnson High School in Columbia in 1964, Bolden entered the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland; he graduated with a BS in Electrical Science in 1968. Following graduation he married Alexis (Jackie) Walker. The couple would later have a son Anthony, born in 1971 and a daughter, Kelly, born in 1976.

In 1968 Bolden accepted a commission in the Marine Corps Quickly rising to the rank of second ...

Article

Audra J. Wolfe

pathologist and geneticist, was born in Washington, D.C., the oldest of six children born to James E. Bowman, a dentist, and Peterson Bowman, a homemaker. Bowman completed his undergraduate and medical school education in Washington, receiving a BS in 1943 and an MD in 1946, both from Howard University. After completing an internship at the Freedman's Hospital in Washington, D.C. (1946–1947), Bowman moved to St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago for a residency in pathology (1947–1950). It was during his residency that he met his future wife, Barbara Taylor, a Chicago native who was then completing her undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. The couple married in 1950, the same year that Bowman was made chairman of the department of pathology at Chicago's Provident Hospital, a primarily African American institution (1950–1953).

From 1953 until 1955 ...

Article

Audra J. Wolfe

chemist and educator, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the eldest son of Thomas Brady, a tobacco factory laborer, and Celester Brady, both of whom were born free around the time of the Civil War. Brady's father, himself illiterate, made sure that all of his children attended school. St. Elmo Brady graduated from high school with honors before enrolling at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1904. At Fisk, he studied with Thomas W. Talley, who was regarded as one of the best chemistry teachers in the black college system.

After graduating from Fisk in 1908 Brady accepted a teaching position at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He quickly became friends with both Booker T. Washington, the institute's first president and leading advocate, and George Washington Carver the scientist famous for his agricultural research on peanuts soybeans sweet potatoes and pecans Brady was deeply impressed ...

Article

Elizabeth D. Schafer

physician, was born in Louisburg, North Carolina, the son of the Reverend Joel Branche and Hanna Shaw. He attended the Mary Potter Academy in Oxford, North Carolina. The Branche home was located near this Presbyterian school; George Branche enjoyed playing on the campus, and he acquired his early education there.

After his high school graduation in 1913, Branche enrolled at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he participated as an athlete. He graduated in 1917 and served in World War I as a master sergeant. After the armistice he focused on medicine as a career. Branche graduated from the Boston University Medical School in 1923, and he was an intern at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital.

While Branche was in medical school federal officials sought a site to establish a hospital for black veterans African American World War I veterans suffered from treatment at inferior hospitals or were neglected ...

Article

Philip Alexander

physicist, educator, and academic administrator, was born in Pocahontas, Virginia, the son of Harry P. Branson, a coal miner, and Gertrude Brown. In 1928, after several years at his local elementary school, Herman enrolled at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., one of the nation's preeminent black secondary schools. He was encouraged in this move by a young black physician, William Henry Welch, who practiced in Pocahontas and who rented lodgings from young Branson's grandmother.

At Dunbar, Branson was introduced to studies in Latin, advanced mathematics, and other disciplines to which he would not have been exposed in his local high school. After graduating as valedictorian in 1932 he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh with a view to studying medicine partly because his great uncle had been trained as a physician there Branson completed the premedical program in two years and still found time ...

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

Caroline M. Fannin

combat pilot, was born Eugene James Bullard in Columbus, Georgia, the son of William Octave Bullard, a laborer and former slave, and Josephine Thomas. Both parents were of African American and Creek Indian descent. In 1906 Bullard, the seventh of ten children, ran away from home, ending his formal education. He lived for a time with a band of gypsies, who taught him to ride racehorses. He then worked as a horse handler, jockey, and laborer in several southern states. Bullard gained the respect of several employers by his quiet insistence on treatment with dignity and equality, an ethos instilled in him by his father and strengthened by his sojourn with the tolerant, English-born gypsies.

Early in 1912 Bullard made his way to Norfolk Virginia where he stowed away on a freighter bound for Europe Set ashore in Aberdeen Scotland Bullard worked his way south joining a ...

Article

Gregory Travis Bond

athlete, dentist, and politician, was born in Topeka, Kansas, to Gary W. Cable, a teacher and postal worker, and Mary Ellen Montgomery Cable, a public school administrator and civil rights activist. In 1894 the family moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where Cable attended public school and graduated from integrated Shortridge High School in 1908. He moved on to the exclusive Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire for the next school year and enrolled at Harvard University in 1909.

Cable had not participated in organized athletics in high school, but he tried out for the freshman track team at Harvard and caught the eye of Coach Pat Quinn. With Quinn's guidance, Cable developed rapidly. In the annual Harvard-Yale freshman meet, he won the hammer throw and he also performed well in the 220-yard hurdles and the broad jump (now the long jump) in intramural competitions.

He easily made ...