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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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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Jeannette Elizabeth Brown

physical organic chemist and pioneer F-19 synthetic organic chemist, was born in Altheimer, Arkansas, one of six children of parents who were sharecroppers. Her father, Charlie Long, had a third-grade education and her mother, Elsie Lee Foggie Long, a tenth-grade education. Gloria entered school at age four already able to read. She attended the segregated schools in Arkansas, which had all-black faculty who encouraged the students to succeed.

Anderson graduated from Altheimer Training (High) School in 1954 at the age of sixteen She had no choice as to where to attend college as going to college out of state was financially impossible and at this time there were no affirmative action admissions to college so in state student admissions would have taken precedence over out of state black student admissions At the time Arkansas A M now called the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff was the only college ...

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Billy Scott

physician, otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist), inventor, and administrator, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of George W. Barnes, a laborer, and Eliza Webb Barnes and his two sisters lived poverty stricken lives on Lombard Street in a very poor area of the city Barnes decided at an early age to become a physician a decision unheard of and regarded in his neighborhood as preposterous His parents tried to discourage him from pursuing what to them seemed an impossible dream for a poor black youth hoping rather that he would focus on finding realistic employment Nevertheless determined Barnes walked ten miles every day to and from school and from his after school work as a porter and messenger for jewelry shops During summers he worked as a porter in hotels Seeing those who lived a far different and more elegant life than his own inspired ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Courtney A. Howard

mathematician, was born Sylvia Trimble in Camp Hill, Alabama, the daughter of Horace Edward Trimble Sr., an insurance agent, and Robbie Jones Trimble. She had four siblings, three brothers and one sister. She attended the segregated public schools in her rural hometown, and was motivated by the standards and values instilled in her by her parents. Early in her education, Bozeman's parents helped her develop confidence that she was capable of accomplishing her goals. Though her father worked with numerical calculations in his career, it was her mother who encouraged Bozeman to pursue her interest in mathematics. Her enthusiasm for the subject grew into advanced mathematical knowledge when her high school mathematics teacher, Frank Holley returned after school to teach trigonometry to a small group of students because the course was not part of the school s curriculum Her excellence in mathematics and other subjects led ...

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

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

Terri L. Norris

academic dean and scientist, was born Carolyn Daphne Branch in Richmond, Virginia, the second of two daughters born to Shirley Marian Booker Branch and Charles Walker Branch, owners of a grocery store. Shirley Branch earlier held a job at an antique store, while Charles Branch's early job was as a truck driver. Shirley later worked for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Carolyn's sister Delores was born in 1942, and both children attended segregated public schools in Richmond, Virginia, where Carolyn graduated from Maggie Walker High School as salutatorian. Branch excelled in academics and was encouraged to pursue a college education. With the aid of her teachers, she sought college scholarships because her supportive parents were unable to afford college tuition. Branch, a first-generation college student, chose Tuskegee University after being offered a choice of six scholarships to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU).

Her freshman ...

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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 ...

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Robert C. Hayden

Born on February 14, 1829, near Boundary and 14th Streets NW in Washington, D.C., Solomon G. Brown was the fourth of six children born to Isaac and Rachel Brown, both free blacks. Solomon's father died in 1833, leaving his mother and siblings with a heavy debt. The father's property, taken in 1834 to settle the debts, left the family poor and homeless. As a child, Solomon was not able to acquire a formal education, since there were very few schools for blacks in Washington at that time.

At age fifteen Brown began working under the assistant postmaster in the Washington, D.C., post office. He was assigned to assist American physicist Joseph Henry and American artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse in the installation of the first Morse magnetic telegraph system between Washington and Baltimore, Maryland Morse had invented the electromagnetic telegraph system during the ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

Brown, Willa (22 January 1906–18 July 1992), pilot and aviation educator, was born Willa Beatrice Brown in Glasgow, Kentucky, the only daughter of Hallie Mae Carpenter Brown and Eric B. Brown, a farm owner. After 1910 the family, as part of the internal migration of African Americans from the rural South to northern cities, moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, hoping for greater opportunities in employment and education. There her father worked in a creosote factory; he was also pastor of the Holy Triumphant Church in 1920 and the Free Church of God in 1929.

At Wiley High School Brown was one of only seven black students in the 100 member chorus During her high school years she also did part time domestic work Brown graduated in 1923 and entered Indiana State Normal School a teacher training school that is now part of Indiana University She majored in ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

pilot and aviation educator, was born Willa Beatrice Brown in Glasgow, Kentucky, the only daughter of Hallie Mae Carpenter and Eric B. Brown, a farm owner. After 1910 the family, as part of the migration of African Americans from the rural South to northern cities, moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, hoping for greater opportunities in employment and education. There her father worked in a creosote factory. He was also pastor of the Holy Triumphant Church in 1920 and of the Free Church of God in 1929.

At Wiley High School, Brown was one of only seven black students in the hundred-member chorus. During her high school years she also did part-time domestic work. Brown graduated in 1923 and entered Indiana State Normal School a teacher training school that later became part of Indiana University She majored in business minored in French and joined the Alpha Kappa Alpha ...

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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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Robert G. McGuire

Hugh M. Browne was born in Washington, D.C., in June 1851 to John Browne and Elizabeth Wormley. He had family connections among the most prominent free African Americans in Washington. His maternal aunt Mary Wormley established a school for free African Americans in 1832, and other members of the Wormley family owned a boardinghouse patronized by the Washington political elite. His paternal aunt Mary Browne Syphax was married to William Syphax, who had a position in the office of the secretary of the interior and who was a member of the board of trustees of the black public schools of Washington. Browne was educated in the schools of Washington, D.C. He received his B.A. degree from Howard University in 1875 and his M.A. degree in 1878. In 1878 he also received a B D degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in the ...

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Andre D. Vann

educator, author, and one of the first black women in the United States to obtain a PhD degree in Mathematics, was one of two children born to Lawrence Johnson Lee and Mary (Taylor) Lee in Memphis, Tennessee. Before she was two years old her mother died and her father remarried. Her father, a railway postal clerk, and her stepmother, Lottie Lee, a school teacher, instilled in her the value of hard work and gave her a love for mathematics. Lawrence Lee had attended college for approximately two years and was regarded as a talented student of mental arithmetic.

In a 1979 interview Browne remarked I always always always liked mathematics As far back as I can remember I liked mathematics because it was a lonely subject I do have plenty of friends and I talk with them for hours at a time But I also like to be ...

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Benjamin A. Jackson

research biologist, educator, and college administrator, was born in Chicago. Her mother, Carriebel Cole, was a physical education teacher who taught interpretive dance in the public schools. Her father, Frank Victor Plummer, a physician, graduated from Cornell University in 1908 and subsequently from Rush Medical School in Chicago. He was an early member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first national Greek letter fraternity for black men.

The Plummer family strongly emphasized education Cobb s parents circle of friends included black writers historians and artists As a member of the upper middle class she enjoyed many more educational cultural and social advantages than did most African American children of that era She had access to a library in her home that included scientific texts belonging to her father Not surprisingly Cobb developed an early interest in science Her interest in biology developed when she was a high school sophomore ...