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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 ...

Article

Erin Royston Battat

the first African American to publish an autobiography about conversion to Catholicism, was born in Santa Barbara, California, the only child of Lula Josephine Holden Adams, a painter, and Daniel Henderson Adams, a hotel headwaiter. Daniel and Lula Adams provided a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle for their daughter and raised her according to strict rules of courtesy, manners, and obedience. Shortly after Adams's birth the family moved to Los Angeles, where she attended an integrated primary school.

Adams and her parents fell victim to the influenza epidemic of 1918–1919. Mother and daughter returned to temperate Santa Barbara in 1920 at their doctor's recommendation and would suffer from chronic illness for the rest of their lives. Adams's father continued to work in Los Angeles for another four years and then died suddenly in 1924 shortly before he was to join the family in Santa Barbara During this period ...

Article

Shari Rudavsky

Numa Pompilius Garfield Adams was born in Delaplane, Virginia. Little is known about Adams's family and early life. He attended a country school run by his uncle Robert Adams. Adams received additional instruction and inspiration from his grandmother Amanda, a midwife who shared with him the secrets of herbal medicine. When Adams was thirteen, his family moved to Steelton, Pennsylvania. Soon Adams taught himself how to read music and purchased a used cornet, which he taught himself to play, a skill that later helped him pay for his education.

After graduating from high school in 1905, Adams spent a year as a substitute teacher in Steelton and another year teaching seventh grade in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. These jobs helped him earn sufficient money to pay for his college education, and in 1907 he left Pennsylvania to enter Howard University in Washington, D.C. He soon joined the Lyric ...

Primary Source

Samuel R. Scottron was born in Philadelphia or New England in 1841, grew up in New York and Brooklyn, and worked in his father's sutler business in the South during the Civil War. While in Florida, he assisted in the first election (1864) in which freedmen were allowed to vote. He moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, shortly after the Civil War.

Scottron opened a barber shop where he noticed the patrons had trouble using handheld mirrors to check their hair. He invented and patented an adjustable mirror system that allowed all sides of the head to be seen at once. The manufactured mirrors were a market success, which afforded Scottron the opportunity to pursue interests in manufacturing, especially with wood and porcelain, as well as molded materials for decorative purposes on framing, supports, and mantels.

Scottron licensed the mirror patent and used the royalty money to finance his next business cornice ...

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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David Alvin Canton

lawyer and judge, was the third of five children born to Hillard Boone Alexander, a laborer from Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and Virginia Pace, from Essex County, Virginia. Alexander's parents were born slaves, but were freed by the Thirteenth Amendment following the Civil War. In 1880 they migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where they lived in the Seventh Ward, a community that would later be made famous by W. E. B. Du Bois's seminal 1899 study The Philadelphia Negro. In 1903Alexander's mother died of pneumonia. Because his father worked long hours, Alexander and his siblings moved to North Philadelphia to live with his maternal aunt, Georgia Chandler Pace From the age of seven Alexander attended school and worked at various jobs including dockworker newspaper boy general helper at the Metropolitan Opera House in North Philadelphia Pullman porter and when he was in his early twenties ...

Article

Tiffany Estwick

physician and first African American state legislator elected to the New Jersey General Assembly, was born in Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of Royal and Amelia Terry Alexander, both former slaves. Walter attended the segregated public schools in Lynchburg and later recalled that he was once suspended from school for not accepting a flogging that a teacher assigned to him. When he returned after a five-day suspension, he witnessed and defended a young female student about to be flogged, causing his expulsion. Fortunately for Walter, his brother knew a student named Thomas H. Lackland, who attended Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and Lackland advised him to continue on with his education there.

Walter Alexander entered Lincoln University in 1895 at the age of fourteen. He graduated in 1899 at the head of his class and, as of 1946 had maintained the highest average 95 5 in Lincoln history to ...

Article

Harold N. Burdett

physician and state legislator, was born in Beeville, Texas, the son of James and Mary Etta Whitby Allen. His parents separated when he was an infant. When Allen was six years old, his mother, feeling that he needed male guidance and discipline, sent him to San Antonio to be reared by his father a hotel bellman Even while attending elementary school he was expected to earn his keep selling newspapers delivering clothes for a local tailor and at the age of twelve serving as a hotel washroom attendant Allen excelled in the classroom through primary and junior high schools But apparently in his final year of junior high he left school after a classmate harassed him for wearing his father s clothing He was soon hired as a busboy in a hotel dining room and within two years found employment as a waiter at a San Antonio hotel ...

Article

Ginny Crosthwait

professor and educationaladministrator, was born Rosie Elizabeth Allen in Americus, Georgia, to Ulysses Grant Allen and Velma Douglas Allen. After completing a BS in Biology at Albany State College in Georgia, Allen-Noble taught in three Georgia high schools: the Vienna High and Industrial School (1960–1961), West Point High School (1962–1963), and Carver High School in Columbus (1963–1964). She also served as chairperson of the biology department at Columbia High School in Decatur, Georgia, from 1965 to 1970. Allen-Noble and Daniel Bernard Noble married in April 1964 and divorced in April 1968. They have one child, Antoinette Celine Noble-Webb.

While working on a master's degree in zoology at Atlanta University, Allen-Noble taught courses in biology, anatomy, and physiology at Spelman College, also in Atlanta (1965–1966). She completed the MS in 1967. From 1970 to 1976 she ...

Article

pianist, educator, and philanthropist, was born a slave in Trenton, Kentucky, to Mary Dickinson, also a slave, and Mr. Leavell, likely a scion of the white Benjamin Leavell family, pioneers of Trenton. According to family history, Josephine's father wanted to send her and her sister to Canada on the Underground Railroad, but their mother objected because of the danger and distance. Sometime between 1868 and 1875 Josephine attended the Nashville Normal and Theological Institute (also known as the Baptist Institute), a college for African Americans that was later renamed Roger Williams University. Daniel W. Phillips, a white Baptist minister, had started the school in 1864, teaching Bible classes to freed people in his home. The school was later acquired by Vanderbilt University and incorporated into its George Peabody campus, a teachers' college.

While at the Baptist Institute Josephine studied music particularly piano 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

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 ...

Article

Shari Rudavsky

nursing educator and administrator, was born in Milledgeville, Georgia, the daughter of a poor family about whom nothing is known. In 1901 Andrews applied to Spelman College's MacVicar Hospital School of Nursing. On her application, she asked for financial assistance, explaining that her family could not help her pay. Her mother had a large family to support and “an old flicted husband,” who was not Andrews's father. Andrews also said that she had been married but did not currently live with her husband and expected no support from him. Letters praising Andrews and talking about her “good moral character” that came from the pillars of Milledgeville society proved instrumental in securing Andrews's admission.

In 1906 Andrews received her diploma from Spelman and set upon her life s work During her training she resolved that I wanted to work for my people how or where this was to be done ...

Primary Source

Lewis Howard Latimer showed initiative and drive throughout his life. Born in 1848 to runaway slaves in Chelsea, Massachusetts, he attended school when he could, excelling in math and drafting. Forging his birth certificate so he could join the Union Navy in the Civil War, he served for four years and then returned to Boston. He impressed the owners of a patent law firm and became a vital draftsman; he would be assigned to work with Alexander Graham Bell. Latimer's speed and talent helped Bell win the patent for the telephone in 1876. Latimer began tinkering with his own inventions and received a patent for a railroad car toilet.

Next he worked for Hiram Maxim on improved light bulbs receiving several patents on the design and manufacture of carbon filaments rather than paper which extended the life of bulbs 1881 Patent No 247 097 for Electric Lamp 1882 Patent No ...

Article

Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

first African American member of the Oklahoma City Council, family physician, and civic leader, was born in Trinidad, West Indies, to Gertrude St. John, a domestic worker, and John Atkins. He had one younger sister. Charles Atkins immigrated to the United States, arriving at Ellis Island in March 1929. He was required to attend Dewitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York City, because the United States did not accept his education credentials from Trinidad. One of the first black students at DeWitt, he graduated in 1933. Aided by the Urban League, he worked as a summer counselor to earn money for college. Although he took some classes at City College of New York, he moved to North Carolina to attend St. Augustine's, an Episcopalian historically black college in Raleigh. He graduated in 1941 with a bachelor's degree in Chemistry. On 27 March 1943Atkins ...

Article

Dalyce Newby

Alexander Thomas Augusta was born a free African American in Norfolk, Virginia, to parents whose names and occupations are unknown. Augusta received his early education from a Bishop Payne, defying a law that forbade African Americans to read or write. He continued to improve his reading skills while working as an apprentice to a barber. His interest in medicine led him to relocate to Baltimore, Maryland, where he studied with private tutors. Eventually, Augusta moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to serve an apprenticeship. Although he was denied entry to the University of Pennsylvania, Augusta caught the attention of Professor William Gibson, who allowed the young man to study in his office.

In January 1847 Augusta married Mary O. Burgoin in Baltimore Maryland They lived in California for three years before returning to the East Coast so that Augusta could pursue a medical degree Denied access ...

Article

Caroline M. Fannin

Despite gender and race discrimination, and despite the small numbers of black women active in aviation, black women have contributed notably to the encouragement of black Americans’ participation in aviation and to the furtherance of aerospace research.

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the dream of flying became a reality and the nation's expectations of the new technology were enormous—some thought it would even eliminate warfare. African Americans hoped to enter this new arena, in part to put to rest society's deeply held belief that blacks were an inferior race. In 1992, however, the Organization of Black Airline Pilots stated that only 600 of the nation's 70,000 commercial airline pilots were African American. The number rises when private and military pilots are considered, but numbers remain small.

The earliest African American pilot is thought to have been Charles Wesley Peters in 1911. Eugene J. Bullard (1894–1961) was the only black fighter pilot in World War I, having flown for the French. The first black woman to obtain a license (in 1921) was Bessie Coleman (1892–1926 she too had ...

Article

Anne K. Driscoll

meteorologist, was born June Esther Griffin in Wichita, Kansas, the only child of James Griffin, an auto mechanic who put himself through law school and eventually became an attorney, and Cherrie MacSalles, a music teacher. The name she is known by, Bacon-Bercey, is a combination of the last names of her first two husbands. She was married to Walker Bacon, a doctor, from 1956 to 1967 and to John Bercey, a businessman, from 1968 to 1980. Encouraged by her parents, Bacon-Bercey became interested in science at a very young age, and in high school a physics teacher steered her toward a career in meteorology. Bacon-Bercey attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where she earned a BS in Mathematics and Meteorology in 1954 despite the attitude of many of her professors who felt that a woman was better suited to studying home economics ...