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Sherri J. Norris

chemical engineer and environmental engineering entrepreneur, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the second of four daughters of Ernest Buford Abron and Bernice Wise Abron, both educators. Abron was educated in Memphis public schools and was a member of the National Honor Society. Abron divorced and had three sons, Frederick, Ernest, and David; she is occasionally credited as Lilia Ann Abron-Robinson.

Abron stayed close to home when she attended LeMoyne College, a historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee. She considered medical school, but she was persuaded by her advisor, Dr. Beuler, to pursue a career in engineering instead. Her decision was a risky one. She did not know of any African Americans with engineering degrees who were actually working as engineers; instead, she once said in an interview, they were often working in post offices. In 1966 Abron received her BS in Chemistry from ...

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Donna L. Halper

was born in Dallas, Texas, one of eleven children of Walter and Sarah (Cox). Otis graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, where he was valedictorian of his class, in 1938. He then attended Fisk University in Nashville. While some sources say he graduated, records from Fisk show he attended for two years, focusing on chemistry and physics, and then left in 1941. He moved to Chicago, where he first worked as a clerk at the Electro Manufacturing Company and then as a laboratory assistant for the Majestic Radio and Television Corporation, where he rose to the position of factory foreman. His next move was working as an engineer for P. J. Nilsen Research Laboratories. At some point in the 1940s Boykin married Pearlie Mae Kimble, but little information about his personal life has emerged. He also attended two semesters at Illinois Institute of Technology, around 1946–1947 ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

His mother’s maiden name was Jones. Carey graduated from Santa Clara University in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. A running back on the SCU football team, he played for four years until an ankle injury ended his playing career. In 1972 Carey began officiating Pop Warner football games in San Diego and, in 1985, became a college football referee for the Western Athletic Conference. In 1990 the National Football League (NFL) hired him as a line judge and in 1995 promoted him to referee. Carey, who became the second African American referee in the NFL since Johnny Grier in 1988, served as an alternate official for Super Bowl XXXVI between the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams on 3 February 2002.

On 3 October 2005 Carey officiated the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Carolina Panthers with his older brother ...

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Lolita K. Buckner Inniss

aviator, dancer, and musician, was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the fifth of seven children to Sarah Ragsdale and a father surnamed Jones. Official records such as census records from 1930 and the Social Security Death Index list her birth year as 1906, but family records, photographs, and anecdotal evidence indicate her birth year as between 1900 and 1903. After she was widowed Marie's mother left Muskogee for Los Angeles, California, along with Marie and some of her siblings, where they settled in a vibrant, multiracial neighborhood in East Los Angeles. When Marie's mother married David Austin, a former guitarist for the singer Sissieretta Jones (Black Patti) in 1910, Marie took her stepfather's surname, Austin.

Coker attended and graduated from Central High School in Los Angeles and was the first in her immediate family to attain a high school diploma She was a precocious child particularly ...

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Rayvon David Fouché

inventor, was born to Shelby Jeames and Amelia Scott Davidson in Lexington, Kentucky. He attended public school in his hometown of Lexington and then attended college in Louisville to study education. This school's program did not challenge Davidson or adequately prepare him for a career. So in the fall of 1887 he enrolled at Howard University in Washington, D.C. However, his previous academic training was not sufficient to gain admission to Howard University's college department. He spent his first two years completing the preparatory program and finally received a degree in 1896. That same year he began to study law, and by June 1896 he had completed standard readings in the law curriculum under the direction of William A. Cook.

In 1893 while Davidson completed his education he found employment as an unclassified laborer for the Treasury Department making $600 per year He secured this position through ...

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Paul A. Frisch

, activist, inventor, and entrepreneur, was born in Virginia. It is unknown whether he was born free or enslaved. Little information about his early life and education is available. He moved to New York City and in 1873 married Henrietta (maiden name unknown), a New Yorker. The couple had no children. Ferrell reported his occupation as engineer, a term commonly used in this era for machinist, stationary engineer, or boiler tender.

During the 1880s Ferrell joined the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, the largest labor union in nineteenth-century America. After a major growth spurt in 1885–1886 the organization counted over 600 000 members The Knights were an inclusive labor organization that enrolled employers and workers excluding only lawyers bankers and liquor peddlers and unlike most such organizations of the period the Knights accepted African American members Ferrell belonged to District Assembly 49 a large politicized union that ...

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John Hanson Mitchell

photographer and naturalist, was born in Natural Bridge, Virginia. His parents' names and occupations are unknown. In 1881, after attending primary schools in Lexington, Virginia, Gilbert was taken by his family to Lynchburg, Virginia, to complete his education. In 1886 he followed his brother William north to Boston, where he found employment as a porter on the Portland Boston steamship line. He would work various odd jobs until 1896, when psychologist James Chadbourne hired him to help with laboratory rats. Gilbert, as he was generally known in the Boston white community, also took a temporary job setting up a bird museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the renowned nineteenth-century ornithologist William Brewster. Brewster subsequently hired Gilbert as a full-time manservant, field assistant, factotum, and, as some of the early private journal records state, “friend,” to the well-respected Brewster.

Under Brewster s tutelage Gilbert learned how to develop ...

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Pamela C. Edwards

inventor and entrepreneur, blazed a path for black female inventors, yet little is known of her early life. Neither her parents' names nor her exact date or place of birth are known one biographer indicates that she was born in the 1850s and grew up in slavery. After the Civil War ended and former slaves in the South were emancipated, Goode, like thousands of African Americans, made her way north, taking up residence in Chicago by the early 1880s. In Chicago, she owned and operated a furniture store, and her entrepreneurial endeavors led to her become the first African American woman to receive a patent from the United States Patent Office. On 14 July 1885 Goode received her patent for a Folding Cabinet Bed comparable to modern sofa or hideaway beds The first of five black women to patent new inventions in the nineteenth century she was a ...

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Jeffrey R. Yost

physicist and engineer, was born in Newark, New Jersey. He was one of four children. His father worked at various maintenance and painting jobs and his mother was a teletype operator. After classes at Brooklyn Technical High School, Gourdine often worked long hours with his father on cleaning and painting jobs. This experience led him to focus on his studies as well as athletics in hopes of an easier life.

His talent in swimming earned him a scholarship offer from the University of Michigan but he instead chose to attend Cornell University He paid his own tuition early in his college career working for a radio and telegraph firm prior to receiving a scholarship for track and field Gourdine competed in sprints low hurdles and the long jump The six foot tall 175 pound Gourdine earned the nickname Flash as a result of both his speed and his favorite ...

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James Bethea

inventor and educator, was born in Macon, Missouri, to Philip Alexander Hubbard, a draftsman, and Rosa Belle (Wallace) Hubbard, a teacher who later worked as an elevator operator and freelance dressmaker. Hubbard's parents selected his middle name in recognition of Warren Gamaliel Harding's inauguration as U S president on the day he was born Hubbard s father died eighteen days after he was born and his mother was left to care for him and his three brothers The family was close knit and Hubbard and his siblings were cared for by relatives while his mother taught school When he was four years old his mother sacrificed her teaching career and moved the family to Des Moines Iowa in hopes of better educational opportunities for her sons An avid reader from an early age Hubbard thrived at Nash Elementary School where he won a spelling bee competition ...

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Patricia Carter Sluby

inventor, entrepreneur, businessman, and nuclear engineer, was born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, the third of six children of David Johnson a driver for the Air Force and Arline Washington Johnson a nurse s assistant Johnson attended W H Council Elementary School and Williamson High School in his segregated hometown Guided by tolerant and patient parents who encouraged him during his early creative years when he fiddled with junk Johnson was painfully aware of racial inequities but that did not deter his curiosity about how things worked His mother ingrained in him and his siblings the importance of knowledge emphasizing what one puts in the brain counts in life Likened to a child prodigy nosy young Johnson habitually tinkered with his siblings toys to see how they functioned In project after project he monkeyed with old jukeboxes plastic pipes compression motors and explosive rocket fuel ...

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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 ...

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inventor and businessman, was born on 1 April 1933 in the village of Tshibambula in thie Lulua district of the Kasai Province, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo not far from the city of Kananga. Little is available regarding his family or his childhood. After Kabasele completed his primary education at Demba, he enrolled at the famous Institut Saint Boniface secondary school in Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga Province. Even before Muamba graduated in 1957, he became an assistant colonial official in the railroad town of Muene Ditu in Kasai Province. He also worked as a bank clerk for the Banque Belge d’Afrique and the Banque du Congo Belge and earned a degree in legal studies in 1959 His career resembled that of many future Congolese politicians in the 1950s but Kabasele did not become a prominent figure in the fierce political struggles in the Congo ...

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Reginald H. Pitts

inventor, entrepreneur, and historian, was born in what is now Gardiner, Maine, the son of Matthias Lewis, a farm laborer of Mohegan Indian ancestry. Nothing is now known of Lewis's mother. Sometime after 28 July 1800 Lewis's father married Lucy Stockbridge of Pittston, Maine, the daughter of African slaves. It is not known whether this marriage legalized a longstanding relationship or was Matthias's actual second marriage.

Although little is known of Lewis's early life, it appears that he first went to sea in ships that worked the Atlantic rim and the coastal trade down to the Caribbean. It is known that Lewis wanted to become a missionary to Africa; after his death, his neighbors remembered, “it was said … that the Congregational Church in Hallowell [where Lewis moved around 1820 had in consequence of the intelligence he had manifested in youth obtained for him an ...

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Lisa M. Bratton

instructor pilot for the Tuskegee Airmen, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Adolph J. Moret Sr., a printer, and Georgianna Perez. Moret grew up in an integrated neighborhood in the Creole community in New Orleans's Seventh Ward, but he attended segregated schools and used segregated public transportation. He attended Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and Xavier Prep Catholic schools in New Orleans. As a pole vaulter in high school, Moret won a bronze medal at the Tuskegee Ninth Relays at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1935.

From 1935 to 1937 Moret attended Xavier University in New Orleans After completing nearly two years of college Moret found employment as a spotter at the Pinkerton Detective Agency the leading agency at that time His primary responsibility was to observe bus drivers to ensure that they placed fares in the designated receptacle This was an uncommon position for ...

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Robert L. Gale

Morgan, Garrett A. (04 March 1877–27 July 1963), African-American inventor, was born Garrett Augustus Morgan on a farm in Claysville, Kentucky, the former black section of Paris, Kentucky. He was the son of Sydney Morgan, a railroad worker, and Elizabeth Morgan (maiden name unknown), a preacher's daughter. Young Morgan had few educational opportunities and left home with only a sixth-grade education. He became a handyman in Cincinnati, Ohio, and moved in 1895 to Cleveland, where he made his home for the rest of his life. Soon after he became a janitor in a sewing machine factory, he began to repair and adjust sewing machines. He invented a belt fastener for sewing machines in 1901 and sold rights to it for $50. His hard work and acumen enabled him to advance in the next few years to success as an independent businessman and inventor.

In 1907 Morgan opened ...

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Born in Paris, Kentucky, Garrett Augustus Morgan moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, at the age of fourteen and became a handyman. In 1895 he moved to Cleveland where he worked as a sewing machine repairman. In Cleveland, Morgan developed several successful enterprises: a sewing machine repair service in 1907, a tailor shop in 1909, and a hair-straightening company in 1913. The most important of his various inventions was a “breathing device” that served as the prototype for the modern gas mask. In 1914 the National Safety Device Company awarded the Morgan Safety Hood First Grand Prize.

On July 25, 1916 Morgan himself demonstrated the use of his invention by wearing it as he along with others rescued twenty four trapped workers from a smoke filled tunnel beneath Lake Erie The city of Cleveland awarded Morgan a gold medal for his heroism which also led to a contract ...

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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 ...

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R. Iset Anuakan

barber, entrepreneur, and inventor was born in Greene County, Alabama, the oldest of Holly and Olean (Jordan) Morrow's seven children. As a child, Willie worked on a farm planting corn and cotton. He worked in the fields before going to school, and he learned to cut hair by practicing on the children there. He became a barber at the age of seventeen when his mother took him to meet Jim Pierson, the owner of the Oak City Barber Shop in Tuscaloosa. Pierson employed him for three years and gave him a set of Oster clippers that replaced the rudimentary clippers he had used. Barbering became his lifelong vocation and would lead him into the beauty business—a world in which many African Americans had made their fortunes.

In 1959 Morrow took a train to San Diego, California, to work with his uncle, barber Spurgeon Morrow and to ...

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Frank R. Levstik

John P. Parker was born in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of a slave mother and white father, whose names are unknown. At the age of eight, Parker was sold as a slave to an agent in Richmond, where he in turn was purchased by a physician from Mobile, Alabama. While employed as a house servant for the physician, Parker learned to read and write. In Mobile he was apprenticed to work in furnaces and iron manufactures as well as for a plasterer. Beaten by the plasterer, Parker attempted to escape, only to be captured aboard a northbound riverboat.

From 1843 to 1845 Parker was hired out as an iron moulder and stevedore in the Mobile area He proved to be an extraordinarily skilled moulder which enabled him to earn enough money to purchase his freedom for $1 800 at the end of the two year period Obtaining ...