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George Yancy

philosopher and first African American to receive a PhD in Philosophy in the United States, was born enslaved of enslaved parents, Thomas Chadwick Baker, a Civil War veteran, and Edith (Nottingham) Baker, on Robert Nottingham's plantation in Northampton County, Virginia. Edith was the daughter of Southey and Sarah Nottingham of Northampton County. Thomas Nelson Baker was one of five children.

Describing the influences on his early intellectual life, Baker remembered:

My mother taught me my letters although I well remember when she learned them herself My first reading lesson was the second chapter of Matthew the Bible being the only book we had I never read a bad book in my life which is one of the blessings I got by being poor I began to attend the common schools at eight and learned to love books passionately I used to read through my recesses Evenings I read the Bible ...

Article

Paul Wermager

pharmacist, chemist, researcher, and instructor, was born in Seattle, Washington, one of four children of James P. Ball Jr., an attorney and photographer, and Laura Howard, a photographer and cosmetologist. Alice grew up in a remarkable family. Her grandfather, James Presley “J. P.” Ball Sr., a photographer, was one of the first blacks in the country to master the new art of the daguerreotype. His famous daguerreotype gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio, displayed a well-publicized six-hundred-yard panorama of pictures and paintings depicting the horrors of slavery. Later he opened photography galleries in Minneapolis, in Helena, Montana, in Seattle, and in Honolulu. Alice Ball's father, in addition to being a photographer, also was a newspaper editor and lawyer and was credited with having a lasting effect on Montana history. The Balls lived in Montana for several years before moving to Seattle, and Ball's newspaper, the Colored ...

Article

Frank A. Salamone

pioneer in discrediting the racist concepts that characterized early twentieth-century anthropology and other social sciences. Franz Boas was born in Minden, Germany. He received his PhD in physics from the University of Kiel in 1881, but he soon shifted interest into the field of human geography. In 1883 he conducted his first fieldwork, among the Inuit people of Baffin Island. In 1887 he began research among the Indians of the Pacific Northwest. In 1899 he became the first professor of anthropology at Columbia University. When Boas began his anthropological work, anthropology was far from being a scientific field. It was infested with racist practitioners and amateurs. Boas held that too often people developed theories and then sought to gather information to prove their theories.

Article

H. Kenneth Bechtel

Edward Alexander Bouchet was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the son of William Francis Bouchet, a janitor, and Susan Cooley. Part of New Haven's black community that provided much of the city's unskilled and domestic labor, the Bouchets were members of the Temple Street Congregational Church, which was a stopping point for fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad, and both Edward and his father were active in church affairs. During the 1850s and 1860s New Haven had only three schools that black children could attend. Edward was enrolled in the Artisan Street Colored School, a small (only thirty seats), ungraded school with one teacher, Sarah Wilson, who played a crucial role in nurturing Bouchet's academic abilities and his desire to learn.

In 1868 Bouchet was accepted into Hopkins Grammar School a private institution that prepared young men for the classical and scientific departments at ...

Article

H. Kenneth Bechtel

educator and scientist, was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the youngest of four children of William Francis Bouchet, a janitor, and Susan Cooley. Part of New Haven's black community, the Bouchets were active members of the Temple Street Congregational Church, which was a stopping point for fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad. During the 1850s and 1860s New Haven had only three schools that black children could attend. Edward was enrolled in the Artisan Street Colored School, a small (only thirty seats), ungraded school with one teacher, Sarah Wilson, who played a crucial role in nurturing Bouchet's academic abilities and his desire to learn.

In 1868 Bouchet was accepted into Hopkins Grammar School a private institution that prepared young men for the classical and scientific departments at Yale College He graduated first in his class at Hopkins and four years later when he graduated from Yale ...

Article

Linda O. McMurry

scientist and educator, was born in Diamond (formerly Diamond Grove), Missouri, the son of Mary Carver, who was the slave of Moses and Susan Carver. His father was said to have been a slave on a neighboring farm who was accidentally killed before Carver's birth. Slave raiders allegedly kidnapped his mother and older sister while he was very young, and he and his older brother were raised by the Carvers on their small farm.

Barred from the local school because of his color, Carver was sent to nearby Neosho in the mid-1870s to enter school. Having been privately tutored earlier, he soon learned that his teacher knew little more than he did, so he caught a ride with a family moving to Fort Scott, Kansas. Until 1890 Carver roamed around Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa seeking an education while supporting himself doing laundry, cooking, and homesteading.

In 1890 Carver ...

Article

Carolyn Wedin

naturalist, agricultural chemurgist, and educator. With arguably the most recognized name among black people in American history, George Washington Carver's image is due in part to his exceptional character, mission, and achievements; in part to the story he wanted told; and in part to the innumerable books, articles, hagiographies, exhibits, trade fairs, memorials, plays, and musicals that have made him a symbol of rags-to-riches American enterprise. His image has been used for postage stamps, his name has been inscribed on bridges and a nuclear submarine, and he even has his own day (5 January), designated by the United States Congress in 1946.

Thanks in large part to Linda O. McMurry's 1981 book, George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol it is now possible to separate legend from fact and discover the remarkable child youth and man behind the peanut McMurry concludes that Carver ...

Article

Audra J. Wolfe

protozoologist and microscopist, was born in Palatka, Florida, the son of Lugenia Bryant and Eugene Finley. As a high school student at Central Academy in Palatka, Finley played trumpet for Al Osgood's Hot Five, a local jazz band.

In 1928 he completed a BS in Biology at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, before moving to Madison, Wisconsin, to pursue graduate work in zoology under the direction of Lowell E. Noland. Although he would eventually return to Madison to finish his PhD, financial pressures forced Finley to leave the university with his master's in 1929. He married Eva Elizabeth Browning on 30 August that same year. They had two children, Harold Eugene and Eva Kathleen.

Finley's teaching career began in the biology department at West Virginia State College, where he served first as an instructor and later as associate professor. In 1938 he returned to ...

Article

Diane Todd Bucci

journalist, author, editor, and professor, grew up in Yonkers, New York. Her parents were Curtis G. Giddings and Virginia Stokes Giddings, and both were college educated. Her father was a teacher and guidance counselor, and her mother was employed as a guidance counselor as well. The family's neighborhood was integrated, and Giddings was the first African American to attend her private elementary school, where she was the victim of racial attacks. Even now, Giddings regrets that she allowed herself to be silenced by these attacks. This, no doubt, is what compelled her to develop her voice as a writer. Giddings graduated from Howard University with a BA in English in 1969, and she worked as an editor for several years. Her first job was as an editorial assistant at Random House from 1969 to 1970 and then she became a copy editor at Random ...

Article

Jeffrey R. Yost

physicist, was born in Evergreen, Alabama. His father, Nelson Henry, and his mother, Mattye McDaniel Henry, were public school teachers who had graduated from Tuskegee Institute. Education was deeply valued in the Henry household, and Warren's parents brought him along to the classroom and encouraged him to study long hours during his adolescent and teenage years. He became interested in science early in life, though he did not have the opportunity to take any science courses until his senior year, when he transferred to Alabama State Normal, a school in Montgomery that concentrated on preparing future elementary school teachers. Following in his parents' footsteps, Henry worked his way through Tuskegee Institute as a night watchman and at a pharmacy, receiving a bachelor of science degree in 1931 majoring in mathematics English and French He also completed course work in chemistry and physics and worked summers on ...

Article

Audra J. Wolfe

physicist, was born in Woodville, Texas, the oldest son of John Alexander Hunter and Mary Evelyn Virginia (Edwards) Hunter His father a former school principal had moved to Texas from Louisiana soon after his marriage to Edwards who had been one of his students His mother was a teacher home demonstration agent and administrator The young family only stayed in Woodville for about a year before moving again first to La Porte and later to Jennings Island Texas where Hunter s father secured a ninety nine year lease on a property and began developing a ranch Hunter s father taught Hunter and his brother at home for the first five grades Once he was officially enrolled in classes at La Porte Texas Hunter had to cross two and a half miles of open water to reach the classroom He completed his secondary education at Prairie View State Normal ...

Article

Katrina D. Thompson

chemist, social scientist, and writer, was born in Garfield Heights, Washington, D.C., the son of William Harrison Lewis and Mary (Over) Lewis, of whom little else is known. In 1899 there were only four academic public schools in the segregated Washington, D.C., area, and only one of these was open to African Americans. Lewis attended the noted Dunbar High School, then known as M Street School. Because African Americans with advanced degrees had few other opportunities, during the 1920s three Dunbar teachers held the PhD degree, which was certainly unusual and perhaps unique in American public secondary education.

After attending Dunbar, Lewis graduated from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, with a bachelor's degree in Philosophy in 1925 While at Brown Lewis became the first undergraduate initiate of the Alpha Gamma Chapter of the first African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha Two years after graduating ...

Article

Debra A. Varnado

scientist and first black professor and chemistry department head at the U.S. Naval Academy, was one of three sons born in North Little Rock, Arkansas, to Samuel Proctor Massie and Earlee Jacko Massie. His twin brother died soon after birth. Massie was nurtured in an extended family of educators, devout churchgoers, and community and civic leaders. He learned from his father, an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) preacher and biology teacher, to stand up for himself and to minister to others' needs. His maternal grandmother, Josephine Jacko, a full-blooded Choctaw Indian, was born a slave. She instilled in him a sense of right and wrong and during long conversations helped him to recognize his gift for motivating and guiding others. His maternal grandfather, William B. Jacko also a schoolteacher and former superintendent of schools in Jefferson Steps Jefferson County served in the Arkansas State House of Representatives from ...

Article

Rosalyn Mitchell Patterson

chemistry professor and research chemist, was born in Mexia, Texas, to William Cecil McBay, a drugstore and barbershop owner, and Roberta (Ransom) McBay a seamstress McBay s father also taught himself anatomy became an embalmer s apprentice and later established a mortuary business with his older brother The parents example of hard work as a prerequisite for success set a high standard for McBay his brother and two sisters all four of whom attended college and earned postgraduate degrees Just prior to the 1920s as the nation recovered from the social and economic trauma of World War I Mexia Texas experienced a temporary economic boom that had a significant impact on McBay s early academic opportunities Oil was discovered in that middle Texas community primarily on farmland owned by African Americans Although McBay s immediate family did not own oil laden property McBay and his siblings benefited ...

Article

Audra J. Wolfe

microbiologist, was born in Columbus, Ohio, the youngest of William E. and Margaret Moore's three children. Moore's father worked as an electrician for a local manufacturing firm; all five members of the Moore family were listed as “mulattos” in the 1910 census. Ruth Moore completed her entire education within Columbus, enrolling at Ohio State University for her BS (1926), MA (1927), and PhD (1933); the latter two degrees were awarded in the field of microbiology. She taught both hygiene and English at Tennessee State College, a historically black college, to support herself during graduate school (1927–1930).

Moore was not only the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Microbiology but she was also the first African American woman to receive a PhD in the Natural Sciences. Her dissertation focused on the bacteriology of Mycobacterium tuberculosis the organism that ...

Article

Kenneth R. Manning

biologist and educator, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Thomas Turner, a church custodian, and Adeline Campbell, a nurse. Although neither parent had attended college, Thomas Turner would eventually earn a reputation as “a well-read man, a keen thinker, and a master of debate [who] surrounded himself with several hundred choice books.” Both parents, but especially the father, imparted a love of learning to young Charles. After graduating valedictorian of his high school class in Cincinnati, he proceeded to the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a BS in 1891 and an MS in 1892. His goal was to teach science and ultimately to head a technological or agricultural school for African Americans. As an undergraduate he came under the influence of Clarence Luther Herrick, a professor of biology at Cincinnati and pioneer in the field of psychobiology. When Herrick established the Journal ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

by all available evidence the first American of African descent to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology, was a founding father of that science as it became an organized professional field in America, and a leading pioneer in the development of linguistics, doing field research in Haiti, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and southern Africa. His wide range of professional affiliations included the American Anthropological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Sociological Association, the International African Institute, and the International Linguistic Association. In 1933, he was one of the first three African Americans admitted to the Society of Sigma Xi (Wright, p. 889).

Born in Huntsville, Texas, he was the son of Walter Watkins, a Baptist minister, and Laura Williams Watkins (Wright), whose Republican politics are reflected in naming their son for the party leader and wealthy Ohio senator, Mark Hanna He was the youngest ...

Article

Paul T. Murray

lawyer and professor, was born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the son of Paul A. Zuber, a postal worker, and Jennie Baer. He attended school in Williamsport through third grade. In 1934 his family moved to Harlem, New York, and he enrolled in the all-black P.S. 157. After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, Zuber entered Brown University, where he played football, basketball, and track. He was drafted into the U.S. Army Quartermasters Corps during World War II and was stationed at Camp Lee, Virginia. Upon his discharge he returned to Brown, graduating in 1947 with an AB in Premedical Studies. He was reactivated for the Korean War and served as chief of psychological testing at Murphy Army Hospital in Massachusetts. In 1953 he married Barbara Johnson, an artist. They had two children.

Zuber worked for the New York City Health Department while attending night classes ...