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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

Ness Creighton

Egyptian Muslim mathematician, also known as al-Hasib al-Misri, the Egyptian Calculator (or Reckoner). His full name was Abu Kamil Shujaʿ ibn Aslam ibn Muhammad ibn Shuja. Very few biographical details are known concerning Abu Kamil, but his productive peak appears to have been at the end of the ninth century. The year of his birth and the year of his death are known with a decent degree of certainty as he is known to have died before al-Imrani (who died in 955) but to have lived well beyond al-Khwarizmi (who died in 850). A direct successor in the development of algebra to al-Khwarizmi, his texts on algebraic theory helped to form the groundwork for later mathematicians, including al-Karaji. Fibonacci would later adopt his mathematical techniques.

Abu Kamil worked to perfect many of al Khwarizmi s algebraic methods including work with the multiplication and division of algebraic objects and the addition ...

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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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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 ...

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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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Gregory S. Jackson

author, editor, and antislavery lecturer, was born into slavery on the plantation of David White of Shelby County, Kentucky, the son of James Bibb, a slaveholding planter and state senator, and Mildred Jackson. White began hiring Bibb out as a laborer on several neighboring plantations before he had reached the age of ten. The constant change in living situations throughout his childhood, combined with the inhumane treatment he often received at the hands of strangers, set a pattern for life that he would later refer to in his autobiography as “my manner of living on the road.” Bibb was sold more than six times between 1832 and 1840 and was forced to relocate to at least seven states throughout the South later as a free man his campaign for abolition took him throughout eastern Canada and the northern United States But such early instability also made the ...

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

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 ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

draftsman, lithographer, painter, and entrepreneur, was born free in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to Thomas Brown and Wilhelmina (maiden name unknown). Nothing is known about Brown's family or childhood. It appears that in the mid-1850s, Brown moved to San Francisco on the heels of the gold rush. While black fur traders, including Edward Rose and Jim Beckwourth, had already explored the West by the mid-1850s, few African Americans were living in California before this time. By 1860, though, close to five thousand blacks had moved to California, including Mary Ellen Pleasant and Edmond Wysinger. Just what precipitated Brown's decision to move to San Francisco is unknown, but records show that by 1861 he was employed as a draftsman for the commercial lithography firm of Kuchel and Dressel While his skill is evidenced by the quality work he produced for the firm Brown must also have been considered a ...

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Aaron Myers

George Washington Carver was born in Diamond, Missouri, of a slave mother and probably a slave father. His interest in plants began at an early age. Growing up in postemancipation Missouri under the care of his mother's former owner, Carver collected from the surrounding forests and fields a variety of wild plants and flowers, which he planted in a garden. At the age of ten, he left home of his own volition to attend a black school in the nearby community of Neosho, where he did chores for a black family in exchange for food and a place to sleep. He maintained his interest in plants while putting himself through high school in Minneapolis, Kansas, and during his first and only year at Simpson College in Iowa. During this period, he made many sketches of plants and flowers. He made the study of plants his focus in 1891 ...

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 ...

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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

Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston

Albert Cassell was born in Towson, near Baltimore, Maryland, the third child of Albert Truman and Charlotte Cassell. He finished his elementary and high school education in Baltimore and in 1919 received a B.A. degree in architecture from Cornell University, where he sang in churches to help pay his expenses. His studies were interrupted by service as a second lieutenant, training officers in heavy field artillery in the United States and France during World War I (1914–1918).