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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

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

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

Todd Palmer

architect, planner and developer, was born in Towson, Maryland, and grew up in Baltimore, the third child of Albert Truman and Charlotte Cassell. His father drove a coal truck and played trumpet for the Salvation Army Band; his mother brought in extra income doing washing. As a 14-year-old, Cassell expressed an ambition to build at Douglass High, a segregated public vocational school. While studying carpentry he enrolled in a drafting course with Ralph Victor Cook. Cook became a mentor to Cassell and encouraged him to pursue a college education in architecture at Cornell University, where Cook had been an early African American graduate of engineering.

Cassell entered Cornell in 1915, but two years into the program, World War I interrupted his studies. Cassell enlisted in the U.S. Army. In 1919 he returned to the United States from France with an honorable discharge Because Cornell ...

Article

John C. Fredriksen

Henry Ossian Flipper was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the son of Festus Flipper and Isabelle (maiden name unknown), slaves. During the Civil War and Reconstruction he was educated in American Missionary Association schools and in 1873 gained admission to Atlanta University. That year Flipper also obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy through the auspices of Republican Representative James C. Freeman. He was not the first African American to attend West Point, as Michael Howard and James Webster Smithpreceded him in 1870, but neither graduated. Flipper subsequently endured four years of grueling academic instruction and ostracism from white classmates before graduating fiftieth in a class of sixty-four on June 14, 1877. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the all-black Tenth U.S. Cavalry, and the following year recounted his academy experience in an autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878).

Flipper enjoyed ...

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John C. Fredriksen

soldier and engineer, was born in Thomasville, Georgia, the son of Festus Flipper and Isabelle (maiden name unknown), slaves. During the Civil War and Reconstruction he was educated in American Missionary Association schools and in 1873 gained admission to Atlanta University. That year Flipper also obtained an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy through the auspices of Republican Representative James C. Freeman. He was not the first African American to attend West Point, as Michael Howard and James Webster Smith preceded him in 1870, but neither graduated. Flipper subsequently endured four years of grueling academic instruction and ostracism from white classmates before graduating fiftieth in a class of sixty-four on 14 June 1877. He was commissioned second lieutenant in the all-black Tenth U. S. Cavalry, and the following year recounted his academy experience in an autobiography, The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878 ...

Article

James N. Leiker

soldier, engineer, and author. Although Flipper is best remembered as the first African American graduate of West Point, he later had an important career as an authority on the border between the United States and Mexico. Born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, Henry was the son of Festus and Isabella Flipper. His father, a slave and local shoemaker, and his mother, the slave of a Methodist minister, believed in the importance of formal education, and this was a value they passed on to their sons during the heady optimism of Reconstruction. While attending Atlanta University, Flipper attracted the attention of a local congressman, who appointed him to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The social atmosphere at West Point proved difficult and demanding for its handful of young black cadets, but Flipper persevered and graduated in 1877 A prolific writer he chronicled this ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Flint Whitlock

the first African American commercial passenger airline pilot, was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, the son of McKinley Green, a domestic servant for a wealthy El Dorado dentist and oilman, and Lucy Longmyre. In 1944, due to the influence of a charismatic priest, the five Green siblings, with the exception of one brother, converted from Baptism to Roman Catholicism. Green later earned a scholarship to complete his senior year of high school at the Xavier Preparatory School, affiliated with Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

At Xavier Prep Green did well academically graduating at the top of his class His goal was to attend Epiphany Apostolic College a Josephite seminary in Newburgh on the Hudson New York and study for the priesthood However during his first semester he was wrongly diagnosed with a medical condition and was dismissed from the school Seeking a new direction for his ...

Article

Ian Jones

African‐American scientist and inventor who worked in Britain. Lewis Latimer's parents were Rebecca and George Latimer, fugitive slaves from Virginia who gained their liberty in the free state of Massachusetts, where Lewis was born. Lewis served in the American Civil War (1861–5), after which he worked as an office boy in a patent law firm. His employers soon recognized his talent for drawing and made him head draughtsman. He married Mary Wilson (1848–1937) in 1873 and wrote a poem for his wedding, which he later published in his collection Poems of Love and Life.

When he was 25, Lewis invented an improved toilet for railway carriages, and in 1876Alexander Graham Bell hired him to produce the drawings he needed to patent the telephone. Lewis was later headhunted by the US Electric Lighting Company, and in 1882 was awarded a patent for a ...

Article

Caroline M. Fannin

aviator and astronaut, was born in Chicago, the son of Gwendolyn Annette Williams Lawrence, a civil servant, and Robert Henry Lawrence Sr., a disabled veteran. While Lawrence and his sister were quite young, their parents divorced. Their mother married Charles Duncan, who worked as a Veterans Administration underwriter and in periodicals circulation. Robert H. Lawrence Sr. remained a strong influence in his children's lives.

Lawrence a bright and self disciplined youngster attended Haines Elementary School in inner city Chicago The family was far from affluent but the Duncans provided support and intellectual stimulation nurturing Lawrence s interests in chess model airplanes and chemistry Summers spent at the home of family friends near St Louis Missouri allowed the children to enjoy country surroundings and trips to baseball games and to nearby Lambert Airfield During the school year in Chicago visits to museums concerts or the zoo were ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, the only child of John Wesley Sr. and Emma Laverne Scott Lee. His parents also adopted a son, Albert Lee Blount. Lee's parents had a wide disparity of educational attainments. His mother, who had a master's degree, was a schoolteacher. His father, a grocer, had dropped out of elementary school and was barely literate. As a youngster, Lee grew up in Indianapolis and in 1940 graduated from segregated Crispus Attucks High School. Lee then attended Indiana University in Bloomington, where he spent three years studying mostly science and mathematics as part of an intended pre-med course. He lived in a rooming house, because the university's dormitories were not open to black students.

In April 1944 Lee enlisted in the navy influenced to join by his friends and by his brother Albert s experience in that branch of ...

Article

Elizabeth D. Schafer

aerospace surgeon, was born at Fort Washikie, Wyoming, the son of Vance Hunter Marchbanks Sr., an army cavalry captain, and Mattie (maiden name unknown). Marchbanks Jr. was influenced by the military career of his father, who was a veteran of both the Spanish-American War and World War I. A childhood operation inspired Marchbanks's passion for medicine, after which he operated on cherries in his backyard, opening them up, removing the stones, and sewing shut the incision.

Marchbanks encountered discrimination when he enrolled at the University of Arizona in 1927. Not allowed to live in the dormitories or participate in normal student activities, he lived in an off-campus boardinghouse. He ate at the railroad station restaurant, where he was expected to enter through the back door and was harassed; he often found cockroaches in his soup. Marchbanks graduated in 1931 and was accepted at the Howard University ...

Article

Kenneth R. Manning

educator and anatomist, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of Lewis Bradner McKinney, an employee of the U.S. Printing Office, and Blanche Elaine Hunt. McKinney attended Dunbar High School, the all-black grammar school on M Street in Washington. Dunbar's faculty, composed of highly motivated African American scholars, inspired generations of black youth to strive for academic excellence. McKinney himself recalled the atmosphere of “hopeful purpose and tremendous encouragement” that pervaded the school.

After graduating in 1917, McKinney enrolled at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Unlike many other white colleges at the time, Bates admitted African American students. Some of McKinney's Dunbar teachers were Bates graduates; Benjamin E. Mays later the president of Morehouse College in Atlanta was a year ahead of McKinney at Bates and other blacks were to follow Nevertheless McKinney found race to be an issue in at least one Bates program ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Millery Polyné

World War II pilot, entrepreneur, and airline executive, was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of a Jamaican dental technician. His parents' names are unknown. A driven and determined student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a bachelor of arts in 1935, Plinton was a solid student-athlete who participated on the varsity soccer, wrestling, tennis, and track teams. He was also a member of the dramatic society and the glee club and was president of the German society. An accomplished musician, he played the piano and organ well and one summer played the organ at Tuskegee Institute. With the encouragement and unbending rearing of his father, it was evident that the black college experience was critical to his development as a future leader and visionary who would defy the odds against systematic racial injustice. In a 1973 interview Plinton revealed Going ...

Article

Lisa M. Bratton

Tuskegee Airman and prisoner of war, was born Luther Henry Smith Jr. in Des Moines, Iowa, the second child of Luther Henry Smith Sr., a black-eyed pea salesman, and Ida. His father's sales territory included the Midwest, and visiting Des Moines, Iowa, he found that since there were so few African Americans, the effects of segregation and discrimination were minimal and opportunities for economic progress were strong. Smith's mother was from Dubuque, Iowa. Her father had been a trader who later made his home in Des Moines. Smith's parents met in 1918.

Young Luther exhibited an interest in aviation as a child At the age of seven he drew a picture of an airplane and showing it to his second grade teacher announced that it was a picture of the airplane in which he planned to fly his family to Africa At the age of ...

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J. Todd Moye

aviation pioneer, was born and raised in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Edward Alexander Spencer, a postman and real estate developer, and Anne Bethel (Scales) Spencer, a teacher, librarian, and writer. Anne Spencer was an important, if now little known, poet and editor associated with the Harlem Renaissance and the NAACP. Her Lynchburg home and legendary garden became a way station for eminent blacks traveling between the North and the Deep South at a time when hotel facilities for African Americans were few and far between. From a young age Chauncey Spencer was used to rubbing elbows with celebrities. The likes of W. E. B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Adam Clayton Powell Sr. were guests in the Spencer home during his youth. “Of all of them, I think I was most impressed by Paul ...

Article

Paul Stillwell

pioneer black naval officer, was born in Murphreesboro, Tennessee, one of two children of Frank E. Sr. and Rosa Sublett, who were divorced in 1931. When Sublett was about five years old, the family moved to Highland Park, Illinois, and a year later to Glencoe, Illinois, another Chicago suburb. Sublett spent most of the rest of his life in Glencoe. His education in the first eight grades was in Glencoe, and he then went to high school in nearby Winnetka. He was among the very few black students in the high school, from which he graduated in 1938, but he later recalled that he encountered no prejudice there (Stillwell, 149). As a teenager he got his first exposure to service life when he attended Citizens Military Training Camp at Fort Riley, Kansas, for two summers. He spent the 1938–1939 school year at the University of ...

Article

astrophysicist and university administrator, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Arthur Bertram Cuthbert Walker Sr., a lawyer, and Hilda Forte, a social worker. At age five his family moved to New York City. Thanks to his mother, who recognized the boy's fondness for science and repeatedly intervened to prevent teachers from discouraging him, Walker enrolled in the Bronx High School of Science, where his interest in chemistry and physics heightened. In 1957 he graduated with honors in physics from the Case Institute of Technology (later Case Western Reserve University) in Cleveland, Ohio. He was elected to Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society, in 1955, and to Sigma Xi, a scientific research society, in 1960. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with the aid of fellowships and a research assistantship, Walker earned his master's degree in 1958 and a doctorate ...